Everybody has dealt with some sort of heartbreak in their life, as it is just an inevitable part of life for most people. For fans of the San Jose Sharks, it is a yearly occurrence.
Since 1997, the Sharks have only not qualified for the playoffs twice, going on a 10 year run on consecutive seasons making the playoffs during that time. Their only Stanley Cup Final appearance came last season when they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games.
For a team that has had as much success as they have had making the playoffs in the past 20 years, they only have four conference finals appearances to show for it. They are 1-3 in those series in their history, with their only victory being a 4-2 series victory over the St. Louis Blues last season en route to their first and only Stanley Cup Finals appearance.
So, what has gone wrong all these years? Why hasn’t San Jose been able to get over the hump?
There is no right or wrong answer. All in all, they haven not been able to put it all together at the same time. When they have had great goal tending, they have not been able to muster up much offense and vise versa. A prime example of this occurred in last season’s Stanley Cup Final. The Shark’s new goaltender Martin Jones was outstanding in his first season, and even more so in his first time in the playoffs as a starter. In the series against the Penguins, Jones never allowed Pittsburgh to score more than three goals, but the Sharks were still only able to win two games, one coming in overtime.
When Jones was magnificent, the Shark’s offense could not produce. What makes this all the more frustrating for the fan base was knowing that they were capable of putting it all together, with a few weeks ago being evidence.
With nearly the same core group skating for the Sharks that were last season during their run to the championship series, San Jose was taking on the Edmonton Oilers in the first round of the playoffs this year. The Sharks had the experience and the veterans to get the job done, and looked good initially, getting the overtime win on the road to lead the series 1-0. The Oilers would win the next two games, but the Sharks showed what they are capable of in game four of the series when they blanked Edmonton 7-0. Not only did the offense produce at a high rate, but Martin Jones pitched his fourth career postseason shut out.
This game proved that the boys in teal were capable of putting it all together on any given night and dominating the league when it mattered most. Unfortunately, the Sharks went on to lose the next two games and ultimately lost the series.
With all-time great players like Joe Thornton, who has recorded over 1,000 assists and Patrick Marleau, who has scored over 500 goals, the expectations for this team are high every year. The emergence of younger stars like Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns and Martin Jones has escalated these expectations even further, and yet every season the Sharks fail to deliver.
The most frustrating part for fans is knowing what this team is capable of, and that they should be able to dominate offensively and defensively night in and night out. And while they seldom let their fans down in the regular season by almost always making the playoffs, it has become customary for fans to not get their hopes very high due to the team’s woeful postseason past.
There’s not much like sports heartbreak, and the San Jose Sharks serve it to their die hard fan base every season. The team can do just enough to get their fans hopes up that “this year will be different.” And yet every year, the Sharks are unable to hoist the Stanley Cup above their heads when it is all said and done.
And yet, I’ll still be rooting for them. And so will thousands of others, regardless of the outcome.
All photos in this article can be found at commons.wikimedia.org.