The NHL, just like any sport has their superstars, but stars alone cannot win a championship. When you think hockey you think Patrick Kane, Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin but we lose focus on the team aspect. The San Jose Sharks reminded everyone that it takes a cohesive unit to win, not an individual player. To be fair, the Sharks lost the Stanley Cups Finals but according to the “experts”, they were not supposed to be there in the first place.
The Sharks were not the most dominant team last season as they finished with 46 wins but they came together when it mattered most. This is the reason playoffs are the best. What you accomplished or didn’t in the regular season goes out the window, every team gets a fresh start, and the Sharks took advantage of that.
Everyone loves the underdog, and that’s exactly what the Sharks were. For those not in the know and will look at the seeding and say, “well how does being a 3rd seed qualify as underdog status,” allow me to put it in NBA terms for you. The Sharks were technically the 3rd seed, but if you were to take the order in which other sports seeding go, the Sharks were more like a 6th seed in the standings, but the NHL does theirs a little different.
Hockey has it’s, IT teams just like any other league, the big market teams that fans who are not fans will root for mainly because they are covered the most, but the Sharks have quietly been one of the most successful NHL teams over the last decade. If you don’t live in California, you may think the Kings, Bruins, Blackhawks or Rangers were the only four teams in the league. Over the last decade, the Sharks have missed the playoffs just one time, making it to Conference Finals 3 times and the Stanley Cup once.
They don’t have the players you will find on EA Sports game covers or Madison Ave billboards, but they have players that will give 100% nightly to their fans and teammates and that’s what makes what they were able to accomplish last season so special. This was not a one night wonder and to hear that being attached to their season was a slap in the face to the team and their fans. Read above again, over the last 10 years they missed one season of the playoffs; 2015-’16 was a work in progress.
But the questions will continue well into next season to see if their feat can be duplicated. The Sharks have two of the top 10 players in points with, Joe Thorton and Joe Pavelski, and one top 5 players in goals scored, Thorton is 2nd assists, and Martin Jones is one of the best Goalies in the NHL. When you throw away regular season standings and focus on what the Sharks were able to achieve as a unit, then their Finals run was no longer resembles a fluke.
Most hockey fans were so used to seeing Chicago, Boston or LA in the Finals that any other team is making it had to be labeled a fluke. As we get ready to enter a new season, the Sharks will no longer be seen as just another California team; they are the Cali team, the 2nd best team in the NHL.