Tha Sports Junkies 101

Sharks Bury Playoff Disappointments with Finals Run

Tha Sports Junkies 101-Sports News Photo by Dinur/via

Regular Season Success finally Translates to Postseason Success for Sharks


SAN JOSE, CA-We have all heard it said that there are two things that are certain in life: death and taxes. In reality, you can add disappointments to that list.

At some point or another, we have all had high expectations for something or someone, only for those expectations to not be met. If you’re a sports fan, you surely know what I’m talking about.

How many times has our favorite team given us hopes of “this is our year” only to have those hopes dashed early on. It’s something that I’ve had to unfortunately endure the last four seasons as an Anaheim Ducks fan.

Farther north of Anaheim, though, there is a fan base that has had to endure that disappointment for the better part of 25 seasons. That fan base is that of the San Jose Sharks.

The Sharks joined the NHL in the 1991-92 season. In their third season of existence, San Jose reached the playoffs for the first time, going all the way to Game 7 of the second round.

In four of the next six seasons, the Sharks would reach the postseason, getting to the second round twice. They’re biggest playoff moment in those six seasons was in 2000 when, as the eighth seed, they upset the President’s Trophy winning St. Louis Blues in seven games in the first round.

However, San Jose was still yet unable to get to the Conference Final.

Despite making the playoffs in five of their first nine seasons in the league, the Sharks were never really considered a powerhouse team. All that began to change, though, in the 2000-01 season.

That year, San Jose reached the 40-win plateau for the first time and set a then-franchise record with 95 points to finish second in the Pacific Division. However, they were unable to get past the first round of the playoffs as they were bounced in six games by the Blues.

The next season saw the Sharks win their first Pacific Division title with a 44-27-8-3 record. They would then defeat the Phoenix Coyotes in five games in the first round before falling to the Colorado Avalanche in seven games in round two.

2002-03 was a forgetful campaign for the northern California squad as they missed the postseason for the first time since 1997, finishing in last place in the division.

They would rebound in a big way in 2003-04, however, by winning the Pacific again and reaching the Conference Final for the first time in franchise history. San Jose would eventually fall to the Calgary Flames in six games in Conference Final, but reaching that point gave fans hope that maybe their time to win a Cup was close.

It wouldn’t work out that way, though.

Following the lost season of 2004-05, the Sharks would finish either first or second in the Pacific from 2006 to 2012. They would get to the second round from 2006-2008, but could not get back to the Conference Final.

Their best ever season came in 2008-09 when they established franchise bests in wins (53) and points (117), all the while winning the President’s trophy for the first time.

The 2009 playoffs, however, would be a major disappointment for San Jose as they fell to the eighth-seeded Ducks in the first round.

2009-10 saw the Sharks win the Pacific for a third straight season and get back to the Conference Final. It was a short trip to the third round, as they were swept by the eventual Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.

Despite the loss, fans’ hopes in their team’s chances of winning the Cup were surely rekindled. Those hopes were reinvigorated the following season as a fourth straight division title led to another return to the third round.

The Sharks, however, were unable to get over the hump as they fell in five games to the Vancouver Canucks.

The next three seasons would then only add to the postseason disappointment for San Jose.

In 2012, they would fall to the Blues in five games in the first round. In 2013, they would fall to the Los Angeles Kings in a hard-fought seven-game series in the second round.

When your team is eliminated from the playoffs at any point before the championship round, it feels like a punch in the gut. In 2014, the Sharks and their fans surely felt their hearts get ripped out in the most gruesome way.

After going up 3-0 in their first round series with the Kings, San Jose would lose the next four games to become just the fourth team in NHL history to lose a series after being up 3-0.

The effects of that collapse seemed to be felt the following season as the Sharks missed the playoffs for the first time since 2003, finishing in fifth place in the division.

The 2014-15 season would mark the end of Todd McLellan‘s run as San Jose head coach, one that started in 2008. The team would hire Peter DeBoer in the offseason to become their new bench boss.

Not only would the team get a new coach, they would get a new captain as forward Joe Pavelski would be named the captain after the Sharks decided to go without one in the prior season.

The new voice behind the bench, plus a few key acquisitions in the offseason and during the season, seemed to spark San Jose as the Sharks finished the 2015-16 season with a 46-30-6 record to finish third in the Pacific to get back into the postseason.

Their first-round series would see them face-off yet again against the Kings. Some Sharks fans might’ve thought, “Oh no, not them again.” However, this time, the script would be totally different.

San Jose, led by a motivated Pavelski, stormed past Los Angeles in five games to reach the second round and put their 2014 collapse in the rearview mirror.

In the second round, forward Logan Couture would carry the Sharks, posting a franchise-record 11 points in their seven-game series against the Nashville Predators. The teams would trade home victories all throughout the series, capped of by San Jose’s dominant 5-0 victory in Game 7 to reach the Conference Final for the first time since 2011.

The Conference Final would be the latest chapter in the Sharks-Blues playoff history. Their previous meeting (2012) was all St. Louis as the Blues won the series in five games. 2016, though, was a different story.

Led by their top line of Pavelski, Joe Thornton, and Tomas Hertl, San Jose would put on offensive show in the third round. After being held to one goal in Game 1, the Sharks would go on to score 21 in the rest of the series, capped off by scoring six and five goals in games 5 and 6, respectively, to take the series in six and reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history.

They also became the last of the three California teams to reach the fourth round of the playoffs.

A moment that has been 25 years in the making will become a reality on Monday night (8 PM ET, NBC, CBC, TVAS) for many San Jose fans when Game 1 of the Final gets underway in Pittsburgh. It is sure to be a surreal experience for everyone invested in the team.

Oddsmakers have the Pittsburgh Penguins favored in the final, but Sharks players and fans will surely be confident they will lift Lord Stanley’s Cup. San Jose has the top-three scorers in all of the playoffs on their roster (Pavelski, Couture, and defenseman Brent Burns). Their backend also has more depth than Pittsburgh’s.

Another advantage the Western Conference champions have is that DeBoer has Finals experience, having led the New Jersey Devils to the Cup Final in 2012, unlike Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, who is a rookie NHL head coach. Not only will DeBoer be motivated to win the Cup, but so will his two oldest players.

Thornton and fellow veteran Patrick Marleau are in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in their career. Neither one has stated they plan on retiring soon, but we all know getting to the Final isn’t easy so this may be their only chance to win a Cup. Teams, though, normally do a pretty good job rallying around stories like that in their locker room, so expect San Jose to give it their all in this series.

They also have the chance to do something neither of their California rivals have done: win the Cup in their first ever Finals appearance. These final two weeks of the NHL season will determine if they can do it.

Regardless of the outcome, however, the 2015-16 San Jose Sharks will be fondly remembered in the Bay Area as the team that buried years of playoff disappointments and unmet expectations in one playoff run. Getting a ticker-tape parade in late June for winning the Cup, though, won’t hurt either.