Originally written on Race Review Online  |  Last updated 11/17/14

 Normally, at this time of year, the San Jose Sharks are usually one of the top teams in the Western Conference, waiting for the playoffs to come. This year, things have changed. After leading the Pacific Division for what seemed like most of the season, lackluster and uninspired play by the Sharks allowed division rivals Los Angeles, Phoenix and Dallas to not only catch up, but pass them in the standings.

Well, now they have regained the lead. The Sharks entered Monday night at ninth place in the West. Their emphatic 5-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche coupled with regulation losses by the L.A. Kings and the Dallas Stars meant that San Jose would reclaim first place in the Pacific and third place in the playoff seeding. 

Let's change gears for a minute...

Just to keep your minds fresh, here's a quick summary of the past 10 or so years of San Jose Sharks' history: 1) Before the season, "experts" claim that this will be the year for the Sharks. 2) San Jose finishes the season as one of the top teams in the NHL and enter the playoffs with high aspirations. 3) They either a) get upset by a lower seed in the first couple of rounds, or b) lose in the Western Conference Finals. 4) Players, coaches and management are unable to explain why they have underachieved. A number of trades are made in the offseason so they can claim that "change" is coming. 5) Repeat steps 1-4

Most fans are probably sick and tired of hearing their team being labeled as "chokers," but this could not be farther from the truth. Every single year, the Sharks do phenomenally well in the regular season, then underperform in the playoffs.

Which is exactly why the 2011-2012 season will be different. 

 

This season, San Jose is clawing and fighting hard just to make it to the playoffs. They will still have to win a good portion of the six remaining games to even claim a playoff spot. 

Let's compare that to previous seasons, which saw the Sharks setting themselves on auto-pilot during the final regular-season games because they had already claimed a top-seeded playoff spot. 

In previous years, the Sharks were simply unprepared for the playoffs, since they had not played at that high a level of intensity for quite a while. This allowed for the lower-seeded teams (who had played their hearts out just to make the playoffs) to surprise and even upset San Jose in the very first round. Even if San Jose did make it out of the first round, they were far too fatigued to compete against other playoff teams, resulting in an early exit.

The reason why this year will be different is because the Sharks are one of those lower-seeded teams, playing their hearts out just to make the postseason. They have done well in the past stretch, winning three straight games against tough opponents (the defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins, the Phoenix Coyotes and the Colorado Avalanche ― two rivals also fighting for a playoff spot).

If they keep this level of play up, who knows what's going to happen? Maybe the Sharks will make the playoffs and upset the likes of St, Louis, Vancouver, Nashville, or Detroit. Perhaps they will go even further, like the eighth-seeded Edmonton Oilers did in the 2005-2006 playoffs when they made it to the Stanley Cup Finals. 

Nobody knows what the deal is with this team. Last night, as I was leaving HP Pavilion after the Sharks jumped from ninth to third in the Western Conference by defeating the Colorado Avalanche, I heard a fan remark, "This is the most frustrating, hard to figure out hockey team. EVER."

I couldn't help but let out a brief chuckle. Perhaps this is the year that the Sharks win it all. It's a very unorthodox method to be sure, but considering the San Jose Sharks' franchise history (where pretty much everything has been achieved except a Stanley Cup), it might be beneficial to take a different route. Even if that route leaves fans and journalists (like me) frustrated, bewildered and confused.

 

 

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