Player: Joe Thornton
Joe Thornton IS the San Jose Sharks.
Like his team, Joe's been the 2nd best in the League since the lockout (behind Alexander Ovechkin and the Detroit Red Wings, respectively). And, just like with the Sharks, anyone who says that he has been bad over the past ten or so seasons is just being an idiot.
But, yeah, neither Joe Thornton or the Sharks have ever won the Cup, so they're chokers and failures and they suck and everything else.
The 117 points. First in the Pacific. First in the West. First in the League. First round exit, beaten by the damn Ducks. *sigh*
Game: April 19th, 2011, vs. the Los Angeles Kings
The Sharks went in to this playoff game with the series tied 1-1, having suffered a brutal 4-0 defeat in Game 2. The specter of another embarrassing first-round exit was looming large - especially when San Jose went down 4-0 just 44 seconds into the 2nd period of game three.
Everyone started writing their articles about how the Sharks were mentally weak and just couldn't deal with adversity in the playoffs ... and then it happened. Goal after goal after goal for the Sharks. Marleau, Clowe, Couture, Clowe again, Pavelski, and Setoguchi to win it in overtime.
San Jose scored six goals against one of the best defenses and goaltenders in the league (and did it AGAIN in game 4) to complete a clutch comeback for the record books.
So so great.
Goal: Jamie Baker's Game 7 game winning goal against the Red Wings in the 1994 playoffs
The deciding goal in the final game of the first-ever playoff series win for the Sharks, a No. 8 seed upsetting a heavily-favored No. 1. Coming only one season after San Jose set the league record for losses with 71 in an 84 game season, this goal marked the transition for the team from League laughing-stock to actual honest-to-goodness worth-a-damn team. It was one of the biggest upsets in league history, and you can watch it here.
Also worth mentioning for essential Sharks goal is this one Owen Nolan scored from the red line to win the series against the St. Louis Blues in 2000, once again seeing the No. 8 seeded Sharks pull off the upset.
Trade: Getting Joe Thornton, obviously
The Sharks got one of the top five players of the last decade in exchange for some dudes who were much much much worse. I'd say more, but it's already been discussed to death. Moving on.
Unsung Hero: Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Defensive defensemen often get overlooked. When they're doing their jobs the right way, it doesn't really show up in the stats. So it makes sense that Vlasic, a defensive defenseman who plays in the Pacific Division, which is something of a blind spot for a lot of the national hockey media, would fly under the radar. That's fine. Sharks fans know how good he is, and teams that play the Sharks regularly soon figure it out as well.
This off-season the Sharks signed Vlasic to a very reasonably-priced five year contract extension, so he'll be sticking around, being awesome, for a long time.
If you're among the Vlasic-ignorant, let this sentence from Fear the Fin, recapping Vlasic's performance last season, be your introduction:
The only defensemen in the NHL to face both a higher quality of competition than Vlasic this past year and finish with a higher Corsi rate (an on-ice shot differential metric that tracks closely with puck possession and scoring chances) were all-world veterans Nicklas Lidstrom and Kimmo Timonen.
Franchise Villain: Ed Belfour.
This [expletive] guy.
He was an a-hole to Jeff Hackett in Chicago so he got traded to the Sharks, then he sucked on the Sharks (who, in all fairness, were really bad at the time) for half a season before running away to play for the Stars.
Ed Belfour is a douche.
Fight: Douglas Murray vs. Steve Ott
This isn't the greatest fight in the world, but it's important for what it represents; Steve Ott is a close second to Belfour as a villain for the Sharks, and this fight sees indestructible monolith Douglas Murray tossing Ott around like he's a toy. It's great.
Honorable mention: One of the most one-sided and bloodiest fights in Sharks history, Scott Thornton vs. Jiri Fischer. Obviously this fight wasn't a fair match, but I just can't resist watching a guy in a Wings jersey bleed.
Coach: Ron Wilson
Under Ron Wilson's leadership the Sharks transitioned from a team that was frequently battling for the bottom playoff spot to a legitimate power in the Western Conference. He moved the team away from the grinding defense-first focus of Darryl Sutter to a more open and offensive style of play, which allowed Joe Thornton to thrive when he joined the team.
Wilson is one more example of the crazily high standards the Sharks have had as they've struggled to make their way to the finals: He was fired after the team lost in the second round of the playoffs for the third year in a row, despite having a coaching record of 206-134-45 in the regular season and 28-24 in the playoffs.
Broadcaster: Brodie "The Brodecaster" Brazil
Brodie is the pregame and rink-side reporter for the Sharks. The players enjoy messing with him, like this, which is basically the only quality you need to have to be an entertaining ice-level guy.
But the real reason I'm picking Brodie here rather than Randy Hahn (fine), Drew Remenda (annoying), Dan Rusanowsky (hilariously enthusiastic), or Jamie Baker (disoriented and mean), is that one time Brodie on TV he said "Picklesnake," which was a ridiculous nickname for the Vlasic-Burns defensive pair that we made up on Battle of California.
So, for being willing to indulge fan silliness despite the obvious bafflement of his fellow reporter, Brodie Brazil is the essential Sharks broadcaster.
He's still not as good as Victor Venezuela though.
Arena Behavior/Tradition/Trend: The chomping hands power-play thing/Skating out of the shark head
The chomping hands power-play routine is dumb fun. People make fun of it but kids like it and it gets the fans involved, so whatever. It could be worse: we could be doing some stupid air-quote pointy-finger thing.
If you can judge the quality of arena tradition by how many teams steal the idea, then the best thing the Sharks have ever done is skate out of the shark head at the beginning of their games. It's awesome and it's a thousand times better than any of the stupid rip-off imitations.
Seriously, Nashville - stop stealing our stuff.
Oh and when I was young and attending one of my first ever hockey games, my dad told me that for the third period the Sharks lowered the big shark head down on to the ice right around their goal, and left it there for the whole period to scare the other team.
My dad told me a lot of awesome lies.
Arena Food: I don't know
Arena food is too expensive. Only idiots and fat people buy arena food. Just go get a burrito before you go to the arena and then just sit down and watch the damn game.
Swag: Stuff like this:As the team that best embodied everything that was crazy and ridiculous about sports marketing in the 1990s, the Sharks produced a bunch of ugly-ass stuff like this shirt, which I own. It's a badge of honor and a priceless piece of Sharks tradition. It brings a tear to my eye - but that might just be because the colors are painful to look at.
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