By Wyatt Arndt
The San Jose Sharks, always the bridesmaid, never the bride.... wait, no, they've never made the Stanley Cup Finals have they?
Always the usher, never the bridesmaid?
That pretty much sums up the existence of the San Jose Sharks over the last 10 or so years. They have been one of the best regular season teams in the NHL, remarkably consistent in their ability to make the playoffs and to just sort of.... exist.
The Sharks are like that guy in a movie you recognize, but can't quite place what else he's been in.
The Sharks are the guy in the red shirt they always sent down to search the planet on Star Trek who always ended up dying.
The Sharks are the guy who stands behind the hero in Lord of the Rings, only to die in the next battle scene. They exist to lose in the most mundane way possible I suppose.
Few players remained from the team that lost to the 2011 Canucks in the Western Finals, and in their place was a new cast of characters that allowed San Jose to avoid the dreaded "rebuild" and instead employ the much more PR friendly term "reboot."
The 2012-13 Sharks were led by the up and coming Logan Couture, the wily veteran leadership of Thornton, Marleau and Boyle, the “I’m not the Joe that dives” Pavelski, the "I'm bunking with Tim Thomas at his cabin" beard of Brent Burns, and the rock solid goaltending of Niemi as they flew into the playoffs.
Power play? Check, check and check.
This year was different, this year was special, this year was the year the Sharks were going to finally put it all together! They looked amazing in the first round, who could stop them?
Well, pretty much anyone.
You see, playing Vancouver and sweeping them, you probably shouldn't base a whole lot off of that. I should know, seeing as I am a Vancouver Canucks fan. This is important for several reasons.
1) I know what it's like to see a team lose repeatedly
2) I know what it's like to watch people dive repeatedly
3) I know that this year’s Canucks were a pile of horse dung, so I kind of enjoyed watching Sharks fans get super stoked about taking out the Canucks this year as some sort of sign that this was their year.
See, beating the Canucks this year was probably the equivalent of stepping in dog poop. You should probably just wipe your shoes and move on with your day. You shouldn't call all your friends and tell them excitedly that you just stepped on a dog turd and as a result, you're finally going to get that promotion you've always been after.
Some of the fans in San Jose ... well, I don't want to say they have gotten apathetic, but some Sharks fans have different priorities than watching a power play in a tied game late in the third period.
Still, the Sharks put up a good fight in losing to L.A. They made it a close series which is all you can ask for, if you're a Sharks fan. Well, I guess you could ask for Stanley Cup. Or maybe even a Stanley Cup Final appearance. Odds are that won't happen if you're a Sharks fan, though, which is why their fans have probably lowered their expectations.
How low have they dropped? Well this is a team that has gone from chanting "We Want the Cup" to chanting "Beat L.A."
Rumor has it next year they plan on chanting "Score a goal!" and if that fails, "Make a pass?” said in a questioning tone, since at that point they really are in no position to demand anything.
However, this season wasn't a total loss. Young Logan Couture, a rising star in the NHL, has learned much from Joe Thornton. He learned how to be a more efficient diver, which is always good. And again, I watch Ryan Kesler on a daily basis, so I know good diving when I see it.
See, in 2011, Logan wouldn't have tossed his glove off to sell that. This year, under the strict tutelage of Joe Thornton, not only did Logan have the wherewithal to raise his hands like he had been shot, he also flung off his glove before hitting the ice.
Also, watch how he rolls so smoothly into cradling his own face, ensuring he doesn't crack his large teeth on the ice. That is a 10 out of 10 dive right there folks. By this time next year, Joe and Logan might even have synchronized diving down.
Just imagine that: Both of them tumbling to the ice, spinning in a circle, and ending up forming a heart at center ice. That is just downright pleasant when you think about it.
This was a solid trade because in the four or five games Raffi actually gets to play in the playoffs (before being suspended for the rest of them), he is a far better player than Clowe.
Sure, Raffi gets to watch from afar for most of the playoffs, but at least he makes funny faces before getting nailed with his suspension. That has to be worth something.
The Sharks also had a solid season from Martin Havlat this year, as he managed to make it to two whole games in the playoffs this year! I was positive he was only going to make one, but he shocked critics around the world as he managed two games.
Next year he might make six or seven games, but I don't want to jinx anything.
Douglas Murray was also traded this year, due to his deteriorating play over the last couple of years. The Sharks, dedicated to making themselves a faster team at the deadline, felt they didn't need Murray as they were able to pick up Scott Hannan, who is just as slow but probably wears nicer smelling aftershave (admit it, Douglas Murray has Aqua Velva written all over him).
To be fair to Hannan, he beat out an icing call during a game this year! Sure, it was in his own end, but still, he won the race! It’s the small victories, sometimes.
If there is one thing I have learned about the San Jose Sharks this year, though, it is that their fans hate one word:
If you say that word, they begin to rock back and forth and attempt to throw their feces at you. They take umbrage with the term “choke.”
They hate it. Don't like it. Not for them, thank you very much.
You see, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau have this "choke" label that has been hung around their necks their entire career. This of course comes from not winning "the big game" as they say, and not advancing to the Finals, ever.
Again, drawing on my Vancouver background, this is called "Markus Naslund Syndrome." Kick ass players in the regular season. Occasionally good players in the playoffs. No Stanley Cups to show for it.
To Sharks fans, that is poppycock. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are valued leaders who help make sure the team gets into the playoffs. Just this year Thornton and Marleau had 11 points and 8 points respectively during their playoff run.
Does it matter that Marleau only got one of his five goals against LA, while the rest were against Vancouver? Of course not.
Does it matter that Keith Jones said that Scott Gomez looked more dangerous in Game 7 than Joe Thornton? Not a bit. What matters is that the Sharks fans have a team that delivers to them exactly what they expect: A mediocre playoff run that doesn't interfere with their lives by making them attend too many playoff games. Which if you think about it, isn't really choking at all.
So congratulations to the 2012-2013 San Jose Sharks for meeting all expectations?
You've done your city proud, boys!
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