It's easy to be skeptical of the San Jose Sharks given their history of underachieving, but this group deserves to be believed in.
This isn’t the first time that I’ve speculated that the 2013-14 San Jose Sharks are the best iteration the club has ever offered. While the first prognostication may have been premature at the time, San Jose’s impressive five-game homestand, in which the team went 5-0-0—including three wins in four days against three of the West’s best—should eliminate any remaining doubt: These are the best Sharks ever.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s take a moment to define exactly what that statement means.
For starters, it does not mean the San Jose Sharks will win the Stanley Cup. There are 30 teams competing toward a goal that can accommodate only one. At best, the chance to hoist the Cup will come down to one game between two teams that will both claim that the other could not possibly want it more.
It also doesn’t mean that the Sharks will win the Pacific Division, the Western Conference or anything in between. Particularly, given the severe power imbalance between the Eastern and Western Conferences (the West currently holds a dominating 100-43-18 record against teams from the East).
But none of that disaffirms the reality that this team is the best in franchise history. They are simply the best collection of individuals, top to bottom, playing as a cohesive unit, ever to pull on the teal and black.
That series of caveats may make this article anticlimactic, but it shouldn’t.
So for those of you thinking, but if they’re not going to win the Stanley Cup, who cares? quit it, because this team actually might—and not just in a Dumb and Dumber, one-in-a-million-so-you’re-telling-me-there’s-a-chance, somebody-has-to-win-it-so-why-not-them sense.
One thing the title "best team in franchise history" does mean, is that this Sharks team is better equipped and more prepared to win it all than any other team in Sharks history. This team, playing its game, with all of its pieces, has what it takes to win the Stanley Cup.
At this point, San Jose is only one of a handful of teams that can legitimately make that claim.
Now would be the perfect opportunity to dive into the world of advance statistics and rattle off why Logan Couture’s Corsi numbers or Justin Braun’s Fenwick figures prove that this group is San Jose’s best. But this isn’t a PhD dissertation, so if you want to go that route, I will happily direct you to the good folks at behindthenet.ca.
Meanwhile, in the three-dimensional world, this year’s Sharks should already evoke a feeling in Bay Area sports fans similar to one from not too long ago.
Remember the 2010 San Francisco Giants? The circumstances might be different—a band of misfits and castoffs versus a group best known for perennial underachieving—but that doesn’t change the impression this group of Sharks players give off.
You’re not buying the feel-good, Kumbaya aura radiating out of San Jose? That’s OK—the stats support the conclusion that this is the best team in San Jose history as well: goals for, goals against, even-strength scoring, depth of scoring, shots, special teams, blocked shots, faceoffs, RPI—you name it, the Sharks are or are among the league leaders.
Prior to the start of the season, I offered five reasons why the 2013-14 San Jose Sharks would reach the Stanley Cup Final. At the time, the article seemed like an ironic exercise in hypotheticals, with the five reasons being, at the very least, minimum requirements San Jose would need to fulfill to even be in the realm of contenders.
Yet, just past the quarter mark, each of those five reasons have come to play significant roles in the success and legitimacy of this year’s Sharks: Brent Burns, offensive depth, Tomas Hertl, overcoming adversity and thriving out of the spotlight.
How far can this San Jose Sharks team go?
Based on the way the season has gone for San Jose, maybe those reasons won't turn out to be hypothetical after all.