Ranking the San Jose Sharks' 5 Biggest Rivals in 2014-15
Rivalries are a big part of what makes the NHL appealing. Any hockey game is great, but when you add an element of dislike for your opponent, the game gets even more exciting.
The San Jose Sharks have some great rivalries, but which ones are the most intense right now?
Rivalries are rated based on their history, geography and particular games or incidents that add to their intensity level. Playoff history adds more to any rivalry, as does facing a lot of former teammates in any given game. Also, recent history will be ranked higher than events that happened 20 or more years ago.
Keep in mind that these rankings are based on right now, at the start of the 2014-15 season. The fact that two teams once had a burning hatred for each other but no longer do will significantly lower the ranking on this list.
The team that narrowly missed making this list, the Detroit Red Wings, is an example of a matchup that used to be extremely intense but has faded a bit in recent years, especially since the Wings have moved to the Eastern Conference.
Feel free to comment on any team mentioned here or suggest a team you feel belongs but was omitted. As always, be sure to indicate why you feel the way you do.
5. Colorado Avalanche
The San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche are old playoff foes. The two clubs have met four times in the postseason with each team winning twice.
The Avs captured the first two series in 1999 and 2002, while the Sharks won in 2004 and 2010.
Last season, the teams split their four-game series with each team winning twice at home. One of the Sharks' wins came in a shootout when Logan Couture netted the game-winner.
The December 23 meeting last season was particularly intense. Two fights broke out in the first period, with Mike Brown taking on Cody McLeod just two minutes and 26 seconds into the game and Brad Stuart and Jamie McGinn dropping the gloves about six minutes later.
Although the Sharks and Avalanche are not in the same division, they both figure to win plenty of games this year, and the competition between them figures to remain fierce.
4. Chicago Blackhawks
The San Jose Sharks know the Chicago Blackhawks are one of the top teams they have to get past in the Western Conference if they hope to reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history.
The Blackhawks and Sharks have met only once in the playoffs, in 2010 in the Western Conference Final. The Blackhawks swept the series and went on to win the Stanley Cup.
There are a number of connections between the two clubs. Sharks general manager Doug Wilson spent 14 seasons of his Hall of Fame career with Chicago. Goalie Antti Niemi also started his career with the Blackhawks and won the Stanley Cup with them in 2010 before signing with the Sharks as a free agent.
In addition, the Sharks had signed Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to an offer sheet in 2010 when he was a restricted free agent. The Blackhawks managed to match the offer and keep Hjalmarsson, who remained an important part of the club in their next championship in 2013.
For a year or two, both of these teams figure to be contenders in the Western Conference. That will help make the head-to-head meetings between these two clubs important and help keep the rivalry alive.
3. Vancouver Canucks
Geography plays a part in the rivalry between the San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks. These two teams are rivals on the West Coast and in the Pacific Division.
They have met twice in the playoffs. The first time was in the 2011 Western Conference Final, which the Canucks won in five games. The Sharks and Canucks collided again in the opening round of the playoffs two years later, and San Jose swept the series in four straight games.
The Sharks have had success against Vancouver recently. San Jose won nine straight games (including playoffs) against their nearest rivals to the north before Vancouver finally ended the slump on November 7 of last season.
This rivalry should continue for years to come since these two teams are in the same division and will be competing for playoff spots for the foreseeable future.
2. Anaheim Ducks
The San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks are a natural rivalry. First, you have the constant competition between Northern California and Southern California. When you add the fact that both teams play in the Pacific Division and both have been contenders in recent years, you have the making of a great rivalry.
The Sharks and Ducks have met only once in the playoffs. Anaheim ousted San Jose in six games in the opening round of the 2009 postseason.
Each team also has some very talented centers that will face off each time the two teams meet this coming season. Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture of San Jose will face Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler of Anaheim.
These two teams should be battling each other this season and for many years to come.
1. Los Angeles Kings
The rivalry between the San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings is not just the most intense for San Jose, but it's one of the biggest in the entire league these days.
Both the Kings and Sharks have been serious contenders in recent years, with the Kings winning a pair of Stanley Cups in the last three years and the Sharks accumulating one of the league's best records over the last decade.
Both teams are in the Pacific Division, and then there is the geographic rivalry between Northern California and Southern California to add to the equation.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter coached the Sharks for more than five seasons, and that only adds fuel to the fire. Sutter helped transform the Sharks from an expansion team to consistent contenders, then he helped turn the Kings from contenders into champions.
The Sharks and Kings have also met in the postseason three times in the last four years. After the teams split the first two meetings, the Kings won a historic series over the Sharks in the opening round of last season's playoffs when they became just the fourth team in NHL history to overcome a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven series.
This rivalry is red-hot right now and will not fade away anytime soon. The Bay Area vs. Los Angeles is a rivalry that goes beyond sports, and the Sharks and Kings are now a big part of it.