The San Jose Sharks are facing a collapse of historical proportions in this year's playoffs.
They won the first three games of their second-round series against the Detroit Red Wings. Since then, they fought their way back from a 3-0 deficit in Game 4 only to lose late, surrendered a two-goal third-period lead at home in Game 5 and failed to even put up a fight in Game 6.
Failure and angst over the playoffs is nothing new for this team and its fans. San Jose has earned its reputation for playoff futility by finding new and creative ways to fold in May since the lockout ended.
But what is bad for San Jose is great for the NHL. Why?
First, it creates a buzz. ESPN normally reserves its sports talk shows for the NBA and even baseball at this time of year, but the Sharks-Red Wings were the opening two segments on Jim Rome is Burning plus the first two topics he discussed with each guest. It was the first topic on Around the Horn. It probably led Pardon the Interruption, too.
No story being talked about is bad for a league that is in danger of being as irrelevant in the United States as soccer.
Moreover, it creates fodder for outspoken and harsh criticism like that debated in the link to Game 6 above. It does the same for call-in radio programs around the country.
Will the Sharks complete the collapse Thursday?
It also creates a compelling storyline to watch on television. In fact, without this collapse, there would be no second-round games to even cover.
Now the NHL can extend coverage of this round and put off commencement of the conference finals. They will continue to be played as late as Memorial Day weekend, allowing the Stanley Cup Finals to push into the second week of June.
This is not to say there is a conspiracy. The league did not arrange to have the Sharks lose.
Conspiracy theories are almost always without merit, much like those claiming Osama bin Ladin is not dead. How many people have to be bought off and how many others kept silent for these to be accurate?
No, given their history, the Sharks would take no money to lose. Their loved ones have not all been threatened. They just have that history because they do not do the little things it takes to win at this time of year.
And this unit never will, which keeps the discussion going and interest high.