2011 NHL Playoffs: Canucks Beat Sharks in Battle of Underachievers

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2011 NHL Playoffs: Canucks Beat Sharks in Battle of Underachievers
Rich Lam/Getty Images
After a flukey goal, all that was left for Antti Niemi was the post-series handshake

The San Jose Sharks are the only team in the NHL to reach the final four of the Stanley Cup playoffs two years in a row.

Unfortunately, they are 1-8 in the conference finals after dropping Tuesday night's contest in Vancouver, 3-2. (Click the following link to see a recap of the game.)

That it was a double-overtime thriller is little consolation to Sharks fans. They have seen their team show promise unrequited for too long.

The Canucks were also seen as underachievers, having not advanced beyond the second round in over a decade. But now that they have advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals, only the Washington Capital more symbolize falling short of expectations than the Sharks.

But is that perception fair, or even accurate?

During Doug Wilson's seven-year tenure as General Manager, the San Jose Sharks have seven playoff appearances and five division titles. Only Detroit has been in the playoffs each of the past seven seasons (one with the advantage of no salary cap), and only Detroit and Vancouver have had that many division titles.

But does that regular season success only heighten the post-season failures? Considering the Sharks have 47 playoff wins (second to Detroit's 61)) and three conference championship appearances (ties for first with Detroit) in that span, I would say they have had plenty of post-season success.

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In fact, 47 wins is 14 more than 10 NHL teams combined over the last seven years. Besides Detroit and San Jose, only Philadelphia (42) and Pittsburgh (41) have more than 31.

Unfortunately, wins tend to get overlooked unless they get a team to the goal of playing in the Stanley Cup Finals. At least six other teams (seven unless the Tampa Bay Lightning wins the Cup) will have captured hockey's Holy Grail in that span, and as many as a dozen teams will have won at least a conference title.

But what good is a conference title without a Stanley Cup? Would anyone really rather be the Edmonton Oilers, with three wins in the Cup finals but only that one appearance?

A case could be made that the Carolina Hurricanes, despite a Cup, have not been as successful since they have only two playoff appearances and 24 wins. Even the Chicago Blackhawks have only three appearances and 28 wins, and Tampa four and 29, respectively.

Consistent contention is the only reasonable marker beyond the Stanley Cup. This leaves San Jose as, at worst, the seventh- or eighth-best franchise in the league during Wilson's tenure.

With 30 teams in the league, that leaves six GMs each for grades of A, B, C, D, and F, leaving Wilson with a B+.

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