Year of the Sharks: Why San Jose Will Be the 2010 Stanley Cup Champs

Matt Hutter@mahutter12Analyst INovember 19, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 06:  Evgeni Nabokov #20 goalie of the San Jose Sharks talks to defenseman Joe Thornton #19 against Los Angeles Kings during the NHL hockey game on October 6, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kings won, 6-4.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

We all know this team's story, but a quick review of some of the highlights can't hurt.

So, after making some strategic draft, trade, and free-agent moves, they've emerged into a contender.

In fact, they're the odds on favorite at the beginning of the season.

They make the playoffs, and, no championship.

The next year, they have one of the best regular seasons in NHL history, surely, they will win the Cup now.


They fizzle in the playoffs.

Beaten by, what many believe is an inferior team.

Fans are furious, the team dejected.  They ask, "How can we ever get over the hump and win this thing?"

The captain, the guy who was drafted by the team and eventually made the center piece around which all other parts are placed, is severely questioned.

Rumors of trades persist.  "Maybe we can't win with him," they say. "We can get a lot back in return in a trade," they speculate.

But, the team sticks with him, and moves forward.

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The next season, they identify a key need. 

A sniper, an out and out goal-scoring monster, the type of guy goalies pray won't touch the puck because, if he does, it is likely to zip right past them.

They get him.

He delivers as promised and fits the team like a glove.

Yes, Brendan Shanahan was absolutely key to the Detroit Red Wings finally winning the Cup in 1997 on route to becoming the closest thing to a dynasty the NHL has seen since the New York Islanders of the early 1980's.

Oh, did you think we were talking about the San Jose Sharks?

Well, looking over the path to glory Detroit began in 1995, one could very well map it onto the Sharks journey since 2007 and find some curiously similar story lines emerge.

The Sharks have been the Cup favorites of many hockey pundits at the beginning of the past two seasons, and with good reason.

They've assembled an outstanding team, featuring some of the best players in the league.

Their regular season dominance is staggering, absolutely NO ONE in the league looks forward to playing the Sharks.

Most importantly, there is no reason this team should NOT win.  Looking over the roster, you'd be hard pressed to find any weaknesses.

But, the weaknesses that have prevented the Sharks from winning the Cup were not evident from the roster.

Granted, adding a sniper like Dany Heatley was a very needed move.  But this team was as strong as any other in the league over the past few seasons.

No, the weakness this team has had is a lack of desperation and the belief that, if things don't work out this time, "we'll get 'em next year."

I think it's safe to say that, as of now, there is no "next year."

This was the same attitude the Red Wings had in 1996-97.

They got swept in the Cup finals in 1995 by New Jersey, despite being the odds-on favorite to win.

"We'll get 'em next year."

They got beat by the newly minted Colorado Avalanche in the 1996 semi-finals, despite winning a staggering 62 games in the regular season.

"We'll get 'em next year."

People started to write them off the following season because, why get burned again? 

They should have won the past two years but didn't, why is this year going to be any different.

The Red Wings' answer?

"There is no next year."

It's hard to identify exactly how you know a team has reached this point, but, from watching the drama in Detroit unfold in the 90's, I can tell you the Sharks have "it" this year.

Maybe it's swagger. 

Maybe it's confidence.

Maybe it's simply no longer being excited about scoring the goal that makes it a 6-1 win.

Maybe it's enjoying the fact that you're leading the league in points in November, but still feeling as if you've yet to accomplish anything.

Yes, the Sharks added Heatley to a line-up already boasting Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.  But they also added Scott Nichol and Manny Malhotra.

Not marquee players, but guys you absolutely need come playoff time.

Their "secondary-scorers" are Devin Setoguchi and Ryan Clowe.  Players that would be go-to guys on many other teams.

They have Dan Boyle and Rob Blake on the blue-line.

Two guys who've won before and knows what it takes to do it again.

Evgeni Nabokov has been solid as a rock in goal.  He may not be pitching a shutout every night, but he's giving his team the confidence to play their game and win.

They have all the pieces to prove to themselves and the rest of the league, they are the best team.

They are champions.

But they have more than that.  They have the understanding that, there is no "next year."

The Heatley trade proved that.

This is it.

2010 is the year the Sharks hoist the Cup and may very well be the launch pad to many more.

If not, then this team will have played its last season together. 

That's the feeling Detroit had in 1996-97, and they didn't want to see it come true.

There are no more tomorrows, no more chances, and no more excuses.

Like the Detroit Red Wings before them, they've gone through enough disappointments to know that, they have one and only one option: Winning the Stanley Cup.

Mark my words, as a long-time Red Wings fan, I know what a champion looks like.

The San Jose Sharks will win the Cup in June.


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