Instead of posing a perspective this week, I bring a question:
Who is San Jose's biggest rival?
First, we should probably acknowledge and dismiss all of the auxiliary possibilities.
While there have been plenty of fascinating and meaningful playoff series against the Detroit Red Wings, I'm not sure they can be counted here. Even though Jamie Baker's 1994 goal is still the "biggest in Sharks history", and even though Todd McLellan is a direct disciple of the greatness that is Mike Babcock... geography, and recent conference re-alignment has diminished any growing animosity between Detroit and San Jose.
The Vancouver Canucks have a lot in common with the Sharks. A West Coast team, frequent playoff appearances in the last 10 seasons, and both franchises are searching for their first Stanley Cup. Not to mention, each club has a tech-savvy and passionate fan-base, which has seen each other in the postseason several times in recent years. But for whatever reason, Vancouverites only seem to align their rivalries East-West instead of anything immediately below the border. Meetings with Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg carry the most weight. And because a rivalry has to go two-ways, San Jose is off the list, despite being a division foe.
I'll throw the Dallas Stars and Phoenix Coyotes into the same category, here. Fun, competitive, nasty games to watch against San Jose over the years - including respective postseason series since 2000, against each. But one thing which promotes instant rivalry is sustained competitiveness - something which the Stars and Coyotes just haven't timed out well with San Jose's playoff runs in the last 11 years. Phoenix makes the more sense than Dallas, from a geographical perspective but either way - the rivalry "temperature" is not hot enough in these two cities, even though the actual temperatures might be.
Which brings us to the realistic possibilities. And even though Los Angeles and Anaheim are "natural rivals" considering their short driving distance from each other - one of them is likely San Jose's biggest rival, too.
Is it the Los Angeles Kings? Considering the playoffs of the last several seasons (2011, 2013, 2014) there is now much significance in their meetings with San Jose. There is also the upcoming Stadium Series game, which will add a new chapter between the clubs. While LA has distinguished itself amongst the hockey world with 2 Stanley Cups in the last 3 years, they have also been in existence nearly 50 years - essentially twice as long as the Sharks. I know what that "head start" means to the development of franchises, but I'm not sure if it means something to the rivalry. Either way - impressive how San Jose has "caught up", from not even existing in 1990.
So it has got to be the Anaheim Ducks, right? Probably. Orange County and Silicon Valley aren't exactly twins, but each is an important piece of their region. The "Mighty Ducks" and Sharks both entered the NHL at similar times, and found success in "untraditional" hockey markets. There has been only one (unfortunate) postseason series between these two teams, but they have still played enough nasty hockey games over the years for the rivalry to exist.
Who do you think the biggest rival is? Leave your comment, below!