A woman approached me at a charity event Tuesday and asked “What’s wrong with the Sharks?” I reminded her that they have one of the best records in the NHL and that while the loss in Chicago Sunday wasn’t pretty; it’s a long season.
But I do get what she means. When your team starts the season 6-0 for the second straight year you get used to it, and then you start to expect it to continue. When you put up a 9 spot against the Rangers, expectations get a little out of whack.
But the great thing about being an NHL fan is that every season is a roller coaster ride wrapped up in a soap opera. When you play an 82 game schedule in 30 cities from October through April a lot of stuff is going to happen. Times will go from great, to good, to not so great to ugly. If you can manage the not so great and ugly part and keep that to a minimum you’ve got a good chance to make the playoffs. And then a much more exciting roller coaster ride starts all over again.
Here’s the bottom line for the Sharks a quarter of the way through the season. They are a point out of first place in the toughest division in the league and two points away from claiming first place overall to themselves. Joe Thornton leads the league in assists and is one of the best two-way centers in the game. The Sharks have 3 legitimate scoring lines on most nights. The blueline is anchored by Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun who are having Olympic Team worthy seasons. The goaltending of Antti Niemi and Alex Stalock has been great to excellent. Special teams? Check. They are extremely well coached and most nights that is reflected in their detailed play. And they have the leading candidate for the Calder Trophy in Tomas Hertl.
Do the second periods need to get better? Yes. Can they do a better jog closing out games some nights? I think so. Would it be awesome if somebody other than Logan Couture scored a shootout goal every once in a while? Yep.
But looking at the big picture things aren’t so bad. Was the loss in Chicago disappointing? Of course it was. Maybe the outcome would have been a little different if the Sharks didn’t have to play the defending champions on the final night of a five-game in five time zones in eight days, west-to east-to west-to east, road trip. But that’s one of the obstacles along the way that must be faced.
As a group the Sharks ought to be pleased with the first quarter of the season but not satisfied. They’ve established a foundation for success going forward but there’s room for improvement.
No team wins them all and no team loses them all. It’s a roller coaster ride to be enjoyed. Enjoy.
I’m Randy Hahn