My friend and colleague Jamie Baker knows a thing or two about getting to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. “Bakes” is best know for scoring the biggest Sharks goal ever when he netted the winner in the teams’ Game 7 victory over the Detroit Red Wings back in the spring of 1994. By the way the 20th anniversary of that seminal moment in franchise history is a month away. But Baker also scored both goals in a 2-1 Sharks win at Los Angeles on April 5th of that year. That victory put the Sharks in the post season for the first time ever.
Monday night in Calgary the Sharks earned a point in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Flames. That point gave them 101 on the season and sent them to the playoffs for the 17th time. It’s also the 10th year in a row that the Sharks will get a shot at playing for glory. Only the Detroit Red Wings, with 22 straight trips to the post season, have a longer streak in the NHL. It remains to be seen if the Wings can make it 23 in a row as they are still battling in the Eastern Conference race.
Baker pointed out in his Great White Bite blog yesterday (is it wrong to blog about a blog?) that a decade of playoff hockey is the envy of a lot of organizations. He’s right. We all tend to take it for granted that the Sharks are going to be a playoff team every year. Many tend to measure the success of the franchise by how far they go in the playoffs. Fair enough, but first you have to maneuver through a treacherous and grueling schedule and get to the playoffs before you can seek the Promised Land. To be a consistent playoff team takes the commitment of ownership, the wisdom of the general manager and the skill of his scouts, the acumen of the coaching staff and the talent of the players. It also takes the support of the fans, sponsors and broadcast partners that help pay the bills. The Sharks are blessed to have enjoyed plenty of the above.
Detroit’s 22 year playoff run is tops in all of professional sports in the US and Canada. The San Antonio Spurs of the NBA are next at 16 straight. The San Jose Sharks are now in elite company with 10 straight playoff seasons, tied with another basketball team the Denver Nuggets.
The best is yet to come. The Sharks will battle for the Pacific Division title and perhaps even the Presidents Trophy over their final 9 games. And after that the best hockey tournament in the world will start. But before all of that, take a moment to appreciate another trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 14 teams won’t be going this year. Those teams will be envious.
I’m Randy Hahn for sjsharks.com