The San Jose Sharks are in the midst of what many would consider their best regular season stretch ever. Team Teal recently posted the longest winning streak in the NHL this season and franchise history and they have won 14 of their past 15 contests, taking 29 of 30 possible points. In all likelihood, San Jose will set a club mark for points in a season and is on track to win their third division title, with the NHL’s Presidents’ Trophy for the top overall record still a possibility.
That is a far cry from the 1992-93 season when the Sharks turned in an 11-71-2 mark that included a 17-game losing streak. The streak is a bit more dubious considering the NHL still had ties as an option for game conclusions back then.
Sharks Assistant Coach Rob Zettler was a blueliner on that team and has experienced firsthand the extremes longtime Sharks fans have gone through. In short, the Sharks second season was not the best of times.
“To sum it up in one word, embarrassing,” said Zettler. “We did not have success individually or collectively. I remember days when it was extremely frustrating. Guys would snap at practice, snap out of practice, snap out of the game, snap in games.”
Zettler said the Sharks coaching staff, led by George Kingston, kept emotions in check as much as possible.
“George was quite the optimist, he was a very positive guy,” said Zettler. “He stayed with ‘keep working hard boys it’s going to come,’ and he would always find the silver lining. That’s what made him such a great guy.
“George got frustrated too. But as coach now, I can only imagine what he was going through. The frustration, the pit in your stomach, (thinking) is this ever going to end? Now we lose three or four in row and started to wonder if we were going to win again,” laughed Zettler.
It wasn’t like the Sharks were not up to par in one particular category, as they lacked for talent all over the ice. That was part of being a second year NHL franchise at the time.
“There was a lot of inconsistency during that period, not only with our play, but with our lineup,” said Zettler. “People coming in all the time, there were about 45 people wearing Sharks jerseys that year. It was tough all around. I know that a lot of guys felt the same way, and to be a apart of that is not what you want to do.
“We flat out lost, I mean we had trouble keeping the puck out of the net and we had trouble scoring, it’s a bad combination.”
To ensure future clubs did not enter the NHL as inept as the Sharks roster, the NHL actually tweaked the rules for exposing players in the expansion draft after the Sharks early failures.
“You have to remember that we had a lot of guys, a lot of minor league guys, that were getting their first chance to play in the NHL and that’s what it really came down to,” said Zettler.
The only positive of the losing streak was it never reached 18 games.
“I guess the only thing I remember is winning finally in Winnipeg,” said Zettler. “I remember winning in Winnipeg and just feeling a huge collective sigh of relief after the game. There was a little bit of happiness and celebration, but when you really think about it afterwards, there wasn’t a whole lot to be proud of. We won one game and there was a lot of work ahead of us.
Zettler has many fond memories of his early days with the Sharks, but thoroughly enjoys the current roster he gets to coach.
“Now we got guys like Joe Thornton
and the addition of Brian Campbell,” said Zettler. “I don’t think Sharks history has seen that much talent up front and that much talent on the back end.”
For Sharks players now, a potentially long playoff run is right around the corner, but in the spring of 1993, the only thing Zettler and his teammates could look forward to was the golf course. Things have changed dramatically for the better for both Zettler and the Sharks.
The Sharks will visit Phoenix at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday and the game will be available on Versus, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.