After a disappointing season last year, the San Jose Sharks look poised to bounce back in October. The additions of Paul Martin and Martin Jones coupled with the hiring of Peter DeBoer make the Silicon Valley franchise one of the more competitive teams in the league. Although there is a bit of risk that comes with these new acquisitions, the club is significantly better than the one that skated last season.
This improvement should spark a turnaround in both the stands and the standings. The SAP Center in San Jose is consistently one of the most crowded and energetic arenas in hockey, and it sold out 205 consecutive games from December of 2009 to October of 2014.
After an atrocious 2014 offseason and lack of playoff potential, fans just didn’t want to go to games anymore. The 2014-2015 season had the worst attendance the Sharks had seen in a long time as empty seats overtook the barn.
But now that the squad looks to be a playoff team and possible Cup contender once again, people dawning teal should flock back to their seats at the Shark Tank. With the schedule being released last week, people are already planning on what match-ups they want to attend. There are many home games to be excited for, but here are the five that will surely thrill audiences.
In chronological order:
October 22 vs. Los Angeles
Despite being in a “non-traditional market,” the rivalry between the Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings is one of the best in hockey. Each game is filled with skill and physicality as both clubs fight for position in both the Western Conference and the Pacific Division.
These two California teams have faced each other in the playoffs three times in the past five years, with the Kings winning two of the series. This, of course, includes the 2014 reverse sweep, which will be talked about less by Sharks’ fans than the 2009 fiasco when San Jose was upset by the eighth seeded Anaheim Ducks in the first round..
October 22 will also be a rematch of the Stadium Series game that occurred in Santa Clara last winter. Los Angeles took that game by a score of 2-1 and have not visited the Bay Area since.
Both the players and fans of the Sharks are looking for revenge, thus heightening the stakes between these division foes.
December 1 vs. Pittsburgh
The Pittsburgh Penguins made the biggest move of the offseason by trading for Phil Kessel earlier in the summer. Though it is unknown whether the high-scoring forward will play with Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin next year, he will surely make an enormous impact no matter what. If he can put up outstanding numbers playing with a mediocre Toronto Maple Leafs team, then he should explode with the offensively gifted Penguins.
Kessel gives Pittsburgh an offense that will dazzle crowds and populate highlight reels throughout the year. Even casual hockey fans will be stunned by what the Penguins will produce between October and April.
But even without the Kessel deal, games between Pittsburgh and San Jose are almost always exciting. They are tight, highly skilled contests that feature talent beyond belief and keep fans with their eyes pinned on the ice.
Sometimes the stars steal the spotlight, other times it’s depth that prevails. But many times, it’s both:
January 14 vs. Edmonton
This is the first time I have been able to say this in a while, but I can’t wait to see the Edmonton Oilers play in San Jose.
First of all, this will be the first time projected legend, Connor McDavid, will visit the SAP Center. Watching him play may be worth the price of admission in itself, as he is considered to be the next Sidney Crosby. If this is true, he may be able to get the Oilers over the hump and back into the playoff race.
Not only will McDavid be surrounded by Edmonton’s countless other first-overall picks, but he will also be part of a team that has improved both defensively and in-goal. Adding Andrei Sekera and Cam Talbot were great moves by the Oilers’ general manager and the team now has a respectable back-end to supplement their offensive skill.
In addition to the arrival of the so-called “McJesus,” this night will also mark the return of ex-head coach, Todd McLellan.
McLellan coached the Sharks from June of 2008 to April of 2015. Along the way, he brought his team to two Conference Finals and won the President’s Trophy as the best team in the regular season. Although he never won the Stanley Cup with the Sharks, he will go down as one of the best coaches in franchise history.
January 16 vs. Dallas
Two days after Sharks fans catch their first, real-life glimpse of McDavid, the Dallas Stars visit the Tank. This former division rival used to spark hatred among Sharks fans, especially after… well… you know, that quadruple overtime game in 2008 that eliminated Team Teal from the postseason.
But Dallas has been relatively quiet from a Sharks’ perspective for a couple of years. However, they acquired San Jose’s old starting goaltender, Antti Niemi, during this year’s draft, which adds a new dimension to the teams’ relationship with one another.
In five seasons with San Jose, Niemi earned a 163-92-35 record while also recording a .917 SV%. He wasn’t the best goalie the Sharks have ever had, but he wasn’t terrible either. It will be interesting to see how he performs with this Stars’ squad.
On top of acquiring Nemo, Dallas also obtained both Patrick Sharp and Johnny Oduya via trade and free agency respectively. These additions should help the Stars reach the playoffs once again by providing skill at all positions.
Dallas desperately wants to bring another Stanley Cup to Texas, and they are going to do so the only way they know how: by becoming the Chicago Blackhawks.
February 26 vs. Buffalo
This is a highly anticipated game for the same reason as the Oilers coming to town. This is a team that was absolutely terrible last season but has revamped itself in all three departments–offense, defense, and goaltending–as well as behind the bench, in hopes of being competitive once again.
Of course, they also drafted a guy named Jack Eichel, who is supposed to be really good. Word on the street is that he may be pretty fun to watch.
Buffalo and Edmonton used to be the jokes of the NHL, but now they may have lineups that put them right in the middle of the playoff hunt.
This will be exciting.
Drew Weber is a columnist for the San Jose Sharks at The Hockey Writers. He previously wrote articles and appeared on podcasts for Teal Town USA (formerly Pucknology) and contributed briefly to Fear the Fin. You can follow him on Twitter at @puck_over_glass.