A Miracle in the Making?
The San Jose Sharks are in a peculiar position in the Western Conference standings as the team has a mere 4.1 percent chance at making the postseason with just five games left to play. These odds of qualifying for the playoffs are the worst the franchise has seen since the club missed the festivities all together in 2003. This is not favorable.
But even though the Sharks need a miracle to play in round one, it may not be as difficult as statisticians make it out to be.
As fellow Sharks writer, Andrew Bensch, discussed in his article on Thursday, three plausible events could happen in unison to put Team Teal in the playoffs. These events include the Sharks going undefeated the rest of the season, the Winnipeg Jets losing three of their remaining games and Los Angeles falling to the likes of Vancouver, Calgary and—of course—San Jose before season’s end.
The odds are slim, but they exist.
The Two Schools of Thought
San Jose making the postseason is improbable but not impossible. Because of this scenario, Sharks fans continuously flip-flop between two vastly different opinions about how the team should finish. It is a debate of future vs. opportunity.
Falling for the Future
The first viewpoint involves rooting against the team for the sake of draft position. San Jose can still finish 21st or 22nd in the league, thus giving them a top-10 pick in Florida. A ninth or 10th overall selection can easily turn into a franchise player, as both Logan Couture and Dion Phaneuf were picked at that point in the draft.
This could also give Doug Wilson some trading power on June 26th. The Sharks lack a quality top-four defenseman and a solid netminder, two factors that were heavy contributors to their downfall this season. Perhaps the general manager could swing a deal with a rebuilding team using this selection to acquire one of those key pieces. It is definitely a gamble and could backfire severely, but the option is there. With the picks from last season’s draft excelling in their respective leagues, maybe Wilson will be willing to give up his first-rounder for a proven performer.
Repeating the Past
The other side of the argument is that the Sharks can still mathematically make the playoffs, where anything can happen. Two of the past 14 Stanley Cup Finals have featured an eighth place team: The 2006 Edmonton Oilers—who lost in Game Seven to the Carolina Hurricanes—and the 2012 Los Angeles Kings team that won the Cup with ease. You could even throw the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers into that mix if you ignore tie breakers. The playoffs are a crazy time of the year, and any team that qualifies has one-in-16 chance at winning, regardless of what other statistics say.
There is also another reason fans are hoping for a playoff run: they want more hockey. It’s not about winning the Cup or obtaining a higher draft position; it’s about watching their favorite team play for just a bit longer. This may sound careless, but making the playoffs has become such a norm in San Jose that fans aren’t ready for a long offseason. Ten years of playoff appearances can spoil a fanbase like that.
Not knowing what is best for your favorite hockey team is a struggle that many fans face. But when it comes down to it, the team will finish however they finish. The Sharks will do their best to make the postseason despite what their chances are. However, they are at the mercy of their upcoming opponents and the teams that stand between them and the final wild-card spot. There is nothing the fans can do except sit back and watch how the last 10 days of the season unfold.
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.