The “12 Days of Christmas” is a classic holiday song first published in its current form in 1908. In a nod to the classic carol, join The Hockey Writers as we countdown the 12 Days of Hockeymas. Each day, we will provide you with a piece of hockey history as we eagerly await the start of the 2020-21 NHL season.
The San Jose Sharks are entering their 30th NHL season in 2020-21, after missing the playoffs despite years of consistency. Similarly, the Sharks missed the playoffs in 2014-15, after nine consecutive playoff berths. However, after the 2015 offseason, the club made significant changes, and made a deep playoff run. After 24 seasons of never reaching it, the team represented the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Final.
The Sharks’ 2015 offseason was key to their success in the 2015-16 season. There were many key moves, but none more than the trade for Martin Jones. The Boston Bruins recently added Jones from the Los Angeles Kings as part of the Milan Lucic trade. The goalie was flipped to San Jose for former fifth-round pick Sean Kuraly and a 2016 first-rounder.
In free agency, the Sharks added key players. The team needed a solid defenseman to complement Brent Burns, so the team added Paul Martin, and inked him to a four-year deal. The Sharks also needed to bring in wingers to help their solid center depth. The Sharks signed Joel Ward of the Washington Capitals to a three-year contract.
The organization also signed star winger of the Finnish hockey league, Joonas Donskoi, to a two-year contract. All these acquisitions made the Sharks roster more deep and gave it great scoring upside.
With the disappointing 2014-15 season, changes needed to be made. General manager Doug Wilson knew this and made a key head coaching change. Wilson hired former New Jersey Devils coach, Pete DeBoer.
Along with a new coaching staff, came a change of leadership positions. After the infamous reverse sweep in the 2014 Playoffs, the Sharks removed the “C” from Joe Thornton, and the team had a few players sporting the “A” patches. However, DeBoer named Joe Pavelski as the franchise’s ninth captain ahead of the next season.
The Regular Season
Three Sharks stood out above the others in the 2015-16 season: Thornton, Pavelski, and Burns. “Jumbo Joe” had an incredible bounce-back season — he totaled 19 goals and 82 points in a full NHL season. He finished fifth in voting for the Hart Trophy after this great season. The new captain notched a team-leading 38 goals and added 40 assists. Burns scored 27 goals and 75 points in a stellar season. This season saw him finish third in Norris Trophy voting.
Logan Couture only got into 52 games, but still had 15 goals and 36 points. Ward, Patrick Marleau, and Tomas Hertl all had over 20 goals and 40 points. In addition to Burns, the top four defenseman, Martin, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Justin Braun, played great.
In his his first season in San Jose, Martin played great. He suited up for 65 games and maintained a .918 save percentage. At the trade deadline, the Sharks added goaltender James Reimer, who played great and pushed Jones to keep his starting role. The Sharks finished with 98 points and third in the Pacific Division.
In the first round the Sharks met the Kings again, and got revenge for their 2014 playoff loss. The club was able to quickly beat the Kings in five games, in a tight series where the first four games were separated by just a goal. Donskoi’s game-winning goal in Game 5 sent them to the second round.
The Sharks had much more trouble in their date with the Nashville Predators. The Sharks won the first two games of the series, before travelling to Nashville where they dropped the next two. This included a triple overtime loss in Game 4. The Sharks won Game 5, but lost the next game in overtime. In Game 7, the team won dominantly, with a 5-0 shutout.
The Western Conference Final was against the St. Louis Blues. The series was split 2-2 after the first four games, and two Jones shutouts. The Sharks won the next two games comfortably, with 6-3 and 5-2 wins respectively. The team won their first conference final, and went onto their franchise’s only Stanley Cup Final.
Unfortunately, the Sharks lost to Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games. After dropping the first two games in Pittsburgh, the Sharks won Game 3 in overtime from Donskoi’s game winner. The Sharks would lose Game 4, and win Game 5. However, in Game 6 their season came to an end.
This playoff run was headlined by Logan Couture, who had the most points in the playoffs, with 30 in 24 games. Jones’ .923 save percentage was also key in the team’s success. Captain Pavelski also led in postseason goals with 14.
This was an incredible season for the Sharks, and the biggest moment in postseason history. The team’s only Stanley Cup Final ended bitterly, but was an extremely important moment for San Jose.