Despite returning a star studded roster for the upteenth time in 2014-15, the San Jose Sharks will officially not qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in over 10 years. While the ultimate goal was never achieved, Team Teal did win 7 out of their 10 first round series during the streak, giving their fans plenty of positive memories they will never forget.
2003-2004: The Streak Begins
No more Owen Nolan, no more Teemu Selanne, the 2003-04 San Jose Sharks were coming off a dismal 13th place Western Conference finish in 2002-03. Star veterans departed and there were questions aplenty about what the team would look like. As it turns out, the rag tag group of veterans and younger players delivered San Jose’s first ever trip to the Western Conference final. In fact, losing in six games is still the closest the Sharks have ever gotten to winning the Stanley Cup. Of course there were the obvious names like Patrick Marleau and Evgeni Nabokov, but savvy veterans Vincent Damphousse, Mike Ricci, Scott Thornton, Mike Rathje, Brad Stuart, Scott Hannan, and Kyle McLaren all played key roles. Not to mention, many forget Jonathan Cheechoo was terrific before Joe Thornton ever arrived. The Cheechoo train scored 28 goals during the regular season in 2003-04 and delivered one of the most memorable goals in franchise history:
The Sharks finished a fantastic regular season as division champions and they went into the playoffs on huge high after the regular season finale. They were already in the playoffs but the epic comeback in game 82 catapulted them into the playoffs with big time momentum. As play by play man Randy Hahn put it, “the magical season ends with more magic.”
The very first playoff game in 2004 also provided some thrilling heroics as Niko Dimitrakos (remember him?) scored in overtime of a 0-0 Game 1. His goal blew the roof off the Shark Tank!
2005-2008: Early Years of the Thornton Era
The Sharks were in the midst of a 10 game losing streak as November 2005 came to a close. Fortunately for them a whopping steal of a trade brought them super star center Joe Thornton from the Boston Bruins. Thornton instantly turned the Sharks around and the 10 year long streak was largely due to his presence as the team’s best forward in nine of the ten years. During the 2006, 2007, and 2008 playoffs the Sharks would be eliminated in the second round each time but not without some memorable moments in the first round. There was also Jonathan Cheechoo’s 56 goal, Rocket Richard winning 2005-06 season that no Sharks fan will soon forget. In terms of playoff moments, two in particular stand out. The first being Patrick Marleau’s hat trick in 2006.
There was also the best individual Game 7 performance in franchise history in 2008. Jeremy Roenick’s two goal, two assist effort powered the Sharks to a memorable Game 7 victory. (Roenick highlights in following video start at the 2:00 minute mark).
2008-09 (President’s Trophy Winners)
Let’s move on…
During the 2010 and 2011 playoffs the Sharks made back-to-back appearances in the Western Conference finals. The 2010 team was built with great depth including Manny Malhotra as a terrific third line center and a baby faced Logan Couture chipping in on the third line. Unfortunately the 2010 team would lose to the unstoppable Chicago Blackhawks but they still delivered some incredibly awesome playoff moments. Joe Pavelski’s Game 4 heroics in Colorado helped Dan Boyle move on from his Game 3 blunder.
These were the years where Joe Pavelski became “The Big Pavelski” as he scored multiple overtime winners. San Jose would go onto beat the Detroit Red Wings in the following series in 2010 when Patrick Marleau scored one of the more classic series winning goals in Sharks playoff history.
The following year the Sharks would knock off the LA Kings in the first round in six games and then again beat the Red Wings the following round. Unfortunately the Sharks would lose to arguably the better team in round 3 as the Vancouver Canucks would dispatch San Jose in five games (stupid stanchion). That isn’t to say there weren’t some terrific moments to look back on from the 2011 playoffs. The Sharks overcame a four goal deficit against the Kings in Game 3 to win 6-5 in overtime:
2011-12 (Only Joe Thornton Showed up)
Only Joe Thornton showed up in the playoffs versus St. Louis. Let’s move on.
2012-13 (Burns and Torres Star)
After the 2011-12 season ended so miserably, the Sharks were an interesting team going into the following season. They appeared old and slow but two key moves, trading for Raffi Torres and moving Brent Burns to forward midseason helped spark the Sharks into a forechecking nightmare for opposing teams. The Sharks were deep up front, solid on the blue-line and backed by Vezina caliber goaltending from Antti Niemi in 2013. In the first round they completed their first ever series sweep of an opponent by knocking out the Canucks. Burns and Torres teamed up to win Game 2 on the road in overtime with this memorable two on one goal:
San Jose would go on to play an epic back and forth series vs the Kings in round 2, a series which they were arguably the better team. They lost Games 1 and 2 in Los Angeles but were the better team both nights. They were also the better team the next two games where they tied the series at home. Game 5 they led a dud in Los Angeles before the final two games being evenly played. The most memorable moment of that series for the Sharks was this Logan Couture OT winning goal:
2013-14 (The Historic Collapse)
After another strong regular season, the Sharks hosted the Kings in the first round. It didn’t go San Jose’s way as they became just the fourth team ever to blow a 3-0 series lead and lose in seven games. Unfortunately, Sharks GM Doug Wilson severely overreacted to the manner in which the Sharks lost. Wilson’s mistakes are the primary reason the 10 year streak has come to an end. Blaming his top players, calling his team “not good enough”, calling them a “tomorrow team”, moving Burns back to defense (where he isn’t as useful), signing no new talent outside of fourth line enforcer John Scott, and stripping Thornton of the captaincy all led to the most miserable Sharks season in over a decade. The 2014-15 Sharks should have easily extended the streak to 11 years had Wilson simply left Burns at forward and brought in a top-4 defenseman to play the role Burns did this season on the blueline. Wilson did a lot of great things as GM to build this streak, but he is the primary reason that it has now ended. The Sharks would be wise to remove him and bring in a new face as General Manager.