Sharks Scare Competition Early

Nine games into a reduced 2013 NHL season, The San Jose Sharks, who were embarrassingly trumped in the first round of last seasons playoffs by the Saint Louis Blues, have begun the season as well as any team can hope for. Sitting at the top of the Pacific Division at 7-1-1, the Sharks have surged as one of the favourites for the Stanley Cup. 

Part of that success has come from General Manager Doug Wilson ensuring the same core of players have remained in San Jose  throughout the years, including arguably the best duo in the league of Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.

In many sporting codes, this stability, for a talent heavy team like the Sharks, often results in success at the highest level; in this case, a Stanley Cup. 
Since 2007, the Sharks have finished first in their division four of a possible five times, and have either finished first or second every year since the 2003-04 season.

Consistency has been the key for the Sharks in this period, but it has failed them at the business end of the season.

Even though the Sharks were undoubtedly a dominant team throughout this era, they have only gone as far as the Conference Finals (three times) and haven’t won more than two games in any of those series. 

To give you an idea of how stable this team is, six players from the Sharks 2006 roster still play a predominant role in the teams structure today. Patrick Marleau (1997), Joe Thornton (2005), Ryan Clowe (2005) and Joe Pavelski (2006) are all bonefide leaders in the Sharks lineup, with the four men all dominating the offensive statistics in the league so far this season. 

From the opening five games, Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski all sat in the Top 5 Points Leaders (Goals and Assists combined) with 14, 14 and 11 respectively with Marleau’s impressive 9 goals (four ahead of the rest of the pack) being the hottest start to a season since 1917.  

So much ice time together has to be beneficial for a franchise but, for one reason or another, the Sharks still haven’t been able to click when it matters. Many think that they have one more season to correct this; and there’s no doubting they look on track. 

One team that stability has worked for, only in a different league, is the Melbourne Ice of the Australian Ice Hockey League. After winning their third Goodall Cup last season, with the acquisition of Sharks GM Doug Wilson’s son Doug Wilson Jr, the Ice have essentially become the pin-up team in the still relatively young Australian league. 

The Ice have six players from the pre-2006 era including the two-time representative in the IIHF World Championship for Australia Vincent Hughes. Could it perhaps be more than mere coincidence that Wilson Jr, who was an assistant operations manager for the Sharks just prior to signing with the Ice, decided to go to a team with a similar regular season record and stability in the core playing group to his father’s Sharks, only with a more successful post-season campaign? Probably not, but it’s still an interesting note. If there was something that makes the Ice successful beyond just the regular season, surely the Wilson’s would take notice?  

One thing’s for sure, if the Sharks have the season that everyone now expects from them and continues that form deep into the playoffs and potentially to a Stanley Cup appearance, it would, at the very least, be one hell of a coincidence. 

Christopher Tyler

February 6th 2013
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