January 13th, 2011, 7:23 am
It’s not like me to use a lot of puns in post titles, but it’s early in the morning, and I’m at San Jose airport waiting for a flight. Instead of paying $8 for a cup of water, I decided to use the free wifi and do something productive.
The Sharks, through 44 games, are 21-18-5, with 47 points. Last year at this point, they were 28-9-7 (63). That’s quite the dropoff. Instead of going into the myriad reasons why this is so (Mark Purdy’s got a pretty decent theory) I want to compare with some other teams in recent history to see where they might end up at the end of the year.
One is the Philadelphia Flyers. At this time last year, the veteran Flyers were 22-19-3 (47 points). They had changed their coach a month before, in early December 2009, and promptly went on a 2-8 tear. They righted the ship a bit after that, going 6-2 before getting to the 44-game mark. Of course, we know how the season ends up. They won on the last day of the season against the Rangers to squeak into the playoffs, and had a historic series against Boston en route to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they lost to the Hawks in six games.
The other is the 2010 St. Louis Blues. This team of young upstarts that made the playoffs in 09-10 skid the first half of 2010, going 18-19-7 (44) in their first 44 games. Despite decent years from youngsters Perron, Oshie, and Backes, their best player the year before, Brad Boyes, fell off the table, going from 33 goals to 14. They stayed inconsistent the rest of the year, and finished five points out of the postseason.
So will the Sharks turn it around a la Flyers (perhaps with a new coach, as some fans are already calling for), or struggle with mediocrity the rest of the year, as the Blues did? I certainly think the Sharks have much more in common with last years’ Flyers than the Blues. This isn’t a young team trying to find its footing- it’s a veteran team, like Philly, that just couldn’t find a clear path the first half of the year. That’s not much consolation for Sharks fans at this point, nor is it any sort of guarantee San Jose will get their heads out of their asses and get this thing going the right direction. But it’s interesting to know the full gambit of options is still available to the Sharks, using only last year as a guide- postseason success is still attainable, but so is crushing disappointment.