Great White Expectations: Looking ahead to the Sharks' boom-or-bust season

Right, like this, except against an eastern conference team. Yes, in the playoffs. - Christian Petersen

Is it Stanley Cup or bust for the San Jose Sharks this year? Absolutely. With a little over a month to go before training camp, we begin our preview of the franchise's crucial 2013-14 season.

[Ed. Note: Jacob is the newest member of our Fear The Fin family and will be contributing pieces throughout this coming season and beyond. Jacob went to his first Sharks game in 1999. They lost to the Dallas Stars. It took 14 years and over a dozen games for Jacob to see the Sharks win a game in person and now seeing Los Angeles Kings car flags once a day does not hurt quite so bad. It still hurts a lot. He loves America, Joe Pavelski and regulation victories.]

For a team that has never even reached the Stanley Cup Finals, is taking home the treasured chalice a reasonable expectation for the 2013-14 iteration of the San Jose Sharks? I say absolutely.

Last year felt like the year, didn’t it? When the team finally got its act together in the first round of the playoffs (you know, when they swept the Canucks? That was fun, wasn’t it? Let’s do that again soon) it looked like this might finally be the team that gets the cup-shaped monkey off the Sharks back.

A few questionable calls, a Raffi Torres suspension and a shot that Joe Pavelski just couldn’t elevate later and the Sharks were sent packing by the then-defending-champions. You know, the guys that play in that dumpy city in the southern part of our fair state? Okay, no need to mention them by name.

So here we are. With Brent Burns officially a forward and the Couture/Pavelski/Vlasic core with another year of experience under their belts. As long as Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau don’t suddenly fall victim to the curse of, you know, aging, the Sharks have a shot at going all the way this year. Just like they have for the past four or five years. Man, that window has been open an awfully long time, hasn’t it? Ever get the feeling it might be clos---never mind. Forget I said anything.

The question is less whether this team has what it takes to win it all - certainly it does. It’s whether we as fans of the teal fish will or should be satisfied with anything less than a parade down Santa Clara Street. Do you know how good it felt to type that? Go ahead and do it for yourself. Yeah...sounds mighty nice.

If it’s possible to have Western Conference Finals fatigue, Sharks fans certainly have it. I don’t need to tell you how many times the Sharks have been there (thrice, twice in the last five years). It’s time to get over the hump. Just looking at the roster as it is currently constructed gives me hope; stupid, blind and ambitious hope.

A full season of Torres may give the Sharks that extra forward depth they so desperately needed last season and while Havlat’s status is still up in the air, the possibility of seeing Tomas Hertl next year is at the very least exciting; and who knows, maybe Bracken Kearns will contribute something. It’s the off-season, let’s throw some blind optimism around here!

The first bit of cold water may come from our fearless Finnish fish, Niemi, who almost certainly will not reproduce his great 2013 season (I will NOT put a 2012 in there Gary Bettman -- and you can’t make me!) where he posted the second highest even-strength save percentage of his career behind only his cup year in 2010-11.

Regardless, failing the offense being as unlucky as it was last year (they were number 12 in the league in Corsi for percentage and were number 26 in the league in shot percentage) -- I’m confident they will improve in that area, especially with Burns as a forward for the entire season; or at least for the part of the season he doesn’t miss with an inevitable injury.

All this is to say that we as Sharks fans have it pretty good all things considered. The team is competitive, the ownership group is committed to winning and we have a sweet name for our arena nice nick name for the arena that is not related to a tech company. With all that comes increased expectations, and I think that’s only fair. If the Sharks don’t win the Stanley Cup this year, I’ll be disappointed. Maybe you won’t be -- but if your expectations, like me, are a championship are bust, well, you have company.

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