I’m of the mind that the San Jose Sharks team we’ll see play at SAP Center against the Los Angeles Kings on Oct. 12 will be better than the one that opened the 2015-16 season. That bodes well for the Sharks given that last year’s team came within two wins of taking home the Stanley Cup.
A lot of things need to go right to make a deep Stanley Cup Playoff run, so obviously the Sharks will need to be more than good. They’ll need to get a bit lucky in terms of both injury and the usual puck luck that can determine the fate of a series.
There’s also the extra mileage to consider. The Sharks ended up playing 106 games last year, by far the most in a single season in franchise history. That will take a toll on the Sharks, particularly those on the wrong side of 30.
So just how difficult is it to put it all together two years in a row, from a historical perspective? And once you get back to the Final, what are your odds of actually winning it? Let’s take a historical perspective on these questions, understanding that this is more of an interesting tidbit than an actual indicator of the Sharks likelihood to win the Stanley Cup next year.
To keep from repeating the Montreal Canadiens and New York Islanders over and over again, we’re going to stick to seasons in the 1990s or later. The game is different now (and truthfully the 2006 season was much different than the one in 1991) and getting back to the Cup Final seems to be more difficult than in the past.
1991 and 1992 Pittsburgh Penguins
This isn’t the only time the Penguins will show up on this list. The Pens won back-to-back Cups in the 1991 and 92 seasons, beating the Minnesota North Stars in ‘91 and the Chicago Blackhawks in ‘92. Pittsburgh won the first ‘Cup in six games and the second in just four.
1997 and 1998 Detroit Red Wings
The Scotty Bowman coached Red Wings were pretty darn good, as it turns out. Bowman had already won a Cup with the 1992 Penguins and he picked up two more in the same decade with a different NHL powerhouse.
1999 and 2000 Dallas Stars
The Stars, under Ken Hitchcock, took down the Lindy Ruff led Buffalo Sabres in the 1999 Stanley Cup but fell to Larry Robinson and the New Jersey Devils in 2000. Still, batting .500 in the Stanley Cup Final is nothing to be ashamed of.
2000 and 2001 New Jersey Devils
For the second time in two years we had a chance to see a back-to-back Stanley Cup Final champion and for the second time in two years we got a new champ. The 2001 Devils lost to the Colorado Avalanche, coached by Bob Hartley at the time. If you need proof that you can win with a terrible coach, look no further than the 2001 Avs.
2008 and 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings
A pretty-darn-rare in the modern era Stanley Cup Final rematch played out no tall that long ago with the Red Wings winning the first battle and losing the second. That marked the end of the Winged Wheels’ dynasty and (we thought) started the Sidney Crosby dynasty. Things ended up working out okay for those guys, I guess.
Of the 52 Stanley Cup Final slots available, we had 12 filled by teams in the midst of back-to-back Finals. Said another way, teams went to back-to-back Finals 12 out of 50 possible times. The loser from the previous year went on to win the next year just once (the Penguins in 2009). Much more common was seeing the previous year’s winner returning to the Final.
Remember that this is just some “fun” historical context and doesn’t actually have any bearing on whether the Sharks will get back to the Final in 2017. Please don’t get mad at me.