The Sharks dropped their opening two games for the first time since the 2005-06 season. Many Sharks fans are feeling the unfamiliar crawl of start-of-season panic; they simply haven’t known a Sharks team that didn’t start the season ready to win.
It’s probably not unlike how fans felt in ‘05.
Two seasons prior, the Sharks had made it to the Western Conference Final for the first time, ultimately losing to the Calgary Flames. Still, it was a historic season for the franchise. The following season should’ve built on that momentum, but a lockout kept the Sharks away from the ice for an entire year.
When the NHL returned, the 2005-06 Sharks squad definitely got off to a rough start. They followed the initial two losses with three wins - something that became decidedly rare until January. The first half of the season saw a team in shambles. They only won two games that entire November.
The bigger story of that season, though, would be one player: Jonathan Cheechoo.
His freshman campaign in 2003-04 was fairly impressive. Playing with Mike Ricci and Scott Thornton in a limited role, the rookie winger put up 47 points in 81 games. Not bad for a kid that nearly all scouting reports had falling to the late rounds of the draft for his lack of skating ability.
Cheechoo came back in the ‘05-06 season and became a Sharks legend. Suddenly playing along the newly acquired Joe Thornton, Cheechoo put up 56 goals and 37 assists, setting a franchise record with those 93 points. He won the Rocket Richard for the most goals scored in the NHL that year. He’d go on to add another 9 points in the 11 playoff games the Sharks played that year, making him the second leading scorer for the Sharks that post-season.
Because yes, they had a post-season that year. They finished out the regular season second in the Pacific and seeded fifth in the Western Conference. In round one of playoffs, they met the fourth seeded Nashville Predators. The Predators only eked out a single win, with the Sharks wrapping it up in five games.
The next round wasn’t so easy. The eighth seeded Edmonton Oilers had already taken out the number one seed Detroit Red Wings in a major upset. While the Sharks won the first two games, they went on to lose the next four, and Edmonton took the series, eventually making it to the cup final.
Any of that sound familiar?
A historic season in which the Sharks get further in playoffs than they ever have as a franchise, followed by a year with major schedule changes that throw everyone off their game. Then a season in which they fail to win at the start, but a sophomore winger shows promise on Joe Thornton’s top line.
So the Sharks didn’t win the cup in 2006. Is that the only measure of success in a league where 13 of 31 teams have never hit that milestone?
We keep telling ourselves that it’s only two games. That may be true for now. The Sharks may find themselves quickly and top the Pacific this year. Or they could middle out for awhile and still lead us to a respectable playoffs performance. Or maybe they crash and burn and we finally get that coveted top three draft pick. All we can do is wait and see what happens.
The good news is that history is on our side this time.