It has been 9,862 days. That’s a big number when you let it sink in for a second. That’s 9,862 dinners. That’s 9,862 times waking up in the morning. That’s 1,408 weeks of crawling into bed at the end of the day. That’s 324 months of flipping over the calendar. It is 27 years, minus one day, since the first time the San Jose Sharks put steel to ice in the NHL. It’s been 148 days since San Jose skated off the Vegas ice, soul-crushed once again.
Every year the same wide-eyed optimism engulfs the fan base, because “this is our year.” And people aren’t wrong, every team starts 0-0-0, all tied for first place. Sometimes you have to squint really hard and maybe tilt your head 90 degrees to see the chance of going all the way, but you do it anyway. You do it because being sad sucks. Recently, the Sharks have been damn good, outlined expertly here, and no one would bat an eye over picking San Jose to go the distance.
But that’s the thing: picking San Jose to go all the way always seems like an exercise in futility. Every year follows the same script, or so it seems. As Canada slowly snaps out of its winter stupor and the warm summer winds return, the Sharks use the spring to exit stage right. It happens in round one, it happens in round two, it happens in the conference finals, and one time it happened in the final. Each and every time, it felt like an old friend had returned to say hi. A dead, cold, depressing friend here to let us know the party is over. You see the same look on your friend’s face, you see it on Doug Wilson's face and you see it on Joe Thornton’s face.
But I’m tired of watching Joe Thornton tell us how it was a bounce here, a play there, and how it all could have been different. I am tired of seeing his joyful face sink into resignation as he watches his legacy take another arrow from some good ol’ hockey man with a blue check mark. I don’t want to see that again. I’ve hit my sad Thornton quota for my lifetime.
But lucky for me, that quota won’t grow in 2019.
No, we won’t see teal sweaters slumped over in defeat. No, we won’t see a deflated Doug Wilson look wistfully upon the ice wondering what went wrong. No, we won’t see Martin Jones with a 100-yard stare. We won’t, because it’s not happening, not this year. This is the year.
San Jose will be the team chucking a flurry of gloves into the air. San Jose will be the team pouring over the boards like a chaotic teal wave. San Jose will be the team that gets to feel the sweet taste of polished silver on their lips. San Jose will be the Stanley Cup Champions.
Am I being dramatic? Maybe. But how can you not be when you take a look at what Wilson has crafted? How can you not feel anything but overwhelmed with an optimistic passion that this is the team to erase three decades of jokes? How can you look at a team that just acquired Erik-effing-Karlsson and think, it’s never gonna happen?
This is a Sharks team that is all in. They have the aforementioned Karlsson. They have a second line of borderline elite goal-scorer Logan Couture, breakout poised Timo Meier and two-way beast Tomas Hertl. They added in the Liiga’s top scorer in Antti Suomela and have him playing with fellow Finn and talented winger Joonas Donskoi. They added a goal-scoring winger in Evander Kane to play with goal-scoring winger Joe Pavelski. If Erik Karlsson isn’t the best offensive defense man in the league, that’s OK, because they have the other contender in Brent Burns. Marc-Edouard Vlasic will take your superstar and turn him into a third liner. Playoff Martin Jones. This is all on one team, all on our beloved team, all ready to go for 2018-19. The hype train is almost full.
Are there some holes? Of course, but who among us doesn’t have some flaws? Nobody’s perfect and neither is San Jose, but it makes it easier when you have a defense that looks like the monster San Jose is unleashing. It makes it easier when you have a team that believes in each other. It makes it easier when you have talent up and down the lineup.
So it makes no sense to worry about the margins and clutch your pearls over the fact that the fourth-line center spot might not be quite worked out. Those cautions need to go out the window, you need to strap in, and you need to be all in with everyone else. This team is going to be hella fun, and you don’t want to be the person that sticks on a well, actually for the entire season because you’ll be missing what’s right in front of you.
This is the year. This is the season. This team is all in. The San Jose Sharks will finally reach the mountaintop. When the puck drops at SAP Center in a few hours, the hype train will leave the station. Choo-choo, baby.