The Ride Down To Mt. Morgan is a play by Arthur Miller, centered on a bigamist who has a near-death experience and is forced to confront the dual lives he’s been living with two separate wives. Though the story is mainly a commentary on societal pressures surrounding monogamy, there’s an undercurrent of whether the near-death experience was an attempted suicide and the characters speak frankly about life and death.
Despite this not being one of Miller’s more popular works, there’s something to the commentary that has always stuck with me. One quote in particular has influenced the ways I’ve looked at finishing a work of my own:
“Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets.”
I’ve drawn plenty of comparisons between theatre and sports before, but when it comes to having the right regrets, maybe that feeling is a little more universal. Life, after all, is about compromise — something that isn’t just limited to the worlds of sports and theatre. Maybe I’m being presumptuous, but I’d like to think that if Doug Wilson heard this quote today, the first thing that would come to mind would be this off-season.
It seems like the last couple of seasons — since the Sharks made the Stanley Cup Final for the first time, or after half the roster was injured in playoffs the following year, or losing Patrick Marleau, or integrating Erik Karlsson — the uncertainty to begin the season has been a manageable amount that felt more like an undercurrent to the team’s inevitable success.
Perhaps I’m starting to grow old and hardened by disappointment or maybe this year’s concerns really are that much bigger. For the first time ever, I find myself wondering if the Sharks were in a different division this year, would they still be competitive? I also find myself hating that the answer is maybe not.
When I look at the moves Doug Wilson has made over the last few years in particular, I am still grateful to be a fan of a team with a General Manager who is willing to take chances. I appreciate his willingness to pursue the best talent available and his incredible sense for trades that almost always seem to have the Sharks on the winning end of things. We are lucky that Wilson isn’t afraid of cutting his losses when necessary, if not sometimes a bit too late.
He’s not perfect, but he’s kept the Sharks in contention for so long that we’ve stopped being excited about making the playoffs because it just seems like a given after how heavily Wilson has stacked this team with talent. That is a gift few fan bases are afforded.
But that aggressive nature comes with a price tag. Over the last few seasons, Wilson has given up quite a bit in order to bring in players like Erik Karlsson, Gustav Nyquist and Evander Kane. This summer, to keep Karlsson long term (a move with which I am complete on board), it seems all of the chickens Wilson used to make San Jose competitive have come home to roost at the same time. After losing three different top-six forwards in the off-season, the Sharks’ roster is the greenest it has been in recent memory.
I truly hope that my fears are quickly assuaged and, hell, I’ve trusted Doug Wilson so far. I keep coming back to the possibility of regrets, and how this off-season seems loaded with opportunities for them.
Will it be worth the first round picks given up along the way? What effect will the loss of Joe Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi have? Should there have been a change in net after last season? Are the kids truly ready to step up to the plate, especially under a coach who values veterans with intangibles over kids with skill? What is Dalton Prout doing on an NHL roster? There’s plenty of room for doubt.
For today, before the Sharks head to Vegas to face the Golden Knights in their season opener, I’m going to trust in Wilson and his plan for this team. Allowing the youth to step up and fill in is scary, but it’s something we’ve been screaming for coaches and GMs to do for years. And even if it doesn’t work out, are we really going to regret trying something so few teams are willing to do? Isn’t that the whole reason we like Wilson in the first place?
I guess what I’m trying to say here is that I’m nervous going into this season and that’s the first time I’ve really experienced this as a Sharks fan. It’s a new feeling, but I have to keep reminding myself that it isn’t necessarily bad. Regret in sports is an inevitability and hindsight will always be 20/20, but we’re not there yet. We won’t know until, well, we know.
And Doug Wilson did let Micheal Haley take his career to New York, so it can’t all be bad, right?
We have to allow ourselves to have the right regrets.
By the time the Sharks raise the Cup, we won’t have any regrets at all.