30 Years: A Look at the San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks celebrated 30 years as a franchise this season; a history that has seen many playoff appearances, but with little results
The San Jose Sharks have always fascinated me as a hockey fan. They debuted in the NHL in 1991, becoming Northern California's second and most successful attempt at an NHL franchise, after the failure of the Oakland Seals/California Golden Seals. This season, the Sharks are currently celebrating 30 years as a franchise, but this is actually their 29th season of play--their 30th playing season will occur next year. This team has been good for their entire existence, but can't seem to go far. Here's a look at their complete history.
1991-93: Their first game took place on October 4, 1991, a 4-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks. During their first two seasons, the Sharks were placed in the Smythe Division, but went 17-58-5 (39 points) in their first season, and their second season saw them lose 71 games (a franchise record) and rack up only 24 points (a franchise low).
1993-94: The NHL adopted geographical names for their conferences and divisions, and regarding the Smythe Division, it became the Pacific Division. Sharks had another losing record: 33-35-16 and 82 points, but it was enough for a third place finish in the Pacific and their first playoff appearance in only their third season. Defeated the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, but lost the West Semifinals to the Toronto Maple Leafs (seven games each).
1994-95: Strike-shortened 48-game season saw a 19-25-4 finish (42 points), but returned to the playoffs. Defeated the Calgary Flames in the West Quarters (seven games), but swept by the Red Wings in the West Semis.
1995-97: Suffered back-to-back last place finishes, winning 61 games in the two-season span.
1997-98: Went 34-38-10 (78 points) and returned to the playoffs. Lost the West Quarters to the Dallas Stars (six games).
1998-99: Pacific Division reduced to five teams due to the year's divisional realignment. Went 31-33-18 (80 points); lost the West Quarters to the Colorado Avalanche (six games).
1999-2000: The Sharks first winning season: 35-30-10-7 (87 points). Upset the Presidents' Trophy winning St. Louis Blues in a seven-game West Quarterfinal series, but lost to the then-defending Stanley Cup Champion Stars in a five-game West Semifinal.
2000-01: The team's first 40+ win season--lost the West Quarters to the Blues (six games).
2001-02: Captured their first Pacific Division title with 44 wins and 99 points. Defeated the Phoenix Coyotes in the West Quarters (five games), but lost a seven-game West Semifinal series to the then-defending Stanley Cup Champion Avalanche.
2002-03: Went 28-37-9-8 (73 points); missed the playoffs for the first time since 1996-97.
2003-04: Won their second division title in three years, and accomplished their first 100+ point season in franchise history (104 points). Defeated the Blues in the West Quarters (five games), and the Avalanche in the West Semis (six games) to reach the Western Conference Final for the first time in franchise history, losing in six games to the Flames.
2005-06: Went 44-27-11 (11 OT losses; ties were abolished beginning with that season) and 99 points. Defeated the Nashville Predators in the West Quarters (five games), but lost the West Semis to the Edmonton Oilers (six games).
2006-07: Their first of five straight 100+ point seasons and won a franchise record 51 games. Defeated the Predators in a five-game West Quarterfinal series for the second straight year, but lost the West Semis to the Red Wings (six games).
2007-08: The first of the Sharks' four straight division titles; 49 wins and 108 points. Defeated the Flames in the West Quarters (seven games), but lost the West Semis to the Stars (six games).
2008-09: Sharks captured the Presidents' Trophy for the first and (as of this point) only time in franchise history. 53 wins and 117 points--both franchise records. However, they were defeated by the Anaheim Ducks in the West Quarters (six games).
2009-10: 51-20-11 and 113 points. Defeated the Avalanche in six games (West Quarters), and the Red Wings in five games (West Quarters), but were swept by the eventual Stanley Cup Champions, the Chicago Blackhawks (West Final). This was the team's second West Final appearance in franchise history.
2010-11: 48-25-9 and 105 points. Defeated the Los Angeles Kings in the West Quarters (five games) and the Red Wings in the West Semis (seven games), but lost the West Final to the Vancouver Canucks (five games). This was the team's third West Final appearance in franchise history, and their second straight.
2011-12: Finished 2nd in the Pacific with a 43-29-10 record and 96 points. Lost the West Quarters to the Blues (five games).
2012-13: Lockout-shortened 48-game season; Sharks went 25-16-7 (57 points). Swept the Canucks in the West Quarters, but lost a seven-game West Semifinal series to the then-defending Stanley Cup Champion Kings.
2013-14: Divisions were realigned again, going back to four divisions and increasing the number of Pacific Division teams from five to seven. Sharks went 51-22-9 (111 points), good enough for 2nd place in the Pacific. In the Pacific Division Semifinals, the Sharks won the first three games against the Kings, but went on to lose the next four, becoming the fourth and most recent victim of the "reverse sweep" in NHL history. The Kings went on to capture the Stanley Cup that season.
2014-15: For the first time since the 2002-03 season, the Sharks missed the playoffs.
2015-16: Finished 3rd in the Pacific with a 46-30-6 record and 98 points. Defeated the Kings in a five-game Pacific Semifinal, the Predators in a seven-game Pacific Final, and defeated the Blues in a six-game West Final. Lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final (six games). This was the first and only time that the Sharks reached the Stanley Cup Final.
2016-17: Same win total, but improved by one point (99 points) to finish second in the Pacific. Lost the Pacific Semifinals to the Edmonton Oilers (six games).
2017-18: The expansion Vegas Golden Knights became the eighth team in the Pacific Division. Sharks finished in third place in the Pacific with a 45-27-10 record and 100 points. Swept the Ducks in the Pacific Semifinals, but lost the Pacific Final to the aforementioned Golden Knights (six games).
2018-19: Finished second in the Pacific with a 46-27-9 record and 101 points. Defeated the Golden Knights in a seven-game Pacific Semifinal series that is remembered for the Game Seven where the Knights led 3-0, only for the Sharks to score four goals during a five-minute major power play in the third period, en route to an OT victory. Defeated the Avalanche in a seven-game Pacific Final that is memorable for a controversial offsides call in Game Seven that negated an Avalanche game-tying goal in the 2nd period. In Game Three of the West Final against the Blues, the Sharks won in OT despite a hand pass leading to a goal--it was never called. Sharks led 2-1 in the series, but lost the next three to the Blues, who went on to win the Stanley Cup. This was the team's fifth West Final appearance in franchise history, and their most recent to date.
2019-20: Regular season shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic; at the time of the pause (March 11), the Sharks finished 29-36-5 (64 points) in 70 games. Two months after the season halted, Gary Bettman announced a 24-team modified playoff format for that season, and with the regular season officially over, the Sharks ended up as one of the seven teams who didn't qualify for the playoffs. The seven eliminated teams would be automatically entered in the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery, but a season prior, the Sharks traded (among other things) their first-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft to the Ottawa Senators for defenseman Erik Karlsson, who regressed in his time with the Sharks. As a result of their terrible finish, the Senators ended up receiving a second slot in the lottery, completely shutting out the Sharks.
On May 3, 2021, the Sharks were defeated by the Avalanche, 5-4, in overtime, and with that loss, the Sharks were eliminated from playoff contention for the third straight year. This is only the eighth time in franchise history that the Sharks have missed the playoffs. Eight. The Buffalo Sabres' current playoff drought is ten years. Also, it marks the first time in franchise history that the Sharks have went three straight seasons without playoffs. Those facts are just amazing. 30 years as a franchise, 29 of them in play, 21 postseasons. Out of their 21 Stanley Cup Playoff appearances, however, they've only advanced past the 2nd round five times, with the 2015-16 season seeing them make their lone trip to the Stanley Cup Final.
Over the years, the Sharks have had several good players, from past names such as Owen Nolan, Mike Ricci, Evgeni Nabokov, and Vincent Damphousse, to current players such as Logan Couture, Evander Kane, Brent Burns, and Tomas Hertl, just to name a few. The one constant on the Sharks has been Patrick Marleau, who has had three different tenures with the Sharks, but played with the franchise for most of his career--as well as most of the team's existence. Marleau was drafted by the Sharks all the way back in 1997, and on May 5, 2021, he played in his 1,776th game; an NHL record.