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Leapfrogged Again
Sharks are perennial second-best team in the West
6/1/11 - By Paul Krill -

Sharks fans are like non-compliant customers in line to greet the infamous "Soup Nazi" of "Seinfeld" TV fame. But instead of "No soup for you!" it's "No Stanley Cup Finals for you!" as we watch fans of other teams that had been behind us in the standings become the latest to book tickets for the NHL's annual Big Dance, something we've never hosted in the Bay Area. Yes, the Sharks have been leapfrogged yet again; another team has vaulted right past our beloved Sharks to make it to Round 4 while the Sharks once again stall and end their season without having ever played a game in June. It's Vancouver's turn this season, Chicago last season, etc.

The Sharks remain members of an exclusive club of teams that's never been to the Finals, and most of the other members are late-1990s expansion teams: Winnipeg/Phoenix, Atlanta (or is it Winnipeg now?), Columbus, Minnesota and Nashville. Of this bunch, only Winnipeg/Phoenix has been in the league longer than the Sharks. Not included in this club, as we know, are several post-Sharks expansion teams such as Tampa Bay, Anaheim and - gasp! - Florida.

The Sharks have become the perennial second-best team in the Western Conference. Unfortunately, there is only room in the Cup Finals for the best team. It's not as if Sharks GM Doug Wilson hasn't tried. He's mixed new players in and phased out old players over the years and brought in a new coach but the result is always the same: "No Stanley Cup Finals for you!"

At this point, there's not much we can do but enjoy the sport for the sport's sake and don't even get hopes up for a Stanley Cup Finals appearance until the Sharks are someday ahead by seven goals in a Conference Finals game and have already won three games in the round. We all still love going to Sharks games even if the ending has never been to our liking.

The Sharks have concluded what's been called their "20th anniversary season" even though the team did not start play until late-1991 and didn't play at all during the 2004-2005 lockout year. As Sharks fans, we can have no swagger; we can't strut our stuff, so to speak, because we don't have anything to brag about except a few division titles and a President's Trophy.

And none of that amounts to much. When Red Wings fans in Internet chat rooms point out the Sharks' lack of significant accomplishments, it's time for us to just be silent. We really don't have much of a comeback.

Sometimes in despair, I wonder if there is a four-year-old child skating on a rink in Ontario, Canada these days who will in 25 years lead the Sharks to their first Stanley Cup championship. Of course, I will probably have a much tougher time ascending the stairs to my upper level seats at the arena by then.

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