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How good are these guys, really?
Fear and Loathing in San Jose
11/6/13 - By Ryan Hall -

With the first month of the NHL season now in the rear-view mirror, many fans are starting to get a sense of whether this will be a year to forget, or one to remember. What makes this process even more interesting is the internal soul searching that only those people who live and die with each game can engage in; an emotional high or low that is the product of identifying with the crest on the front more than the name on the back. And just like a romantic flirtation, these feelings can blind even the most jaded of supporters, or conversely cause pessimism and denial to reign even when the team is doing well.

But enough with the philosophy! The core question that each fan base is starting to ask right now is: 'How good are these guys, really?'

Nowhere has this question been asked more in the last few years then San Jose, where hope and pessimism seem to coexist eternally. When the Sharks are winning like they have been this year, the future seems bright and the only obstacles self-imposed. I mean, even without Havlat, Burns, and Torres the San Jose has run roughshod over the NHL for a month, and those guys will be healthy soon. The sky really does seem to be the limit!

Yet the more jaded fans would point out that the offense is beginning to cool off, and easy wins are turning into overtime or shootout victories - if not shootout loses. And of course the specter of the playoffs still looms large for this franchise. Until the Sharks make the Stanley Cup Finals, and perhaps win the Cup, the naysayers will continue to doubt how good San Jose really is.

So the question is: how good ARE they?

Statistically, they rank near the top of every category league wide. Joe Thornton is coming off one of the best Octobers of his career, Tomas Hertl leads in rookie goal scoring, and Anti Niemi has yet to allow more than 3 goals throughout regulation in any game this year. Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau are starting to heat up, the defense corps is holding its own, and Mark-Eduard Vlasic is starting to generate attention for a spot on Team Canada.

But that doesn't fully answer how good they.

To really get a grasp on that, we need to look beyond the stats at the way the Sharks have been playing the game. Coaches like to say 'results flow from process', and in this regard San Jose has been putting on a clinic. Throughout the first 14 games of the season the Sharks have been playing hungry, puck possession hockey. While that hasn't always resulted in goals, with an average of 37 shots for a game, it seems self-evident that they have been dictating the style, tempo, and direction of play. If success does flow from playing the game your way, then the Sharks are every bit as good as their record hints.

The only conclusion that can be drawn from the first month of the season is that it might be time to accept that the San Jose Sharks really are a good team. Let that sink in a moment - they are a good team. A really good team in fact. Maybe we as fans have gotten used to that, or maybe the unfulfilled expectations of the past make it hard for all of us to really believe in them and embrace regular season success. After all, loving them now would only make any let down later on hurt all the more.

But does that really matter? Is retaining the right to say 'I never really believed in them' worth missing out on the fun of this ride? Right now, let's all sit back and enjoy what we got. The roster is getting healthier, the schedule looks favorable, and the team looks motivated to do great things.

How good are these guys, really?

Damn good.

Contact Ryan at


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