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A glimmer or shift in hope
The Sharks are starting to show signs of life
11/29/2023 - By Ken Smyth

All right, we're past the US Thanksgiving holiday, which traditionally is the point where NHL teams that are not in a playoff position are considered leftover turkey and their coaches so much cold stuffing. This list includes the Sharks, of course; but practically speaking they were cooked when the season schedule was published.

Whether it was a software quirk or somebody slipping the schedule maker a few Franklins, the Sharks got an early start on this seasons' tank with their October schedule. The first nine games featured the Stanley Cup champions from 2021 through 2023 as well as three of the four 2023 conference finalists and the President's Cup winner. Whose idea was that?

Many Sharks fans were accepting that last season was to be horrible so that the team would have a better ticket in the Connor Bedard sweepstakes and were more than a bit upset that that 4-13-4 spurt in March and April 2023 did push them down a few spots. Can we credit management for paying attention to those concerns?

There was a sort of wink in that direction with the new game-opening video. In 2022-23, it was players skating around looking lost in the dark surrounded by some neon shark-fin shapes. This season, it's players showing off to some rousing rock; but the band is called...The Flatliners.

As we know, it took almost a month to finally gather a win. Maybe the team would be a little better had Logan Couture and Alexander Barabanov both been healthy for the first six weeks but maybe not. One can hope that in burning this team to the foundation and rebuilding it that some long standing issues get resolved.

Both GM Mike Grier and Coach Davis Quinn mention "sticking up for each other", and some of that is appearing. (Hertl getting into a goal mouth scuffle? Never under the Doug Wilson regime!) That's a notable change if it sticks.

The Sharks' were known for being generally unable to convert good seasons into good Stanley Cup playoff runs. I remember the 2008 playoff series against Calgary when the Sharks team let Patrick Marleau (the captain then) get continually roughed up and bloodied without much of a pushback. I remember the LA Kings doing the "reverse sweep" (come back from a 0-3 defecit) to win the first-round playoff series against the Sharks in 2014, eventually winning the Cup.

There was also the 2019 conference final series against the St. Louis Blues where the Blues pretty much had their way with the Sharks (Though with the disparity in penalty calls for the series, it looks like the fix was in for that one.) The Sharks were generally a soft team in the playoffs and frequently disappointed fans who expected better.

This season's team has shown that they are capable of playing interesting and entertaining hockey. That is, when they are not looking completely outclassed. The home record for November was 5-3-1. Monday night saw the Sharks withstand a push from a Washington Capitals team that's trying to help Alex Ovechkin get the 68 goals he needs to pass Wayne Gretzky's career mark of 894.

Ovie rang one off the post during the Caps first powerplay that could have given them the lead and changed the flow of the game, instead he had five shots on goal with no points to show for it. I'm not crying, he can take it out on the Kings Wednesday night.

Attendance has stabilized. Weeknights the SAP Center is a little under half full, but weekend games gather a good crowd. In the 1990's and early 2000's it seemed like a lot of former East Coast fans made up the ticket base and wore their old jerseys when that team visited. There's a much younger vibe around now, people who grew up as Shark's fans. Let's see how this all comes out.

Contact Ken at at kensmyth@letsgosharks.com


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