By Ryan Ward | @RyanJWard
The San Jose Sharks turned 25 this year, and for a team so accustomed to outstanding regular seasons and consistent postseason runs through the years, this was far and away the most exciting and memorable single-season in team history.
In the end, there was no celebration, no champagne shower, no parade. No Marleau, Thornton, or Pavelski carving their names into the Stanley Cup to live on for eternity. But by reaching the Cup Final, they accomplished what no team had in franchise history, and for that, Sharks fans should be proud. They fell just two wins shy of the Stanley Cup as a team that had many doubters and reduced expectations. Dismissing them as a failure would be shortsighted to say the least.
The Sharks have a lot of question marks heading into this offseason, and some analysts foresee struggles ahead for the club. The future of aging of stars such as Marleau and Thornton are unknown, and the defense needs to add pieces after clearly being exposed in the Final by an elite Penguins offense.
Despite the changes that may come, the Sharks have a lot to be excited about and have plenty of reason for hope. There is something to be said for a group of overachievers marching through the Western Conference, as it sets a new standard for the younger players and remaining veterans going forward. Just ask the Giants what a little taste of fame does for the culture of a team in the coming years. As they say, success breeds success.
Of course, we would be remiss if we discussed the future of this team and did not reflect on just how great the young Martin Jones was this postseason. The Sharks clearly have found a star in the making, someone who put his team on his shoulders nearly all the way to a title. Without Jones and his remarkable goaltending, it’s hard to imagine the Sharks winning a single game in this year’s Cup Final, and perhaps they don’t even get that far to begin with without Jonsie. All goalies are hot and cold, but when you find one that gets white-hot on the world’s biggest stage and flashes signs of greatness, you hold onto that player. Sharks fans should be excited about Martin Jones.
When it was all said and done, they did not claim their own chapter in hockey history, and it may be that the greater NHL fan base forgets the 2015-16 Sharks and their improbable postseason run within a few years. But these Sharks made a lasting impression on their fan base, going further than ever before, defying odds along the way, and proving that expectations can be surpassed when a gritty team comes together. And that, in and of itself, is very promising.
See you back at the Shark Tank for year 26. The city of San Jose shall drink from the cup sooner than later.