It’s no secret that the West has been the dominant conference this year. In fact, four of the top five teams in the NHL are from the Western Conference. The Eastern Conference team is the Pittsburgh Penguins. At fifth on that list are the San Jose Sharks, who are also fourth in the west. The Sharks’ record is 24-8-6, meaning that they’ve won 3 games for every time they’ve lost one in regulation. Add their regulation and overtime losses together and they’re still winning 1.7 games for every game they’ve lost.
How are they doing this? The Sharks’ top four scorers are Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, and Logan Couture. All of those players are homegrown talent, with the exception of Joe Thornton, though Thornton has been with the club for the last nine years. Thornton is fifth in league scoring with 42 points in 38 games, and is first in assists with 37. Thornton’s line mate Patrick Marleau has 36 points through the clubs’ first 38 games, which is good for 18th league wide, and his 17 goals are good for 12th around the league. Joe Pavelski has always put up consistent numbers in the NHL, and his 35 points are good for 19th in the league, right behind Marleau. Logan Couture is currently in his fourth full year with the Sharks, and he has not disappointed since being picked 9th overall in 2007. His 30 points in 38 games have him on pace to beat his career high numbers of 65 points back in the 2011-12 campaign. The Sharks boast an impressive top six, but their bottom six as well as defensive contributions is what sees them at fifth in the league. After a pair of subpar seasons in Pittsburgh, Tyler Kennedy seems to have regained his confidence in his first year with San Jose, and is on pace for around 30 points. Marc Edouard Vlasic and Jason Demers have emerged as San Jose’s top defensive pair, and are now eating up big minutes against opponent like the Sedin twins, the Toews-Kane tandem, the Perry-Getzlaf duo, and many more of the Western Conference’s elite offensive players. Vlasic is even being seriously considered for a roster spot on Team Canada for the upcoming Olympics in Sochi.
San Jose has been a consistently good team in the regular season, but have also consistently failed to get it done in the post season. Veterans Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Dan Boyle are all unrestricted free agents at the end of the year, and all three players have been key cogs in the Sharks machine for the last decade. The increase in salary cap will enable the Sharks to re-sign these players, as they will have $25.8 million to work with this offseason. Even if the Sharks manage to re-sign their key pieces, their team isn’t getting any younger, and people have to wonder how much longer this team can remain competitive. I’d say that the Sharks window to win the Stanley cup is closing, and if they don’t get it done within the next two or three years, we might have to wait another decade before the team is a contender again. If the Sharks make it to the Stanley cup final, there is no doubt in my mind that they will win it, but they will have to battle through three rounds of the best teams in the Western Conference before they’ll get the chance to hoist the cup.