Wouldn’t it be great for fans if the rebuild the Edmonton Oilers are undertaking now resulted in five straight 100-point seasons, a President’s Trophy and consistent finishes in the top-six NHL-wide? Of course it would. That, of course, guarantees nothing in terms of Stanley Cup success, as the San Jose Sharks will attest.
When it comes to windows of opportunity, no team has had one swing open wider since the NHL lockout than the Sharks, a team consistently considered a legitimate Stanley Cup contender and a fixture atop the standings. At least until this season, as the Sharks fight to stay in playoff contention in the Western Conference and the window of opportunity closes before their eyes.
For all their regular season success since the lockout, the 100-point seasons and their place in the NHL’s upper echelon, the Sharks have never advanced beyond the Western Conference finals. The Oilers, whose best points total since the lockout (95 points in 2005-06) hasn’t equaled San Jose’s worst (99 in 2005-06), have been to one more Stanley Cup final than the Sharks have.
That’s not to say San Jose fans haven’t had more to cheer about than fans of the Oilers while watching their team roll to seasons of 99, 107, 108, 117, 113 and 105 points, because they have, but it also serves as a reminder that even if GM Steve Tambellini and president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe do put together a contender here, a date with the engraver isn’t a given.
There’s still that carpe diem thing.
TAKE YOUR SHOT
While the Oilers are destined to finish out of the playoffs for the sixth straight year since losing Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup final against the Carolina Hurricanes, the Sharks are in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time after seven straight years, and 12 of the last 13, in the post-season mix – more often than not considered a Final Four favourite.
2010-11: 105 points, 5th overall, lost Conf. Final to Vancouver.
2009-10: 113 points, 2nd overall, lost Conf. Final to Chicago.
2008-09: 117 points, 1st overall, lost quarter-final to Anaheim.
2007-08: 108 points, 2nd overall, lost semi-final to Dallas.
2006-07: 107 points, 7th overall, lost semi-final to Detroit.
2005-06: 99 points, 5th overall, lost semi-final to Edmonton.
Today, the Sharks are a team in decline, even if they’ll finish well clear of the Oilers in the standings. Edmonton is a team on the rise, even if there’s plenty of work do before Tambellini cobbles together a team that can overtake the Sharks in the standings, let alone contend for a Stanley Cup.
I’m not comparing the Oilers to the Sharks in the sense that they’ve been put together the same way, because they haven’t, or suggesting that it won’t be a helluva lot of fun for long-suffering fans if Tambellini or somebody else finds a way to coax the Oilers into legitimate contention, because it will.
I’m just offering a reminder, as we watch the Sharks fade away, there remains plenty of work to do and that even with getting it mostly right, it can be a long, long time between sips of champagne.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.