Over the past three seasons, it has been a heart-wrenching experience to be a San Jose Sharks fan. Year after year the hopes of the fans have risen to an all time high, only to quickly be let down in the playoffs.
Destined to create a team that would be able to bring the Stanley Cup to San Jose, GM Doug Wilson tried to make sure that the 2009-2010 season would have a substantially different outcome.
With the addition of prime players like Dany Heatley and experienced role players such as Manny Malhotra and Scott Nichol, the Sharks rolled into the playoffs with high hopes again.
While they may not have realized it at the time, the Sharks have lacked the leadership in past seasons that has proved to be essential to winning.
The vocal leadership for past teams has been astounding, but for all of the qualified leaders on the team there was no one to lead by example.
By having two players that have proven that they know what they’re doing (Blake winning the Stanley Cup with Avalanche twice and Boyle being a leader for the Canadian Olympic team), there has been an obvious change of pace on the ice.
In the off season the Sharks were able to look at the aspects of the game they needed to improve on and were able to make the addition of Dany Heatley, a great scorer, without giving up their core (Thornton, Marleau and Pavelski).
Since last season, the young players that showed so much talent last year were given time to mature and learn the rough goings.
After losing a brutal game against the Avalanche in this year’s playoffs and Boyle’s accidental own goal in game three, it looked as if the Sharks were going to choke once again.
But Boyle and the Sharks would not allow themselves to get down on each other, outscoring the Avalanche 10-2 in the final two games of the series.
The biggest difference between last year and this year is the faith the Sharks have in themselves as a team. Even with all-star Heatley struggling, the other guys on the team are picking up the slack.
Everyone on the team has bought into the system that the Sharks installed before this season, and because of this the Stanley Cup may be coming to San Jose.
Like many other fans, I’m praying for the best but expecting the worst. I just hope saying all of this doesn’t jinx them.