San Jose Sharks And The Hockey Mendoza Line
I don’t know if anyone has noticed but the San Jose Sharks have quietly sunk to the bottom of the Pacific Division. Although being 12th in the Western Conference is a slightly better conference standing than last week, the Sharks are - in my opinion - treading in very dangerous waters. On Monday the theoretical was put forth on NHL Home Ice that ‘if the playoffs started today…’ This got me thinking - if the playoffs DID start today it would not include the Sharks.
I have a friend who grew up in Boston. He’s a big sports fan and his big thing is the NFL. He has been enjoying a recent wave of pro sports championships. His (beloved) New England Patriots, Boston Celtics and Boston Red Socks are all recent and sometimes repeat champs - including one year when all 3 won at the same time. But then came the infamous 18-1 Super Bowl loss for the Patriots - an event so devastating I only remind him of it sparingly.
I recently shared with him some of my own personal experience. My goal was to help him understand the nature of things and to help him see things as they really are. I will now share this experience with you.
It’s like gaining weight - it happens slowly and over a long period of time. It’s so subtle that you usually don’t notice it when you’re going through it, but one day you wake up and realize you’re someplace far removed from where you used to be. It usually starts with early playoff exits or losing to teams you don’t normally lose to. You suddenly realize that although your team still has a winning record, the teams you’re beating don’t make the playoffs and the teams you’re losing to are playoff contenders. The next thing you know you haven’t been in the playoffs for a few years. And before you know it they’re using phrases like ‘rebuilding’ when discussing your team. I’m talking about the eventual, almost inevitable, decline of every sports franchise. I went through this with the San Francisco 49ers.
The Sharks need to start winning and they need to start now. The Sharks need to start winning every “2 out of 3″ or “3 out of 4″ games going forward. The longer we stay in the back the harder it will be to make up the necessary ground to make the playoffs. And we also need to start beating the good teams. Is it possible that the window for Thornton/Marleau/Heatley/Boyle isn’t closing but has already closed? Is the infusion of youth from McGinn/Couture/Demers too little too late? Is the only player on the team truly in his prime Joe Pavelski? Are we ‘gaining weight’ but don’t even know it?
The first benchmark was 10 games. The next benchmark is (US) Thanksgiving - that’s when you’re about a quarter of the way into the season. Thanksgiving is when some teams start firing coaches and general managers. Not that I think anyone in San Jose is going to lose their jobs, but the end of November is the theoretical Mendoza line - the absolute drop dead date for turning your franchise around if you’re serious about making the playoffs.
Thanksgiving is two weeks away - all I can say is ‘pray for snow’.