[...]there have been eight real good regular season teams in the last eight years: Pittsburgh, Chicago, Vancouver, San Jose, Philadelphia, Washington and Boston. In praise of the Sharks and the Canucks, neither team has done too much to affect their core despite having not won titles.
Because of the unpredictability and luck involved in winning a Stanley Cup, the best way to maximize your odds of winning one is to build a team that will be one of the best teams in the league for as long of a stretch as possible, then make moves to keep the team at that peak as necessary, until eventually your "window" closes. If you are fortunate the bounces will go your way during one or more of those window years, and you'll be a champion.
If you aren't fortunate, however, you'll be the Sharks or the Canucks.
The two best Western Conference teams over the past decade who have yet to win a Cup are facing off in this playoff series. One will move on to the second round and exponentially increasing pressure to "finally live up to expectations," while the other will be bounced in the first round and endure cries of "choker!!!!" that echo into the frigid, encroaching darkness.
If you're a modern-thinking, informed, rational NHL fan, then you know that the Canucks and Sharks have been playing top-tier hockey over the past few years. Very few teams have been better, and almost all of those teams have won championships. These are two excellent hockey teams, and both have been performing at an elite level for years.
But that can't continue forever. Everything ends, after all. Windows close.
Over these past years of success for Vancouver and San Jose each team has been defined, primarily, by the play of two players. For the Canucks that has been the Brothers Sedin, while for the Sharks it has been Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Other contributors have pitched in along the way, but for the most part it has all come down to these two duos for these two teams.
And the bitter truth of it is, all four of these guys are in decline.
Thornton and Marleau were both born in 1979 while the Sedins were, coincidentally, born in 1980. That puts their ages at 33 and 32, respectively. And while the exact peak age for an NHL player is difficult to determine, a decent estimate would put it somewhere around 25. Wherever the "peak" is, Henrik, Daniel, Joe, and Patrick are all undoubtedly on the wrong side of it. Barring some fortunate fluke that bumps their numbers up for a year, they're all going to continue to produce fewer and fewer points per game until they retire.
These four stars have now produced fewer than a point per game over each of the past two seasons. It would be foolish to predict they'll reverse their downward trends. While it's very possible that all these men could be valuable players on their teams for another three to five years, relying on them to be the main offensive weapons on the roster going forward is a a recipe for disappointment.
We may be witnessing the final playoff runs for these teams with these duos as the team's leading scorers. Whether Vancouver and San Jose will be able to pry the windows open and remain competitive will depend in large part on the strength of their young prospects, which naturally suffer due to a lack of top draft picks over the years. Still, it isn't all bad news. San Jose has already seen Logan Couture develop into a player who can create offense on one of the top lines, and in Vancouver they have, uh...um....hmm...Zack Kassian?
Man, the Canucks are so doomed.
- Visit Nucks Misconduct (the 3rd most swearingest SB Nation hockey blog) for the opposition perspective on tonight's game or Fear the Fin (8th in swearing) for Sharks coverage that will make you wonder why you wasted your time reading my garbage.
- Speaking of Nucks Misconduct, I answered some questions over there, and now there is some quality douchemanship going on in the comments. Success!
- I predicted the Sharks would win in six games with Raffi Torres as the MVP of the series, and I'm sticking to it.
- George Vancouver couldn't be trusted to properly explore anything besides a sandwich.
- A very very very detailed series preview from CanucksArmy.
Prediction: None of the players mentioned in this article score a point. Sharks win 1-0.