Friday, November 7, 2008

Historical Examples

Mike Chen with a fine post on teams that start the season with an appalling record and go on to achieve some reasonably great things. In this case, the 03-04 San Jose Sharks (who, interestingly, had finished the previous season in the exact same spot the Thrashers finished last year; just saying).

2003-04 started off as a pretty awful year for the Sharks. Fresh off being one of the worst teams in the league, losing their long-time captain to a trade (Owen Nolan), and losing their most-talented player to free agency (Teemu Selanne), the Sharks began the season in earnest under the watchful eyes of Ron Wilson. Wilson, if you recall, took over partially through the season for Darryl Sutter, but this was his first full kick at the can in San Jose.

How did it begin? How about one win in October. San Jose finished October a scary 1-5-4, including a god-awful 0-0 tie of a home opener (yes, there were ties back then, and yes, I was there for that). In the press, Wilson kept preaching his system and patience, saying over and over that once the players bought into it and understood it, good things would happen.

Well, the system had to eventually work because on paper, not a lot else would have. Their best player was a pre-80-point Patrick Marleau. They gambled on some Swedish league castaway with no eyebrows named Nils Ekman. Vincent Damphousse was a shell of his former self and some fellow named Jonathan Cheechoo seemed like he couldn’t even skate.

Patience, patience, patience. Sharks fans heard the word so much that it seemed like Wilson had a copy of Guns n’ Roses’ Lies album playing on repeat every time he opened his mouth. The funny thing is that around mid-November, Wilson’s words starting ringing with a little bit of truth. The team was playing better, using their speed and seemingly keeping in games when everyone else had written them off. Finally, it all clicked with a 5-0 win at Phoenix. After that game, the Sharks won five straight and closed out November with a 8-6-8-2 record. Over the next two months, the Sharks went on a tear, losing only six times in regulation over the next 27 games.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Emotional roller coaster: I laughed, I cried, I cut myself, and finally I toasted a coach who motivated this team. Now if we can just capitalize on some of the wide open chances we get i.e. HIT THE FUCKING NET WITH THE FUCKING PUCK.