Brenden Dillon still has San Jose on his mind, two years and two stops removed from his last game at SAP Center.
The fan favorite defenseman, who played for the San Jose Sharks from 2014 to 2020, was traded to Washington in February 2020 for a second and a third-round pick.
Now with the Jets, tomorrow night will mark Dillon’s return to San Jose.
In some ways, Washington and Winnipeg are a continuation of his time in San Jose. The Sharks were a regular Cup contender for the majority of Dillon’s seasons in teal, as the Caps were the last two years, and the Jets are now.
“I’ve been fortunate through my whole six years with the Sharks, and the Caps, and now the Jets where you’re obviously wanting to make playoffs, but you got a greater goal in mind. It’s engrained in me now, going back to my Sharks days, the culture they built here with Pav, Jumbo, and Patty Marleau,” Dillon said. “When you lose, it’s not just okay, we’re going to play in a couple days. It’s like no, how can we get better? Starts in practice.”
Those expectations, honestly, appeared to have left SAP Center with the departures of Dillon, Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, and Patrick Marleau, among others.
The 30-year-old rearguard is just happy to be wanted by contenders. Winnipeg acquired him from Washington for a pair of second-round draft picks in July.
“It’s nice to be every year in the mix,” Dillon acknowledged. “There’s friends around the league or guys you skate with in the summers where the expectation is just to make playoffs.”
Friends like the San Jose Sharks? Dillon didn’t specify.
“[I still] talk a little bit with the guys, Cooch, Hertl, Burnzie, Erik,” Dillon noted of San Jose mainstays who have missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. “They seem to be turning the page here.”
One thing that Dillon will never want to turn the page from? His Sharks memories.
“It’s the first time I’ve been to the Jr. Sharks gym up here, seeing the  Conference Finals picture with all the boys,” Dillon pointed out of being on the second-floor visitors side of Sharks Ice. “The little things, right? First game as a Shark, still remember. Last game as a Shark. The playoff moments.”
Speaking of memories, Dillon will be just the first in a long parade of “glory days” Sharks who will be visiting SAP Center this year with all 32 teams playing each other again.
There’s Pavelski on Dec. 11 and Apr. 2, Martin Jones on Dec. 30, and Thornton on Mar. 15.
“The Shark Tank is a special place to play,” Dillon said. “I think as an away team, you always knew that first 10 minutes, keep it to 0-0, it was usually a win for that first period.”
These words seem both not so far away — and very, very distant for the 2021-22 San Jose Sharks. When will they ring true once again?
Sheng’s Travel Fund
Help fund Sheng's travel! Every dollar goes to the cost of getting to and from Sharks road games.