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Sharks Have Never Had Harder Start to a Season

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Credit: Hockey Shots/Dean Tait

The San Jose Sharks have never had a harder start to a season.

No, really.

Tonight, the Sharks open their 32nd NHL campaign, at SAP Center, against the Vegas Golden Knights.

This kicks off an eight-game gauntlet: After the defending champs, San Jose takes on the 2022 Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche, 2023 Eastern Conference finalist Carolina Hurricanes, 2023 President’s Trophy winner Boston Bruins, Nashville Predators, 2023 Stanley Cup finalist Florida Panthers, 2020 and 2021 Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, then Carolina again.

That’s seven 2022-23 playoff squads in the first eight games – and the Preds, who missed the post-season by just three points, are no pushover – four of these contests versus three of last year’s Conference finalists.

“The schedule is what it is. You got to play these teams eventually. If you’re sitting here worried about who you’re playing and you wish you had a different schedule, you’re already behind the eight-ball,” San Jose Sharks head coach David Quinn said. “If you’re hiding from these types of challenges, then we got the wrong people here.”

That’s the only attitude that you can have, of course. But it’s striking to note that this is only the fourth time in franchise history that they’ve started the season with that many of last year’s playoff teams in their first eight games.

In 2021-22, the San Jose Sharks started the season 5-3-0 against seven of the previous season’s playoff teams. However, only the 2021 Stanley Cup finalist Montreal Canadiens, who they played twice, was at least a Conference finalist the year before.

In 1993-94, the Sharks started the season – gulp – 0-7-1 against seven of the previous season’s playoff teams. However, only the 1993 Stanley Cup finalist Los Angeles, who they played once, was at least a Conference finalist the year before. It’s worth noting too, in 1992-93, there were 16 playoff qualifiers out of just 24 teams.

In 1991-92, the expansion Sharks started the season – gulp again – 1-7-0 against seven of the previous season’s playoff teams. However, only the 1991 Stanley Cup finalist Minnesota North Stars, who they played once, was at least a Conference finalist the year before. It’s worth noting too, in 1990-91, there were 16 playoff qualifiers out of just 21 teams.

Well, at least the Sharks have never had to start the season eight-for-eight in last year’s playoff teams.

“You play every team twice,” Marc-Edouard Vlasic shrugged. “So if it’s now, it’s later, doesn’t really matter.”

And in principle, the veteran who’s entering his 18th NHL season tonight, all with the San Jose Sharks, is right.

But if the rebuilding Sharks begin this campaign 0-7-1 or 1-7-0 – and let’s not forget, they started last year 0-5-0 – it’ll matter.

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