Sharks at Oilers, G72, 09-10

This photo was taken almost 40 years ago. From left to right are Ernie Hicke (payment for Guy Lafleur), Bobby Sheehan (bullet fast, he was quick) and Reggie Leach (the Riverton rifle).

The Seals were my second favorite team growing up. Why? Well, the Bruins used to trade with them a lot and Boston was my #1 team as a kid so it was sort of like cheering for the farm team. Plus, they were epic losers and I’ve always had a soft spot for the underdog in any race.

The Seals ripped through talent like it was an endless resource, but money (or lack thereof) and geography (San Fransiscans didn’t like driving to Oakland to watch the team play) doomed the franchise.

Gordon Gund bought the Seals and put some money into them, but the crowds didn’t come. Then he moved the team to Cleveland, but that didn’t work either, so John Ziegler killed two birds with one stone and decided Gund could fold his team into the troubled Minnesota North Stars franchise.

By 1990, Minnesota didn’t feel like home and Gund (who was pretty damn good at moving franchises) decided to move the club back to the left coast. Ziegler said no, but allowed the sale of Minnesota to Dallas interests so Gund was involved in another franchise shift.

As part of the payoff, Gund was given an expansion franchise in the Bay area. The San Jose Sharks played their first games out of the Cow Palace, an arena the Seals original owner (Barry Van Gerbig) rejected in favor of the Oakland Jewel Box. Gund built a strong franchise through the 1990′s and by the time he sold it (about 8 years ago) the Sharks were a model franchise, with merchandise sales through the roof and a solid fanbase.

The Sharks remind me of the Montreal Expos 1979-1984. Lots of Hall of Fame talent and a seemingly solid supporting cast but no track record of post-season success and a lot of pressure every spring. The problem is that you develop a past, and the Sharks past is very close to disaster. They don’t look any better this season than they did a year or two years ago. All hat and no cattle. I cheer for them because in a way the Hicke’s and Sheehan’s are their orphans and a Stanley might somehow be shared by the long lost souls that were the Seals.

But it doesn’t look like it is coming any time soon.

There’s not much to say about the Oilers. The club is running out the string with a few players trying to salvage something (Cogliano as an example) and a few others trying to make an impression (Peckham, Dubnyk in the last game) in hopes of more regular employment next season.

There are interesting stories surrounding the Oilers. Jordan Eberle is ripping the cover off the ball in AAA, Seguin and Hall are posting points in the playoffs (3 points each, Hall in 1 game and Seguin in 2) and college kids Riley Nash (29gp, 12-22-34) and Chris Vande Velde (41gp, 16-24-40) are having strong finishes and their teams are still alive in the race of the final 4.

Plus the Euro kids are performing well and there are some juniors (Rajala, Kytnar among them) in the CHL playoffs. The future looks brighter than the present.

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