Are the San Jose Sharks historically bad?
It’s pretty obvious to even the most casual observer that this edition of the San Jose Sharks is not very good at hockey. With just a single shoot-out loss to show for their 10 games to this point, the Sharks are on pace for an eight-point season, which would of course be the worst campaign in the history of the NHL, by quite a margin (For reference, the worst season by winning percentage in NHL history belongs to the 1975 Washington Capitals, who picked up just eight wins and five draws in an 80 game season).
There have been some relatively promising moments: Taking the high-flying Colorado Avalanche to a shootout and holding a lead through two periods against the Washington Capitals – before going on to give up three unanswered goals in the 3rd period.
Of course, those little glimmers of hope have been eclipsed by their last outing: An utterly embarrassing 10-1 shellacking, on their own ice no less, at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks. Fabian Zetterlund tallied for the Sharks when the lead was already in double digits, in scenes eerily reminiscent of this:
In any other season, giving up 10 goals at home would represent a nadir, but with these Sharks you can’t help but get the feeling that this ‘contest’ will simply be one in a volume of hidings this season.
Nobody expected San Jose to pull up any trees in 2023-24 and a fairly tough opening schedule hasn’t helped matters, but this team is utterly dreadful right now. But just how dreadful are they? Are we looking at a really bad team? A historically bad team? Or are we witnessing the worst team of all time? Let’s look at the numbers.
We’ve already touched on overall winning percentage and whilst it is currently the single worst – by a long way – of all time, the aforementioned difficult schedule through October does exacerbate things, as it does with all of the Sharks metrics. That said, these numbers look awful.
San Jose’s current goal difference through 10 games is a minus-35, a full 19 worse off than the next-worst Calgary Flames. Extrapolating that out over a full 82-game season, the Sharks are on course to record a minus-287 goal difference. The current “record” holder is the ‘75 Caps, who were outscored by 265 goals.
That Capitals team scored at an unremarkable if not catastrophic 2.26 goals per game. The Sharks? They’re lighting the lamp at the rate of an even one goal per game…gross. Washington’s hapless squad conceded goals at an almost comical rate of 5.54 goals per contest.
San Jose, on the back of more than just yesterday’s Canucks circus has given up goals at the rate of 4.5 a game. Better than the Caps, for sure, but still gawd-awful. Based on those admittedly rudimentary numbers, the Sharks will at the very least be in the running of claiming the “crown” as the worst team of all time.
In the midst of a rebuild, this roster is not talented, though there is a level of baseline competency here that should help the Sharks find some sort of foothold as the season wears on. Goaltending duo Mackenzie Blackwood and Kaapo Kahkonen will never be mistaken for Igor Shesterkin or Jake Oettinger, yet both are perfectly capable NHL goalies. Playing behind a miserable excuse of a defense, both are conceding over four goals a game on average with sub-.900 save percentages. Neither is good enough to carry the Sharks to genuine respectability but both should see their numbers normalise, at least a little, as the season progresses.
Club captain Logan Couture remains sidelined with injury. His presence as a leader is immeasurable, as was his expected presence on the 2nd line centring young tyros Zetterlund and William Eklund. The former has been decent to this point given the circumstances surrounding this team. The latter has been invisible.
Eklund would undoubtedly benefit from having his captain skating alongside him. A little production from the talented if eternally flaky Anthony Duclair would be nice, too.
Interestingly, the Sharks are at least getting some quality pucks on the net. They rank 30th in the NHL for shots with 25.2 per game. Their expected goals also rank 30th, though at 25.26 expected goals it is a hell of a lot higher than the 10 they’ve currently scored. With a little more shooting luck, San Jose could have been in more of these games, perhaps have even stolen one.
Whilst the Sharks can point to a fair amount of “shoulda’s and coulda’s,” at the minute they remain an awful hockey team. Getting back to the original question: just how bad, in a historical sense, are these Sharks?
Given they should have some improvement to come in the form of youngsters emerging, veterans who should find form, floor-raising – though not ceiling-raising – goaltending and the expected return of their leader, the Sharks are likely going to be able to jump the incredibly low hurdle set by the 1975 Capitals. They’ll be by far the worst team in hockey this season and one of the worst in recent memory.
They won’t be historically bad, however.
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