As the second-place team in the Pacific Division, San Jose hosts the third-place Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs Thursday. They will be lucky to have home-ice advantage in any of the potential three more rounds.
Does this qualify as a disappointment? Grading a team correctly requires taking context into account.
The Sharks finished with the third-most points (111) in franchise history. They endured multiple games with seven forwards (and one defenseman) out with injury and battled through the toughest road through the 2013-14 NHL season between the most travel miles and fifth-hardest strength of schedule among serious contenders previously examined in this column March 31.
At the same time, San Jose's perceived inability to show up against weak foes like the Nashville Predators, Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes (one total point in seven games against three of the seven-weakest non-rivals) qualifies as a disappointment. Even a .500 record in those games would have meant the Pacific Division title and top seed in the Western Conference.
On the other side of the ledger, few teams benefited more from shootouts that are not part of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Only the Washington Capitals won as many (10), and those came with four more losses. No other teams had as many shootouts, so only four teams finished further above .500.
Overall, this was still an impressive season. The Sharks were third in blocked shots, sixth in shots allowed, third in the ratio between them (shots/block) and had the fifth-fewest goals against on the 2013-14 NHL season. They were also third in takeaways and second in faceoff percentage, mitigating their fourth-most giveaways because of the time of possession.
This is also a disciplined team. Not only did San Jose spend the least time shorthanded in the NHL, it finished the season sixth in penalty kill proficiency to give up fewer power play goals overall than any other team. Add in that there are only nine teams with more shorthanded goals and the resulting 25 more goals allowed than scored rank best in the league.
The power play naturally had some struggles with all the players out, and it finished the 2013-14 NHL season barely out of the bottom third of the league at 17.2 percent. However, it got back on track by April as more healthy players returned. Since only one team had more power play opportunities than the Sharks, only six teams finished with more goals and only nine had a better differential (50 goals minus six allowed shorthanded).
San Jose's plus-44 is the second-best special teams goal differential in the NHL (the Pittsburgh Penguins are plus-50). That did not come all from the defensive end—no team shot as much (34.8 shots per game) and only five teams scored more (2.92 goals per game).
The Sharks have 10 players with at least 10 goals and have 16 players that averaged over a point per four games. That is balance between defense and scoring as well as primary and secondary production.
When a team is in the top-20 percent of the league and among strong contenders for the 2014 Stanley Cup, that puts it at the bottom of the "A" range for grades. It was just a tough break for them that three of those teams are in the Pacific Division and six are in the Western Conference.
Here is how each San Jose unit breaks down...