Coronavirus: What's next for Sharks with NHL season being on hiatus?

Coronavirus: What's next for Sharks with NHL season being on hiatus?

It certainly wasn't going to be ideal, but it was a necessary compromise. On Wednesday, the Sharks announced that when they returned from their four-game road trip, they planned to play the remainder of their March home games at SAP Center in front of no fans. 

Twenty-four hours later, it turns out those games won't be played at all, or at least not for a while.

The NHL announced Thursday that the 2019-20 season has been indefinitely paused due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The league ultimately had very little choice after its hand was forced by the NBA choosing to do the same Wednesday night, after two Utah Jazz players tested positive for the coronavirus.

If the NHL and NBA aren't siblings, they're at least cousins. They have nearly identical league structures, the same number of games, similar season schedules, and in many cases, their respective teams share the same home building. When the NBA indefinitely suspended its season Wednesday night, it was only a matter of time until the rest of the professional sports family followed.

How it affects the league and the Sharks

There are 189 games and three-and-a-half weeks remaining in the NHL's regular season. If and when it resumes is anyone's guess. You can lump the playoffs in with that, as well.

In announcing that the season had been paused, the NHL held out hope that it would be able to press play again before a lengthy hiatus.

"Our goal is to resume play as soon as it is appropriate and prudent, so that we will be able to complete the season and award the Stanley Cup," the league said in a statement.

While it has been extremely rare, there is prior NHL precedent in which the Stanley Cup has not been awarded to any team. It has happened twice, first in 1918-19 due to the Spanish Flu, and again in 2004-05 because of the lockout. There are several parallels between the former situation and the current one.

Whether or not the remainder of the regular season and/or playoffs take place, the Sharks won't be raising Lord Stanley. We've known that for quite some time.

While San Jose's season has been prematurely cut short -- for the time being, at least -- by the coronavirus pandemic, it's not as if it had been a successful one. A ridiculous combination of bad luck and injuries to key players this season has resulted in the franchise's worst points-percentage since 2002-03, not to mention a midseason coaching change that ultimately didn't do much to change the team's trajectory. In what could possibly have been the Sharks' final game this season Wednesday night, they stumbled to a 6-2 road loss against the Chicago Blackhawks. Combined with the Los Angeles Kings' win over the Ottawa Senators, it plummeted San Jose to the absolute bottom of the league standings.

"We're all upset we lost a game 6-2 and then you look at what everybody else is going through in the world, you got to remind yourself this is just a game," interim coach Bob Boughner said following the loss. "There are bigger things going on."

What's next?

Just like pretty much everything else in the world of sports right now, nobody can be sure.

The NHL can hope and pray all it wants that the season will be able to resume in the relatively near future, but it would appear to be far too early in the process to have any reasonable idea about the viability of that possibility. The Sharks boarded the team plane back to San Jose on Thursday morning, and upon landing, there was very little certainty as far as when the team might next be entirely together. 

[RELATED: Sharks head home after NHL pauses season indefinitely]

TSN's Darren Dreger reported Thursday that players have been told to stay home, and that all meetings, practices and travel have been prohibited.

No NHL player has tested positive for the coronavirus as of yet, but it's fair to assume that it's just a matter of time until one does. If and when that happens, one would expect the potential resumption date to be pushed further out.

In the meantime, there's not much that the Sharks or other NHL teams can do. They can't play games or practice. There are no leagues or tournaments to scout, pretty much throughout the entire world. San Jose did well to add to its draft arsenal at the trade deadline, but the team likely will be limited to prior tape when evaluating prospects, and those that are already in the franchise's system will see their development halted.

It's been an ugly season for the Sharks, and one they probably wouldn't have minded fast-forwarding to the end of.

Not like this, though. 

Unfortunately, there are much bigger things going on.

Coronavirus: 1919 Stanley Cup Final was canceled due to flu pandemic

Coronavirus: 1919 Stanley Cup Final was canceled due to flu pandemic

The coronavirus outbreak has altered life for a large swath of the population, and the sports world still is coming to grips with its new reality. 

On Wednesday, the NBA suspended the season after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus. The league reportedly is not optimistic the season will be restarted. The NHL joined the NBA and paused its season indefinitely on Thursday.

Thee are unprecedented times. Would an entire season be called off due to the outbreak? There is only one time in history where a season has been called off by pandemic, according to the Seattle Times. It happened in 1919 when the Stanley Cup Final had to be called off due to the Spanish flu pandemic. 

With the Seattle Metropolitans and Montreal Canadiens battling for hockey supremacy, public health officials called off a decisive Game 6 just 5.5 hours before puck drop after a number of Canadiens had to be hospitalized with fevers ranging from 100 to 105 degrees. 

The Spanish flu plagued the world from January 1918 through December 1920, claiming the lives of between 5 and 10 million people, which was 3 to 5 percent of the world's population. 

[RELATED: Thornton, Kane react to Sharks' new coronavirus reality

The entire world has ground to a halt due to the coronavirus outbreak. San Francisco, Santa Clara County and the state of Washington took extreme measures this week. The first two banned "mass gatherings" of 1,000 people or more while Washington banned gatherings of over 250 people. 

The World Health Organization labeled the coronavirus a pandemic Wednesday. There are more than 1,200 confirmed cases in the United States, according to NBC News, and 37 people in the U.S. had died as of Wednesday. 

NHL.com snubs Sharks-Golden Knights Game 7 as best game of 2010s

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NHL.com snubs Sharks-Golden Knights Game 7 as best game of 2010s

NHL.com named a Game 7 ending 5-4 and involving a three-goal comeback, two division rivals and an overtime winner as the best game of the 2010s.

It just wasn't the one with the Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights. 

NHL.com and NHL.com International staff members chose the Boston Bruins' Game 7 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference first-round series during the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the game of the decade. In a 9:18 span, the Bruins erased a 4-1 deficit to force overtime and Patrice Bergeron scored the winner 6:05 into the extra frame. 

An epic comeback in a game between two "Original Six" rivals is, on paper, worthy of the crown. But Sharks-Golden Knights is more deserving. 

For one, San Jose and Vegas were much closer in terms of quality than Boston and Toronto. Yes, the Golden Knights jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the 2019 Western Conference first-round series and fewer standings points separated the Bruins and Maple Leafs (five) than the Sharks and Knights (eight). However, the 2013 Maple Leafs greatly benefited from the lockout-shortened 48 game schedule, making the playoffs despite being the NHL's worst puck-possession team.

The Sharks and Golden Knights, on the other hand, were both legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. Both finished the regular season in the NHL's top three in terms of shot share and shot quality. Had Vegas beaten San Jose, it's likely the expansion franchise would have played in a second Western Conference final in as many years. 

What unfolded on the ice in the third period in Boston doesn't hold a candle to the third period in San Jose last April. Then-captain Joe Pavelski's head bled as the result of a fluky collision with Golden Knights forwards Paul Stastny and Cody Eakin, leading to a highly disputed five-minute major penalty. The Sharks then matched an NHL record with four power-play goals on the non-releasable penalty, nearly blowing the roof off SAP Center. 

A 3-0 deficit turned into a 4-3 lead, but the Sharks couldn't escape regulation with a win. Then-Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant pulled goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and iced six forwards when Jonathan Marchessault scored the game-tying goal with 47 seconds remaining in the third period. That set up an overtime that lasted nearly 20 minutes before Barclay Goodrow sent San Jose to the second round, and the Sharks' win left the Golden Knights with a summer of animosity that made Vegas' decision to replace Gallant with fired San Jose coach Peter DeBoer so much more shocking. 

[RELATED: How struggles in faceoff circle plagued Sharks on disastrous road trip]

To recap: Game 7 of Sharks-Golden Knights included one of the most controversial (or worst, if you ask Golden Knights fans) calls in NHL history, a historic power play that sent the SAP Center crowd into delirium, a game-tying goal that silenced the same crowd not even six minutes later and nearly a full period of extra hockey. 

By comparison, the twists and turns of Bruins-Maple Leafs seem rather straightforward.