Vesa Toskala

Shark Week: Where San Jose's 2005-06 team ranks in franchise history

Shark Week: Where San Jose's 2005-06 team ranks in franchise history

Editor's note: In honor of Shark Week, NBC Sports California will look back at the five best teams from Sharks franchise history. Numerous factors have been taken into consideration, including overall team success, roster makeup, historical significance and more. We continue with the 2005-06 Sharks.

The first Sharks team to win at least 44 regular-season games came in as the fifth-best team in franchise history. The next to accomplish the feat comes in fourth.

San Jose emerged from the 2004-05 NHL lockout arguably better than it went into it. After reaching their first-ever Western Conference final in 2003-04, the Sharks took advantage of the new rule changes put in place during the lockout that were designed to increase scoring.

The degree to which they took advantage, however, shot up several notches midway through the season, after the most important trade in franchise history changed the trajectory of the team for the next 15 years.

Here's a look back at the 2005-06 Sharks, the fourth-best team in franchise history:

Why they're the best

The 2005-06 Sharks stand apart from all others in franchise history due to the sheer concentration of scoring power. San Jose scored 266 goals that season, the second-highest single-season total in franchise history behind only this past year. More than a third of those goals came from two players: Jonathan Cheechoo and Patrick Marleau, who combined to score 90. Cheechoo's 56 goals still stand as San Jose's single-season scoring record, 12 more than the next-closest finisher.

39 of Cheechoo's 56 goals came off an assist from Joe Thornton, with 28 of those being of the primary variety. Of course, that all came within just 58 games, as Thornton only joined San Jose in December. He came over from Boston in exchange for Marco Sturm, Wayne Primeau and Brad Stuart.

Safe to say, the Sharks won that trade.

In those 58 games, Thornton tallied 20 points and 72 assists, finishing one point shy of Cheechoo for the team lead. Think about that -- 92 points in 58 games.

Imagine leaving Thornton off the NHL's 100 Greatest Players list. Absolutely ridiculous.

With Cheechoo, Marleau and Thornton -- in the middle of a Hart Trophy campaign as the league's MVP -- all entering their primes and on top of their games, the Sharks arguably have never been led by such a high-powered trio.

Why they're not

The long layoff caused by the 2004-05 lockout didn't do San Jose's goaltending any favors.

In the season prior, Evgeni Nabokov posted a .921 save percentage and 2.21 goals-against average. In 2005-06, his save percentage nosedived to .885, and his goals-against average exploded to 3.10. Consequently, Nabokov was passed up on the depth chart by Vesa Toskala.

While Cheechoo, Marleau and Thornton couldn't be kept off the score sheet, there was a significant dropoff behind them. Outside of that trio, only Nils Ekman topped the 20-goal plateau, and he and defenseman Tom Preissing were the only other players to tally more than 35 total points.

[RELATED: Projecting Sharks' protected list for 2021 expansion draft]

Verdict

The Sharks' goaltending and scoring depth issues caught up to them in the playoffs. After defeating the Nashville Predators in a five-game first-round series, San Jose won the first two games of their Stanley Cup playoff second-round series against the Oilers.

But midway through Game 2, Edmonton's Raffi Torres got San Jose's Milan Michalek with a vicious, blindside hit to the head, sending Michalek to the dressing room. After scoring three points in the first four periods of the series, Michalek missed the next two games and was held off the score sheet for the remainder of the series. 

The Sharks never responded in-kind to Torres' hit, and that proved to be a momentum-changing event as Edmonton reeled off four consecutive victories to defeat San Jose in six games. The Oilers ultimately finished one win shy of lifting the Stanley Cup. 

Had the Sharks gotten a clutch save here, or an unexpected goal there, it might have been a different outcome. But they didn't, and that's why they rank where they do in franchise history.

Best teams in Sharks history

No. 5: 2001-02