Logan Couture remembers the sunny days for the NHL’s three California-based teams.
“For five to seven years, it seemed like there was a California team in the conference final every year,” the San Jose Sharks captain said. “Teams that came from the East to play here would say that they just needed to get a point or two from the three-game stretch. They just tried to survive.”
From the 2009-10 through 2018-19 seasons, teams from the Golden State made the Western Conference finals nine times. The Sharks made it four times, advancing to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, where they lost to Pittsburgh. The Anaheim Ducks made it twice. The Los Angeles Kings made it three times, and twice advanced to win the Stanley Cup, in 2012 and 2014.
Then all of their fortunes changed. The Ducks and Kings last made the playoffs in 2018. The Sharks’ last appearance was in 2019. The 2019-20 season marked the first time since the 1995-96 season that the NHL didn’t have one playoff representative from California.
“It’s a funny cycle,” Couture said. “In this sport, you can’t stay good forever. And we’ve all had some down years.”
That they have. The Sharks (.459), Kings (.444) and Ducks (.438) are all in the bottom seven teams in points percentage from the start of the 2019-20 season through Wednesday’s games.
“It’s amazing. All three teams were trying to win, and then all three, at kind of the same time, are trying to rebuild back up,” Anaheim coach Dallas Eakins said. “But that’s the ebb and flow of the league. Teams load up with vets and try to grab that Cup. And with that, there’s a price.”
Like Couture said: It’s a funny cycle. But there are signs the California teams are cycling back to contention, perhaps as early as this season.
“I think all three teams are on the upswing. Anaheim’s got some young, talented players. L.A.’s got some good players. I like where we’re at as well, with the mix of veteran and young players,” the Sharks center said.
Here’s a heat check on the NHL’s California teams.