Something historic may be brewing again in the NHL this season — last year, the Boston Bruins broke the regular season wins and points records. This year, the San Jose Sharks are giving us the other side of the puck.
San Jose’s 2-13-1 record and minus-51 goal differential through 16 games has the Sharks firmly in last place in the standings. The 2023-24 Sharks are shaping up to be one of the worst NHL teams of all time. They didn’t notch their first win until their 12th game, and that 11-game drought to start the season tied the 2017-18 Coyotes and 1943-44 New York Rangers for the longest season-opening winless streak.
Thirteen of San Jose’s first 16 games have been regulation losses, and the Sharks’ first win was preceded by a five-game stretch during which San Jose was shut out in back-to-back games and gave up 10 goals apiece in consecutive games.
Merely Bad or Historically Awful?
We know the Sharks don’t compare favorably to any of the 31 other NHL teams playing in 2023-24, but how do they match up with some of the worst teams of all time?
With five points through 16 games, San Jose’s on pace to become the 10th NHL team in the last 40 years with seven or fewer points through 20 games, joining the 1992-93 Senators (1-18-1; three points), 1983-84 Devils (2-18-0; four points), 1997-98 Lightning (2-16-2; six points), 1974-75 Capitals (2-16-2; six points), 1975-76 Capitals (2-16-2; six points; deja vu), 1980-81 Jets (1-14-5; seven points), 2017-18 Coyotes (2-15-3; seven points), 1990-91 Maple Leafs (3-16-1; seven points), and 1991-92 Sharks (3-16-1; seven points).
This year’s Sharks could give Arizona from 2017-18 a run for its money as the worst team through 20 games since 2000, but that Coyotes team actually performed reasonably well after the historically bad start, finishing with an ordinarily bad record of 29-41-12 (70 points).
By final point percentage, the dubious distinction of worst team since 2000 belongs to the 2019-20 Red Wings, who finished 17-49-5 (39 points out of a possible 142; .275-point percentage). That Detroit team started a respectable 7-12-1 before hitting the skids right after the 20-game mark with a 12-game winless stretch.
The worst team ever by this metric were the infamous aforementioned 1974-75 Capitals, who finished 8-67-5, with a .131-point percentage.
San Jose’s current .156-point percentage would be the sixth-worst mark in NHL history. The worst team ever by this metric were the infamous aforementioned 1974-75 Capitals, who finished 8-67-5, with a .131-point percentage. After that came the 1930-31 Philadelphia Quakers at 4-36-4 (.136), then the 1992-93 Senators and 1992-93 Sharks (.143 each), and 1929-30 Pittsburgh Pirates (.148).
Between the 1992-93 Sharks’ full-season struggles and the 1991-92 Sharks’ slow start, this year’s team still has a realistic chance to avoid being the worst in franchise history in either category. They will need three points in their next four games to top the total of the 1992-93 team through 20 games.
As far as worst NHL team since 2000, that unsavory prize is very much in play, as this year’s Sharks are on a markedly worse pace so far than the 2019-20 Red Wings — though at such a small sample so far, another two-game win streak would make San Jose’s outlook much rosier.
…this year’s Sharks could somehow give the 2013-14 Sabres (1.83) a run for their money as the NHL’s lowest-scoring team since 1936.
San Jose’s offensive woes are also historically bad, as the Sharks are averaging just 1.31 goals per game. The 0.75 goals per game averaged by the 1928-29 Blackhawks will almost certainly remain the lowest mark of all time for the foreseeable future, but this year’s Sharks could somehow give the 2013-14 Sabres (1.83) a run for their money as the NHL’s lowest-scoring team since 1936.
A Betting Opportunity?
San Jose has the same odds on Tipico Sportsbook to win the Stanley Cup, Western Conference, and Pacific Division (+20000), so their chances of accomplishing any of those three pretty much can’t get any lower.
The 1982-83 Maple Leafs started 5-21-6 and went on to make the playoffs despite the horrid 32-game start, so there’s at least precedent of a team overcoming a terrible start to reach the postseason. Even so, betting on the Sharks to accomplish anything positive this season will likely net you the same return as feeding money to a live shark would.
That Toronto team snuck in with just 68 points before losing in the first round to the Minnesota North Stars and given the balanced conferences and ability to earn one standings point for an overtime loss rather than a tie, it will take far more success to sniff the playoffs in 2023-24.
Not only is San Jose losing, they’re losing by multiple goals in almost every game.
A common puck line in NHL betting is +1.5/-1.5 goals. An amazing 12 out of 13 of the Sharks losses so far have been by two goals or more, including Tuesday night’s 5-3 loss to Florida. Not only is San Jose losing, they’re losing by multiple goals in almost every game.
So, betting against the Sharks each game seems like an obvious play. But keep in mind that with a team this dreary, you’ll be seeing shorter odds for that puck line — for instance, most hockey favorites may have a number ranging from roughly +195 to -125 on a -1.5 puck line.
As an example, the Sharks opponents’ may only be giving bettors something like -275 on a -1.5 puck line, requiring a higher bet to make more money. The puck line could even move to -2.5 on some occasions, depending on opponent. Moneyline odds will be even more lopsided. But hey — a win is a win.
Read more about puck line vs. moneyline betting here.
So maybe there’s a better opportunity in betting on the Sharks? Anything can happen on a given night in the NHL, so single-game bets on the Sharks are conceivably winnable, and this could be a buy-low opportunity as San Jose’s young players get more comfortable playing in the NHL. And of course, bets on teams like the Sharks are usually going to be far more likely to give you a bigger payout.
San Jose’s next game will be at home against the Blues on Thursday. All five of the Sharks’ standings points have been accrued on home ice, so San Jose has a puncher’s chance in its next game. After that? We’ll just have to see how those young players improve over the course of the season — or if the 1974-75 Capitals will be “threatened.”
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