The Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks will play each other twice over the next week in what I assume will be a couple of the best hockey games we will see this early in the season. I am mildly annoyed that more has not been made about the Ducks-Sharks rivalry. I mean, these are two teams that have largely been competitive in the past few seasons, and are both division and state rivals. If the California coast was somehow located in Canada then this rivalry would be a bigger deal than Ron Burgundy. Sadly that is not the case.
Geography is not the only thing keeping this rivalry from taking off. The teams' comically bad name/logo/colour schemes have done them no favours. Sure the Sharks have a unique and ferocious mascot but the choice of teal in their jerseys is nearly as emasculating as the pink shoes and gloves in the NFL and more importantly nowhere near as excusable.
The Ducks are even worse esthetic offenders. I get that Disney was feeling the cross promotion they'd get by naming their team the Mighty Ducks but give me a break. Whatever ferocity a duck ever had went out the window with the use of the word "mighty" and when they went ahead and used the same logo and uniform design as they did in the movie, they annihilated any chance of us ever taking them seriously. It is unfathomable how many Emilio Esteves jokes I made during their run to the finals in '03 and the Giguere-Goldberg jokes were even worse.
So it's been an uphill battle even getting us to consider these teams as legitimate NHL franchises, let alone ones capable of having rivals but the biggest reason we've never heard much about it is the fact that these teams lack the head-to-head playoff history needed to generate buzz. They may play each other six times a season but having faced each other only once in the playoffs they do not have that iconic spring moment that every good hockey rivalry needs. With that in mind I'll be hoping and wishing that we get a Ducks-Sharks series next spring but just in case we don't I will use this space to start to generate some buzz of my own. This week's Cage Match will feature Bobby Ryan vs. Patrick Marleau. It's Duck vs. Shark, a matchup nature never intended for and only Bettman's expansion insanity could create. Let the bloodbath ensue!
Marleau and Ryan actually have a lot more in common than being the first line left wingers for two teams involved in a largely underappreciated hockey rivalry that I may or may not have just made up. Bobby Ryan is the answer to the trivia question: Who was taken second overall after Sidney Crosby. Coincidentally enough it seemed for the longest time Marleau would be a similar footnote as the player selected directly after Joe Thornton in the '97. Ironically, it took Thornton being dealt to the Sharks for Marleau to finally achieve star status. Bobby Ryan needed no similar trade to achieve his own breakout but he is still a player that poolies have had to be patient with.
Patience, it turns out is what these two can teach us more than anything. After all, are we not still waiting for Ryan to churn out that superstar fantasy season his draft pedigree has promised? He has performed remarkably well in a career that is only three years old but having waited three seasons for him to even reach the NHL fulltime we are yearning for more. Marleau, on the other hand, made the leap to the NHL right away but he strugg