The first two games of the Sharks' current road trip feel almost Dickensian. Think A Christmas Carol, rather than A Tale of Two Cities, although Great Expectations and The Long Voyage aptly describe the current state of things.
The saying goes 19th-century English literature and hockey go together like...well, 19th-century English literature and hockey, so forgive the reference. But Tuesday's 5-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins felt like a visit to the ghost of playoffs present, as the reigning champs continued to flummox the Sharks.
Even in a game where San Jose managed to play Pittsburgh closely, unlike most of the last nine matchups, they still couldn't win. Evgeni Malkin capitalized on not one, but two turnovers from below the goal line, and the Penguins once again beat the Sharks.
Further apologies to Dickens fans, but Wednesday's trip to Detroit represents a visit to the ghost of playoffs past. And if the Sharks aren't careful, a date with the ghost of playoffs future.
The Red Wings were long the NHL's model franchise, and the Sharks made no secret that they followed it. Detroit kept its Stanley Cup window open for nearly two decades, continuing to reinvigorate older lineups with an infusion of young talent, despite having one of the worst draft positions year after year.
Over the last two years, the league's standard has become substandard. Following, three straight seasons getting bounced in the first round, the Red Wings missed the playoffs by 16 points in 2016-17.
They're already 10 points out of the playoffs this season, with only a hair over $200,000 in salary cap space according to Cap Friendly, and the future doesn't look much brighter.
Right now, they're the league's oldest team, according to The Athletic. They're lottery-bound this season, but seven of their nine players signed beyond 2019 are already on the wrong side of 30.
The Sharks currently have far more flexibility, with only seven players signed beyond 2019. But, their present situation looks an awful lot like the beginning of Detroit's downturn.
Brent Burns, Martin Jones, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic are all at least signed until 2024, and their respective contracts are set to expire when they're 40, 34, and 39 years old.
The Red Wings comparisons can become far more accurate, depending on the type of extensions Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski sign this summer. They're not legally allowed to sign for as long as Jonathan Franzen or Henrik Zetterberg, but they'll be 30 and 36, respectively, when their new contracts begin.
And while Burns, Jones, and Vlasic are arguably better than Jonathan Ericsson, Jimmy Howard, and Niklas Kronwall were when they signed long, large deals. But, the fear has to be in the back of general manager Doug Wilson's mind.
Much like Ebenezer Scrooge when presented with his future, the Sharks can avoid a fate similar to the Red Wings if they don't emulate the same mistakes. If they can't, another Dickens classic comes to mind.
At that point, Hard Times will lie ahead.