This is already one mixed-up hockey season.
Central Valley puckheads -- there are a bunch, believe me -- are preparing for two huge tournaments, and the scheduling of it all makes your eyes go glassy.
Let's take the Sharks first.
There is plenty of evidence to suggest this might be the year that San Jose celebrates its first Stanley Cup -- or at the very least, Sharks fans should be whooping and hollering very, very deep into the NHL playoffs.
Sure, it's an old song.
The Sharks won the President's Trophy for running up the highest point total in the regular season last year -- then tumbled out of the postseason in a six-game, first-round disaster against Anaheim.
There have been other disappointments, too.
Despite all those Pacific Division championship banners hanging in HP Pavilion, the Sharks have been to the conference finals just once -- and never have played for the Cup itself.
When the Sharks began grinding out another powerhouse run early this season, ESPN analyst and former coach Barry Melrose said simply: "We've seen this movie before -- so let's wait until April."
Yet here we are in mid-February, the Sharks are leading the Western Conference and see-sawing back and forth with Washington for best overall record in the league.
New winger Dany Heatly, acquired in a huge off-season deal, has been everything expected (31 goals) and even more -- he's a slick passer and better-than-average defensive forward, as well.
GM Doug Wilson has been quoted often as claiming he wanted to add some "sandpaper" to the Sharks -- toughening up the whole group for the rough and tumble of the playoffs, and so far, results point to big-time success.
Guys like fan favorite Scott Nichol, Manny Malhotra and Jed Ortmeyer have been tough, effective scrappers and fantastic penalty-killers. Fast and aggressive young Torrey Mitchell is finally back from a year-long injury absence, too.
The Sharks' PK unit has spent most of the season tops in the NHL, and killed 34 consecutive penalties in one stretch.
Wilson hasn't been sitting still, either. He just went out and grabbed veteran defenseman Niklas Wallin, who was surplus to requirements at rebuilding Carolina -- but will add steel and experience to the Sharks' blue line.
Now three of San Jose's top six defensemen -- Wallin, Rob Blake and Dan Boyle -- have won Stanley Cups.
That helps at crunch time.
I did mention it was a screwed-up season, though, and that's because of the Winter Olympics -- which open in Vancouver next week.
A lot of the major Cup contenders have key players disappearing to suit up for their native countries.
San Jose alone is sending eight stars to the Olympics -- Heatley, Boyle, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau with Canada, goalie Evgeni Nabokov with Russia, backup netminder Thomas Griess with Germany, powerhouse defender Douglas Murray with Sweden and second-line center Joe Pavelski with the United States.
Sharks fans will have to endure divided loyalties for the next couple of weeks.
Most will be hoping the U.S. gives a good account of itself at the Olympics -- and with Buffalo magician Ryan Miller in net that's a definite possibility.
But on the other hand...
Who wants to see Pavelski or Murray slam Marleau into the boards and maybe break a rib with the Stanley Cup run just around the corner?
Taking the optimistic view, perhaps this oddly scheduled Olympic break is just the weird little thing that changes the Sharks' normal postseason pattern.
I'm even thinking of a specific player in that scenario.
The Sharks can't win the Stanley Cup unless Nabokov turns in a blinder, and he's definitely capable of it. Nabby's already won a world championship with Russia, so the big stage is no problem.
Nabokov normally plays a huge number of games, and despite what he says, I think he's been worn down enough to lose that extra sharpness in some previous playoffs.
I'm hoping that Russia will stick to its stated plan in the Olympics and rotate Nabby with Phoenix sensation Ilya Bryzgolov.
That would be just about perfect in terms of preparation for the playoffs.
Non-Olympic seasons haven't been all that kind to the Sharks come Stanley Cup time, so why not a dramatic change?
It can't hurt, eh?
Steve Cameron is a freelance columnist for the Sun-Star. He can be reached at email@example.com.