I've been quiet this offseason because I've decided to keep myself busy playing hockey outside rather than comment on free agent signings, especially since the Penguins haven't made any really big moves.
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However the news of Patrick Marleau being ousted as the captain going into training camp, with not successor named, has given me cause to post again.
I fully support the decision made by Todd McLellan to clean the slate and look for a captain, but once again I believe "T-Mac" is showing how confused he is behind the bench as a head coach. This announcement comes a year later than it should have. Instead of sending a message right off the bat last year, McLellan's actions said "same team, new coach."
Those decisions led to the best half-season in Sharks history, giving them just enough room to win the President's Trophy despite being one of the worst teams in the NHL after the All-Star break. The Sharks lost four key games that told me they would not win the Stanley Cup this year, but I kept my mouth shut hoping to be able to drive south for a parade.
First they had a chance to clinch a playoff birth with a win, and they lost. Thankfully they still clinched because the teams chasing the #8 seed all lost that day too.
Next up was a chance to clinch the Pacific Division title with a win. Guess what happened? The Sharks lost, but so did Anaheim and the Sharks got to celebrate.
They celebrated when Detroit and Boston lost must-win games that would have given them a chance to catch the Sharks for home-ice and the President's trophy, but they had to go out and lose their own game first. Phoenix is probably still celebrating that 4-1 victory.
"In my opinion, we didn't start playing until it was 3-0," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "To wait and see, and put your toes in the water to see how cold it is, and if you want to jump in or not, it's disappointing this time of year. Will has to take precedence over skill. Not sure that was the case today."
Finally they have a meaningless game against Los Angeles on the last day of the season. This was a throwaway that should have given the Sharks plenty of momentum heading into the playoffs. They had all their players back and healthy. Ryan Vesce, Derek Joslin and the rest of the AHL call-ups were back in Worscester and Torrey Mitchell, Jeremy Roenick and Jonathan Cheechoo were 100 percent (and were the only ones playing like it). The Sharks lost and entered the post-season on what should have been a three game losing streak (Joe Pavelski's shootout goal against Colorado saved them with a 1-0 win). The Sharks officially clinched the President's Trophy with a 4-3 loss to a team that was 0-3-2 against the Sharks for the season.
I won't remind my fellow Californians of how the Sharks took the Indiana Pacers choking act and elevated it to an artform this post-season. It would have been beautiful if it had been so disgusting. Are these guys really professionals? But I digress...
On to a new age, maybe, in San Jose. A new, or revitalized, captain will take over by October 1. I don't know if this is the end for Marleau, but it should be a new beginning either way. Marleau will have to earn the privelage of leading this team, and that's the way it should be. Everyone has a chance to earn the "C," but only one will emerge.
Maybe the players will follow the emotional Dan Boyle. The newcomer who called out his teammates for their lack of effort in the media. Did I say Boyle? Are you sure I didn't say Jeremy Roenick, the guy who can't keep his mouth shut? Maybe not. A leader should never call out his teammates in public. Leadership 101 - Praise in public, discipline in private.
Maybe they will choose to follow Alternate Captain Joe Thornton. He should be a good choice. He was a captain in Boston and helped them get to the playoffs. Come to think of it, his resume looks a lot like Marleau's.
Maybe Joe Pavelski or Jonathan Cheechoo will become more vocal now that they have a chance to be a leader, rather than just deferring to the failing veterans in the room. "Little Joe" is likely going to play for Team USA in February and Cheechoo was easily one of the top three players for the Sharks last April (the other two being Boyle and Rob Blake).
Blake is the last name I've seen on the short list. I don't think the 39-year-old defenseman will wear the letter, though. He's 39 and likely in his last season in the NHL. He will be a leader on this team for sure, but probably not THE leader.
But, of course, there still remains the chance that the players will rebel against their coach and chose to follow Patrick Marleau for another year. After all, he has taken them to the playoffs in each of his five seasons as captain and has stated his willingness to step aside if the team really feels like they will be better with another captain. The 30-year-old team MVP has said the right things publicly that I expect from a leader, the question that is left is what is behind the closed doors. What is said in the locker room is privelaged information and we may never know how good or bad Patrick Marleau really is as a captain. What we do know is that five percent of NHL players thought he was the best leader in the league on an ESPN survey, putting him top five behind Jarome Iginla, Nick Lidstrom and Joe Sakic, but still ahead of Rod Brind'Amour, Zdeno Chara and Sharks' teammate Joe Thornton.
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