The San Jose Sharks are going to head to camp without any defined leadership.
Head Coach Todd McLellan revealed the news that letters were being removed from the captain group to give everyone a clean slate, an equal opportunity, heading into the new season.
I'm calling his bluff.
I'd be willing to bet that this is just another move by GM Doug Wilson to push Thornton and Marleau out of town. It's no secret that Jumbo Joe and Patty were being shopped but they also held all the cards with their NMC, a clause that Wilson agreed to in their shiny new deals they recently signed.
Thornton has been a whipping boy his entire career and Marleau is no stranger to having a letter taken away from him ('C' removed shortly after Thornton's arrival). It's one last jab to get these two to waive their NMC and allow Wilson to make his last stand before he takes to the firing squad to give the orders on his coaching staff, a move that usually precedes the firing of the GM.
The Sharks have been a stable organization in the tough Western Conference for years but have lacked in one major department: Playoff Success. Their most recent collapse, a 3-0 lead turned elimination, has fans and ownership soured, possibly for the last time. This year saw more than one decade-plus GM lose his job so if you don't think Wilson is sweating a little then you're only kidding yourself.
Thornton and Marleau aren't the problem in San Jose, they are part of a problem that includes the teams effectiveness in the post-season. Where I think they lack is successful playoff experience players that need to be poached from other teams like Boston, Chicago, LA and various teams around the league that have gotten the job done recently. The Sharks are missing that vocal depth player that's going to charge up the teal when the going gets tough. When you get in trouble in the post-season and you have nothing to turn to but a bunch of players with no answers, you're in trouble.
Wilson needs to focus his energy on finding those players, not removing two of his best players for the sake of placing blame and organizational change. Last year was probably one with the highest expectations for the Sharks in years, even if it was marred with distrust for the team in late-April and beyond. The scoring was there, the defense was solid and the goaltending was efficient.
It may be true that younger players will rise up and grab the leadership reigns but I can't see a situation where a player wears the 'C' this year, simply because I don't see Thornton or Marleau going anywhere before the season starts. This "even playing field" that McLellan talks about is going to be an extended captaincy tryout that lasts as long as it takes to deal one of the Sharks big two.
Wilson won't be doing much to validate his case when Thornton and Marleau lead the Sharks to another season as a top Western power in the regular season after continuing to decline the NMC waive that will be requested. San Jose is going to be in the same situation this year as they have in the past: they need experienced playoff depth by the deadline. If they can't acquire those players it's not Joe Thornton's fault and it's not Patrick Marleau's fault. It's Doug Wilson's.
Two players don't bear 100% of the blame for blowing a 3-0 series lead. Do your job, Doug, and bring in the playoff depth. Boston, Chicago and LA all won Lord Stanley's prize because of their 4 line ability, not because of one or two players.
Thanks for reading.