August 18, 2009
We agreed with this assessment last night, to a point. Stripping Patrick Marleau of the captaincy isn't the dramatic move some believe the Sharks needed to make the summer. One could argue, quite successfully, that on a roster that features Jonathan Cheechoo's(notes) regression into a 29-point player and a plethora of pathetic playoff performers, Marleau's not even one of the team's biggest migraines.
But it does, at the very least, begin to craft the message that a stellar regular season followed by a sorrowful postseason will no longer be tolerated. That a good guy like Marleau had to pay the price for the failings of his teammates.
As far as the whole captaincy issue goes, Patrick Marleau's legacy will be the same as the 8 captains that preceded him. He didn't get to a Stanley Cup as captain and he didn't win one. There's nothing dishonorable about that. Some guys win it all and a lot don't. Leadership on a hockey team can't come from just one man, it has to come from the whole lineup. In the playoffs the issue of leadership is magnified, as it should be. Unfortunately for Patrick Marleau, he was wearing the "C" the night the Sharks suffered one of the most disappointing events of their playoff history. For that, he's paying the price.
To say Patrick Marleau was a poor captain would be outrageous. He represented the franchise with the utmost respect and dignity, did countless good deeds in the community, and performed at an elite level by franchise standards. He's an excellent player and a good man. He's just not captain of the Sharks anymore.
So who should be?
We mentioned last night that a rotating captaincy, which is turns out the Sharks had before Marleau was given the 'C', could work with a team like this. It's something Muir supported, too.
That doesn't mean Boyle's ascendancy is automatic. If the Sharks' hopes to win a Stanley Cup rest most firmly on the shoulders of former league MVP Joe Thornton(notes) - and they do - then it might be time for him to wear the "C" as he did earlier in his career with the Boston Bruins. That would be my vote.
The final possibility is Joe Pavelski(notes), the young second-line center who was among the most visibly angry Sharks following the playoff loss to the Ducks. He won an NCAA championship at the University of Wisconsin. Pavelski, 25, would be a bold selection, though not an utter shock.
Thornton and Pavelski are light-years more interesting than Boyle as captains. Giving Jumbo Joe the 'C' squarely puts the team on his shoulders. Giving Pavelski the 'C' is a nod that it's guys like him, Milan Michalek(notes) and Ryane Clowe(notes) that are going to determine how far this team can go.
Bottom line: It's the last ride for this bunch. Marleau and Evgeni Nabokov(notes) go UFA next summer; Pavelski and Devin Setoguchi(notes) will be big-ticket RFAs; and Thornton will be entering the last year of his deal. That's no secret in the locker room or the board room, which could be one of the reasons we haven't seen a major personnel decision this summer for a team that did, let's not forget, shattered records en route to the President's Trophy last season.