September 29, 2009
Joe Pavelski(notes) spent most of the summer playing the same waiting game as many San Jose Sharks fans: Anticipating that management would shake things up after the President's Trophy-winning team was dumped in the first round of the conference playoffs by the Anaheim Ducks.
"There were times when I didn't think something was going to happen. We did a lot of great things last year, and we were trying to figure it out together," said the 25-year-old forward. "But it always goes the other way from what you're previously thinking."
On Sept. 12, it really went the other way: Dany Heatley(notes) was a San Jose Shark, Milan Michalek(notes) and Jonathan Cheechoo(notes) were Ottawa Senators. For Pavelski, it meant a new linemate in former captain Patrick Marleau(notes). For the Sharks, it meant a controversial addition to a team still smarting from a playoff meltdown last postseason.
We spoke with Pavelski last week about building on a career year (25 goals, 34 assists); overcoming a postseason flop; whether he hates the Ducks; potentially playing "Brian Burke hockey" for Team USA in the Olympics; and, of course, music and beer.
But we also wanted to know how the Sharks' locker room is handling its famously disgruntled new teammate:
Q. Everybody in the media thinks they know a thing or two about Heatley, based on what happened in Ottawa. How overblown is the idea that he's some sort of a bad influence in your locker room?
PAVELSKI: It's totally false. Everybody has their own opinion, and I'm sure the atmosphere in Ottawa is different. He's going to fit in well here -- he already has. It's not about one guy, that's the thing. It's about the group, the team, and what we want to accomplish together.
We understand that everyone's not going to like each other all the time; but for the group of guys that we have here, everyone gets along great and works hard. When you come to the rink, it's just 'let's play.'
Do you have any negative feelings towards a guy who requests a trade?
No. It's his personal preference at the time. I don't know anything about his situation, to be honest. For that to happen ... he probably liked his position a year ago. For that to change, I don't know and I don't really care to know, to be honest. If he comes and puts the work in and makes us better, that's what everybody wants.
How did you hear about the Heatley trade?
You know what? I worked out with Milan [Michalek] and few guys, and I called him a few hours later and he heard he got traded [to Ottawa]. I think I was coming off the golf course, actually.
It was the same thing with Christian [Ehrhoff, who was traded to Vancouver]. I was helping another guy out, I gave him a call and he said he couldn't make because he got traded.
You can't plan for something like that. You never know what to expect. There was actually a big rumor before it that had Patty [Marleau] going to LA and Heater coming here and a few players from LA going to Ottawa. But we understand they're more rumors than anything [solid].
So at this point, how sick are you about hearing about last postseason?
We got a lot of question, and I think they're deserved, obviously. With the way sports get broken down and talked about, it was a big collapse. It was talked about, but we also talked about it as a group -- just moving on.
Well, not "moving on," but moving forward. We are we going to build on it and learn, prevent something like that from happening again.
Have you grown to hate the Anaheim Ducks?
We're trying to beat them every time obviously, and we've had a few battles. They've gotten the better of us a few times. The rivalry has definitely grown a little bit.
You would definitely hate the Ducks more than you'd hate the Kings, right?
From what we've read, Coach Todd McLellan is using last year's playoff failure to motivate the team this year.
We talked about it a bit: As a group, as an individual, how do you want your reputation to be? If somebody told you how they see you, and it wasn't what you wanted, what would you do to change it? How would you overcome obstacles like that? As a group there's a lot of things we can do. Obviously the team's been blown up a little bit. There's been some changes. We have to become more of a group. Patty's taking some of the heat with the leadership fall, but when it comes down to it, it's [on] everybody.
Patty's a great player, obviously. Brings a lot of speed and a lot of skill. I've played with him before last year, and me and Clowe and Patty played together two years ago in the playoffs, and had some success. It doesn't matter who we play with. It's hockey: We're always going to have shifts when we play with other guys.
Tells us about U.S. Olympic Development Camp.
It was awesome. They did a really good job creating that sense of Olympic [pride], giving us an understanding of the players who have come there. It would be a tremendous honor to go and play.
If you do make the cut, are you prepared to beat the living [expletive] out of all the other countries as Brian Burke has instructed?
(Laughs) Yeah, that's the goal. It'll be a little different tournament I guess.
When we talked to Ryan Kesler(notes), he guaranteed that the U.S. would not only beat Canada but medal in Vancouver. Are you prepared to make the same such guarantee?
No. We're not going to make any guarantees like that. We're just going there with a goal in mind, and we definitely want to win the gold, like any team does.
You sound like a guy who's in favor of NHL players continuing to be a part of the Olympics.
Yeah, definitely. I understand why some people aren't in favor of it, but when you look at the games I don't know why you wouldn't want NHL players there. You'd be taking something away from the sport if you don't have them there.
A few general questions. Have you seen the commercial with Joe Thornton and the ventriloquist's dummy?
What did you think?
It wasn't too bad, was it?
We were in awe of his acting abilities, actually.
I laughed the first time I saw it. We knew it would be out there, and there will be a few more.
Other than your own team, what are your favorite NHL sweaters?
I never really thought about that. I like all the old school ones. They're simple. From the Blackhawks to the Red Wings to the Maple Leafs. They all seem really basic and true. I don't have one favorite. Just the classic stuff.
What's on your iPod?
Mainly country. I listen to whatever, though. Really easygoing that way.
Worst movie you've seen lately?
Haven't seen a bad one lately, but we don't watch a lot of movies. Been watching a lot of "Prison Break" lately.
Your adult beverage of choice, sir?
Just a beer. Wheat beer, and I have to give a shout out to the Point Beer back home in Stevens Point (Wisconsin).
Wait, isn't that where you were born? You actually had a brewery in your hometown?
Oh yeah. Pretty good beer, too.
Finally, what's the thing you love best about hockey?
The team aspect, but also just competing. It's fast, you go for 30 or 40 seconds, you get loaded up and you come back. There's a little bit of everything. It's a pretty fun sport to play.