Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton (Don Smith/Getty Images)
San Jose Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said he was “very confident” the club would have a captain when they kick off the 2015-16 season, but DeBoer didn’t tip his hand as to who that captain would be. Last off-season, the Sharks stipped Joe Thornton of the captaincy, but could the ‘C’ come back his way?
Last off-season, the San Jose Sharks made headlines when Joe Thornton had the captaincy taken away from him and the club proceeded to enter the season instead with four alternates. That will change in 2015-16.
In an interview with 95.7 The Game, a radio station in California’s Bay Area, new Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said this season.
“I feel very confident by the first game of the season we’ll have a captain,” DeBoer said. “It’s not something were going to drag around as a distraction. We’re going to move past that. I think the players are ready for that, too.”
This past season, the Sharks alternates included Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Patrick Marleau, who was also previously San Jose’s captain from 2004 to 2009.
With DeBoer confident a captain will be named, it’s likely he has a few players already in mind for the duty next season, but who could potentially be wearing the ‘C’ for the Sharks come October?
If Pavelski isn’t the most likely option, it’d be hard to say who is. When Thornton was stripped of the captaincy, it was thought that Pavelski was the heir apparent for the leadership role. This past season, there were even reports that Pavelski could be given the captaincy before the season was through. Those reports never came to fruition, but with DeBoer coming in and Pavelski being one of the longstanding Sharks, it’s likely he’s at the top of the list when it comes to naming the next captain in San Jose.
Thornton, who was stripped of the captaincy just last season, would make sense as the captain again, but he’d probably be wary about taking on the role again. It seems with each passing season that there are rumors that Thornton could be on his way out of San Jose. Taking on the captaincy would likely mean he’s there for the remaining two years of his contract. At this stage in his career, too, it seems more likely the fit for Thornton would be as an alternate while one of the younger players takes the ‘C’.
Another former Sharks captain, Marleau is San Jose Sharks hockey. At 35 and with two years remaining on his contract, he’ll likely retire as a San Jose Shark, as well. That said, like Thornton, the fit just doesn’t seem to be there, especially if the Sharks are going to attempt to have the new captain establish and maintain a new culture for the team. Marleau, like Thornton, is best suited to be wearing an ‘A’ on his sweater in 2015-16, but there’s always the outside chance DeBoer goes with a veteran who has been in San Jose for his whole career.
The man they call ‘Pickles’ has, without a doubt, solidified himself a top-pairing guy for the Sharks. He’s an Olympian, was an alternate with the club this past season and, at 28, he’s in the prime of his career and is becoming an exceptional blueliner. There aren’t many players who will make as big an impact with the Sharks over the next several years as Vlasic and, if given the captaincy, the club could grow with him as a leader.
Name one person who doesn’t enjoy Brent Burns the person or Brent Burns the player. It’s pretty hard to think of anyone who would complain about Burns wearing the ‘C’ in San Jose, but he seems much more suited to the alternate captaincy. He’s definitely a star on the Sharks, but his high-risk, high-reward play sometimes leads to mistakes. There are some who would tear him apart as captain, saying he can’t be making that type of mistake as the leader of the team. If he could tune that out, he’d be a fantastic captain.
Couture stands an outside shot, but there’s no doubt he’s probably waiting in the wings to have an ‘A’ stitched to his sweater. At 26, Couture is one of the youngest forwards on the club. He has four years remaining on a five-year, $30 million deal. If there are those who don’t consider him one of the faces of the Sharks franchise, it’s undeniable that he will be once Marleau and Thornton move on. Since 2010, only Pavelski, Thornton and Marleau have scored more than Couture’s 134 goals and 279 points.
There's always the outside chance DeBoer could go off the board -- Joel Ward would make a great captain, but it might be too risky to throw the captaincy on a fresh face -- but it's likely his choice stays within the six core players on the Sharks. They're the faces of the franchise and, for better or worse, they'll be the players who are relied upon to get the Sharks back to the post-season in 2015-16.