Rob Blake has all the qualities any captain should and one specifically well suited to the San Jose Sharks.
The big blueliner has experience, talent, his teammates’ respect, not to mention two previous stints wearing the ‘C’ as a member of the L.A. Kings. And the fact he turns 40 this December makes him the perfect placeholder while San Jose tries to sort out who in its midst is the man to lead this team long-term.
Let the auditions begin.
The Sharks made a statement when they stripped Patrick Marleau of the captaincy this summer, just as they made a mini-statement by not anointing one of their go-to guys as lead horse for this season.
Blake is a big contributor to the team, no doubt, and his appointment is well deserved. But given his age and the fact he’s in the last year of his contract, there’s a good chance the Sharks training staff will be breaking out the sewing kit again next summer, as the ‘C’ gets transferred once more.
So who’s next in line? You have to believe that depends on how things play out this season and more specifically, next spring.
Joe Thornton and Dan Boyle will both wear A’s this year, meaning San Jose management obviously puts some stock in their ability to lead. Boyle is a Cup winner; Thornton, if he becomes one in the near future, could wage one of the most vindicated “What’s up now!” campaigns of all-time after the endless doubts he’s endured about his ability to thrive when it matters most.
Setting aside those two possibilities – and assuming Marleau’s chance has come and gone – an interesting name to consider is that of Joe Pavelski. Talk to people who watch the Sharks and they’ll tell you this Wisconsin boy can play. He’s got hustle, heart, skill and by the time San Jose is presumably looking for a new leader next summer, Pavelski will be 26 and entering his fourth season as a full-time NHLer.
Captains don’t need to be net-fillers, though a 30-goal season from Pavelski seems entirely within reach. But what makes him a very intriguing candidate is the fact Pavelski was apparently as sick as anyone about how the Sharks’ season ended last year. That’s why some were suggesting he might have even been captain material this time out, before Blake was pegged.
San Jose brought a serious sniper on board when it traded for Dany Heatley, but it’s the spark provided by players like Pavelski – a champion at the NCAA and Jr. A levels – that will teams over the top. If he can prove the Sharks have a little more in-house soul than people tend to think, don’t be surprised if the ‘C’ gets sewn on his sweater next summer.
Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear regularly in the off-season and his column, Top Shelf, appears Wednesdays.
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