SAN JOSE –- It was a little more than one year ago when Sharks general manager Doug Wilson, appearing on Comcast SportsNet’s Yahoo! Sports Talk Live, said that the team would have “different players in core leadership roles” in time for the 2014-15 season.
After blowing a 3-0 series lead to the Kings – capping years of playoff failure – changes were deemed necessary to the leadership structure, and by the time training camp rolled around Joe Thornton’s four-year reign as captain had unceremoniously ended.
Even after the four alternate captains were chosen, including Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, the captaincy situation was an ongoing storyline. It elicited some scoffs and groans from some players in the locker room nearly every time it was brought it up, but the fact was the Sharks were one of just three teams without a player wearing a ‘C’ on his sweater (That’s now down to two, with Columbus recently choosing Nick Foligno. Montreal is the other).
It’s still a story 12 months later, including on Thursday, when the Sharks officially introduced Peter DeBoer as their head coach.
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“The first thing I see when I look at the roster is a lot of leadership,” DeBoer said. “That leadership goes way beyond whoever ends up with a ‘C’ on their jersey. It’s a deep leadership group. I’m looking forward to getting to know the group and the players.”
The Sharks currently have two former captains still on their roster in Thornton and Marleau, which is a truly unique, if not eye-rolling situation. As for the team’s overall culture, it was labeled as “not great” by Logan Couture at the conclusion of the season. DeBoer will have to navigate through all that before making a decision.
“I think what I have going for me here is I’m fresh to this group,” DeBoer said. “I don’t have a history with them. I wasn’t around for the successes or the failures. I’m looking forward to going in with a clean slate and getting to know this group, and we’ll make those decisions as we go forward.”
The scuttlebutt regarding last season’s leadership structure is that management wasn’t so sanguine with Todd McLellan’s decision to have four rotating alternates, along with Couture – branded over and over again as one of the team’s cornerstones and catalysts last summer – ending up without a letter.
Pavelski was the preferred choice as captain, as the 30-year-old former 7th round pick is viewed as the perfect role model for young players trying to acclimate themselves into the league. The Sharks have several such players.
A report out of Canada in December, suggesting that the Sharks would name Pavelski as their next captain at some point, was promptly shot down by McLellan and never came to fruition.
Publicly, Pavelski assumed all duties that come with being a team captain. A glimpse inside the dressing room between periods of a game in Phoenix, caught by a behind-the-scenes camera crew leading up to the Stadium Series, also showed Pavelski’s command of the dressing room.
Still, the ultimate decision on the captaincy was left up to the coaching staff, and Wilson never forced McLellan’s hand. If he had, Pavelski probably would have had the ‘C’ on his sweater in September.
Wilson reiterated on Thursday that the decision is still ultimately up to the coaching staff - old or new.
“We have a very simple policy,” Wilson said. “That will be up to the coach. … [DeBoer] will make those decisions and he is not only up to the task, but looking forward to it.”