Editor's Note: The video above is from a postgame media session on Nov. 7, 2015.
SAN JOSE – On the day he was named the Sharks’ ninth captain, Joe Pavelski was clear in expressing that he didn’t plan on changing much of anything. The 31-year-old would keep on doing the same things that turned him from a former seventh round pick into one of the NHL’s premier goal scorers.
Still, when the Sharks took the ice on Oct. 7 in Los Angeles, kicking off a season that they hoped would provide redemption from the fiasco of 2014-15, it was a new experience for Pavelski to be skating with the ‘C’ stitched on his sweater.
Four wins in the first four games helped to ease Pavelski into the role.
“That was definitely a nice little transition period, if you want to call it that,” he said. “The biggest thing for me was, let’s not build us up to be anything too big. I need all the guys in here. He needs me, I need him. That’s how we’re going to win, and that’s how we won the first four games.”
Since then, though, things haven’t gone so smoothly with just three wins in 10 games. The club has not dealt with injuries very well, and there are worrying trends developing. It’s impossible to determine just what the Sharks are after the season’s first month.
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Pavelski, though, has been true to his word when it comes to what’s transpiring on the ice with his own game. He leads the Sharks with 8 goals, 13 points and a +8 rating, and one season after he was named as the team’s MVP, he again looks like their best player.
That’s the biggest reason Pete DeBoer knows he made the right choice in selecting his captain.
“Excellence. That’s the word that comes to mind,” DeBoer said. “You don’t get an appreciation having coached in the Eastern Conference for how good he is and what he brings to the rink every day both on and off the ice. I couldn’t be happier about our choice to name him the captain. He’s been outstanding on the ice.”
The Sharks recent struggles are providing Pavelski with his first real test as captain. One aspect of their game that San Jose needs to quickly fix, for example, is its starts. The Sharks have allowed the first goal in five of their last six games, including on Saturday when the Ducks dominated for the first 10 minutes before the Sharks responded. Anaheim held on for a 1-0 victory.
Tommy Wingels said Pavelski has done “a very good job, and he’s learning on the fly” when it comes to being a captain, but he’s pressing the right buttons.
“He’s a guy who knows how to get guys going on this team, and get the team going at the right time,” Wingels said. “There are a couple things we’ve talked about maybe changing pregame to get us going on time. Other than the first 10 minutes of the game, which we’ve identified as a big area of concern and an opportunity to improve on, things have been alright.
“Joe is doing a good job of readying the guys, and knowing when to speak up and when to let guys figure it out on their own.”
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Pavelski indicated that on most nights, the Sharks work ethic has been high. Three of the last four losses have been by one goal, not counting an empty-netter in Dallas on Oct. 31.
“We’re right there,” he said. “We haven’t lost any games where it’s been 6-2, and you just come in and you’re like ‘what was that?’ Guys show up and play hard.”
Pavelski has played hard himself, too. He’s recorded at least one point in 10 of the team’s 14 games, including a recent five-game goal streak. He’s not been burdened in the least by the added responsibility and pressure of being a captain. In fact, he seems to be thriving.
“You raise [expectations] even more, and you want to do even more,” he said. “But, there were guys coming in this year that put in extra time in the summer and wanted better than what they brought last year. I’m no different. You want better, and you want to improve your game and work towards that.”
What happens on the ice is still the most important factor when it comes to being a leader, and Pavelski is doing his part to get the Sharks pointed in the right direction again.
“[It’s] exactly what you want from your captain – consistency,” DeBoer said. “We’re looking for that consistent high-level game every night. The best leaders are the guys that do it and don’t talk about it. He’s been bringing that every single night, every shift.
“There’s no drop off depending on who we’re playing. There’s no drop off whatever the score is. That’s true leadership.”