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The players are sick of the subject. The coach has grown weary of it. Even those of us who cover the team on a daily basis are a bit tired of talking about the Sharks’ captaincy situation.
It still seems to be a hot topic among fans, though:
Any word on how long before the decide on Captain? #SharksTalk— Kris Gaskins (@kris_gaskins) October 13, 2014
It’s impossible to predict if the Sharks will name a captain this season. That will likely depend on how the team performs over the next little while, and no one I’ve spoken with has offered even a hint as to what will happen next. It’s very possible they don’t even know themselves.
As Todd McLellan said earlier this week, the team is going to have to experience some adversity before it knows if this experiment is a success. Through two games, there hasn’t been a whole lot of that, despite the mildly concerning performance on Saturday against Winnipeg in which the Sharks didn’t get a single shot on goal in the third period of a 3-0 win.
It’s worth mentioning, too, that the Sharks are one of three NHL teams currently without a captain. The Montreal Canadiens have already announced they will have four alternate captains for the season, switching midway through the year, and will revisit the subject next summer. Columbus also has four alternates, and just started its third season without a player wearing the C.
The Sharks haven’t closed the door on naming one at some point, though, so it remains an option.
The most fascinating development of the whole captaincy distraction is that Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau earned letters back, with Thornton going from a C to an A, and Marleau getting the A he lost in early August. Some were surprised that happened, after Doug Wilson’s offseason plan to put "different players in core leadership roles," and Larry Robinson’s interview with a Montreal radio station in which he indicated not everyone took to the leadership style of the two former captains.
"I don't think this is to put all the onus on Joe or even Patrick for that matter, but there's definitely leadership that has to be found somewhere within, and if it's not Joe and if it's not Patrick then we're looking for somebody else to step forward and I think that's the main reason we're doing what we're doing,” Robinson told TSN 690 on August 22. “We're waiting for somebody now to step forward and take charge of this team.”
Those were just two of many examples this offseason that indicated the organization was ready to start phasing out the two best players in the history of their franchise. The lack of using their likenesses in the team’s offseason marketing, and not having them appear at the Levi’s Stadium press conference on Oct. 2 to promote the outdoor game, also may have helped to increase the bitterness between the Thornton/Marleau camps and team management.
It also left McLellan, responsible for putting a winning team on the ice, in an awkward position.
Now, though, the Sharks are suddenly focused again on a Stanley Cup after Wilson said they were entering a “rebuild” phase less than four months ago. They need Thornton and Marleau to have the same kind of outstanding seasons they did last year if they want to make a run.
McLellan’s decision to spare them further disdain and make them a part of the team’s leadership group – again – could be the first step in healing the relationship between the organization and the two men that are most responsible for hockey thriving the Bay Area.
It could translate into a stronger on-ice product, making a captain unnecessary. If it goes the other direction, it's anyone's guess what happens next.