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"C" ya when I "C" ya
Handcapping the Sharks captains race
7/30/15 - By Mike Lee -

Not that he's really put himself out on a limb since taking over the bench job as the Sharks new head coach, Peter DeBoer's one commitment to Sharks fans this off season is that his team will have a captain this season. He didn't say when the big announcement will happen, but that it will happen sometime during the 2015-16 season. The Sharks headless approach to leadership (or multi-headed depending on who you ask) resulted in one of the worst seasons in the past decade, so with that experiment behind them, DeBoer gets a clean slate to work with.

Who can say what the motivation is, but it's happening. Now the question is, who will take on the responsibility of reinvigorating a team that lost its way last let's take a look at the candidates:

Joe Thornton

Why it could happen: The obvious reason is, Thornton's been there before and he wants the job back. It was no secret that the Sharks last captain was affected by the slap that came with the C being torn from his sweater last summer. A rift between he and GM became public late in the season, and another with Todd McLellan was later suggested after McLellan headed to Edmonton. Rift aside, Thornton still performed last season, which is a testament to his professionalism. He's a respected force in the locker room, that could be just the conduit that DeBoer needs to communicate with younger players.

Why it couldn't happen: Thornton's been there before. Some say he lost the locker room during the fateful Los Angeles series in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. His message is tired and the younger leaders have tuned him out. Some of those younger players are also vying for more of a leadership role, and Wilson has repeatedly stated that those players will get a chance to step in to the role. Too bad Wilson never clarified when that would happen.

Odds: 8-to-1

Logan Couture

Why it could happen: The young Sharks player is a budding superstar who is on the cusp of becoming more of a figure head for the Sharks anyway. Couture is not shy in front of the camera, and his hatred for losing is the type of attitude you want leading the charge. His play speaks for itself, which is also important in a dressing room that is on the verge of getting a lot younger. With Thornton and Patrick Marleau entering the twilight stage of their careers, San Jose needs a guy that can fill the role for a while and will commend of the respect of his younger peers.

Why it couldn't happen: The big question is if Couture can juggle both the responsibilities of the captaincy and his game simultaneously. He set career high's on points and assists, but his goal scoring failed to crack the 30-goal plateau for the third consecutive season. The Sharks need someone to deposit the puck into the back of the net, and they'll rely more and more on Couture to do that this season. Can he focus on that and juggle the responsibility of the captaincy?

Odds: 6-to-1

Marc-Edouard Vlasic

Why it could happen: Vlasic's name is never mentioned in talks about who will don the C for San Jose, but some of the best captains in the NHL are defensemen. It's easy to judge the value of a forward in terms of his offensive production and how the captain's role can interfere with that. It's not as easy to wrap statistics around defensive performance, which provides a buffer to allow the player to do both jobs. Vlasic is a mainstay in San Jose and he's well respected in the locker room. It's actually pretty easy to think that he could be the Sharks next captain.

Why it couldn't happen: Vlasic isn't the most outspoken player in the Sharks locker room and he may not have the motivation or desire to put himself in the spotlight. He's the bona fide leader of the defensive corps for San Jose, but he's not really a rah-rah guy that's going to light a fire under his fellow teammates.

Odds: 5-to-1

Patrick Marleau

Why it could happen: Like Thornton, Marleau's been there before. He's one of the longer tenured captain's in Sharks history, and after a hiatus, he may have the desire to give it another go-round. With more careers games in Sharks history than anyone on the planet, his reputation will win over some players, especially the slew of younger talent that will fill the Sharks dressing room.

Why it couldn't happen: Given his track record, it's actually unlikely that Marleau would garner much serious consideration for the job. He's too soft spoken and his ability to lead by example is slipping away as the sands of time get more cruel. Marleau is likely to be unwilling to take on the headache of wearing the C again. He was no stranger to criticism when he was captain, so why take on that added grief in the twilight of a successful career. He can fill in the assistant's role, which provides some respect, without having the focus on him. Just the way he likes it.

Odds: 12-to-1

Brent Burns

Why it could happen: Like Vlasic, a blueliner is an attractive target to take on the duty. Burns is well respected around the league by players and officials alike. He's a hard nosed guy that will be able to command some respect on the ice.

Why it couldn't happen: The simple fact is, Burns is a little nutty, and San Jose needs a guy that will be able to sway officials, command the locker room and serve as a conduit for DeBoer. His off-kilter attitude toward everything makes his ability to serve those three capacities a little suspect. There's no argument that Burns seems to be a good fit in the Sharks locker room, but wearing a C doesn't seem to be a good fit.

Odds: 10-to-1

Joe Pavelski

Why it could happen: By all accounts, Pavelski is the guy everyone expects to get the nod. He's a leader in the locker room and on the ice, and he stepped up his involvement in front of the cameras and microphones last season. By all accounts, he's well respected in the locker room and his NHL and international credentials command some respect. He's an even keel guy that knows what to say and when to say it, and reports last season had him taking a more proactive role in trying to lead the troops.

Why it couldn't happen: After last season's experiment, the big question will be if Pavelski was given some latitude to lead and landed on his butt along with the Sharks season. Nobody was very motivated last year, so if the role was being tested on him or Couture last season, the season's outcome could spell doom for either of their chances.

Odds: 2-to-1

The Dark Horses:

Tommy Wingels: Still too raw both on the ice and in the locker room. Needs to prove he's here to stay before anyone takes him seriously as a captain.

Paul Martin: New guy that needs to establish himself in the locker room. DeBoer could of course try to gut the culture by anointing fresh blood.

Joel Ward: Another new guy that needs to deliver on the ice first. He'll prove himself with his hustle, which could motivate DeBoer to slap and "A" on his sweater if he really does want to change the culture in San Jose.

Matt Nieto: Too young.

Justin Braun: Needs to stop disappearing on the ice first.

Tomas Hertl: Still a kid. Language barriers.

Melker Karlsson: Needs to prove he's not a one-year wonder.

Brendon Dillon: Could happen someday, just not today.


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