As uncomfortable as it is to admit, even though they've been outscored by a healthy margin, the Vancouver Canucks may still yet win the Stanley Cup. If they do, former Sharks Christian Ehrhoff and Manny Malhotra will have the privilege of being named on Lord Stanley's Cup, a very elite fraternity. Even more select is the number of men who have worn teal to have their names on the Cup. Given Doug Wilson's penchant for bringing IN former Cup winners, the trend has been for former champions to wear teal. Those who have left Silicon Valley for icier pastures have not always found success. After the jump, we'll look to the best of those who went on to find hockey's Holy Grail.
5. Teemu Selanne
F*** the Ducks. F*** them. F*** them so hard. I hate those f***ers. F*** them.
Teemu wasn't a Shark for very long. But when he arrived in 2001, he was, perhaps, the greatest player to wear teal since Igor Larionov. The Sharks have had many great players in their history. And many of them have arrived in San Jose in the twilight of their career. But in Selanne, the Sharks had a bona fide star still in the prime of his career. He remains one of the fiercest competitors in the game, and he brought all of that to his brief tenure in teal. Teemu departed San Jose in 2003 for the chance to be reunited with former teammate Paul Kariya in Colorado, and a chance at the Cup. Ironically, his dream would be ended by the very team he left, as San Jose overcame the Avalanche in six games in their most successful postseason to date. The road back looked to be very long and winding. Selanne underwent knee surgery during the lockout, as he clearly had lost a step. His rebound led to one of the more remarkable careers in recent NHL history, culminating with his hoisting of the Cup in 2007. At age 40, he shows no sign of slowing down, which is unfortunate, because F*** the Ducks.
4. Sandis Ozolinsh
Sandis was a key component of the Sharks' early Cinderella runs into the post-season, including the 7 game victory over the Red Wings. As hockey was taking root in the Bay Area, it looked as though Ozolinsh would be part of a core for the team moving forward. Instead, Ozolinsh was traded to Colorado for Owen Nolan. Nolan would be the heart and soul of the team for the next 8 years, ushering in a new era for the Sharks, and Ozolinsh would become part of one of the West's dominant powers, helping Colorado win it's first Cup in '95-'96. Sandis has had an interesting career, including some personal struggles, and a surprise return to the Sharks in 2007 following his entry into the league's substance abuse program, which made for a nice bookend for the career of one of Team Teal's original playoff performers.
3. Ray Whitney
Another of the Cinderella Shark's original post-season heroes. Jamie Baker's tip in Detroit might still be the most famous goal in team history, but only a year later, teammate Ray Whitney helped the Sharks pull of another miracle, defeating the 2nd ranked Calgary Flames in 7 games in double overtime (f*** Overtime...)
The only member of the original '91 Sharks team still active, Whitney had a very long and agonizing road to the Cup, much like his fellow teammates in Carolina. His 15 year NHL odyssey is made even more remarkable by his humble beginnings as a stick boy for the great Oiler teams of the '80s. The Wizard is still going strong in the desert. Who knows, with all the pending activity this offseason, maybe a return to Team Teal isn't out of the question...
2. Igor Larionov
All due respect to Joe Thornton, but Igor Larionov may still be the greatest player to have ever worn Teal. While it's clear the best years of Joe's career have been spent in Teal and Larionov's greatest years were wearing the hated Winged Wheel, it's still up for debate who is the better player. Most will pick Joe just based on his numbers, and that's fair. Larionov has been enshrined in the Hall of Fame, and when #19 retires, he'll join him there.
What can not be debated is that while both of them were Sharks, they were the central figure around which the offense worked. Jamie Baker still speaks to this day of the calming effect The Professor had on a very young and excitable Sharks squad in the early 90s. When the team just needed a goal, you could count on Larionov.
He would be traded as part of the team's first rebuild to Detroit. The rest is history. Larionov would win three Stanley Cups as part of the famed Russian Five. He will be remembered by most as a Red Wing, but he still has a special place in Sharks History.
1. Jeff Friesen
Of all the players on this list, this is probably not the man you'd expect to top it. Selanne and Larionov are MUCH better players, head and shoulders above Friesen. But the title of the list is the greatest SHARKS. Jeff Friesen was a Shark. Yes, he was traded to the hated Ducks and won it all as a Devil, but Jeff Friesen is a Shark. During the club's early years, he was the most promising prospect, and consistently near the top of the team's scoring leaders. In many ways, he personified the gritty, never say die, underdog attitude of those early Sharks teams, and his career continued to do just that when he left (ironically traded for #5 on this list, Teemu Selanne). Jeff Friesen is hardly the greatest player on this list. But given his chance in the finals, he found a way to win, and came up big in Game 7.
And that, perhaps, is the greatest lesson we can take away from this list. You don't have to be the best, you just have to find a way to win. Champions come in all different types. We've seen some of them leave us, and we have some of them on the current roster. For all 20 of them to become Champions, they can take heart from these former Sharks.
Ed Belfour - BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
Bill Guerin - I feel like Guerin never really got a fair shake. He didn't have a great post-season, and maybe he wanted more money than we could give, but I think he could have been a good addition to the team.
Brian Campbell - BOOO- just kidding, sortuv. Campbell is clearly overpaid, and the booing is a bit ridiculous, but hilarious. But the run to the Cup, and the subsequent dismantling of the team have proven Campbell to be an integral part of the Hawk's success. Love him or hate him, he's a champion, and he deserves to be.
Brad Stuart - Stick Tap to sharkblood99 for pointing out his omission. Stuart was a first rounder for the organization who may only be remembered for being traded for Joe Thornton, but Stuart has carved out a very good career for himself and helped bring the Cup back to Detroit after the Scotty Bowman era.
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