This November, Teemu Selanne will become the fifth former San Jose Shark to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. He’ll join Igor Larionov, Ed Belfour, Rob Blake, and Sergei Makarov.
None of the five ex-Sharks in the Hall of Fame played more than 200 games with San Jose. Since Sharks fans can’t truly consider any of the players “one of their own,” it’s a group that doesn’t feel quite right, and probably won’t until Joe Thornton (and, hopefully, Patrick Marleau) join them in hockey immortality.
Though their times in San Jose were limited, the group was largely successful in their short time with the Sharks. Four of the five players appeared in the postseason twice, and each of the four made it to the second round or further at least once.
Who had the best career in teal? Based on wholly subjective criteria, below are the rankings of the San Jose stints of the ex-Sharks in the Hall of Fame. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t Ed Belfour.
5. Ed Belfour, G (1996-97): 3-9-0, .884 SV%, 3.41 GAA
Belfour had the worst career of any ex-Shark in the Hall of Fame, and it’s not particularly close. The two-time Vezina Trophy winner lost nine of his 13 appearances during his stint in San Jose at the end of the 1996-97 season. He allowed nearly a goal more (3.51 goals against average) than his career average (2.50), and posted a save percentage (.884) .22 points below his career average (.906).
Of course, Belfour got little help from the team in front of him, as San Jose would ultimately pick second overall (and select Patrick Marleau) in that June’s Draft. Plus, he missed a month with an MCL sprain. But you expect a little more from a two-time Hart Trophy winner, and from one who said all the right things about wanting to stay in San Jose.
Ultimately, Belfour was a disappointment in every sense, bolting for greener (not financially) pastures in Dallas that offseason, where he eventually won a Stanley Cup. Sure, he was bad enough for the Sharks to draft the longest-tenured player in franchise history, but the operative word there is bad.
4. Teemu Selanne, RW (2001-03): 131 Pts (64 G, 67 A)
Selanne’s open net miss against the Colorado Avalanche in the 2002 playoffs will always be the prevailing memory from his time as a Shark, but he was pretty good for San Jose. In his two full seasons, he scored 29 and 28 goals, and led or tied for the team lead in goals in both of those seasons. He was a key part of the Sharks’ first-ever Pacific Division-winning squad in 2001-02, and helped the Sharks advance out of the first round for just the second time since 1995.
Plus, Selanne was really good in that series against the Avalanche, when he scored six points in seven games. Yes, three of those came in the series’ first game, but he was not the only player who struggled to score as San Jose scored just one goal in the series’ final two games. For better or worse, though, the miss defined Selanne’s Sharks career, and fans’ reaction to him when he subsequently returned to the SAP Center, the only arena in the league to boo him.
That still wasn’t as bad as Ed Belfour.
3. Rob Blake, D (2008-10): 75 Pts (17 G, 58 A)
Blake is the first (and not the last) former Sharks captain to inducted into the Hall of Fame. Signed a day before the Sharks traded for Dan Boyle, the longtime Los Angeles King bolstered the blueline in a big way during his Sharks career. He provided a steady, veteran presence alongside the emerging Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and was a key cog during San Jose’s first-ever run of back-to-back Pacific Division titles and 110 or more regular season points.
Of course, Blake’s first season ended in incredible disappointment, as the President’s Trophy-winning Sharks lost a six-game series to the eighth-seeded Anaheim Ducks in the first round. Following a tumultuous offseason in which Patrick Marleau was stripped of his captaincy, Blake assumed the role for the final season of his career.
That tumult could have been a whole lot worse, as the Sharks demonstrated when Joe Thornton was stripped of his captaincy ahead of the 2014-15 season, but Blake’s status as one of the league’s most-respected veterans helped mitigate some of that. He showed signs of decline in his final season, but then-head coach Todd McLellan trusted him enough to average 23:50 in ice time en route to San Jose’s first Conference Finals appearance with Joe Thornton, and the franchise’s first playoff victory over the hated Detroit Red Wings since 1994.
This helped him win over Sharks fans after spending his entire career with Los Angeles and Colorado, two of the team’s biggest rivals up to that point. His clear dislike of Corey Perry also helped.
2. Sergei Makarov, RW (1993-95): 92 Pts (40 G, 52 A)
San Jose acquired Makarov in a trade in exchange for the pick that became Chris Pronger, among other pieces. Makarov, who made his NHL debut as a 30-year-old during the 1989-90 season, brought instant credibility to a Sharks team that was coming off of the worst season in NHL history.
In his first season in San Jose, Makarov became the first 30-goal-scorer in franchise history and led the Sharks to the first playoff appearance in their history, completing the biggest turnaround in NHL history. Age started to catch up to Makarov during the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season, but he still scored 24 points in 43 games.
He was dynamite in the postseason, too. In the Sharks’ first round upset over the President’s Trophy-winning Detroit Red Wings, Makarov scored six goals in seven games. He added a four-point game against Toronto in the next round, another first in franchise history. During San Jose’s first round victory over the Calgary Flames, Makarov scored five points in seven games and helped power the Sharks to yet another upset. Makarov may have had the shortest NHL career of any ex-Shark in the Hall of Fame, but had arguably the biggest impact on the Sharks.
1. Igor Larionov, C (1993-95): 82 Pts (23 G, 59 A)
That is, other than his fellow member of the KLM line. Larionov joined Makarov in San Jose as a free agent in the fall of 1993, and further legitimized the Sharks so soon after being a laughingstock. He scored less points and played fewer games than Makarov, but Larionov’s 0.85 points per game with the Sharks is the highest of any ex-Shark in the Hall of Fame.
The Russian center played just 60 games in his first season with San Jose, and still finished in a tie for second on the team with 38 assists. He finished three assists shy of the team lead in 1994-95, and played 13 fewer games than team leader Ulf Dahlen. Larionov was even better in the playoffs, scoring 18 points in 14 postseason games in 1994, including two assists in the first round-clinching win against Detroit. He scored 9 more in 11 playoff games the following season.
In 29 of Larionov’s 122 regular season and postseason games with the Sharks, he scored two or more points. He played the fewest games of any position player on this list, but his influence upon the Sharks was undeniable. Larionov likely wouldn’t have signed with San Jose unless Makarov was here, but his choice to join the Sharks gave the team enough talent to make the postseason, and ultimately raised expectations in San Jose forever.
So, there you have it. Which ex-Shark in the Hall of Fame had the best career in San Jose? Vote in our poll, and give us your thoughts in the comments.
Which Hall of Fame ex-Shark had the best San Jose career?
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