To tell the story of the San Jose Sharks of the late 2000’s, you must include Ryane Clowe. The hard-nosed left winger from Newfoundland was an integral part of some of the best teams in franchise history, playing 423 games over the course of eight years in teal. Over the course of his tenure in San Jose, Clowe became a favorite of both those in the stands and in the locker room; he quickly established himself as the prototypical power forward, a player who could drive play and score, as well as being an imposing physical presence. Those skills endeared him to the team and its’ fans, and coupled with his willingness to stand up for his teammates when needed, resulted in him being named an alternate captain.
Clowe, hailing from the small town of Fermeuse in the Canadian Province Newfoundland, was drafted in the sixth round (at 175th overall) in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft; he’d spend the next four seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) and the following two in the American Hockey League (AHL). It wasn’t until the 2005-06 season that Clowe got his shot at the big time, playing in 18 games with the San Jose Sharks. In this, his first NHL stint, he registered two points, both assists, and was subsequently sent back down to the Cleveland Barons, San Jose’s AHL affiliate at the time. After scoring 34 points in 35 games in a Barons jersey, Clowe had earned himself another chance at NHL minutes, and joined the Sharks for the 2006-07 season.
He’d never be sent down again.
Instead, he had a breakout season, tallying 34 points (16 goals, 18 assists) in 58 games, and playing a physically bruising brand of hockey, never shying away from playing the body or getting in to the dirty areas, cementing himself in the Sharks’ middle-six forward group.
This style of play defined Clowe’s career, with him employing his 6-foot-2, 225 pound frame en route to 654 hits and 49 (the second-most in franchise history) fights in a Sharks uniform.
While Clowe would regularly drop the gloves in an attempt to energize his team, he also did so to prevent opposing teams from taking liberties with his teammates, particularly his young linemate Logan Couture.
Clowe addressed this directly in a 2011 ESPN article, saying: “I’m Papa Bear this year for him, but it’s just a part of my game. I take it personally when guys take liberties on teammates.”
“Papa Bear,” indeed.
Although Clowe played an energetic, physical game, he was much more than just a physical player. He scored over 50 points in both the 2008-09 (22 goals, 30 assists) and 2009-10 (19 goals, 38 assists) seasons, and posted a career-best 62 point season (24 goals, 38 assists) in the 2010-11 season while only playing in 75 games.
In fact, in the 347 games he played with the Sharks in which possession data is available (starting in the 2007-08 season), he posted an even strength Corsi for % (CF%) of 54.3, a relative CF% (CF% rel) of 1.7 and a even strength PDO (PDO) of 99.5. To contextualize this, teammate Logan Couture has, at the time of this writing, a career CF% of 52.8, a CF% rel of .5 and a PDO of exactly 100. While Couture plays center, a position that typically leads to the shouldering of greater defensive responsibility, and starts a higher percentage of his shifts in the defensive zone than Clowe did, these numbers are still nothing to sneeze at; Ryane Clowe was effective in driving possession.
His hands weren’t half bad, either.
Something many Sharks fans likely remember, but may think of as purely anecdotal, was Clowe’s ability to elevate his game in the playoffs.
It wasn’t anecdotal.
In 68 playoff games with the Sharks, Clowe registered 45 points (18 goals, 27 assists) and 156 hits, elevating his points per game (PPG) from .64 to .66, his hits per game (H/G) from 1.55 to 2.3, his CF% from 54.3 to 57.6 and his CF% rel from 1.7 to 2.7, with a PDO of 99.7. He gave the Los Angeles Kings fits in the 2011 Western Conference Quarterfinals, going on a scoring tear, notching 4 goals and 3 assists in six games.
To put it simply, as the stakes were raised, so was Clowe’s game.
Unfortunately, this level of play didn’t last.
Clowe played 28 games of the 2012-13 season with the Sharks and didn’t score a single goal. Wanting to get keep with the direction that the modern NHL was heading in, Doug Wilson traded the snakebitten Clowe to the New York Rangers for a 2013 second-round pick (Gabryel Paquin-Boudreau), a 2013 third-round pick (traded to the Coyotes for Raffi Torres) and a 2014 fifth-round pick (Rourke Chartier).
Clowe’s time with the Rangers was short and, outside of a two-goal debut, forgettable, as he picked up 8 points (3 goals, 5 assists) in only twelve games due to injury. The Rangers let him walk at the end of the 2012-13 season as a free-agent and he subsequently signed a five-year deal with the New Jersey Devils.
Unfortunately, Clowe was only able to play two of those seasons, a combined total of only 66 games, due to recurring concussion issues. In approximately a year and a half, Clowe suffered four head injuries and was advised by a doctor to call it a career.
In doing so, however, Clowe chose to embark on a new career path: coaching. On July 12, 2016, Clowe was hired as an assistant coach on the New Jersey Devils staff, where he spent two years, eventually returning home to Newfoundland after being hired as the head coach of a newly formed ECHL team, the Newfoundland Growlers.
Despite a solid showing as the coach of the Growlers, and endorsements from former coaches he’d worked under, Clowe was tragically forced to step down as Newfoundland’s coach in early 2019 due to ongoing health concerns.
While both his playing and coaching career were tragically cut short, Ryane Clowe left a unique mark on the Sharks, having firmly cemented himself in the hearts and minds of fans with his goal scoring, physicality and clutch performances.
That, and he did this to the Kings: