Who Should Take Over The Captaincy?
It's been discussed ad nauseam this summer, and it seems as if the issue doesn't plan to die anytime soon. Per Pollak:
With that said, McLellan went on to note that changes were in store...
"At this point, nobody’s our captain," he said. "We don’t have assistant captains. The discussion is ongoing and when we determine that, then we’ll make those announcements."
I've been on record saying that I believe the Captaincy is strictly a locker room issue, and a facet of the team that we (as fans) don't have a very good handle on. I didn't even plan on touching upon the issue at all until someone was officially announced. However, the amount of coverage this has gotten over the past three days compelled a response-- I may be breaking some rules here, but join us after the jump for some thoughts with TCY and Captain Crunch himself.
Captain Crunch: Members of the tag team blogging champions of the world, let's talk about the sea. Any strong feelings on it?
Mr. Plank: Man, you smell like a brewery. Did you and Morgan get together this afternoon?
TCY: The fact that you just drove your boat up onto dry land doesn't help your case. I don't think you're in any position to be discussing the C, or the sea, for that matter. Maybe you sit this one out. Gimme your key...wheel.
Captain Crunch: Alright bitches, talk to me like that again and I'll show you how I really make crunchberries.
Mr. Plank: I just assumed you were rocking the Lance Armstrong look. Seriously though, let's cut to the chase. We're not paying you by the hour or anything.
Captain Crunch: Aye aye, douchebag. Pavelski has garnered some attention lately in his quest to be sole proprietor of the sea. It's an awfully big role to fill, in my opinion. I've been sailing it for years.
TCY: I’m going to go with the dark horse candidate here, Joe Pavelski. Although I’m a big fan of Dan Boyle, and think that he would be another fantastic candidate for the C, Pavelski strikes me as a guy who actually wants the captaincy. To my knowledge, Boyle has never come out and said "I want to be Captain." If you’ve seen any of the interviews that Pavelski has done over the past (even the one that Eklund did was OK, if you ignore Eklund’s "mhmm’s" and "yeah's"), he’s an expressed an interest in two things- be named to the USA roster, and be named the Sharks Captain.
At 25, he’s not the oldest guy on the team. But he’s won at every level, and looking at him play makes me think that he is made to be a leader. In fact, I think the young age is actually a plus, because he’s going to be with the team for a while and is the definite visual and vocal leader of the Sharks wave of young players (Vlasic, Setoguchi, McGinn, Ehrhoff, Michalek, Clowe, etc.). Although the Sharks have often had trouble getting it from their established players, we saw how the younger guys (especially line two) fell apart during the playoffs last year. I think if you give Pavelski the confidence that comes with the C, then you are going to watch him grow into one of the game’s best leaders.
I don’t know if Pavelski will ever be first line center material, but that’s not the point. He leads by example with his work ethic, his drive, and his desire to win. If you were at State of the Sharks, I’m guessing you saw what I did: Joe Pavelski and Dan Boyle were pissed, while Thornton and Marleau either danced around questions or laughed them off. I still didn’t see the fire that I wanted to see.
Either Dan Boyle or Joe Pavelski would be a choice I support, but Pavelski’s age, tenure with the team, and perceived leadership acumen gives him the nod from me.
Mr. Plank: I like Pavelski's accolades as much as the next guy- he's won at every level like you mentioned, and I think he's primed to wear the C further down the road. Mirtle has him in the Top 10 for defensive forwards from last season, which is something I'd love to see in a Sharks Captain- having your team's leader committed to both sides of the ice sets an excellent standard for the rest of the team. However, my issue with his selection is twofold.
Setoguchi, Marleau, Nabokov, and Pavelski are all up for free agency next season, and while I've suggested in the past that letting Nabokov walk is a good route to take (freeing up cap space in the process), awarding Pavelski the C now leaves Wilson at a disadvantage when negotiating his contract. Whether this results in a sizable bump or not is pure speculation, but we've seen how far half a million dollars can go with all the roster restrictions San Jose has faced this offseason. I think you break him in with the A, see how he responds to the added responsibility, and groom him for the future, saving some coin in the process.
And then there's the issue with his most recent playoff performance. I'm probably the last guy who should be trotting out these tired lines, being a big believer in "it takes a village" and such, but I find it hard to think that a player who posted zero goals, one assist, and a minus three the year before suddenly deserves to be handed the Captaincy. Marleau scored the only game winners during the Anaheim series and got stripped of the C. I understand it's the entire body of work that led to this discussion (with Patty heading the team during multiple playoff disappointments), but nothing in that series showed me that Pavelski is going to be able to put the team on his back and lead them to victory. I think he's an excellent second line center, and one who did have great success in the 2008 postseason, but it's what you have done for me lately that matters most. If that was the perceived issue with Marleau despite his career playoff numbers post-lockout, then I'm not sure you're going to be getting anything different with Pavelski in the short run.
Don't get me wrong- I think Pavs is a good choice down the road, and if the organization picks him this season I will be completely fine with it. It's the players opinion who matter here, and to pretend that I possess an all-knowing eye in regards to these matters is like pretending I know how to please a woman on a consistent basis. It's about as foreign as it gets.
Captain Crunch: Let's move on and get ourselves a second cup of Joe. Thoughts on the grande version?
Mr. Plank: Thornton is obviously the best player on the roster, which would make it the likely assumption he would be wearing the C, but I just don't get the feeling he wants it as bad as Boyle or Pavelski. Under him I think you get the same thing you did under Marleau, albeit with a slightly different twist. What I mean by that is they don't seem like the type of guys who will go out and get in the face of a player who isn't pulling their weight. Thornton is definitely more vocal than Patty, but both possess a laid-back attitude that isn't prone to confrontation. Beating a dead horse here, but if that was the perceived issue with Patty, then I don't think Thornton brings a new look to the table. When a company runs into trouble financially, they don't replace their CEO with a guy who thinks the same way. They get someone new to bring in fresh ideas*.
*Or look to the government for a massive bailout, but that's beside the point.
Then there's the issue with not talking to the media after game six in Anaheim. I vehemently defended him afterwards and stand by everything I said, but a Captain has to address the media regardless of the outcome. I'm assuming he would have stuck around the locker room if he was wearing the C, but it's not the best precedent to set. You want a potential Captain to take immediate responsibility for the team's performance, and Joe may have skirted that.
TCY: I’m going to say no as well, and it’s a simple answer for me. Although I’m not big on questioning leadership acumen, especially when it’s media driven, you can’t deny that Joe played better once the pressure of the C was lifted off of him as a result of his cross country trek from Boston to San Jose. Even though he’s the team’s best player, in my opinion, he’s too laid back to really push his team to the next level.
Also, he really likes to look to others to motivate him, as he did so often when JR was in the clubhouse. Now that JR is gone, Joe really doesn’t have anyone to push, inspire, or fire him up. He’s a follower, not a leader. If you give Joe the C, not only does he have the "team’s best player" spotlight shining on him, he’s got the "leader" label too. I don’t think he’ll play well with that type of pressure. I hate to go back to State of the Sharks, but Thornton was eerily similar to Marleau, and I think the team needs a change of pace/leadership style more than anything. Joe will always be the clubhouse clown, the fun guy, the joker. I don’t know if that kind of personality is what we need come crunch time.
Here’s another interesting tidbit. When Marleau was out with injury, the C didn’t go to Joe. Maybe it was oversight, or perhaps it was an active decision by all those involved. When Blake (a first year Shark), gets the nod over your star and former MVP, even for a few games, it says something. It could have been Joe’s decision, or it could have been the coaches and front office. But it’s something that I don’t hesitate reading into.
I’m a firm believer that your best player doesn’t need to have the C, and I’ll continue that belief in regards to Joe Thornton. I do, though, think he still deserves an A. He’s definitely our most anti-ref player, and has the most clout in that type of argument.
TCY: To me, Dan Boyle is the safe choice. The toast. The water. His performance as a Shark in both the regular and post season would make him a popular choice, as would his postseason acumen and Stanley Cup ring. He’s a hard worker and a champion, and he would be a solid choice.
I keep coming back to Joe Pavelski, though. Part of the reason I go Pavelski over Boyle is because Pavs doesn’t have the ring. Although that may sound weird, here’s my reasoning. Pavelski wants to get to the cup more, because he doesn’t have it. Most of the guys on the team don’t have it. If I was one of the young players on the Sharks, I’d be listening to Pavelski, with a "Let’s do it together" attitude, rather than to Boyle with a "I did it, now let me show you how" message. I don’t know if that’s the message they are bringing, but you get my point. It’s a little thing, but I think it makes a difference.
Another thing that I believe Boyle has working against him is this: he’s only been here one year. I know there are plenty of Captains who weren’t with the team long before they were given the C, but it’s a unique situation here. Pavelski has been around for multiple disappointing playoff exits, and he’s probably a lot more aware of the feelings in the clubhouse than Dan Boyle, just because he’s been through it with practically the same group of guys for a few years now.
If the Sharks decide to go with Boyle though, I’m fine with that. I have been nothing short of impressed by his play and work ethic while in teal. Solid.
Mr. Plank: Dan Boyle is my guy, no doubt about it. Unlike TCY, I actually like the fact that he hasn't been a part of the playoff losses-- essentially he's free from the label of "being a choker", a guy who's coming in with a fresh set of eyes and a relative unfamiliarity with how the locker room tends to handle losses. I think that gives him more of an opportunity to rattle the cage a bit and bring something different to locker room management-- more vocality, more passion, more of a "wear your heart on your sleeve" approach. Doug Wilson has described him as a rink rat countless times, and the fact he was undrafted appeals to me in a very melodramatic way. This is a guy who knows what it takes to work his tail off to stay at the top, something that can hopefully trickle down the roster.
I like how he mentioned goaltending as an issue at State of The Sharks- in fact, if I remember correctly, he was the only one to do so. He held other players accountable, as well as shifting the blame onto himself. That's something you didn't see from any other player, and while I want to make it clear that I had no issues with Marleau's leadership the entire time he wore the C, management obviously thought differently. If they're looking for a player who is the antithesis of the quiet type, Dan Boyle is going to be your guy.
I like how he has a Cup ring. I like the fact that if I had to name one guy who seemed to take the loss the hardest, it would be Boyle. I'm paraphrasing here, but I remember him mentioning that he was surprised at how the locker room handled the loss to Anaheim. To me that shows, if awarded the C, he is going to fight tooth and nail to change the way the organization handles losses. There's an old story about the 83' Oilers, who after losing in the Finals, walked past the Islanders locker room feeling as if they left everything on the ice. Expecting to see a wild celebration, they were met with an eerie silence. Guys hooked up to IV bags. Ice packs and trainers littered the room. It was then and there that they realized just what it takes to win the Cup. They won it in '84.
Again, I think Pavelski possesses a lot of the same qualities Boyle does. They're both admirable choices. But if a ring is all that matters at the end of the day, and a fresh look is what management is looking for, Boyle is my choice.
Captain Crunch: We've touched upon the big three- what about a rotating Captaincy between the players?
Mr. Plank: Hell no. Accountability is the name of the game in San Jose, and rotating the C allows for the lack of a true leader to emerge. You're always going to have players who will lead regardless of whether they have a letter or not, but you need someone at the top who is going to be able to speak for the group as a whole. I've heard some arguments that the year the Sharks went the farthest in the playoffs (03-04) was the year they rotated the Captaincy, but I just don't buy it. That was a team without any pressure, a scrappy team that played above their skill level. There were no expectations to compete for the Stanley Cup year in year out.
The organization is vastly different now then it was then. Instead of being the underdog who went into the postseason looking for an upset, they're the alpha male. Teams have San Jose under the microscope. There needs to be a concrete system in place where players understand who will be holding them to a high standard in the locker room and on the ice. With different styles of leadership at the helm in ten/twenty game blocks, you're going to get a wide range of styles that may clash with one another. To me this is akin to constantly shuffling lines and restricting players from understanding what to expect from their linemates. It may work for a short time, but in the long run it's only going to slow improvement.
If you're telling me that a Presidents' Trophy winning team is unable to find a bonafide leader in the locker room, go soak your head. The playoff performances may be disappointing, but you don't just put up three 100 point seasons in a row (the fourth coming in at 99) with a complete leadership vacuum at the top. The league parity in a cap world doesn't allow you to do that.
I'd nominate Vlasic before I'd suggest the Sharks rotate the C.
TCY: Rotating captaincy? No thanks. Although you could say that it worked for half of 2003-2004, they named Patrick Marleau Captain mid-year, so it couldn’t have been a perfect situation. In fact, I think it was the Alyn McCauley’s choice (the current Captain at the time) to name Patrick Marleau the sole Captain anyways. Although it’s a testament to what that team thought of Marleau, it also just goes to show that a team would rather have one leader.
The thing about a rotating captaincy is, in my opinion, it shows you don’t quite have enough faith in anyone to give them the responsibility. There is a reason the majority of the NHL’s teams have one Captain, it’s easier to rally behind one guy.
In addition, if you rotate the Captaincy, and Marleau stays, does he serve as Captain for a time? You can’t exclude him, because he’s still obviously one of the team’s leaders, but you made a point of taking it from him so you can’t just let him have it back. If you exclude Marleau and do a rotating Captaincy, you risk angering the former Captain even more. Then you are giving him the impression that you’d rather have anyone else as the Captain but him. We know that Marleau doesn’t like uncertainty, and plays poorly when his feelings are hurt. That’s not a road I want to travel down again.
Lastly, this team has really been big on passing the blame over the past few years. Although you could say that they owned up to their mistakes more this year than they had in previous years, Sharks players are notoriously dodgy. If you employ a rotating Captaincy, it makes it easier to deflect the blame. I want the next Sharks Captain to be accountable. We all know that leadership is supposed to come from every player, but there’s a reason one guy gets a fancy letter on the chest.
TCY: I guess that all in all, I’m going with Pavelski. If Boyle gets the job, that’s fine with me too, although I think giving the C to Pavelski now is better in the long run. But, whatever.
If the C goes to anyone else, I think it’s a step backwards. Might as well have let Marleau keep the job. Blake is going to retire after next year, Thornton is too quiet, and there are just a slew of issues with everyone else. I think Setoguchi is more of the follower type, and Mitchell’s injury last season and relative inexperience hurt his chances to compete for that job. Clowe is ok, but also pretty quiet, as is the case with Vlasic. In my opinion, you have to look to the young guys first.
As an aside, apparently everyone who looks at Sharks prospect Nick Petrecki says his personality screams "Captain material", but he’s still a while off of even playing in the NHL. If you want a captain for now and into the future, I think it has to be Pavelski.
Mr. Plank: Boyle's my man, but I want to reiterate that the Captaincy is strictly a locker room issue in my eyes. Whatever the players and coaching staff decide is completely fine by me- they know what they need from a Captain, and their selection will obviously reflect what they feel is the best route for the organization to take.
I'm not happy with the constant shitstorm Marleau has been subjected to in the media, and feel that he has been thrown under the bus by a lot of fans who are quick to blame him for the frustrating playoff performances in past years (and forget the fact he was nominated a top leader by his peers last season). He was not the issue, plain and simple. I can't stress this enough.
Regardless, it's time for a change at the helm, and hopefully this will result in some moxie during the postseason. That's the plan anyway.