Rob Blake was probably the player with the most swag to ever play with the San Jose Sharks.
The San Jose Sharks are a young franchise without players who earned their way into the Hall of Fame wearing the teal sweater. At the same time, there are many players with plenty of swag.
SWAG used to mean Stuff We All Get but in sports has come to mean cachet. It is the piling of achievements and awards over time.
Rather than the stuff we all get, it measures the notoriety that comes with playing at an elite level for long enough. This means everything from regular-season individual trophies to Stanley Cup championships, from scoring titles to leading the league in a defensive statistic.
Their swag is why these five Sharks will be considered for the Hall of Fame...
No one on the San Jose Sharks has accrued as many individual accomplishments as their captain, Joe Thornton.
The former first overall pick in 1997 received the Hart and Ross Trophies in 2006 with 29 goals and 96 assists. He had 477 points in his first 377 games with the Sharks, then successfully adapted to a more defensive game the next year, leading the NHL in takeaways while still scoring 70 points.
He has been the top scorer for the Sharks in six of his seven full seasons with the team, coming up just one point short when he did not play for them until December because he started the season in Boston. He has also gained credibility for his Stanley Cup playoff performances despite some disappointing finishes for the team.
In five of eight playoffs with San Jose, he was the leading scorer. In two others, only one teammate outscored him. In the one remaining, he scored 12 points in 15 games on a team that struggled offensively.
Moreover, he has earned credibility for his toughness at that time of the season, from fighting other elite players like Ryan Getzlaf to playing through torn rib cartilage.
Dan Boyle may not be a Hall of Fame player yet, but if he can continue playing at an elite level for three more seasons, he should get there. He has not only been the top scorer from the San Jose Sharks blue line since his arrival, but he has also been the best in the NHL over that time.
Boyle is not only an offensive dynamo, either. He has been in the top 50 in blocked shots in each of the past four seasons. His skating makes him among the best options for staying with great scoring threats as well as advancing the puck from his own end.
More than anything, he has swag because he has twice been a champion. He scored two goals and eight assists in 23 games to win the 2004 Stanley Cup, then turned around and scored a goal with six assists in seven games in the 2010 Winter Olympics to help Team Canada win on its own soil.
That leadership has shown in San Jose's playoff games: 11 goals and 33 assists in 55 games.
No one has accomplished as much with the San Jose Sharks as Patrick Marleau. The one-time team captain is still the face of the franchise even if he may not be one of his team's top five players anymore.
The Sharks made Marleau the second pick in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, right after the Boston Bruins picked Joe Thornton. He has been almost as impressive, with 73 more goals (but 330 fewer assists) in 40 more games for his career.
He has the franchise lead by 572 games, 198 goals and 197 points while being just 45 assists short of Joe Thornton. He has been the team's best goal scorer in over half his seasons and scored more than twice the number of game-winners as the next Shark.
More than that, he has led his team in points, goals or both in six of his 14 trips to the Stanley Cup playoffs. He has the franchise lead by 50 games, 33 goals and 17 points in the postseason, with twice the game-winners again while seeing his percentage of those goals increase to almost one in four.
He still plays at a top-line level and skates well enough to expect that to continue for a few more years, making Marleau an almost certain Hall of Famer. However, he does not have the swag of Dan Boyle because he has not won it all—at least some of which can be attributed to his performance or leadership lacking.
Antti Niemi has not played long enough to even assume he will make the Hall of Fame if he stays healthy.
He only became a starter in 2010 and played through an injury for parts of the next two seasons. Even with the ultimate swag of being a Stanley Cup-winning goalie, he was mostly a goalie that could get hot and carry a team—including in workload. He had never sustained either for more than about 40 games.
In 2013, Nemo was a Vezina Trophy finalist in a lockout-shortened season, which hardly says Hall of Fame, even on top of being a championship goalie. But he played 24 straight games at one point and 54 of 59 for the season.
He was one of my top three stars for Examiner.com a team-leading 21 of 48 games (he played 43) and was the first star 12 times—double the next best player. He was a star in six of 11 playoff games, giving him a star in exactly half the games he played.
During one stretch, Nemo held the fort well enough to give the Sharks 15 points in 13 starts in which he received no more than two goals of support. If he is under .500, they would have faced the eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks in the first round and a quick dismissal probably signals a full rebuild.
Niemi thus has swag, even though he has only four seasons and relatively mediocre playoff numbers thanks to one bad playoff run in 2011.
Choosing a fifth San Jose Shark with swag was difficult.
For one, no other player could be called an established star yet. The next best player, Logan Couture, is only recently a star and has not accrued much swag.
The only players to have significant accomplishments on the remaining roster are Brad Stuart and Adam Burish, who won Stanley Cups. Neither is a star for the Sharks nor has been as much of a star as either young forward.
That leaves Joe Pavelski and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, two very good veteran players. Their star power can easily be determined by looking at their contracts, because while both eat minutes for their positions, only one is a difference-maker on both ends of the ice.
Pavelski's role is exemplified in that he was an Examiner.com star of the game in one of four games (three more than any other skater) but above third star just four times. He was a steady contributor outside of one short offensive funk (though over one-fourth a condensed 2013 NHL season) but not the big star.
He has won 55.9 percent of his faceoffs in the last four seasons and registered about 19 blocked shots in every 20 games, in addition to being among the best Sharks in takeaways. Then again, that is not why he is called the Big Pavelski.
His 27 game-winning goals are a team-leading 18 percent of his career total, and he steps it up even more in the Stanley Cup playoffs. He led the Sharks in playoff scoring during 2013 for the second time in four seasons, and game-winners represent a whopping 29.2 percent of his 24 career postseason goals.