Even though the San Jose Sharks have yet to win a Stanley Cup in the 17 seasons since their inception, there have still been a multitude of players who mean the world to the San Jose faithful.
Multiple playoff appearances, including major upsets in the team's first five seasons, and a current string of five straight playoff berths have made for an extremely long list of fan favorites.
Whether its the team's first-ever captain and current General Manager Doug Wilson, long-time captains Owen Nolan and Patrick Marleau, or clutch goaltenders like Arturs Irbe and Mike Vernon, the list of productive and beloved Sharks is a long one.
I've done my best to narrow the list to the best 25 in Sharks history.
If you're not the die-hard of die-hards, you might not be aware that the current GM of the San Jose Sharks was also the franchise's inaugural captain.
From 1991-1993, Doug Wilson quarterbacked the Sharks defense during the tail end of his 16-year career.
After spending 14 years with the Chicago Blackhawks, Wilson spent his final two leading a young and inexperienced expansion Sharks team, becoming the club's first-ever All-Star.
Whenever a player spends 11 seasons of a club's 17 years in the league, it's hard to leave him off the top 25 list.
Although during those 11 seasons, the fans had a love-hate relationship with Mike Rathje.
Quite often, fans would be annoyed when Rathje didn't use his 6'5" 235-pound frame to be a dominating physical force on the ice.
However, in the time he spent in San Jose, 1993-2004, Rathje was a quality defenseman who was always up to the task defensively even if he wasn't scoring or dishing out bruising hits.
To be honest, since I was only a toddler at the time (I was born in October 1991, the same month the Sharks began their inaugural season) I only knew of the name Kelly Kisio before putting this list together.
But after looking through Sharks of year's past, Kisio caught my eye as although he played in just 126 games with San Jose from 1991-93, Kisio posted 115 points, good for nearly a point per game average.
If Doug Wilson led the Sharks defense as the team captain, it was alternate captain Kelly Kisio who led the offense.
Now some of you may be wondering to yourselves "Scott Hannan, top 25 Sharks"? Yes, he is actually No. 22 on my list.
A point that tends to be forgotten is that Scottie Hannan was the Sharks' first round draft pick in 1997, No. 23 overall.
I bet even some of you self-proclaimed "die-hards" didn't know that Hannan was a first rounder in 1997.
However, I can't blame you when the Sharks made Patrick Marleau their first pick in the 1997 draft, No. 2 overall.
Not to mention another current Shark (Joe Thornton) wen first overall that year as well.
But we should not forget about Scottie Hannan. In 508 games with the Sharks from 1998-2007, San Jose's first-round pick was your prototypical shut-down defenseman.
Whichever top-scorer the Sharks were facing during his time in San Jose, it was Hannan who had the job of shutting that scorer down. And most of the time, he did just that.
Plus, how could we ever forget his signature moment. The 2005-06 semi-finals against the Edmonton Oilers.
Facing a 5-on-3 disadvantage, both Hannan and teammate Mark Smith had lost their sticks.
Kyle McLaren was the only Shark skater with a stick, yet it was a diving Hannan that cleared the puck out of the zone with his glove and the Shark Tank went wild as the first penalty was killed.
If Scott Hannan was the "steady eddie" of the second generation of Sharks, Marcus Ragnarsson played the same role for the first generation of Sharks.
From 1995-2003, Ragnarsson was the epitome of solid defense and his average of 25 points per season while with San Jose didn't hurt, either.
But when you think of Sharks defenseman of the 90's you cannot leave out "Rags," and he comes in No. 21 on my list.
In 2005-06, there was no scorer more prolific than Jonathan Cheechoo. The fan-favorite exploded for his career season, posting 56 goals and winning the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy for most goals that season.
However, his sharp downfall is going to put a damper on the Shark portion of his career but in a few years, hopefully fans will move past his decline and appreciate what the guy accomplished as a Shark.
From 2002-2009, Cheechoo owned San Jose. He was all anyone ever talked about because everyone loved to chant his name and watch him score.
Fortunately for Cheech, a signature moment for him can be found from his pre-Joe Thornton seasons, which will help fans remember he was still a quality player before Thornton arrived in San Jose.
In the 2003-04 playoffs, Cheechoo slipped his stick between his legs and re-directed a Brad Stuart pass into the corner of the net past the Avalanche goaltender.
Let's just say it was the sweetest goal in Sharks history.
And say what you want about Cheechoo, how could I leave the fifth top point-getter in franchise history off my top 25?
Jonathan Cheechoo: No. 20
Although goaltender Mike Vernon is best known for his years with the Calgary Flames, there is no denying the impact he had on the Sharks.
From 1997-2000, Vernon was the back-bone of team teal. Despite being on a mediocre/playoff bubble San Jose team, Vernon posted GAA of 2.46 and 2.27 in his two full seasons with the club and his experience in net made him a fan-favorite in his short span with the club.
You may be thinking that Jeremy Roenick spent just two years with the Sharks (2007-09) and played mostly on just the third and fourth lines, why should he be on a top 25 list?
Well, in his first year with San Jose, Roenick posted 10 game-winning goals, the same amount he scored in three full seasons as a Philadelphia Flyer.
Ten game winners in a single season? Talk about clutch. Oh and to top the season off, he uncorked two goals and two assists in game 7 of the quarter-final series against the Calgary Flames, propelling the Sharks to the next round.
Roenick's performance is undoubtedly the best one-game showing of any Shark in franchise history.
Now not only was he successful in his short span in San Jose, but during his tenure, Roenick proved to be one of few players fans could tell would take accountability for his team's failures.
They could tell he hated to lose and how hard he worked to win and lead his team.
That tenacity which was easily seen by the fans enabled Roenick to become a hero in San Jose.
The love he received from the fans was like none I have seen for any other player, and he only played in just 111 games as a Shark.
From 1997-2003, opposing forwards had to make sure they had their heads on a swivel when cutting across the ice against the San Jose Sharks.
Why you may ask? Well, because Bryan Marchment was ready to knock them off their skates onto their backsides.
In 334 games as a Shark, Marchment managed just 66 points but his dominating physical style made him a fan-favorite.
Signature moment for Marchment is an easy one:
just watch this hit on Donald Brashear:
If you want to go old school with the San Jose Sharks, there is no better than a Ray Whitney rookie card.
As a fan, I sure don't remember him as No. 43 but it was the largest picture I could find of the current Carolina Hurricane in a Sharks uniform.
From 1991 through 1997, Whitney played in 200 games for the Sharks, posting 121 points and a series winning OT goal in game seven over the Calgary Flames during the 1994-95 season.
That signature moment: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9bBunCAI78
San Jose's current No. 1 goaltender is creeping up the ranks of all-time win leaders in the NHL.
After a Calder Trophy winning season in 2000, Nabokov has kept performing at the highest of levels.
Whether leading his team to numerous playoff appearances, making highlight reel save after highlight reel save, playing in all-star games and Olympics, Nabokov has had a storied career in goal.
If he were to ever win a Stanley Cup with the Sharks, he would surpass Arturs Irbe as the top goalie in the minds of the fan-base.
However until he does, questions about his durability and declining skills will keep Irbe higher on this list and in the minds of most Sharks fans.
Evgeni Nabokov, a Shark from 1999-?
If anyone in Sharks history could match the heart and sole of Jeremy Roenick, it would be Tony Granato.
Granato played in five seasons with the Sharks from 1996-2001 and was one of the hardest working forwards in the league.
Despite managing just 99 points in 279 career games with the Sharks, Granato was a fan-favorite for his style of play that made him a role model for kids and the Bill Masteron Memorial trophy winner in 1997.
The trophy is awarded every year to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
Those qualities sum up the career of Tony Granato, No. 14 on my list.
When the San Jose Sharks made their first playoff appearance in 1993-94, it was a second-year defenseman that helped lead them there.
Sandis Ozolinsh led the Sharks defense with 26 goals, 38 assists for 64 points in his sophomore campaign.
Let's just put that into perspective, no other Sharks defenseman has posted better offensive numbers for a single season.
Dan Boyle, the current Sharks play maker on defense has never reached 64 points in a single season, and last year managed 57 in his first season with San Jose including just 16 goals.
Although he was traded to Colorado in 1995, Ozolinsh would win a Cup and comeback to finish his career where it started.
Ozolinsh as a San Jose Shark: 1992-1995, 2007-2008
Ulf Dahlen played for the Sharks from 1993-1997 and contributed 93 points in 161 games while in San Jose.
Considering I was between the ages of two and six when Dahlen was a member of the Sharks, I don't recall ever seeing him play, but I remember my older brothers being in love with this guy, so I had to do some research.
Like Whitney, Dahlen provided a huge OT goal in the playoffs. In the same series where Ray Whitney scored in double OT of game seven, Dahlen won game two in OT on the power-play:
Igor Larionov may not be known by the masses as a San Jose Shark, but before he went onto Stanley Cup glory with the Detroit Red Wings, Larionov was a quality veteran force for San Jose from 1993-1996.
In 97 games with the Sharks, the Russian forward notched an impressive 82 points.
Unfortunately the best picture I could find of San Jose's current Radio Color analyst in a Sharks uniform comes with a no-name Florida Panther taking up much of the shot.
However, long before he became play-by-play man Dan Rusanowsky's broadcast partner, he was a San Jose Shark forward from 1993-1996.
Baker would also finish his NHL career in San Jose with one game played in the 1998-1999 season.
He wasn't a big time scorer but Baker had to be on this list and high on it because he is credited with the biggest goal in Sharks history.
The game-winning goal in game seven of the 1994 quarter-final series against the No. 1 seeded Detroit Red Wings.
The biggest goal in Sharks history: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vxkKiy65iU
Sergei Makarov played in just 123 games as a Shark from 1993-1995 but posted 92 points including the first ever hat-trick in Sharks history.
Like Dany Heatley this season, Makarov finished it off on a penalty shot.
Both Makarov and Igor Larianov were Russian forwards that showed the young Sharks how to play the game.
Their veteran presence on the young Sharks clubs allowed for such early success in the first few years of San Jose's existence.
The San Jose Sharks were awful in their first couple of seasons in the league, but the one man who persevered the most through the tough times was none other than the Sharks first big-time goaltender Arturs Irbe.
Irbe played with the Sharks from 1991-1996, playing in 183 games and becoming the oldest and most cherished goaltender in Sharks history.
Neither Mike Vernon nor Evgeni Nabokov have received the amount of appreciation from fans that Irbe received during his tenure with the Sharks.
As a life-long Sharks fan, the name Arturs Irbe will always be ingrained in my mind as synonymous for clutch goal-tending.
Fans like myself who have grown up with the Sharks often speak of their favorite players in Sharks history.
The names like Owen Nolan, Mike Ricci, Marco Sturm, Patrick Marleau ,and Joe Thornton come up a lot.
However, my favorite Shark of all-time is Vinny Damphousse.
Simply said, before there was Joe Thornton, there was Vinny Damphousse.
Perhaps if there was never a lockout, the 2004-2005 Sharks might have been the best chance the Sharks will have had this decade at a Stanley Cup.
Unfortunately, the work stoppage forced Damphousse into an early retirement, but the long-time Montreal Canadien was a big-time play maker and he carried it over into his tenure as a Shark.
From 1998-2004, Damphousse played in 385 games and managed 289 points, good enough for sixth on the franchise list.
Joe Thornton didn't make No. 19 famous in San Jose, Marco Sturm handled that job from 1997-2005.
Before being traded for Joe Thornton along with Wayne Primeau and Brad Stuart, Marco Sturm was the top scoring left-wing on the roster.
In 553 games with San Jose, Sturm posted 279 points and proved to be the speedy winger that won fans over with his fast-paced style and entertaining goal celebrations.
When he was shipped out as part of the Thornton deal, many fans like myself were initially heart broken that the Sharks parted ways with such a fan-favorite.
Marco Sturm: No. 6
Although Sharks fans were heart broken for an instant over losing Marco Sturm, we were already in love with our new addition just a few days later.
In his first game as a Shark, Thornton posted two assists, and led the team to a 5-0 victory over the Buffalo Sabres.
Thornton went onto win the Art Ross Trophy for most points and Hart Trophy for MVP that season and he has continued to dominate the scoring charts.
In less than four full seasons with the Sharks, Thornton is already third on the franchise list with 388 points behind only Patrick Marleau and Owen Nolan.
Mike Ricci. Is there anything more that needs to be said?
From 1997-2004, Ricci was the toughest, smartest, and hardest-working forward the Sharks had. He was the definition of "gamer," doing whatever it took to propel his club to a victory.
In his seven seasons with the team, he posted 263 points and was the best all-around player San Jose had during that time.
He was also a part of the most famous line in Sharks history, the line of Scott Thornton, Mike Ricci and Niklas Sundstrum was arguably the greatest third line of this decade in the entire NHL.
Signature moment: besides his signature smile without his two front teeth, Ricci did register a hat-trick on fan appreciation day in 2001, forcing over-time and clinching his team a playoff berth.
Before there was Marco Sturm burning opposing defenders in teal, there was Jeff Friesen.
Arguably the first franchise player the Sharks ever had, "Freeze" or "Freezer" was one of the best skaters the Sharks have ever seen.
With 350 points in his 512 games from 1994-2001, Friesen is fourth in points as a Shark behind just Joe Thornton, Owen Nolan and Patrick Marleau.
Future Sharks' players will continue to wear a jersey with 39 on the back but in the minds of all Sharks fans, No. 39 will always be known as Jeff Friesen's number.
Growing up in the 1990s and following the San Jose Sharks, one player and one player only was who every kid wanted to be: Owen Nolan.
All the kids playing street hockey in the neighborhood would be wearing No. 11 jerseys and pretending they were Owen Nolan calling his shot in the all-star game and then scoring top-shelf.
Words cannot describe Owen Nolan. A Shark from 1995-2003 and captain from 1998-2003, Nolan was the leader of the Sharks.
He posted a then franchise-high 44 goals in the 1999-2000 season and was the one the team looked to the most for a big goal.
When Marcel Goc wore No. 11 during his stay in San Jose, the majority of the fan-base felt he should go back to No. 57 because we all know that No. 11 belongs to Nolan
Owen Nolan: forever No. 11 for the Sharks and the No. 2 player in Sharks history.
Granted I won't deny being one of Patrick Marleau's biggest critics, there is absolutely nobody else that I could have chosen as the top Shark of all-time.
This was an obvious choice, Patrick Marleau: No. 12 on the ice but No. 1 on the franchise list.
Marleau, the second overall pick in that 1997 NHL draft is the franchise leader in almost everything include points with 610 and games 871.
The only other player to appear in as many seasons as Marleau in a Sharks uniform is Rathje. Both have appeared in 11 seasons, but Rathje managed just 671 games as a Shark.
Not only has Marleau been an offensive force over the years, but he was the captain for five seasons from 2004-2009 and despite losing his captaincy this season is undoubtedly one of the Sharks go-to leaders.
Despite the arrival of Thornton, Patrick Marleau is still the face of the Sharks.
Losing the captaincy and being blamed for last years playoff failures, Marleau is on a mission to prove that he still has the ability to lead his team to the promised land.
If the Sharks win the Cup this year, it may be safe to say that Patrick Marleau will always be the top player in Sharks history.