If you were looking for a "Top 10 Best Sharks" of all time type of list, you have come to the wrong place. No, there are plenty of great write ups on that particular topic on Bleacher Report.
This list is instead a list of some of the best players ever to don the teal that we unfortunately got at the wrong time. Had their presence in a Sharks uniform been throughout the entirety of their careers, how markedly different our franchise history would be.
Please do not put any weight to this list, it is simply meant as a glance into the brief history of a great organization and a great team from a purely conversational standpoint.
This list is not in ranking order and to do so would needlessly dilute a purely hypothetical discussion.
I often think about how this team assembled during the peak of their careers would perform together. Seeing as how that is inherently impossible, I invite you to look over the list with amusement and in good fun.
What else can really be said about one of the shortest, yet greatest tenured San Jose Sharks of all Time? Shortest in terms of playing time, yet greatest for what he has accomplished.
Doug Wilson has no equal in the history books for the Sharks.
One of the most humble, polite and professional people in hockey today, the 14-year NHL veteran and former Norris Trophy-winning defenseman was the San Jose Shark's very first captain. He also made the All-Star team in the inaugural season as the captain and leader of our fledgling organization
Wilson was selected sixth overall in 1977 after a tremendous junior career with the Ottawa 67s. Doug Wilson played a total of 14 NHL seasons and still ranks among the Blackhawks' highest scoring defenseman in points and goals. In 1982 Doug Wilson won the Norris when he rang up 39 goals and 85 total points, records that, to this day, still stand in Chicago Blackhawk history.
The eight time NHL All Star was acquired by San Jose from Chicago just before the Sharks inaugural season (1991–92), and brought instant credibility and respect to the young franchise.
He played two seasons for the Sharks, scoring a total of 48 points (12 goals, 36 assists) in 86 games.
Under Doug Wilson's guidance, the Sharks have experienced its most successful era since the franchise’s inception, and advancing to the Western Conference Finals in 2004 and of course in 2010.
Forbes magazine praised Doug Wilson and has recognized the Sharks as the team that gets more points for the buck than any other in the post-lockout NHL. Large amounts of credit go to Wilson with developing a proprietary statistical system that identifies bargain players who can deliver.
The "Finnish Flash" was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets in the first round, 10th overall in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft. And interestingly enough, his first goal came against Jeff Hackett of the San Jose Sharks. He went on to score an all-time rookie record of 76 goals in his rookie season, making him one of only eight players to have scored 70 or more goals in one NHL season.
He was traded to the then Anaheim Mighty Ducks for then promising youngster Chad Kilger, Oleg Tverdovsky and a third-round pick.
In Anaheim, Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne formed one of the most potent scoring duos in the NHL. In 1998 Selanne became the first European player to be named NHL All-Star Game MVP, after scoring a hat trick. Selanne also took the the NHL goalscoring titles in both 1998 and 1999.
In 2000–01, the Sharks had a rookie by the name of Evgeni Nabokov who won the Calder Trophy as the league's best rookie. The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim traded Teemu Selanne to the Sharks for fan favorite Jeff Friesen, a solid Steve Shields and a second round selection. What marked a very sad day for many Shark fans had them elated and happy to have a sniper of Selanne's talents.
Selanne would not duplicate his heroics as a Shark, and although he posted decent numbers (54 and 64 points in his first two full seasons) during his stint, he was more remembered for the near trade he nixed. That trade that would have sent Scott Gomez to the Sharks in a multi player deal, but was turned down at the last minute by Selanne.
After two seasons as a Shark, Selanne rejoined his ex-teammate Paul Kariya in Colorado. His play and numbers continued to decline as the once promising pair failed to recapture their previous magic. He would go on to miss the NHL lockout season with a knee injury and played overseas in limited action.
Selanne rejoined Anaheim in 2005 and led the Ducks in scoring despite being one of the only real scoring threats on the team.
Selänne was back amongst the NHL's elite players after the 2005–06 NHL season, when he recorded his 1,000th NHL point after overcoming knee surgery. He was then awarded the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, which recognizes perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey, designating Selänne as the comeback player of the year.
A 10 time All-Star, Selanne has scored 500 goals in the NHL and among team leaders in major statistical categories for the Ducks.
In the Sharks 2001–2002 season, veteran Adam Graves was acquired for Mikael Samuelsson. The Sharks were coming into their own and establishing the groundwork and foundation for our team for years to come, and Graves provided a steady veteran hand in the locker room.
Adam Graves was the heart and soul of the New York Rangers during his 10-year tenure there and carried many of those traits over to the Sharks. Adam Graves typified the player and leadership that the Sharks brass at the time wanted their young players to emulate, and he did not disappoint from that aspect.
In the famous 1994 playoffs, Graves scored 10 goals in 23 playoff games, including a goal in Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals to help the Rangers break their 54-year Stanley Cup drought.
During most of his career, if you were to look up the definition of "playoff performer" you would find a picture of Claude Lemieux. You might also find his picture under such terms as "dirty player", but also "player you love to hate unless he played for your team" or if you are a Red Wing fan "scumbag."
A unique combination to be sure.
At the peak of his career, Lemieux was one of the NHL’s most reviled players, known for his style of play which some would term "cheap". Despite the negatives, Lemieux was a clutch performer. He built his reputation by performing when the lights were brightest.
Originally drafted by the Canadiens 26th overall in the second round of the 1983 NHL Entry Draft, and despite a shaky start to his career Lemieux scored 10 goals in 1986 postseason helping the Canadiens lift the Stanley Cup.
After being traded to the New Jersey Devils for Sylvain Turgeon at the beginning of the 1990-1991 season, Lemieux was the leading goal scorer in the 1995 playoffs with 13. After the Devils won the Stanley Cup and Lemieux was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy, he was traded the following year to the Colorado Avalanche. Lemieux would return to New Jersey, as well as making stops in Phoenix and Dallas before retiring.
Lemieux is the definition of playoff warrior, a four time Stanley Cup winner, and Conn Smythe winner in 1995.
On November 24, 2008 the Sharks signed a 43 year old Claude Lemieux to a tryout contract. Lemieux being a longtime friend of Sharks general manager Doug Wilson, he played a total of one game in the playoffs failing to register a point.
Lemieux retired with 80 career playoff goals, ninth all-time in the NHL.
You don't hear of Conn Smythe winners being traded the year after very frequently, but such was the case for Mike Vernon. Originally drafted 56th by the Calgary Flames in the 1981 NHL Entry Draft, and in 1986 he would lead the Flames to the Finals.
The Flames would go on to lose in the Finals against another rookie goaltender named Patrick Roy. This would mark the first, but not last time these two goaltenders would "mix things up"
Mike was traded to Detroit by Calgary for Steve Chiasson in 1994, with Detroit looking for a veteran goaltender that could lead them to the Cup.
He would post his 300th win in 1997 against his long time nemesis Patrick Roy and the game was marred with a litany of penalties and a huge brawl.
The Wings and Vernon would go on to eliminate the Avalanche in the WCF, and Patrick Roy thereby returning the favor to Roy after 10-plus years. After winning the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe trophy in 1996 by sweeping the Flyers, the Red Wings opted to go with Chris Osgood instead, trading Vernon to the Sharks.
The Sharks would return to the playoffs with Vernon, but could not advance to the second round.
Mike was traded to the Florida Panthers in 1999 in exchange for Radek Dvorak.
Vernon hung up the gear in 2002, and is currently the winningest goalie not in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
"JR" was drafted in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft eighth Overall by the Chicago Blackhawks. His best seasons were 1992-93 and 1993-94 when he had 107 points each.
Jeremy Roenick in his prime played like a heat seeking missle. I can vividly recall him smashing people with reckless abandon as a Blackhawk and thinking, "This guy isn't going to last long, but man can he play."
The unique blend of skill, power and speed at a time where the NHL was well known for clutching and grabbing was a stark contrast to other players during that time.
In 2007 he became just the third American born player to reach the 500 goal plateau and he finished his career 39th on the all-time points list with 1,216.
Signing with the Sharks in 2007, Jeremy Roenick played with heart, emotion and grit, showing he had the tools and desire to play. And while he has never shied away from the spotlight, sometimes negative, sometimes positive, nobody can ever accuse JR of being boring.
On August 6, 2009, Roenick announced his retirement from the National Hockey League. Roenick finished his career having scored 513 goals and accumulated 703 assists in 1,363 games, for a total of 1216 points.
It was the mid to late 90s, and our San Jose Sharks were rebuilding, that is, if one can term a team as young as the Sharks as "rebuilding"
Gone were long time stalwarts, Ozolinsh, Larionov and Irbe, our Zamboni's were Yahoo purple and gold, and decaf coffee was still the reason the Sharks existed.
Ed Belfour was one of the most intense and razor sharp focused goalies in the NHL. He went undrafted despite winning a championship at the college of North Dakota after a tremendous senior season. He went on to be signed as a free agent by the Chicago Blackhawks. In his rookie season he won 44 games in 74 starts and recorded four shutouts with a GAA of 2.47.
Awarded the Calder, Vezina and Jennings trophies in that year, he was also nominated for the Hart as the MVP of the NHL.
In the 1995-1996 season, Ex-Shark Jeff Hackett had made enough noise in Chicago, that Belfour was traded to the San Jose Sharks for Chris Terreri, Michal Sykora, and Ulf Dahlen halfway through the 1996-1997 season.
One of the most enigmatic personalities to ever don Sharks colors not named Owen Nolan, Ed Belfour was the franchise's first bona fide goaltending star. And despite our team attempting to re-up the goaltender, he strung San Jose along just long enough for him to secure a deal with the Dallas Stars.
He would go on to win his first Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars, much to the chagrin of San Jose Shark fans who gave their love to the goalie only to be rebuffed.
A two-time Vezina Trophy winner and Stanley Cup Champion, "Crazy Eddie" was one of the biggest "Wrong Time Sharks" of all time.
Bernie was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in 1979 and scored 152 points in 1980-1981 in the OHA. Upon being called up to the AHL he scored 41 goals in the first 55 games before being called up to the Kings. He would go on to score 32 points in 22 games and chip in four goals as the Kings upset the Edmonton Oilers.
Within the new few years, Bernie would post up some monster numbers including a 95 point campaign in 1984, and he hit the 100 point mark in 1985. He would also win the silver medal in the 1985 World Championships while being the offensive star for Team Canada.
Nicholls would flourish once the Kings brought Wayne Gretzky aboard in 1988-1989 as he set career highs with 70 goals and 150 points. The following season, however, set off a trend of successive trades for the gifted Nicholls. He went on to play for the Rangers, the Oilers, the Devils, the Blackhawks and then finally to San Jose in 1996.
Never a flashy player, or a fast one for that matter, Bernie provided a very calming and veteran presence to the Sharks locker room. He would retire after the 1998-1999 season.
Al Iafrate, known as "The Planet", is one of the most amusing and engaging characters to ever don the Sharks sweater. How the locker room held both Owen Nolan and Al Iafrate at the same time is a lesson in professional sports chemistry.
The chain smoking defenseman, who would take breaks during intermissions in the vomitory, was a physical specimen, having a deadly shot, speed to spare, a huge frame and a love for getting nasty.
Big Al was chosen fourth overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs and was considered the next best player available after Mario Lemieux in the draft. Iafrate's career did not start in a spectacular fashion as he struggled playing with a poor defensive team in the Maple Leafs.
Iafrate turned down the opportunity to play for Team USA in 1987 as he focused on his defensive play and began putting in the work to fulfill his enormous physical ability. He was rewarded the next two years as he scored 20 goals and was selected to the 1988 and 1990 NHL All -Star Games.
A devastating knee injury in 1990 setback the big man's development as he struggled to regain form.
Needless to say the Maple Leafs were not impressed with Al upon his return, as they traded him during the 1990-91 season to the Washington Capitals.
He set career bests with 25 goals and 66 points in 1992-93, and Iafrate's goal total was second highest among NHL blueliners that year. He also recorded the hardest slap shot at the Skills Competition (105.2 mph) that year until Al McGinnis broke his record.
Iafrate was traded to Boston for Joe Juneau late in the following season but his knee problems caused him to sit out the following two years.
He was acquired by San Jose in 1996-97 but, due to a host of chronic knee problems, he missed a variety of games and struggled to stay healthy.
One of my favorite Sharks of all time, he sadly brought his once promising career to a close in 1998.