Lettermen: Rob Blake's Retirement Leaves San Jose Sharks Captaincy Vacant
Wanted: Ambitious and talented individual for leadership position. Must possess charisma, confidence, a proven pedigree of success, and a dominating slap shot?
San Jose Sharks' defenseman and 2009-10 captain Rob Blake called it a career Wednesday night, ending his Hall-of-Fame-caliber NHL tenure after a two-year stay in the South Bay in an ultimately fruitless attempt to win one more ring, set in teal and orange.
Blake's retirement marks the second time in as many years that an NHL legend has decided to retire after a short run with the Sharks to end his career, following Jeremy Roenick in 2009.
The retirement also means (more than likely) that for the second time in as many years, the Sharks will enter training camp without having established their team captain.
So who succeeds Blake as captain of Team Teal? Options abound, and speculation will surely pervade until the Sharks coaching staff reveals the answer.
It is logical to assume that one of the 2009-10 alternate captains will trade their "A" in for a "C." Both Dan Boyle and Joe Thornton had productive seasons last year and have been instrumental to the team since first donning the teal sweater.
Both are also virtual locks to remain on the roster this off-season. Both are under contract for 2010-2011 and would be obvious choices to captain the Sharks in their milestone 20th season. Then again, if one of them moves to captain, an "A" becomes up for grabs.
Former captain Patrick Marlaeu also stands a good chance of getting his captaincy back. Of course that presumes two things: the Sharks retain Marleau, who is an unrestricted free agent, and Patty wants the "C" back on his sweater.
After being stripped of the captaincy in the 2009 off-season (admittedly not intended as a slight or punishment), Patty put together his most productive season as an NHLer. He tallied 43 goals and 83 points, leading the team in goals. He was instrumental in the second and third rounds of the playoffs.
There are two schools of thought as to why. Marleau could have been thriving on the liberation of being relieved of the pressure and scrutiny of the captaincy spot light, or he could have been determined to prove he deserves the "C" back on his sweater.
Some might argue the Sharks' "C" is jinxed, given Marleau's career year and Blake's disappointing statistics in 2009-10, but such a superstitious notion is of course never going to be acknowledged in serious conversation. I give Marleau even odds or better at being back for next season, and if he is, he will want the captaincy as much as or more than anyone.
Newcomer Dany Heatley deserves some consideration, having scored 39 goals in the regular season in his first year in San Jose, and showing glimpses of brilliance at times. However, his play in the post-season was significantly hampered by injury, making it difficult to accurately assess his true potential when games really matter to the Sharks.
Other options like first-round MVP Joe Pavelski, emerging forward Devin Setoguchi, grinder Ryane Clowe, and well-respected blue-liner Marc Edouard Vlasic will doubtless be included in the speculations this off-season, but it is doubtful any of them have a realistic shot against more experienced and revered candidates.
However, if you subscribe to the theory that the team adopts the demeanor of its captain, the enthusiasm and swagger of Pavs and Seto make strong cases for changing a team culture and dynamic that has continually brought post-season disappointment to the capital of Silicon Valley.
Finally, it must be considered that the next Sharks captain could be someone not currently on the roster. Given the free agency situation, the Sharks are nearly guaranteed to part ways with at least a couple sizable salaries.
Given that, a trade or signing of an outside established super star might yield the newest leader for Team Teal. It does seem contrary to the historical nature of the Sharks to give the captaincy to a brand new player, but perhaps that is another change that could help them finally reach the summit.
However things play out, this should make for some interesting training camp competitions.
Keep the Faith!
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