With Rob Blake Set to Retire, Who Will be San Jose's Next Captain?
The San Jose Sharks once again fell short of expectations this past season as they failed to win the Stanley Cup despite finishing first in the Western Conference during the regular season.
And as it turns out, that failure against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference finals will be the last series that Sharks defenseman Rob Blake will ever play.
The 20-year NHL veteran is reportedly going to announce his retirement sometime next week.
This past season was Blake's second in San Jose but it was the first and only season in which he was their team captain.
A former captain with the Los Angeles Kings, Blake had more than enough experience and leadership to wear the "C" for San Jose, but fans wondered whether it was the right move given his age.
The future Hall of Fame defenseman had a solid season statistically in his final campaign, tallying 7 goals and 30 points with a plus/minus rating of plus-14.
Furthermore Blake was only penalized for 60 minutes this past year compared to 110 in his first season with the Sharks, and in his final postseason, Blake led his squad in blocked shots.
However, the writing was clearly on the wall for Blake, 40, who showed time and time again this season that he simply cannot keep up with the majority of his opponents anymore.
Try as he could, Blake just wasn't a force to be reckoned with when it mattered most and because of that, most of us Sharks fans couldn't see Blake being the first Shark captain to receive the Stanley Cup.
I mean after all, with the way the NHL is heading, it seems the as if the young, up and coming stars are the ones winning the Cup or getting close to it.
This season it was the 22-year-old Jonathan Toews who raised the Cup first, last year it was the then 22-year-old Sidney Crosby and this year's runner-up captain, Mike Richards is just 25.
Granted the two years prior to the Penguins winning the Cup, veteran defensemen Nicklas Lidstrom and Scott Niedermayer were the captains hoisting the championship trophy.
Both defenseman were still top-2 if not top-1 caliber defensemen on their squads during their respective Cup winning seasons.
Blake, however, was barely a top-4 caliber defenseman this past season in the twilight of his career.
So where does the captaincy go from here?
Will it be an up and coming young star or the team's most prolific defenseman?
Anyway you slice it, there are really only two possible choices for the job as Sharks captain and they are as follows...
Option No. 1: Dan Boyle
When the Sharks made the decision to take the captaincy away from five-year captain Patrick Marleau a year ago, the overwhelming favorite to replace him was none other than defenseman Dan Boyle.
As a Stanley Cup winner with Tampa Bay back in 2004, Boyle has arguably the same pedigree of leadership and winning as did Rob Blake.
And an added bonus to his candidacy for captain going into last season and moving forward is that he is still in his prime.
Like the previously mentioned Nicklas Lidstrom and Scott Niedermayer, Boyle is an all-star defenseman who is still at the top of his game.
In two seasons as a Shark, Boyle has lit the lamp 31 times and registered 115 regular season points in 153 games.
In other words, he has averaged a ridiculous .75 points per game during the regular season.
And come the postseason, those numbers improved to .85 points per game as Boyle has scored four goals and racked up 18 points in just 21 playoff games.
Not to mention, Boyle plays in every situation and often times gives the Sharks over 30 minutes in ice time during the postseason.
When fans talk about the elite two-way defenseman in the NHL, Boyle belongs at the top of the list next to the likes of Duncan Keith and Drew Doughty.
And in terms of one-on-one talent with the puck, Boyle is currently the best the NHL has to offer from the blue-line.
All in all, Boyle's talents and pedigree are unmatched by any of his teammates going into next season and because of that, he is definitely under consideration to be San Jose's next captain.
Now whether or not he is the true front runner for the position depends on how much you believe in the chances the only other candidate has to be rewarded with the "C".
Option No. 2: Joe Pavelski
If the Sharks captaincy doesn't go to Boyle, the only other option that makes any sense would be up and coming center Joe Pavelski.
At 26, Pavelski has found his hockey stride later in life than fellow young stars but that has a tendency to happen when your small stature and lack of top end speed drop you to the seventh round of the draft.
But make no mistake about it, Pavelski is on the rise and will only continue to show leadership and poise in the most crucial situations.
He has grown into the Sharks' second line center since making his NHL debut during the 2006-07 season and each year since he seems to get better than the previous one.
His point totals may have dropped from 59 two years ago to 51 this past season but he did play 13 fewer games and still managed 25 goals for the second straight year.
Combine that with an impressive 25 goals in 67 regular season games with a tremendous postseason which saw Pavelski score nine goals and 17 points in just 15 games, and Pavelski looks even better as a candidate for captain.
Having such extended postseason success and the added experience of his third full season, and Pavelski projects to have an incredible season next year.
Low projections have Pavelski scoring 30 goals and tallying 70 points if he can stay healthy.
Dare I say high projections suggest 35 or more goals and 80 or more points.
Combine these point totals with being one of San Jose's top defensive forwards, and best clutch goal scorer, and Pavelski has all the talent that would suggest captain material.
He has plenty of big game experience as well as he helped lead USA to the game tying goal in the final minute of the Gold Medal game during the Olympics and won an NCAA championship while at Wisconsin.
It would only be fitting for Pavelski to become a captain in the future and depending on how much you believe in fan pressure, Pavelski might be the leading candidate.
Fans may not find out who will get the honor of captain until training camp, but with the growing fan support for Pavelski, he may end up getting the nod.
One thing is for certain though, it will be either Boyle or Pavelski wearing the "C" next season.