When Bleacher Report asked me to write this piece, I thought, "Well, my daughters all have four legs (two dogs and a cat) and my sister married a really good friend of mine."
But hey, I have already told my wife that she is not only encouraged, but instructed to leave me for Aaron Rodgers if she gets a chance. He has such class and is so accomplished that I would consider him an upgrade for her.
Of course, the premise of this assignment is not to be taken literally. I am to find a baker's dozen players who seem perfect for those I care about, like a younger sister or daughter, without having to find ones whose personalities mesh with the actual people in my life—good thing considering how little I know them as people.
If you love them, you want them to be married to someone with character. But you also want your family taken care of.
Thus, most players on this list have a contract that places them in the top 50 in annual salary. Because I am a San Jose Sharks fan, the exceptions are all members of the team I would most want free tickets to...
Patrik Elias is a character guy. He plays well on both ends of the ice and is an alternate captain for one of three franchises with three championships in the last 15 seasons, with Elias being a part of two of them.
He is also a skilled player, scoring at least a point per two games in all 13 seasons since becoming an everyday player in the league. For that reason, his current contract pays him an average of $6 million per year, tied for 44th in the NHL.
Ryan Miller was the Most Valuable Player in the 2010 Winter Olympics and the primary reason the United States won a medal at all. Carrying a team to wins over two superior opponents takes character.
In fact, thanks to his superb play, the U.S. lost only one game in the tournament; unfortunately, it was the gold medal game, but even that went to overtime. Who better to invite into the family than a national hero (albeit for sports)?
But Miller is also a great player in the NHL, winning a Vezina Trophy in 2010. For that reason, his contract pays an average of $6.25 million.
Plus, he can trash talk in foreign languages (see video above).
Patrick Marleau is the first San Jose Shark on my list. Honestly, if he were not my favourite team's longest-tenured player, he would not make it.
Marleau is a soft-spoken guy who has been famously accused by Jeremy Roenick of not playing with enough intensity. The perception of him is frequently that he is not clutch, but that is absolutely not true: His playoff scoring is only .03 points per game lower than his regular season scoring, and he was the Sharks' best player in the 2006 and 2010 playoffs.
But that does not mean I wouldn't use my status as a member of his family to push him to play with more emotion. In the meantime, I would like knowing someone who makes an average of $6.9 million per year on his current contract and has plenty of earning potential left.
The current captain of my team also has a reputation for being soft. The reality is that he has 64 points in 74 playoff games as a Shark and also plays defence, leading the league in takeaways last year. That is why he also makes an average of $7 million per year on his current contract.
Still, at the State of the Sharks event after the Sharks' first-round loss in 2009, I pointed out to Joe how much better he played when he was mad. I asked him (in the 43rd minute of the link) what it would take to make him play mad all the time. If he were family, I am confident I could keep him on edge all season long!
Evgeni Malkin is not as skilled as Sidney Crosby, but he is the guy they can count on in the biggest moments. He earned the Conn Smythe Award during the team's 2009 Stanley Cup championship, and has been a tremendous leader while Crosby has been out with post-concussion syndrome.
This proves Geno is a character guy on the ice. Given what we know about the long-term effects of concussion, who would want their sister married to a guy who has sustained such a serious one and has as many haters as Crosby, anyway? Besides, they both make the same $8.7 million average annually.
It might seem strange for a Christian to have two Devils on this list, but Zach Parise is also a Team USA 2010 Olympic hero. His absence from last year's team is generally considered the primary reason they missed the playoffs.
His leadership is one reason why he has been chosen as the Devils captain. The other is that he has scored over 350 points in under 450 games over his NHL career, meaning he has a big pay day coming after his one-year, $6 million restricted free agent contract expires after this season.
Once my sister was dumped by a black belt, but I figured I was bigger than him so I could still confront him.
No one is bigger or tougher in the world's toughest major sport than Zdeno Chara. Oh, well, she is on her own if she gets dumped.
But Chara is a battler and leader of the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins, so I could hope for the best. And at least I know she is protected while they are together. And because Chara is the best defenceman in the world, she will also be taken care of—he makes almost $7 million per year.
Shea Weber captained the first Nashville Predators team to win a playoff series. It took not just leadership, but being one of the best two-way defencemen in the NHL—his 48 points made him a finalist for the Norris Trophy.
For that reason, he earned a $7.5 million contract as a restricted free agent that will give way to a larger and longer one this summer.
One of the best measures of character is accountability.
Dan Boyle is highly self-critical and demands much in his own performance. He is hard-working and in such good condition that he was second in the league in ice time last season at the age of 34.
As one of the best offensive players in the world at his position and an underrated defender, he is worth every penny of his current six-year, $40 million contract.
Ryane Clowe is a tough guy and a leader for the San Jose Sharks. He will get a raise from his $3,625,000 per year contract after it expires next season.
He worked hard to go from bad skater to above average. He hits, blocks shots and drops the gloves. He scores goals (65 over the past three seasons) and sets up his teammates (over 100 assists).
I want someone in the family who is the total package.
If it were not blasphemous, I might refer to Nicklas Lidstrom as a god. I believe him to be the best defenceman of all-time because of the mix of offence, defence, leadership and longevity.
No one did it as well for as long, with seven Norris Trophies after the age of 30 and four Stanley Cups (one as captain, shutting up the anti-European bigot Don Cherry!). Last year's should be his final one because his game is slipping at the age of 41...he probably will barely make the All-Star Game!
I am 40. I have a hard time walking up a San Francisco hill, and Lidstrom was top-60 in the league in minutes and recognized as the best at his position in the best hockey league in the world. At 41, he is still a bonafide No. 1 defenceman.
It does not even matter if this year is the last in the league—his $6.2 million would last and he will do fine in the next phase of his life.
As a San Jose Sharks fan, I really know the Detroit Red Wings.
In addition to having one of their coaches and playing a modified version of their system, the Sharks have gotten the best of Detroit in the past two postseasons. The two teams have played 38 games over the past six seasons.
In that time, I have come to think of Pavel Datsyuk like Pink Floyd. They are my favourite performer, appreciated and yet underrated because their versatility is not fully understood—rather than be considered one of the best, both should be the consensus No. 1.
Datsyuk is one of the premier offensive players in the league, having scored a point per two games in every NHL season and 59 more points than games played since the lockout ended. But he also plays great defence, having his three-year reign as Selke winner for the best defensive forward in the game last season.
Another Team USA hero, Joe Pavelski makes only $4 million per year. But he will do better in a couple years, and it is more than enough even in the expensive Bay Area.
Pavelski currently leads the San Jose Sharks in goals (nine) and points (17) and is one of the top-six defensive forwards on a team with strong defence at the position. He does it without being the best skater, puck-handler, hitter or scorer on the ice. As most who attend the University of Wisconsin (where he led them to a championship), he possesses keen intelligence.
And of course, he not only went to Wisconsin, he grew up in America's Dairyland. Thus, he is a fan of the world champion and undefeated Green Bay Packers—maybe he could get me tickets!
Game, set, match. The only other guy besides Aaron Rodgers I could handle my own wife leaving me for...