How the San Jose Sharks Can Solve Their Leadership Issues

Andy Bensch@@AndyBenschSenior Writer IMay 19, 2009

ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 27:  Dan Boyle #22 of the San Jose Sharks stands on the ice after the Sharks were eliminated from the playoffs by the Anaheim Ducks during Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinal Round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Honda Center on April 27, 2009 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Prior to this past season, San Jose Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson made an off-season trade in which he acquired defensemen Dan Boyle and Brad Lukowich from the Tampa Bay Lightning. Both players were with Tampa Bay when the Lightning won the Stanley Cup back in 2004.

However Wilson didn't stop there, he signed veteran cup-winning defenseman Rob Blake, as well as hiring a new head coach in Todd McLellan who had just won Hockey's holy grail as an assistant coach with the Red Wings.

The Sharks were now set up with what most hockey minds thought was their most talented roster in team history.

But talent alone does not win a Stanley Cup; there has to be heart, grit, and determination.

In order for the Sharks to make room in the lineup for their three new defensive players, General Manager Doug Wilson traded away part of the heart and soul of the Sharks team by shipping out defenseman Craig Rivet to the Buffalo Sabres.

Rivet, often referred to as "Rivers" was acquired by San Jose at the trade deadline in '07 from the Montreal Canadiens. Rivet would play the next full season with San Jose, but totaled just 91 regular season games while in San Jose. In the short time as a Shark, Rivet made quite the impression on the fans with his hard-nosed style. But Wilson still decided to ship him out before this past season.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

Despite being an Alternate captain for the Canadiens as a bruising defenseman who would always stick up for his teammates, Rivet did not wear any letter on the front of his jersey while in San Jose. 

Yet, without even playing a game for the Buffalo Sabres, Rivet was handed the captain's "C" when he arrived to his new club.

That right there, is called respect.

To put that in retrospect, if you were to ask the majority of Sharks fans the following hypothetical question, I can guarantee you that the overwhelming majority of them would say "no way."

If Patrick Marleau were traded, even to the worst team in the league, do you think that team would name him captain?

I will tell you now, that even after parts of five seasons as Sharks captain, most of the fan base would suggest against his future team handing him the "C."

Now some fans out there may question my reasoning and point out that there have been a large number of successful NHL captains that aren't as brash and out-spoken as the Craig Rivet's or the Owen Nolan's.

And it is quite true, I will not argue against the fact that soft-spoken captains such as Joe Sakic, and Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom have been Cup-winners without being the extremely talkative form of a leader.

However, if you're a team like the Sharks who are struggling in the post-season and continually facing questions about team toughness and more specifically "mental" toughness, then wouldn't it be better suited to have a captain who, without a doubt actually has "mental toughness"?

The only Shark who played to his capability in this year's playoffs was none other than first year Shark and first year All-Star Dan Boyle. The Sharks defenseman, along with fellow d-man Rob Blake were the only two reasons why San Jose avoided falling into a 3-0 hole. Their efforts in game three gave the Sharks hope.

Boyle, who registered four points in the playoffs (2g + 2a = 4p) was visibly upset after Anaheim's third goal to go up 3-1 in game six richocheted off his stick and past his goal-tender. In fact, he may have even broken his stick across his leg after the play. (However I can't find the full video anymore so that may or may not be accurate.)

Either way, throughout the regular season and playoffs, Boyle always seemed to step up his play after he made a mistake and you could see the heart, grit, and determination in his eyes.

However you don't see the same look from Patrick Marleau. Perhaps the Sharks captain's knee injury was worse than we thought, but the fact is he was able to play and did not perform. If the injury was of such a variety that it prevented him from being effective, than a healthy Jamie McGinn or Brad Staubitz should have played instead.

Despite once being a terrific playoff performer, Patrick Marleau has seemed to tail off the last couple of post-seasons. Even up until this season, Marleau was second in playoff goals over the past few seasons to only Calgary's Jarome Iginla.

But after just 11 points in his past 19 playoff games over the last two seasons, Marleau's post-season play has dropped off. And if your captain is one of your top scorers who is known as a captain who leads by example, well, the example has to be better than tentative physical play and only 11 points in 19 games.

The fact is, Dan Boyle as captain gives the Sharks the best chance to win. Rather Patrick Marleau's soft-spoken personality and leading by example has not worked and has also prevented the Sharks from re-signing a former fan favorite.

Most Sharks fans probably aren't aware that one of the big reasons why the Sharks have not brought Owen Nolan back (as Nolan has been a free-agent three years in a row) is that apparently Marleau did not get along with Nolan during their six seasons as teammates.

So before anyone jumps to Marleau's aid to defend him by claiming him to be a fan favorite, a necessity to the team and a overall nice guy, realize that he may be the one keeping Owen Nolan from retiring as a Shark.

With all that said, it seems clear to me, that San Jose ought to go in a new direction with their captain, but it is a direction they are quite familiar with. Dan Boyle, although a defenseman, can provide the same type of leadership and brash style as captain as Owen Nolan did for the Sharks during the '90s.