San Jose Sharks: Ryane Clowe Playing Like a Future Captain

Andy Bensch@@AndyBenschSenior Writer IDecember 28, 2009

SAN JOSE, CA - DECEMBER 17:  Ryane Clowe #29 of the San Jose Sharks fights with Sheldon Brookbank #21 of the Anaheim Ducks during an NHL game at the HP Pavilion on December 17, 2009 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

He scores goals, dishes out hit after hit, and drops the gloves when necessary. He is a rare breed in today's NHL, he is a true power forward, and his name is Ryane Clowe.

The San Jose Sharks are a team that often find themselves criticized for being too soft and too "cutesy" while handling the puck.

But when it comes to Ryane Clowe, the words "soft" and "cute" aren't even in his dictionary.

After splashing onto the scene in his first regular playing time back in 2006-07 when he registered a solid 34 points in 58 games, fans expected big things from Clowe the following season.

Unfortunately for the Newfoundland native, a knee injury in October of 2007 limited him to just eight points in 15 games that season.

While he returned in time for the playoffs, the Sharks missed out on Clowe's ability to set the physical tone during the regular season, and subsequently the '07-'08 Sharks were out-hit in the postseason.

However, with the knee healed last year, Clowe finally broke out with 22 goals and 52 points in 71 games. And his physical presence, along with guys like Brad Staubitz and Douglas Murray, helped the Sharks overcome that "soft" label that had been following them since the lockout.

Clowe's physical tone and willingness to drop the gloves as a top-six forward rubbed off on Joe Thornton, who ended up fighting with Anaheim center Ryan Getzlaf at the beginning of Game Six of the quarterfinal series with the Ducks last season.

Without a top scorer like Clowe bringing that nastiness to the table, it is highly doubtful you would have a seen a guy like Thornton drop the gloves in that situation.

It is that mentality of physical dominance that No. 29 brings to the Sharks' locker room that helps the team play at a high level of intensity. A mentality incredibly similar to former Sharks captain Owen Nolan.

Nolan, the current Minnesota Wild forward, was a Shark from 1995-2003 and was captain of a team teal from 1998-2003. He is still a fan favorite in San Jose because of his hard-nosed style game in and game out.

While Nolan did once hold the Sharks' franchise record for 44 goals in a season, he was better known for his willingness to hit anything that moves and drop the gloves when needed.

A hard-hitting, glove dropping, goal scorer is the definition of a power forward. And just like Nolan, Clowe fits that definition to a T.

Granted, Clowe's career points per game of .61 is slightly lower than Nolan's career mark of .74, the current Shark has turned his game up a notch since starting the year pointless in his first seven games.

Since registering his first point on Oct. 17, Clowe has tallied 26 points in 31 games, good for higher than Nolan's career mark at .83.

Whether or not he sustains this pace is uncertain, but it is highly likely that he will finish the year at or above Nolan's career pace of .74 points per game.

Considering that this will probably be Rob Blake's last season in San Jose, a new captain will be named next season.

Dan Boyle would be the obvious choice, and, as I have stated here on Bleacher Report, Boyle would be the best choice.

However, if the Sharks were to look elsewhere, wanting to give the captaincy back to a forward, the next best choice would have to be Clowe.

Even when the 27-year-old wasn't scoring to begin the year, he was still a major force to be reckoned with out on the ice. His strong play along the boards, intimidating physical presence, and willingness to stick up for his teammates are all attributes fitting of a captain.

On the other hand, if guys like Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Dany Heatley aren't scoring, they aren't doing much at all. But Clowe is the guy who the Sharks count on to change the flow of the game and create momentum even without scoring a goal.

It's this play, similar to that of the recently retired Jeremy Roenick, which should have Clowe as a serious candidate for captain next season.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.