September 30, 2015 By Paul Gackle

A Sharks’ Leadership Group With Pavelski, Thornton and Couture Just Makes Sense

SAN JOSE — The last thing Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer needs right now is a replay of last season’s leadership drama.

From the moment that Joe Thornton was stripped of his captaincy last summer to the dying seconds of the 2014-15 season last spring, the confusion surrounding the Sharks leadership situation hovered over the team like a dark cloud.

It’s time to clear the air and the easiest way to do that is to name Joe Pavelski as the next captain.

DeBoer said this morning that he will name a captain before the Sharks take the ice for their morning skate at Staples Center on Oct.7 and it would be shocking if anyone other than Pavelski has the ‘C’ etched on his sweater.

In almost every regard, Captain America was the captain of the Sharks last season. He was the unofficial spokesperson with the media. He carried the team on the ice, scoring 37 goals. He was the guy who took accountability when things went south toward the end of the season.

At this point, giving the captaincy to anyone other than Pavelski would be a slap in the face, or as the late Yogi Berra would have said, deja vu all over again. By naming any other player as the team’s next captain, DeBoer would essentially be doing to Pavelski what Thornton had done to him last year, launching another season of “As Captaincy Turns”, at a time when the team needs to be putting those issues behind them.

In short, a Pavelski captaincy is a no drama captaincy.

The next question then is who will be Pavelski’s alternate captains?

The first ‘A’ is also fairly straight forward: Thornton.

Thornton needs to be in the leadership group because, well, he’s Jumbo, in every regard. He’s the biggest name in the room, the biggest personality in the room and the best hockey player in the room.

Letter or no letter, Joe Thornton is still going to be Joe Thornton: a former-Hart Trophy winner, the face of the franchise, a first-ballot Hall of Famer. You can take the letters away from Thornton, but you can’t diminish his stature on the team. So why even try?

Naming the second alternate captain gets a little trickier because the Sharks have several potential candidates.

Patrick Marleau is the first name that comes to mind. He’s another former-captain, a two-time gold medalist, a guy who’s been with his team longer than any other current professional athlete in the Bay Area. But he’s coming off a down year and questions about his desire to win continue to surface.

DeBoer would be smart to steer clear of this potential pitfall and let Marleau concentrate on his game this season without any distractions

Marc-Edouard Vlasic was one of four rotating alternate captains last year, so he has to be considered, too. As a top shutdown defenseman, Vlasic might be the Sharks most valuable player. But is he a leader?

Last season, a reporter asked Todd McLellan whether he could see Vlasic as the Sharks next captain and the team’s former coach responded by saying that the defenseman has “work to do.”

Tommy Wingels would be a natural fit for a leadership role and bets are that someday he will wear a letter on his jersey. He’s honest, accountable and carries himself with integrity. His turn will come, but right now one of his teammates is standing ahead of him in line.

Yes, it’s Logan Couture’s turn to get a letter. Couture possesses all the same qualities as Wingels and he can throw the team on his back, leading with his play on the ice, too.

He scores, wins faceoffs, blocks shots, takes hits to make the right play and he never shies away from telling it like it is.

With Pavelski, Thornton and Couture in leadership roles, DeBoer would have his bases covered and the Sharks could finally put last season’s drama behind them.