Up until this week, it looked like the San Jose Sharks weren’t going to do much in the way of rebuilding, as the higher-ups claimed would be the case this offseason.
Then on Wednesday, Team Teal announced its most rebuild-y move since their season ended in April. Head coach Todd McLellan told members of the media that the team would open up training camp — drumroll, please — without an appointed captain, or alternate captains for the matter.
And if the team is planning to turn the team over to its younger players, this is a good starting point.
No, this isn’t a bashfest on the two vets — both of whom will start three-year contract extensions with non-trade clauses starting this season. To say that their tenures in teal haven’t contributed positively to the franchise would be wrong. But there really is no better time to “shuffle the deck” and put the captainship in a new set of hands — err, new set of gloves … or something to that affect.
At the disappointing end of last season, the coaching staff believed their messages were getting lost when communicated to the players. Given that it wasn’t the first time San Jose has fizzled in the playoffs, the idea of Thornton maintaining the captaincy has been a hot topic.
It wasn’t just the Sharks’ demise in Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs that has led to this decision. San Jose showed signs of such “disconnect” during the latter part of the regular season when they couldn’t shut down non-playoff contending teams at home.
A change in leadership, both physically and mentally, was most certainly needed.
Thornton still has the opportunity to regain the “C” if he is the most suitable candidate at whatever point they choose to appoint a new captain, McLellan said. Marleau went so far as to tell the media that he believes he’ll regain that coveted “A” by the end of camp. However such moves would be counterproductive on the Sharks part.
Not that the Sharks colossal collapse against LA was solely on Thornton and Marleau — it took a fizzle by the whole roster to get shut out in Game 5 on their home ice. Shifting the levels of responibility, however, could help keep such a low level of play in the past.
San Jose has been gravitating towards being a “Logan Couture-run” team for a couple seasons now. And given his angry demeanor after dropping Game 7 to the LA Kings last spring, there is no doubt he’ll be putting up a fight to earn that “C” on his sweater. Joe Paveski and Marc-Edouard Vlasic have also been part of the “future captains” conversation; Pavelski has a knack for rallying the team when they’re down, while Vlasic’s value on the ice was exposed when injury took him out during this last postseason. All three are worthy candidates, although I would be more inclined to make Vlasic and Pavelski alternates.
It’s doubtful that Thornton is going to sit back quietly and let someone else skate into that captain’s spot without a fight. While McLellan is insisting that the “C” wasn’t stripped from Thornton’s sweater, losing that coveted title after four seasons has to sting.
Nonetheless, it is the first positive step towards a revamped team.