I had coffee with an old friend this last week, and we spent half of the time chatting about an upcoming (redacted) but much of the time was talking about the Sharks, now and into the past. Not surprising when you realize that Laurie and I did 20 years of season tickets starting in the Cow Palace, and he started in as a season ticket holder their first year in San Jose. We’ve both seen a lot of hockey (not all of it… um, good. the name Al Sims was actually mentioned)
Of course, this discussion stuck with me, so I decided I might as well write it up…
One idea that came up was our choices for the top all-time line: three forwards, two D, and a goalie. My choices were:
- Forwards: Thornton, Marleau and Nolan.
- Defense: Burns and Boyle
- Goalie: Jones (although my heart said Irbe, and it’s hard to not choose Nabokov)
We also got into the Hall of Fame discussion. Through the years, I’ve been in god knows how many discussions about Hall of Fame Sharks, who’s jersey to retire, and that sort of stuff. I’ve always taken the view that as much as we loved players like Irbe or Nolan, none of them ever hit the requirements I have to qualify for a retired jersey. Instead, I believe teams should have something like a “team hall of fame”, and in fact, you’re seeing more and more teams adopt this idea, often calling them a circle or ring of honor. I like that term, so I’m going to use it as well.
I look at player recognition as breaking into three tiers:
- Hall of Fame: league side recognition, very exclusive.
- Jersey Retirement (aka “in the rafters”): Team specific, very exclusive.
- Ring of Honor: team specific, and don’t honor so many it loses any prestige.
The Sharks actually have four players in the Hall of Fame who’ve worn the teal, but none of them earned the honor primarily as a Shark: Rob Blake (as a King), Ed Belfour (as a Blackhawk), Sergei Makarov and Igor Larionov (as CSKA Moscow players, plus Igor’s time in Detroit). Which is not to say these players didn’t have impacts in San Jose (positive ones, except Belfour) but of those, only Makarov and perhaps Larionov might be thought of as Sharks.
Here are my choices for the three categories with some thoughts on why I’d selected them. There are 14 names total, three with asterisks I’ll explain at the end. For a team with 25 years of history, I don’t consider that as “too many”, buy your mileage may vary. I wanted to make sure the early years were properly covered, even if the early years weren’t necessarily good years. They are listed roughly in order of games played as a Shark.
Hall of Fame
Joe Thornton: The Sharks first true Hall of Famer. First ballot inductee. If you don’t believe that, you haven’t been watching the same team I’ve been watching.
Patrick Marleau: I personally think that once he retires Patrick Marleau should be considered for the Hall of Fame. I’d vote for him. I’m not sure he’ll get in, in fact, I think given the strong candidate lists we see in the next ten years or so that he may well turn into the guy we look back on and wonder why he’s not in, but I’m not sure it’ll happen. He has a couple of years left to convince people, and if he can win to Stanley Cup it’ll be a huge help. Ultimately, I think he’s a bubble player.
Owen Nolan: came in, changed the face of the franchise, made a huge impact with the fans while he was here. If there’s a player that defines the Sharks during it’s middle “adolescent” period as if figured out how to be good, it’s Owen Nolan. Still fondly remembered by the fan base.
Dan Boyle: Here’s a question — Is Dan Boyle a Hall of Fame player? Almost 1100 games, almost half as a Shark. 600 points. Stanley Cup. If I had a vote, I believe I’d vote for him, but I’m not sure he’ll get enough support, especially given the strong candidate classes. He’s right on the bubble, IMHO. (and he ought to at some point get a jersey retirement from the Sharks, I think, HoF or not)
Ring of Honor
Evgeni Nabokov: Sharks goaltender for almost a decade, most games played by a Sharks Goalie, brought the team consistent quality but didn’t quite win a Cup with the Sharks, and well loved by the fan base. Definitely deserves this recognition. One of the first big Sharks drafted and developed successes.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic: Third on the team in games played as a Shark. Team leader, very effective defenseman who backstops the team and is a huge part of its success. And another drafted and developed player.
Joe Pavelski: Current captain. Another drafted and developed. He has a long part of his career still ahead of him, but to me, once he decides to retire, this should be a no-brainer. If Owen Nolan was “Mr. Shark” of the middle years of Sharks history, he’s “Mr. Shark” today.
Mike Ricci: Came to the Sharks from the Avalanche, grabbed his lunchpail and skated his way into the fans hearts. Still well loved around San Jose and was one of the more visible players and stabilizing influences on the team when he was in teal.
Jeff Odgers: Odgers was the second captain of the Sharks after Doug Wilson, but with Wilson’s injuries limiting his time before his retirement, Odgers took on a lot of that role rom the start. The epitome of the lunchpail player, Odgers was the original “Mr. Shark”, the guy who even when the team sucked badly was playing hard and setting the example of what we expected all players to do when putting on the Sharks jersey.
Jamie Baker: Only scored the most important goal in Sharks history (so far). Another one of those “middle years” lunchpail grinder players that worked to set the right work habits and attitudes among all of the players that helps a team grow and improve.
Arturs Irbe: “like wall”. We tend to forget Irbe was only with the Sharks for 183 games, because for the time he was in Teal, he was the player that made the Sharks competitive night in and night out and did so with a smile and some weird big of gymnastics. Archy played on a number of really sucky Sharks teams back in the early day, but he made them noticably less sucky and his performances were well recognized and remembered by the crowds in the building.
Igor Larionov: The center of the “Larionov/Makarov/Garpenlov” line, the first line that really made a name for themselves as Sharks. Larionov made big impacts to the Sharks both on and off the ice, and is one of the names even casual Sharks fans would recognize from the early Sharks teams.
Sergei Makarov: First Sharks player to score 30 goals as part of that line with Larionov. One of those rare players that caused the league to change a rule — adding age limits to the rookie of the year award after he won it.
Here are three names that I’m adding to the list with asterisks, two because they’re current players and still need to carry forward what they’re doing to solidify this recognition, and one because the recognition is as both a player and builder for the team.
Doug Wilson (builder and player): Wilson was the first Captain of the Sharks (and probably should be in the Hall of Fame as a Blackhawk), but injuries limited his time, but he worked hard to set the tone and work ethic of what it would come to define what a Sharks team should be. It’s hard to justify honoring him just as a player, but with his time and success as the team’s General Manager I put him in here for both his work as a player and a builder.
Martin Jones: His tenure as a Shark is too short to really be talking awards or recognitions of this type, since he has a long career in teal ahead of him, but his impact and the trajectory of his success is such I felt I had to mention him here. If his play continues as I expect it to, this may be the least of his recognitions; I think he may be San Jose’s first true Hall of Fame potential goalie.
Brent Burns: Every game Sharks fans get to sit down and watch Brent Burns redefine the position of defenseman. This is a very rare event in hockey, and it’s happening in teal. I don’t think it’s a reach to speculate that when he finally retires he’ll be a player given serious Hall of Fame consideration. But we still have years to go before we get there.
Names I had to leave out: Mike Rathje, Scott Cannon, Marco Sturm, Marcus Ragnarsson, Kelly Kisio, Brad Stuart, Sandis Ozolinsh, Jeff Friesen, Jonathan Cheechoo, Vincent Damphousse, Sandis Ozolinsh, Dean Lombardi (builder).
So that’s my list. I expect every Sharks fan disagrees in some way with it, because that’s what fans do. Where am I wrong, and why? Let me know…