The San Jose Sharks, as all their fans are well aware, have yet to bring home Lord Stanley’s Cup. They came closest in the 2015–16 Playoffs, but fell short to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Final. Sometimes, the best Sharks fans can do is root for their former players in the playoffs.
The Hockey Writers’ Stephen Dohner, writing about the Anaheim Ducks, called his list of former Ducks to win the Cup elsewhere a celebration of the “Ducks Diaspora.” Using that framework, let’s take a moment to celebrate the Sharks’ diaspora.
Having only been in the league since the 1991–92 season, the Sharks have only 29 seasons in the books—which compared to most of the NHL, is a rather short time-frame. In that time, several players have moved on from San Jose to win a Cup for another franchise. The following are some of the most notable names to do so.
Jeff Friesen is probably the most quintessential Sharks player to win the Cup. He played seven seasons with them from 1994–95 through 2000–01, and in that time span, he racked up 149 goals, 201 assists, and 350 points in 512 games. He currently sits at seventh all-time in franchise history in points, and when he departed ways, he was first—although, not for long, as his former teammate Owen Nolan passed him the next season.
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He was traded to one of their California rivals, the Anaheim Ducks, and from there he was traded to the New Jersey Devils, where he won his Cup in 2002–03. As a trade deadline acquisition by the Devils, he played an instrumental role in their run by scoring the last-minute, game-winning goal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final and then adding two goals in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.
The second player ever drafted by the Sharks, Ray Whitney went on to enjoy a long, 22-season career, including six seasons with the Sharks. Whitney bloomed in his time after the Sharks, eventually recording an 83-point season in 2006–07 with the Carolina Hurricanes. By comparison, his San Jose high was just 41 points. His career has caused some to regard him as one of the NHL’s most overlooked players throughout history.
Playing on his sixth of eight NHL teams, Whitney finally lifted the Cup with Carolina in 2005–06. His 55 points helped the Hurricanes secure a playoff spot, and his two-goal game in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final helped keep their playoff run alive.
One of the best defensemen to wear a teal jersey, the Sharks’ 1998 third-overall draft pick, Brad Stuart, ended up playing more than 1,000 games in the NHL. After being sent off to the Boston Bruins for “Jumbo” Joe Thornton in November of 2005, Stuart eventually returned to the Sharks for two more seasons late in his career.
In the meantime, Stuart won the Stanley Cup with the 2007–08 Detroit Red Wings. He spent most of that season with the Los Angeles Kings, but Detroit, looking to add some talent on the blue line, acquired him at the deadline. Playing with Niklas Kronwall, they made for a daunting second unit behind Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski. The Detroit Free Press described them as “a formidable pairing; both were big hitters (and soft talkers) who forced opponents to keep their heads up.” (from ‘Opponents hated Niklas Kronwall, but here’s why his teammates loved him,’ Detroit Free Press, 09/03/2019)
Depth Players to Win the Ring
Not every player to win the Cup after their time in San Jose has been as recognizable as the above names. Many of the former Sharks who have found playoff success have done so as depth players, such as Michal Handzus and Andrew Desjardins.
Having bounced around the NHL and some European leagues, Handzus only played two seasons for the Sharks, in 2011–12 and 2012–13.
Most of his career he was second-line talent, putting up respectable 50-60 points seasons, but in San Jose he was mostly third-line talent, with a high of 24 points. Handzus, after being traded back to the Chicago Blackhawks on April 1, 2013, won the Cup with Chicago the same season.
Desjardins, a Canadian forward, played eight seasons within the San Jose organization before moving on to the Blackhawks, where he would win the Cup in 2014–15. He never recorded more than 17 points in a season for either team and only listed two assists in the 2014–15 playoffs. Like many players listed so far, Desjardins was acquired by his Cup-winning team at the trade deadline.
For 13 years, Joe Pavelski wore the San Jose jersey before signing with the Dallas Stars on July 1, 2019. In San Jose, Pavelski—nicknamed Captain America—captained the Sharks to their first ever Final appearance, was a three-time NHL All-Star, and tallied 761 points to earn the spot as the franchise’s third all-time point scorer behind Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton.
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Most fans consider him one of the best to ever wear a Sharks jersey. It’s safe to say most Sharks fans will be rooting for Pavelski and the Dallas Stars for the remainder of the 2019-20 Playoffs, with the hopes that next time this list is updated his name will be included.
With only three teams remaining, at least one former Shark will have their name engraved onto the Cup. In addition to Pavelski in Dallas, Barclay Goodrow and the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Thomas Greiss and the New York Islanders all have chances to win the Cup.
Goodrow, whom the Sharks departed with at the trade deadline, is the last 2019-20 Shark left in the playoffs. If Tampa Bay pulls off the Eastern Conference Final series win against the Islanders, he has a solid chance of being the next former Shark to add his name to the Cup.
Greiss’s name may come as a surprise here to many fans, seeing as he only played a total of 44 games for San Jose after being drafted by them in the 2004 Entry Draft. The last time he played as a Shark was the 2012–13 season and he only played in six games. And since he is playing as the Islanders’ backup in the playoffs, Sharks fans don’t have the strongest motivation to root for New York.
With these three options left, who should fans root for? As Victor Nuño writes, the choice is easy: “The most obvious choice here is Pavelski. He was most recently the captain, he was drafted by the Sharks, and just a downright likable guy. They don’t call him ‘Captain America’ for nothing?”