Sharks In Need of a Captaincy Change

The San Jose Sharks finished another season near the bottom of the NHL standings. Despite new general manager Mike Grier’s best efforts, the team has now gone four consecutive seasons without playoff hockey. However, rather than dropping directly to the bottom, the Sharks spent those four seasons in a limbo-like state where they were too bad to compete but too good to be the worst. As a result, management must be gearing up to make changes to improve their trajectory.

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The 2023 offseason will provide numerous opportunities for the Sharks to upgrade their roster. The 2023 NHL Entry Draft is right around the corner, and they possess the fourth overall selection in a star-studded draft. However, one of the biggest changes they could make can be done internally. The Sharks should be ready to explore naming a new captain.

Sharks Are Accustomed to Stripping the Captaincy

Although taking the captaincy away from Logan Couture might seem harsh, the Sharks have never been shy to adjust their leadership group. Both Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, arguably the most recognizable Sharks of all time, were captains for a time, and both lost the ‘C’ after continuous playoff failures. By all accounts, the captaincy is not a safe position in San Jose.

Logan Couture San Jose Sharks
Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Like Thornton and Marleau, Couture has not been a bad captain. This is not a reflection on his leadership ability; he has done his best to help the Sharks out of a dim period in their history. A decline in production does not reflect a decline in the ability to captain a team. But the Sharks are getting younger with each passing year, and changing the captain could help the team look ahead to a new era rather than staying in the past.

The era of being able to make multiple runs at the Stanley Cup is well behind the Sharks. While Couture was given the captaincy shortly after the Sharks’ final playoff run in 2019, the years that followed were filled with middling attempts to make something out of a roster that had begun to age out. The partial rebuild of the organization should be remembered as its own separate part of Sharks history, and a change in who is wearing the ‘C’ could reflect that. If management decides that change is necessary, there are plenty of options to choose from. And two players stand out.

Sharks Have Great Choices for a New Captain

The most obvious choice is Erik Karlsson. During a difficult season for the team, Karlsson had the best point production of his career. As the former captain of the Ottawa Senators, he also knows what it takes to lead a team. Despite rumors that he may be on his way out, he is the perfect candidate to wear the ‘C’ next season.

Erik Karlsson San Jose Sharks
Erik Karlsson, San Jose Sharks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Another excellent choice is Tomas Hertl. After signing his eight-year contract with the club, he has become a mainstay of the core moving forward. He brings positive energy to the team, most famously for promising a victory to Sharks fans in their 2019 first-round series against the Vegas Golden Knights. While he may not be the most obvious candidate, he would be a welcome choice.

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Changing the captain is not going to solve all the Sharks’ issues, but it could help them find their identity again as they undergo big changes. Until the draft is over and free agency is well underway, the roster for 2023-24 is up in the air. However, the Sharks could be much closer to finding success if they make the right moves this summer. The ‘C’ may not be management’s priority, but it could be the first step on the right path.

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