In retirement, Boyle desires to be remembered as 'competitor'

In retirement, Boyle desires to be remembered as 'competitor'

SAN JOSE – It was March 6, 2013, and Dan Boyle had seen enough.

After a 4-1 Sharks loss in Calgary further extended a brutal scoring drought in which San Jose hadn't scored more than two goals for a dozen straight games, the veteran defenseman was seething.

“We’ve scored [bleeping] one or two goals the last [12] games. That’s it,” Boyle said. “You go through streaks when you’re not scoring. I understand that. But, [bleep, 12 bleeping] games in a row.”

Boyle’s career achievements are numerous, and his numbers outstanding. After 17 seasons in the NHL, he’s ranked 35th all-time among NHL defensemen with 605 points, has a Stanley Cup and Olympic gold medal, and finished in the top six in voting for the Norris Trophy three times.

But his fiery nature and desire to win at all costs were the traits that he and those around him preferred to emphasize in his official retirement press conference on Wednesday at SAP Center.

[KURZ: Tomas Hertl returns to left wing on Sharks' top line]

Now 40 years old, Boyle brought up his lowest moment as a Shark, when he scored an overtime own-goal in a playoff loss in Colorado on April 18, 2010, inadvertently whacking a backhand through goalie Evgeni Nabokov.

“I wanted to go back out there and play right away,” Boyle said. “I didn’t feel like crying or hiding under a rock. I was obviously upset. I wanted to go back there and play.

“I think that’s in a nutshell what I want to be remembered as – a competitor that just wanted to be out there in the last minute, whether I was up or down. I wanted the puck on my stick. I wanted to make plays. That’s hopefully what people remember me for.”

Boyle’s former head coach in Tampa Bay, John Tortorella, echoed Boyle’s introspection.

“You could see the skating. You could see what you do as a player. I don’t think you ever received enough credit for what a fierce competitor you were,” Tortorella told Boyle. “You were the engine of our [2003-04] Stanley Cup team.”

Boyle has often pointed out that not getting drafted after a stellar college career at Miami of Ohio left him with a chip on his shoulder. In fact, one NHL coach told the five-foot-nine Boyle “to grow three inches and gain 20 pounds and you can play for me. … I want to thank him, too,” he said.

He was signed as a free agent by the Florida Panthers, but after training camp he didn’t even get a chance to play for their main AHL affiliate. Instead, he was shipped to Lexington, Kentucky, which was coincidentally the Sharks’ affiliate at the time.

All of those slights, though, turned Boyle into the player that he would eventually become – a borderline Hall of Famer that arguably helped to change his position.

In fact, a pair of star NHL blueliners have told him that he was a guy they looked up to while they were trying to break into the league.

“Two of the best defensemen in the game today, Drew Doughty and Kris Letang, I remember them coming up to me and saying ‘you were the guy I emulated watching when I was younger,’” Boyle said.

“Just like I felt about Brian Leetch, to have those two guys who are extremely successful say something like that about me – that, to me, means more than any points I had or goals that I had. … I think I helped change the game and the position a little bit.”

When the Sharks decided not to offer Boyle – their all-time leading scorer among defensemen with 269 points – a contract after the 2013-14 season, there were no hard feelings. Boyle admitted that he had a rough year, coming back too soon from a devastating concussion courtesy of a hit from behind by St. Louis’ Maxim Lapierre in mid-October.

Boyle said that he was “playing scared” the rest of the year upon his return a few weeks later, and didn’t blame the Sharks for letting him walk.

Even after signing a two-year contract with the Rangers, he knew he wanted to eventually return to the area and realized about halfway through the 2015-16 season that he was “mentally burnt out” and headed for retirement.

Boyle doesn’t have any immediate career plans, but he will enjoy spending time with his wife and two young girls, aged six and seven, in a property that is being built in nearby Los Gatos.

Just don’t expect him to lose that competitive edge, even if he won’t be lacing up the skates anymore.

“I believe in earning things. I don’t know what’s right and what’s wrong, but if I play [cards] with my kids, I make them earn it. I don’t just give it to them because they’re six and seven,” he said with a laugh.

Paul Martin rewarding Peter DeBoer's faith in NHL return


Paul Martin rewarding Peter DeBoer's faith in NHL return

When Sharks defenseman Paul Martin confirmed reports in January that he was willing to go elsewhere for more playing time, his head coach was insistent that the team would need the veteran blueliner. 

"I really believe we need eight NHL defenseman here," DeBoer told reporters in January (via The Mercury News). "If it happens that he isn't here, then that'll be disappointing for us. I'm not hoping that's where this goes. I'm hoping this goes to a place where he can maybe go down, play some games and keep himself ready, because I know we're going to need eight defensemen."

That's pretty much exactly what's happened.

After clearing waivers in January and playing with the AHL's San Jose Barracuda, Martin was called up ahead of the Sharks' four-game road trip at the end of February. He did not play until last Saturday in Vancouver, when an upper-body injury to rookie defenseman Joakim Ryan, whose play pushed Martin down the depth chart in the first place, created an opening alongside Brent Burns. 

Martin's now played three straight games with Burns, his defensive partner for the vast majority of the previous two seasons. It's the first time Martin's played in three consecutive NHL games all season, and although he hasn't played much (11:53 in average time-on-ice), he's acquitted himself nicely in a sheltered role.

His five-on-five possession numbers (52.78 percent corsi-for; 53.33 percent fenwick-for) are the second-best marks among Sharks defensemen over the last three games. Burns, too, has posted better possession numbers with Martin (47.62 percent corsi-for; 50 percent fenwick-for) during the last three contests than without his longtime partner (43.40 percent corsi-for; 41.67 percent fenwick-for). 

The Sharks have also outscored (3-0) and outchanced (17-16) opponents with Martin on the ice, neither of which was the case in Martin's first three appearances earlier this season. The former is owed to a decent amount of puck luck, as the Sharks have converted on 17.65 percent of their shots with him on the ice, but the latter is an extension of his solid underlying numbers. 

Martin's played the least amount of total minutes among Sharks defensemen since coming back, even as Marc-Edouard Vlasic missed time in two of the last three games, and has barely been used in special teams. His days of averaging 20-or-more minutes a night are likely behind him, but the 37-year-old has played well in a limited role. 

Considering Martin's NHL days appeared to be behind him as recently as last month, his play has been a pleasant surprise. With the exception of his head coach, that is. 

Couture scores in OT, helps Sharks make up ground on Golden Knights

Couture scores in OT, helps Sharks make up ground on Golden Knights


SAN JOSE -- Seconds after almost costing the San Jose Sharks a game with a turnover, Logan Couture ended it with his backhand.

Couture scored 39 seconds into overtime after getting bailed out by goalie Martin Jones and the San Jose Sharks won their season-high sixth straight game, 2-1 over the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday night.

"I was able to make a move on their guy," Couture said. "(Marc-Edouard Vlasic) did a good job of driving their backchecker back and I was able to go far side."

Couture's goal came at the end of an opening shift of the overtime that started with him losing the puck in his own zone, giving Jonathan Marchessault a chance alone in front. Jones got enough of the shot to stop it, and then Vlasic sent the puck ahead to Couture for the winning goal that moved San Jose within seven points of first-place Vegas with eight games remaining in the regular season.

Brent Burns also scored and Jones made 24 saves to help the Sharks open a four-point lead over third-place Los Angeles in the Pacific Division with a game in hand as the Sharks close in on home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

"For us to get a win tonight was important," captain Joe Pavelski said. "Plus, just plant that seed. If we stay hot, you never know, we might be able to catch them and get home ice. We took care of business tonight and we'll try to keep playing well."

Tomas Tatar scored the lone goal for the Golden Knights, who were kept in the game by a sterling performance by goalie Malcolm Subban. He stopped 42 shots but it wasn't enough for Vegas to come up with the win, although he helped earn a point that gave the expansion team 100 this season.

"It's impressive," forward James Neal said. "It's a great season for our guys. Guys came together real quick. A great job so far but we're not done yet."

The Golden Knights struck first on a pretty passing play early in the first period that ended when Marchessault found Tatar cutting through the slot ahead of Justin Braun. Tatar skated past Jones and backhanded the puck into the open net.

Vegas has been dominant when getting off to a lead, posting an NHL-best 31-5-1 record when scoring first heading into this game. But the Sharks carried the play in the second period, outshooting the Golden Knights 18-4 and getting the equalizer on a blast by Burns from the point after another strong shift by San Jose's fourth line.

"We want to be playing really good hockey this time of year and heading into the playoffs. I think that's the goal," coach Peter DeBoer said. "Whether we would have won tonight or lost, I like how we played for most of the game, so that's what I'm concentrating on."

Vegas managed to keep it tied despite the lopsided shot totals, killing off a four-minute penalty to Colin Miller and another late power play that started late in the second.

That penalty carried over until the third period and the Sharks got 25 seconds of a two-man advantage after Brayden McNabb was called for throwing his stick but still couldn't get anything past Subban.

The Golden Knights squandered a power-play chance later in the period when Miller was called for cross checking with the man advantage. That nearly led to a power-play goal for San Jose but Subban appeared to get a piece of a shot from in close to Joe Pavelski to keep the game tied at 1.

"He's the main reason we got the point," coach Gerard Gallant said. "He looked comfortable."

NOTES: Vegas G Marc-Andre Fleury didn't make the trip to San Jose with an undisclosed injury but is expected to join the team for Saturday's game in Colorado. ... Burns became the 15th player to play 500 career games with the Sharks.

Golden Knights: Visit Colorado on Saturday.

Sharks: Host Calgary on Saturday.