'Complete player' Joe Pavelski is the new Captain America


'Complete player' Joe Pavelski is the new Captain America

WASHINGTON -- Joe Pavelski isn't the United States' oldest player at the World Cup of Hockey, nor does he have the most skill, size, experience or even the best beard.

He just has the "C'' on his chest.

Pavelski has only been an NHL captain for one season, but the leader of the San Jose Sharks was given the leadership role for the Americans at the World Cup, which begins Saturday in Toronto. It's not a distinction he takes lightly even if he's not quite sure why coaches and players chose him over the likes of 2014 Olympic captain Zach Parise, New York Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh and others.

"I've got a lot of respect for all these guys, and a lot of guys could do the job," Pavelski said Tuesday. "Our performance last year might've helped and the success we had leading (San Jose deep) in the playoffs. Those little things might help."

Everyone else knows, and the answer is simple. Pavelski plays the game the way the U.S. wants to play it. Committed, gritty hockey, with skill and a straightforward style for coach John Tortorella and his staff.

"There's not a lot of fluff to him," Tortorella said. "He just plays. He's not on the outside (of the rink). He's skilled. He's in the blue (crease). He is a complete player, and that's probably one of the best compliments you can give a guy is the word 'complete' and he is that."

Don't confuse "complete" with Pavelski making up for a lack of production with intangibles. Few players produce quite like him.

Only Alex Ovechkin has more NHL goals over the past three seasons than Pavelski's 116. Now 32, Pavelski is perhaps no longer one of the most underappreciated players in hockey. As Tortorella puts it, Pavelski is "not a flashy guy, but he does everything in the game: offensively, defensively. He does everything really well."

Complete is the kind of word Pavelski wants to hear about himself because it means he's doing his job - well, all of his jobs. He will be a top-six center for the U.S. but should also be relied on as a key piece of the power play and the penalty kill.

That's how he wants it.

"You want to play in all the zones. I like taking faceoffs, I like blocking a shot, forechecking," Pavelski said. "And at the end of the day you want to be that guy that's scoring goals and trying to help your team."

No player had more ice time or goals in last season's playoffs than Pavelski, who averaged 20:46 per game and scored 14 times while leading the Sharks to the Stanley Cup Final. And being captain in San Jose came with its own challenges as beloved veteran Joe Thornton was demoted to an alternate but remained a big voice in the locker room.

That experience showcased Pavelski's leadership, but he's no stranger to international hockey. He also played for the U.S. at the 2010 and 2014 Olympics.

Former St. Louis Blues captain David Backes called Pavelski "an awesome choice" to fill the captain's role.

"He's experienced, calm, level-headed, not afraid to say something when it needs to be said," Backes said. "He knows his position in the league and on this team and he's certain of that and you see that confidence in him. ... He's going to be the guy with the 'C' on his sweater and lead us on the ice, off the ice with his speech, with his example what he does every single shift. From that, we expect to follow and have great success."

Patrick Marleau thanks Sharks fans for warm welcome back to San Jose

Patrick Marleau thanks Sharks fans for warm welcome back to San Jose

Patrick Marleau is home. For the first time since returning to the Sharks, Marleau skated in front of the home fans at SAP Center on Sunday night. 

As you might guess, it was an emotional scene for both Marleau and the Sharks faithful. The 40-year-old couldn't help but let out a few tears when fans erupted at the sight of him on the jumbotron in the first period of a 3-1 win over the Flames

On Monday, Marleau took to Twitter through his wife Christina's account to thank Sharks fans for such a warm welcome back to The Tank.

[RELATED: Patrick Marleau left lasting mark on Maple Leafs]

The Sharks, who dropped their first four games this season, have now won two straight since signing Marleau to a one-year contract on Oct. 8. He already has three points -- two goals and an assist -- in the two victories.

Marleau spent the first 19 seasons of his 22-year NHL career with the Sharks before he signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs prior to the 2017-18 season. He's San Jose's all-time leader in games played (1,495), goals (510) and points (1,085).

Dylan Gambrell's improved play aiding Sharks' quest for four-line game

Dylan Gambrell's improved play aiding Sharks' quest for four-line game

SAN JOSE - One of the biggest criticisms of the Sharks at this early point in the season has been that its younger players hadn't stepped up yet.

That changed on Sunday evening in San Jose's 3-1 win over the Calgary Flames. 

Sure, San Jose's young stars Timo Meier, Tomas Hertl, and Kevin Labanc all found the net in the victory. But when Hertl and captain Logan Couture addressed the media postgame, independent of each other, both pointed to newcomer Dylan Gambrell's emergence over the last few games as a key factor in the Sharks' recent success.

Gambrell's positive production as fourth-line center is giving San Jose more offensive depth. While the Sharks' forward attack is still a work in progress, the 23-year-old forward is evolving into the pivotal player the team needs.

"He's been given an opportunity and these last two games he's really shown what he's been capable of," Couture said. "When we have that line playing well and the other three rolling over, we're a tough team to beat."

Head coach Peter DeBoer agreed with the assessment of his captain.

"For him, that's all about competing," DeBoer said of Gambrell. "Sticking his nose in there and competing. His skill and speed will take over and he's starting to do that here regularly."

There was a spotlight on Gambrell heading into training camp after he signed a two-year contract following a season in which he bounced between the AHL and NHL. But the University of Denver product didn't readily establish his game when he was plugged into the top six through the preseason and, like the majority of the Sharks, struggled out of the gate in the first few games of the regular season. 

After penciling back onto the fourth line, Gambrell's game visibly changed. 

"I think he saw that he was close to being sent back. That's the reality of it," DeBoer admitted. "He wasn't as effective (in training camp) as he is now. And maybe that's on us. Maybe we asked him to do too much. We played him on the wing on the top two lines and maybe it was too much for him."

Back at the center position on that fourth line, however, the speedy forward has been on an upward trend. He's been more effective in the faceoff circle and more aggressive on the puck, which gives San Jose depth down the middle that they, frankly, have been missing since last season.

"He had a little tough start but now he's playing a really hard game and this is what we need," Hertl said. "Good on faceoffs, strong on the puck."

Continuing that higher level of compete can make the Sharks' quest to establish a four-line game a bit smoother. As San Jose has encountered through the first six games of the season, the Western Conference is stacked with teams that can get production out of any line they roll out onto the ice. While the Sharks' offense is still in the process of getting healthy -- Marcus Sorensen is still sidelined -- the team needs to get its four-line game in place if they're going to completing recover from their rough start to the season.

[RELATED: Sharks fans give Marleau standing ovation]

"In this league, you need four lines," Hertl summarized. "It's not about just one line. Every night you need four lines plus your goalie."

If Gambrell can continue this upward trend, the Sharks have a better chance of achieving that goal.