Outside of Barclay Goodrow and Joonas Donskoi, Joel Ward arguably is responsible for the biggest goals in Sharks franchise history. Whereas Donskoi's earned San Jose its first-ever win in a Stanley Cup final game, Ward got the team there to begin with.
His two goals in Game 6 of the 2015-16 Western Conference final extended what was an early Sharks lead into a three-goal cushion, the second of which proved to be the game-winner and series-clincher in a 5-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues. A team that had time and again suffered disheartening postseason exits finally, at last, sat atop the Western Conference.
Sadly, the Sharks couldn't check off the last box on their playoff list -- one that still remains unchecked today. Donskoi provided the overtime heroics in Game 3 of the Final, but San Jose ultimately was vanquished by the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in six games.
That was the first of three seasons Ward spent with the Sharks, as he became a fan favorite due to his gritty style and penchant for the clutch. He last appeared in 52 games with San Jose during the 2017-18 season, and the 11-year veteran officially announced his retirement from the NHL on Monday.
"I loved it," Ward said of his career on a conference call with reporters Monday. "The game treated me so well, and I'm at peace with everything. I got to play a few hockey games, which was great, more than I could even imagine I'd be playing. It feels great to have it out there and everybody knows."
Ward totaled 133 goals and 171 assists across 726 career regular-season games, and he added another 22 goals and 30 helpers in 83 playoff contests. After going undrafted, he broke into the NHL with the Minnesota Wild before playing for the Nashville Predators, Washington Capitals and, finally, the Sharks.
San Jose -- where he still resides -- holds a special place in his heart and although his playing days are over, he still might have a role within the franchise ... as a coach.
"I've had some talks with the Sharks kind of briefly, going back and forth a few times," Ward said. "We've chatted about some different areas. I've kind of shared that I'd like to hopefully get on the ice at some point with them, if it can work out. It's been on and off chats with the Sharks. If things did work out, yeah, it would be great to stay here. We've got to wait and see what's going to happen after [the season pause]."
Ward admitted that he knew he was "pretty much done" playing for quite some time, but the official retirement announcement was meant to let others know that he is looking for work in the league, and is serious about it. He played with and for a number of all-time greats and brings a vast array of experience to the table, and now he wants to pass that on to the next generation of NHL players.
"I've had such great teachers, coaches, I think I've learned so much over the years that it would be a shame to keep it to myself," Ward explained. "I've gone through a lot of teams with different philosophies and everything. I played in all different aspects of the game. I've been fortunate to play on some top lines a couple of times and on the bottom. I've been fortunate to be around a lot of great hockey people."
Bob Boughner remains the Sharks' interim coach for the time being, though general manager Doug Wilson recently said he has the "upper hand" to have that interim tag removed and remain behind San Jose's bench. Boughner promoted multiple former Sharks' fan favorites -- Mike Ricci and Evgeni Nabokov -- to coaching positions upon taking over for Peter DeBoer.
Perhaps he adds another in Ward.