Sharks

Sharks jersey retirements: Why Joe Pavelski should be honored first

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AP

Sharks jersey retirements: Why Joe Pavelski should be honored first

Editor’s Note: The Sharks are the only team in the Pacific Division -- other than the nascent Vegas Golden Knights -- who have not raised the jersey of a former player to the rafters. This week, NBC Sports California will examine the cases of the five likeliest candidates to have the Sharks’ first retired number. We continue with former captain Joe Pavelski. 

Sharks fans’ most recent memory of Joe Pavelski might be him signing a three-year deal with the Dallas Stars in free agency this summer, but it surely won’t be their lasting one. 

After scoring a goal in his San Jose debut on Nov. 22, 2006, Pavelski became a fixture in the lineup for three different head coaches over the next decade-plus. From his first game in teal until his last, no Shark played in more games (963) or scored more goals (355). He developed a reputation as a clutch player, scoring more game-winning goals (12) in the Stanley Cup playoffs than any of his teammates during that time. 

Pavelski captained the Sharks for his final four seasons in teal, making the NHL All-Star Game three times and book-ending his tenure with appearances in the Stanley Cup Final and Western Conference final, respectively. In a star-studded locker room, San Jose followed him as its leader up to the end of the fourth-longest tenure in franchise history. 

Let’s examine the case for, and against, retiring Pavelski’s No. 8 jersey first. 

The case for

Pavelski was not the Sharks’ first homegrown star, but his time in San Jose was no less successful than his predecessors. He ranks no lower than second among drafted players in just about every major offensive category, and Pavelski has accrued more 20-goal seasons (10) in teal than anybody not named Patrick Marleau. 

His emergence into a reliable contributor -- and later a star -- also coincided with the most successful era in Sharks history. San Jose missed the playoffs just once and advanced to the conference final four times during Pavelski’s 13 years with the team. The Sharks made it to at least the second round eight times, and had only gotten so far six times in the pre-Pavelski era. 

Jersey retirements aren’t all about logic, of course, so the emotional aspect warrants consideration. Pavelski’s scary head injury in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup playoff first-round series with the Vegas Golden Knights stunned the SAP Center crowd into silence, while his towel-waving appearance during Game 5 against the Colorado Avalanche in the next round prompted one of their loudest cheers. 

Pavelski’s goal in his first game back -- a Game 7, no less -- did the same, ultimately capping off his Sharks career with a signature moment. His journey from overlooked seventh-round pick into elite goal-scorer is the stuff jersey retirements are made of. 

The case against

Time provides the strongest argument opposing retiring Pavelski’s number first. He is under contract with the Stars until 2022, and by that point the Sharks will have played 30 seasons. Pavelski's final year under contract marks the Sharks' 30th, and if San Jose chooses to retire its first number during that season, it is difficult to envision an active player getting his jersey retired to commemorate the milestone.

Plus, Joe Thornton entered his 40s last month and Marleau will enter his in the next. We wouldn’t put it past either player prolonging their careers, but both almost certainly will retire before Pavelski. If the Sharks haven’t retired a number by the time one -- or both -- hangs up their skates, it stands to reason that one -- or both -- of their numbers will be the first to hang in SAP Center’s rafters. 

Marleau spent nearly two decades in teal, while trading for Thornton marked a true transition point for the franchise. Both players have a case for a more transformational legacy than Pavelski, and both players rank ahead of him on the Sharks’ all-time games-played and points lists. 

He shouldn’t be far behind his former teammates in getting his number retired, but Pavelski will be behind them nonetheless.

[RELATED: Sharks fans vote original teal as franchise's best-ever jersey]

Verdict

Pavelski’s case for an eventual jersey retirement is just about ironclad. His case for being the first Sharks player honored with one is less so, but it still is stronger than you might initially realize. 

The Sharks will miss him next season when they take the ice without him on the roster for the first time since 2006, and his departure really marks the end of an era in San Jose. His now-former teammates’ love and admiration of him was clear during their Game 7 comeback against Vegas, and the fans’ feelings will be when Dallas comes to SAP Center next season on Jan. 11, 2020. 

His jersey might not officially be retired for a while, but it’s hard to imagine anyone else wearing No. 8 in the meantime. 

Which Sharks should have their jersey retired first?

The case for -- and against -- Evgeni Nabokov's jersey retirement
The case for -- and against -- Owen Nolan's jersey retirement

Sharks fired Peter DeBoer after rocky start, but what comes next?

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USATSI

Sharks fired Peter DeBoer after rocky start, but what comes next?

The Sharks dismissal of Pete DeBoer is both mildly surprising, and not shocking, all at the same time. It’s also a sad truth in professional sports that the head coach takes a fall for his team. It also offers an intriguing aspect, though, to see what kind of response the team delivers after the change.

It’s been difficult to figure out who the Sharks are this season and that’s a scary trait when you’re responsible for assuring their success. They’ve lost four, then won three. Then lost seven of eight, only to win nine of the next ten. It’s almost a season’s worth of highs and lows as if they’ve ridden an entire amusement park worth of roller coasters in just 10 minutes.

Other confusing trends include their defensive struggles in 5-on-5 situations, yet their utter dominance on the penalty kill. As well on the other side, their ability to draw a significant number of penalties but rarely be able to capitalize with any consistency on the power play.

A lot of folks will look at the goaltending stats to blame, but the eye test tells a better story. Save percentage and goals-against average are not complimentary right now for either Aaron Dell or Martin Jones. But those numbers are flawed due to the quality and quantity of “Grade-A” chances the Sharks have been giving up dating back to the start of last year.

Not all shots are created equal. This holds true in hockey and in basketball. A layup usually converts at a much higher clip than shots from beyond the arc. San Jose essentially has been routinely giving up slam dunks, while trying to shoot too many 3-pointers.

Team defense has to be a top priority to turn around, no matter who the head coach is.

It’s not realistic to think that change or improvement will take place overnight, but obviously, there’s going to be a lot of extra attention surrounding the Sharks in coming weeks and months. As well as a lot of pressure on the new men at the helm. Bob Boughner was the only member of the staff retained and will be joined by fan-favorites Mike Ricci, Evgeni Nabokov and longtime AHL staple Roy Sommer.

[RELATED: Why firing DeBoer doesn't solve all of Sharks' problems]

The $80-million question (think cap space) right now is: what happens next for the Sharks?

Does this move from a tactical or symbolic standpoint unify a group that seems to have all the right pieces but hasn't had consistent results? It has become a notable trend across the NHL to see high profile clubs make moves early when things don’t launch well.

But to think that any team can match what St. Louis did last season -- going from worst in the league in January to a Stanley Cup win in June -- should definitely not be considered a reliable blueprint.

Why Sharks firing coach Peter DeBoer doesn't solve all their problems

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AP

Why Sharks firing coach Peter DeBoer doesn't solve all their problems

SAN JOSE -- It was time for a shakeup, there’s no question about it. And when things go sideways, the head coach typically takes the bulk of the blame.

But, the Sharks still have a lot of work to do.

So while those calling for Peter DeBoer to be out of a job have gotten their wish, it needs to be understood that his firing isn’t the beginning nor the end of San Jose's problems.

Don't get me wrong. The first stretch of the Sharks' 2019-20 campaign has been downright rough. They lost the first four games of their season and, despite having plenty of talent in the lineup, have struggled mightily to dig out of the hole they are in. Even during the six-game winning streak, those games weren't always pretty.  

And through that stretch of wins, there were issues that San Jose needed to address, whether it was goaltending or lack of offensive depth or the penalty kill getting overworked.

Long story short: This isn’t just about coaching. Honestly, the Sharks might still lose a lot of games.

Please remember -- DeBoer took the Sharks to the Western Conference finals last season with Martin Jones and Aaron Dell posting save percentages under .900. And he took the team to a Stanley Cup Final in 2016 after beating two stacked teams in the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues. This isn't the story of someone who can't coach a Cup-contending team.

So, what's the issue?

Even before DeBoer's firing, the Sharks have been in a team in flux. After the first four defeats, DeBoer had his own list of complaints as to how the team was playing defensively. And offensively. Quite frankly, he wasn't happy with how the team played as a whole during the winning streak in November.

Whatever the core reason is for San Jose's woes, something still has to change now that DeBoer is out the door. After nearly erasing their October deficit with a phenomenal record in November, San Jose has gone 0-4-1 so far in December, a slide that has dropped the team five points out of a playoff spot.

[RELATED: Sharks scuffling due to bad combo of scoring, penalties]

December is a weird month to try to right the ship. The Sharks have a homestand coming up, but with two long breaks shoved in the middle. They have a three-day layover ahead of a back-to-back with St. Louis and Vegas and then another a few days later with the Kings and Flyers.

The Sharks absolutely could go on a run before the new year. Just don't expect the coaching change to solve all of their problems.