San Jose Sharks: Joe Pavelski leading the way towards Stanley Cup

Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images /

In a Stanley Cup or bust season for the San Jose Sharks, captain Joe Pavelski is leading on and off the ice with an uncertain future ahead.

After a lackluster effort the night before in Columbus, Joe Pavelski often provides a spark to get the San Jose Sharks back on the right path. As the vocal leader in the clubhouse, Pavelski is letting his stick work do the talking as he is on pace to have a career year in goals scored.

Pavelski posted a natural hat trick in San Jose’s 5-3 victory against the Detroit Red Wings, rebounding from a dismal performance the previous evening. For Pavelski, the three-goal outburst became the fifth of his career, putting him three away of equaling his mark of 38 goals set in 2015-16.

But his second goal against the Red Wings is what makes Pavelski such a gifted player. His hand-eye coordination to deflect pucks is unreal, just managing to get a piece of the puck to change the angle of the trajectory towards the net.

San Jose Sharks
San Jose Sharks /

San Jose Sharks

With the score tied 3-3, Marc-Edouard Vlasic fired a shot nowhere towards the net but in the direction of Pavelski who stood a few feet away from the goal. It appeared as though Vlasic intended to shoot towards the captain in hopes of a deflection.

Pavelski’s 34th goal of the season was absolutely filthy. He managed to tip the biscuit off his stick and over the shoulder of Detroit’s goaltender, Jonathan Bernier, to give San Jose a 4-3 edge in the second period. The tally would prove to be the game winner as Pavelski would add an empty netter to complete a three-goal night.

As the playoffs loom for the Sharks, look for the captain to lead the charge. The 34-year-old has played with a chip on his shoulder since debuting in 2006-07 at the age of 22 for San Jose. That chip earned him the coveted “C” after Peter DeBoer took over a head coach.

A diamond in the rough best exemplifies Pavelski being a mainstay for the Sharks. Drafted in the seventh round of the 2003 NHL Draft, prospects did not look promising for the Wisconsin native. Most late-round selections never see any NHL action and often journey around the minor leagues or play in the European leagues.

For Pavelski, he already gained a winning edge in his play during his career at the University of Wisconsin. The Badgers won the NCAA Frozen Four and the national championship, giving Pavelski confidence he could play in the NHL regardless of the obstacles.

He didn’t have to wait long for his opportunity after an impressive display with the Worcester Sharks (now San Jose Barracuda) in the AHL. Roy Sommer, who still coaches the Sharks’ development team, immediately saw the talent in Pavelski after he posted 26 points in 16 games.

Pavelski would play 46 games for San Jose and registered 28 points after carrying his hard work from Worcester over to the big stage. From his hard work, Pavelski has not looked back and continues to improve.

The captaincy became clear a few seasons ago for Pavelski, being the vocal leader in the locker room and with the media. Tensions grew high in 2014-15 as the Sharks’ streak of consecutive playoff appearances came into jeopardy.

Levi’s Stadium hosted the NHL Stadium Series game that year with San Jose facing Los Angeles. A documentary series got produced leading up to the event, giving fans an in-depth look of both teams going through a season.

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Cameras caught audio of Pavelski going off on his teammates after a miserable first period in a game against the Arizona Coyotes. At the time, Joe Thornton was captain while Pavelski served as an alternate.

Both the Sharks and the Kings did not make the playoffs that year, but a change of scenery became clear for who would be the voice and the coach behind the bench. As expected in DeBoer’s first season with the Sharks, Pavelski rightfully earned the captaincy.

Not only does Pavelski represent the Sharks but also Team USA in the Olympics, earning a silver medal in the 2010 games in Vancouver. He also served as the captain for Team USA in the World Cup of Hockey.

The Stanley Cup still eludes Pavelski and the Sharks, but this season could finally see the dream become a reality. San Jose made their first Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2016 but fell in six games.

Decisions are coming after the season concludes. Pavelski’s contract expires at the end of this season, and the two sides have yet to begin negotiations. Given his stats, he is due for one more significant deal before hanging up the skates.

To see Pavelski leave San Jose to wear a different sweater would be a tough pill to swallow. Patrick Marleau departed for Toronto as management made no intention to bring back the longest-tenured Shark.

With Erik Karlsson likely going to sign an eight-year extension shortly, money will be tight to match the value Pavelski will seek for his next contract. Pavelski is making his case right now to warrant a sizable deal as Sharks’ management will have to make tough calls during the offseason.

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Expect Pavelski to lead the charge in the remaining games and into the playoffs. No matter what the future holds for the captain, the goal of winning a Stanley Cup for San Jose is the expectation for himself and his teammates.