What if the Sharks weren’t the Sharks?
Last week, San Jose Hockey Now caught up with former San Jose Sharks vice president of marketing & broadcasting Matt Levine, who shared his thoughts about Seattle choosing to be the Kraken. Levine is now involved with 3BALLUSA, a fledgling 3-on-3 pro basketball league that will send players to the 2020 Olympics.
But 30 years ago, he had a hand in the naming of George Gund III’s expansion Bay Area NHL franchise, holding a widely-publicized name-the-team contest that generated over 2,300 suggestions.
According to Levine, these were the top five choices for team nicknames besides the Sharks, some internal, some from the name-the-team contest:
San Jose TigerSharks
The TigerShark Tank, anybody?
“It was a fantasy shark with stripes. We had some great graphics,” Levine said. “Because of what we liked about the graphics, the fact it could be exciting, the TigerSharks were there.”
San Jose IceHawks
Despite the presence of Bill Wirtz’s Chicago Blackhawks, Gund was a fan of the IceHawks.
“When we had it as a finalist, we went to the Wirtz family, out of courtesy,” Levine said. “They said please don’t use it.”
San Jose Seawolves
“We narrowed down the choices to three: Sharks, Stingrays, and Seawolves,” Levine said in 1992. (Salley-Schoen, Gwen. “When the shark bites.” The Sacramento Bee, March 11, 1992.)
However, of that trio, the Seawolves ran a distant third.
“We did not assign anybody to render Seawolves,” Levine recalled. “It was something like Kraken but with no history, thus requiring us to create a story around it to feed imaginations.”
San Jose Stingrays
How close were you to wearing a Stingrays jersey? Probably closer than you realize.
“We looked at Stingrays very seriously. They were scary, they were aggressive. And this was before the Tampa Bay Rays, so nobody was using it.
“We had three artists research and depict the Stingrays. But it looked like nothing but a pancake. And it was two syllables.
“When three talented artists couldn’t come up with a way to demonstrate a threatening Stingray, we abandoned it.”
San Jose Blades
The Blades actually beat out the runner-up Sharks in the name-the-team contest. But Gund pulled rank, and the rest is history.
“Blades were single syllable. We had some ice skate images that could’ve delivered Blades,” Levine noted. “But the feedback was it was more related to gangs. Also, it’s pretty boring.”
San Jose Sharks
Levine said there were seven criteria when it came to naming the expansion Bay Area NHL franchise:
• Had to have a regional connection
• Had to be a unique name in all of sports
• Had to be emotionally charged and exciting
• Had to lend itself to “imaginative graphic interpretation”
• Had to suggest qualities you’d want in a hockey player and team
• Could not be shortened in a headline
• Couldn’t be a concept name
IceHawks and Seawolves were concept names. TigerSharks and Stingrays were too easily shortened. Blades wasn’t exciting.
“Nothing met all of our criteria,” Levine said.
Except for one name.
“There was a certain perfection about Sharks.”
Before the Sharks
There were over 2,300 nicknames considered for the expansion franchise.
Levine added: “I didn’t want anything reminiscent of the previous NHL team.” So any Seals or Seals-like suggestions were immediately tossed.
Here’s a partial, alphabetized list, per Levine and a variety of sources — do you have any more to add?
IceSharks (Levine: “It was a shark with snow flecks all over the body. Another fantasy shark.”)
Rhinos (Levine: “We ended up giving it to our roller hockey team. We had some great graphics for it.”)
Joe Thornton as a Shark: A Hockey Card History
There’s been top-10 lists. Top-five lists. Video highlights.
But here’s a way to remember Joe Thornton’s time with the San Jose Sharks that you can hold with your hand: This is Jumbo’s definitive hockey card history in teal.
Card shown: 1996-97 Upper Deck Black Diamond #160
Purchase price: About $200
The San Jose Sharks didn’t draft Thornton, but a rookie card is the centerpiece of any player’s hockey card history.
Thornton has just three official rookie cards (1996-97 Upper Deck and 1996-97 Upper Deck Ice), but this is the definitive RC because of its scarcity.
Card shown: 2005-06 Parkhurst Season Highlights Facsimile Auto Parallel #591 Joe Thornton (print run: 100)
Purchase price: About $10
On November 30, 2005, San Jose Sharks history changed when they acquired Thornton from Boston for, according to the back of this card, “three players.”
And no disrespect to Marco Sturm, Brad Stuart, and Wayne Primeau — and their distinguished careers — but they were just guys compared to San Jose’s first true superstar.
To underscore Thornton’s offensive impact — and points aren’t everything — but Sturm, Stuart, and Primeau combined to score 454 points in their remaining 23 NHL seasons after the trade. Thornton eclipsed that figure by himself within five seasons in San Jose.
There’s a base version of the card shown without the Facsimile Auto that goes for about $1.
Card shown: 2019-20 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection Ultimate Icons Autograph Jersey #UIA-JT (print run: 65)
Purchase price: About $25
Thornton went on a tear after the trade, putting up 72 assists in 58 games, good for a total of 96 assists.
Per Hockey Reference’s adjusted-by-era stats — those 92 adjusted assists put Thornton in rarified company.
Just five players have registered 90-plus adjusted assists in a season. Three of them are named Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and Bobby Orr. Jaromir Jagr also achieved this feat with 94 adjusted assists in 1998-99. Along with Gretzky and Orr, Thornton is the only player to surpass this lofty figure twice (92 again in 2006-07).
Per adjusted (and unadjusted) assists, Thornton’s 2005-06 still stands as the more prolific playmaking season of this millennium.
For his efforts, Thornton became the first San Jose Sharks player to win the Hart Trophy.
The card shown depicts Jumbo with both the Hart and Art Ross trophies. There are numerous versions of this card, some unautographed, some autographed with a patch jersey swatch.
Card shown: 2010-11 Panini Dominion All Decade Autograph Jersey #JT (print run: 50)
Purchase price: About $20
Thornton has a good argument for the best center of the 2000’s.
His 823 points and 580 assists topped the entire league during the decade. His 580 helpers were 133 more than runner-ups Daniel Alfredsson and Brad Richards.
The card shown also has different versions, some with just a jersey swatch and some with just an autograph.
Card shown: 2011-12 Panini Pinnacle #119
Purchase price: About $1
For all his regular season exploits, however, the early part of Thornton’s career in San Jose was marred by playoff disappointment after playoff disappointment.
This began to change in 2010, when Thornton and Patrick Marleau finished off back-to-back Western Conference champs Detroit Red Wings in the second round, propelling the San Jose Sharks to their first Conference Finals appearance since 2004.
The next year, Thornton scored the only playoff overtime goal of his career (so far). This Game Six strike carried the Sharks past the Los Angeles Kings in the first round and prompted the iconic celebration depicted on this card. San Jose would advance to the Western Conference Finals once again.
Jumbo & Patty
Card shown: 2010-11 Playoff Contenders Draft Tandems Autograph #12 Patrick Marleau/Joe Thornton (print run: 25)
Purchase price: About $50
Speaking of Marleau, he and Thornton were intertwined in so many ways: Back-to-back opening selections of the 1997 NHL Draft, San Jose Sharks teammates for 13 seasons and 1,111 regular season and playoff games….
In perhaps fitting bookends, Marleau played 58 games with Thornton in 2005-06 after the trade…then Thornton played 58 games with Marleau in 2019-20 before Patty was dealt at the Trade Deadline.
There’s a base unautographed version of the card shown that can be had for about $1.
Card shown: 2013-14 Panini National Treasures Knights in the City Materials Prime #KN-TH Joe Thornton/Tomas Hertl (print run: 25)
Purchase price: About $20
“I’d have my cock out if I scored four goals. I’d have my cock out, stroking it.”
That’s what Thornton interjected in the locker room after he heard the media questioning whether or not 18-year-old Tomas Hertl’s fourth goal on October 8, 2013 — a between-the-legs spectacular — should be considered showboating.
Since there isn’t a trio card depicting Jumbo, Tommy, and a chicken, this card — from Hertl’s rookie year — will do. There’s also a more inexpensive version of the card shown, serial numbered to 99.
Card shown: 2016-17 SP Authentic Authentic Moments Spectrum Autograph #104
Purchase price: About $60
After the 2014-15 San Jose Sharks missed the playoffs, most observers figured their window for contention had closed — and without a Finals appearance for Thornton and Marleau.
And while the Sharks weren’t able to hoist the Cup, reaching the 2016 Stanley Cup Final is still the crowning achievement of the franchise’s history.
There’s also an unautographed version of this card that goes for about $2.
Card shown: 2019-20 SP Authentic Sign of the Times 2 Autograph ST2-BT Brent Burns/Joe Thornton (print run: 25)
Purchase price: About $75
Thornton built so many lasting relationships on the San Jose Sharks, it’s hard to pick out just a few. Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Dan Boyle, Evgeni Nabokov, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Jonathan Cheechoo are among the luminaries that will only get a mention here.
But from walking shirtless in Pittsburgh, barber shop commercials, and posing naked together in ESPN’s The Body Issue, Thornton and his beard buddy Brent Burns became inseparable in the public consciousness.
The last few seasons of Thornton’s tenure in San Jose was the march of passing one milestone after another. Here’s a cardboard celebration of a few of these moments.
On March 6, 2017, Thornton became the 13th player in league history to reach 1,000 assists.
Card shown: 2017-18 O-Pee-Chee #556
Purchase price: About $1
On April 4, 2019, Thornton collected his 1,064th career assist, passing Steve Yzerman. Thornton wore No. 19 as a tribute to his childhood idol.
Card shown: 2018-19 Upper Deck Game Dated Moments #82
Purchase price: About $5
Thornton clocked 1,600 games played on December 12, 2019. In the process, he and Marleau became the first teammates, each with 1,600 games played, to suit up together in a game.
Card shown: 2019-20 Topps Now NHL Stickers #94 Joe Thornton/Patrick Marleau
Purchase price: About $3
On February 4, 2020, Thornton became the 14th player in NHL history to record 1,500 points.
Card shown: 2019-20 Upper Deck Game Dated Moments #49
Purchase price: About $5
Thornton leaves San Jose with a career 1,636 games, 420 goals, 1,089 assists, and 1,509 points.
Next up for the future Hall of Famer? Dave Andreychuk’s 1,639 games for eighth place in all-time games, Paul Coffey’s 1,135 assists for sixth place in all-time assists, and Coffey’s 1,531 points for 13th in all-time points. And hopefully, a Stanley Cup.
Here’s to more Jumbo-sized historic achievements in Toronto!
Mark Letestu & Mark Morris on John Madden the Coach
Everybody knows about John Madden the player.
And why shouldn’t they?
Three-time Stanley Cup champion. 2001 Selke Trophy winner. Three-time Selke runner-up.
But not everybody knows about Madden the coach. Madden was an assistant coach on Kevin Dineen and Gerard Gallant’s staffs with the Florida Panthers from 2013-16. Madden took over as a head coach for the Cleveland Monsters from 2016-19.
Last week, Madden was announced as an assistant coach for the San Jose Sharks. As he did in Florida, he’ll be running the forwards and the penalty kill.
San Jose Hockey Now got some perspective about Madden’s time in Florida and Cleveland from fellow assistant coach Mark Morris and player Mark Letestu.
In 2014-15, Mark Morris worked with Madden in Florida. The Panthers weren’t remarkable on the PK during Madden’s tenure — they finished 30th, 24th, and 24th from 2013-16 — but perhaps Florida’s roster was made up of perhaps too many offensive-leaning players, a mix of too young and too old.
“You do the best with the people you have on the roster. It’s hard to say if there were any stalwart defensively-minded players,” Morris recalled. “Even if they’re veteran players, there’s no guarantee their forte is the defensive side of the puck.”
Morris, a preps/NCAA/AHL/NHL coaching veteran of 27 years by the time he settled in Florida, was impressed by Madden’s PK coaching acumen:
“In the college game, most of the penalty killing is in straight lines. In the pro game, they do what they call a trap-down. That’s where once you get the puck moving in a specific direction, if you’re the forward that’s forcing the play up top, you continue on down and press down on the guy on the half-boards.
“I remember one of the things he talked about was when you press down as the strong-side forward on the guy at the half-wall, keep your stick in a neutral position. That way, you’re eating up ice, as opposed to just keeping your stick in the passing lane
“Guys at the NHL are so skilled, it’s nothing to flip it over a stick.
“When you lead with your stick in the middle, it’s almost like you have to thread a needle to get it back up to guy at top.
“If you’re the guy on the half-wall with the puck, you have that stick in front of you, eating that ice up.
“It opened my eyes up to how intricate and detailed things are in his own mind.”
Mark Letestu was 34 when he played for Madden in Cleveland during 2018-19.
The first thing that Letestu noticed about Madden?
“The Stanley Cups. For a while, he was probably the gold standard in the NHL for a defensive, shutdown penalty kill guy,” he said. “It’s instant respect in the room.”
This might matter for a veteran-laden San Jose Sharks group. Something else that might matter to vets like Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture, Evander Kane, Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic is Madden’s ability to connect with them.
“For me, just where I was in my career, he was an easy guy to have a conversation with. Share stories. Faceoff stuff. Penalty killing,” Letestu remembered. “He knew how to handle a veteran presence in the room.”
So what’s in store for the league-leading San Jose Sharks PK?
“I don’t think, when you get a new penalty kill coach, that there will be a ground-breaking system or a new scheme that’s going to change your team significantly,” Letestu pointed out. “But what I found with John, in the penalty-killing meetings we had, it was really clear. There wasn’t a lot of gray area. It took a lot of the guesswork out for players.”
“The hesitation suddenly leaves your game. Your PK and your players are suddenly faster because there’s no gray area,” Letestu observed. “He helped the players get the noise out and just react instead of thinking out there.”
For what it’s worth, Cleveland was 3rd, 26th, and 7th in the AHL in the PK during Madden’s tenure. Letestu gave Madden a lionshare of the credit for the success of the 2018-19 Monsters, who made the playoffs during the last game of the season, then knocked off top-seeded Syracuse Crunch in the first round.
Letestu acknowledged: “He got the most out of our team. We probably overachieved.”
Where Does Joe Pavelski Rank Among Greatest American Skaters?
Every Sunday at Peng to the Point, we talk about the world away from the San Jose Sharks.
It’s impossible to compare eras.
But yesterday, my colleague Jimmy Murphy from Boston Hockey Now threw this out there:
— MurphysLaw74 (@MurphysLaw74) September 27, 2020
My initial reaction was there were at least 10 Americans that I could think of who I’d start a franchise with over prime Joe Pavelski.
However, Pavelski’s case to be a top-15 all-time American player might be stronger than you think.
After some spirited online debate, I identified three standards to compare between eras: Prime, Career, and Playoff.
And with the help of Hockey Reference’s Stathead, I actually had some measures to try to compare eras.
So who are the greatest American skaters? And where does Pavelski stack up?
But before we get going: To Brett or not to Brett?
Every significant American goal-scoring record is owned by Canadian-born Brett Hull, who represented the United States in international competition. You name it — Hull has the most single-season, career, and playoff goals of any American.
It’s because of Hull that every American NHL record has to be categorized as American-born, to simply give everybody else a chance.
Case in point:
The Big Pavelski pic.twitter.com/SV9nH8BSVz
— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) September 27, 2020
Pretty good, right? Well, Pavelski is still 42 playoff goals away from catching Hull.
For the purpose of this debate and to include the best of the best, I’m making the executive decision to include Hull.
Including Hull, there have been 20 American 50-goal seasons:
Hull owns five of the top-seven spots. For what it’s worth, every one of these 20 campaigns occurred from 1984-1997, a mostly high-scoring period of time in the league. Pavelski’s career-high 41-goal 2013-14 campaign is tied for just 41st among top American goal-scoring campaigns.
That 41st, however, becomes far more impressive when we use Hockey Reference’s Adjusted Goals metric:
Pavelski’s 2013-14 rises to tied for 21st on the list.
These adjustments for era matter.
Patrick Kane, for example, shows up just twice in the top-10 list for single-season assists by an American forward. His career-high 66 assists in 2018-19 is fourth all-time.
But using adjusted assists, Kane suddenly dominates, taking five of the top-10 spots. His 2018-19 also shoots up to second behind Pat Lafontaine.
Here’s a comparison, by the way, of top-10 points by an American skater, raw and adjusted:
|1||Pat LaFontaine||1992-93||BUF||148||Pat LaFontaine||1992-93||BUF||119|
|2||Kevin Stevens||1991-92||PIT||123||Patrick Kane||2015-16||CHI||119|
|3||Kevin Stevens||1992-93||PIT||111||Patrick Kane||2018-19||CHI||111|
|4||Patrick Kane||2018-19||CHI||110||Kevin Stevens||1991-92||PIT||109|
|5||Joe Mullen||1988-89||CGY||110||John LeClair||1998-99||PHI||102|
|6||Jeremy Roenick||1993-94||CHI||107||John LeClair||1996-97||PHI||101|
|7||Jeremy Roenick||1992-93||CHI||107||John LeClair||1997-98||PHI||100|
|8||Jimmy Carson||1987-88||LAK||107||Doug Weight||1995-96||EDM||100|
|9||Patrick Kane||2015-16||CHI||106||Johnny Gaudreau||2018-19||CGY||99|
|10||Craig Janney||1992-93||STL||106||Patrick Kane||2019-20||CHI||99|
All these adjusted stats suggest that Hull is the dominant American scorer, Pat Lafontaine and Kane are the dominant playmakers up front. We also get a good sense of how unstoppable John LeClair was in the “dead puck” era.
So that was the statistical portion of the argument. Subjectively, which American skaters, in their primes, are clearly ahead of Pavelski?
From these lists, Hull, Lafontaine, Kane, and LeClair jump out. For his strong two-way play and leadership, both Pavelski strong suits, coupled with otherworldly skills, Mike Modano can’t be denied. Among defensemen, it’s hard to dispute American Norris Trophy winners Chris Chelios, Brian Leetch, and Rod Langway. Three-time Norris Trophy runner-up Mark Howe deserves mention. Auston Matthews is simply too special a player right now, even at just 23 years old.
After this elite top-10 though, perhaps we can start to debate Pavelski. But it would be a fierce debate: Up front, prime Keith Tkachuk, Tony Amonte, Bill Guerin, Kevin Stevens, Joe Mullen, Bill Guerin, Phil Kessel, Zach Parise, Neal Broten, Jack Eichel, Phil Kessel, and Doug Weight are very much in this tier of the conversation. In the back-end, Phil Housley, Ryan Suter, Dustin Byfuglien, and John Carlson, among others, are in the discussion too.
We’ll focus on regular season careers here.
The 36-year-old Pavelski actually shows well here.
Pavelski’s 792 points is 20th among all Americans. But let’s look at adjusted all-time points:
|Player||Career Points||Player||Career Adjusted Points|
|Brett Hull||1391||Mike Modano||1408|
|Mike Modano||1374||Brett Hull||1390|
|Phil Housley||1232||Jeremy Roenick||1228|
|Jeremy Roenick||1216||Patrick Kane||1154|
|Keith Tkachuk||1065||Keith Tkachuk||1150|
|Joe Mullen||1063||Phil Housley||1148|
|Doug Weight||1033||Doug Weight||1099|
|Brian Leetch||1028||Brian Leetch||1039|
|Patrick Kane||1022||Phil Kessel||968|
|Pat LaFontaine||1013||Tony Amonte||953|
|Chris Chelios||948||Bill Guerin||921|
|Neal Broten||923||Joe Mullen||918|
|Tony Amonte||900||Chris Chelios||908|
|Phil Kessel||861||Pat LaFontaine||902|
|Bill Guerin||856||John LeClair||893|
|Gary Suter||844||Joe Pavelski||882|
|John LeClair||819||Zach Parise||881|
|Ed Olczyk||794||Blake Wheeler||857|
|Zach Parise||792||Brian Rolston||828|
|Joe Pavelski||792||Scott Gomez||820|
Pavelski finds himself just outside the top-15 now and a lot closer to Hall of Famers Lafontaine and Mullen. Tkachuk, Weight, Amonte, Guerin, and Kessel’s careers suddenly start to look more impressive.
Meanwhile, Pavelski’s 369 goals is 13th among all American skaters. Once again, however, his adjusted figures are more impressive:
|Player||Career Goals||Player||Career Adjusted Goals|
|1||Brett Hull||741||Brett Hull||738|
|2||Mike Modano||561||Keith Tkachuk||584|
|3||Keith Tkachuk||538||Mike Modano||578|
|4||Jeremy Roenick||513||Jeremy Roenick||514|
|5||Joe Mullen||502||Bill Guerin||467|
|6||Pat LaFontaine||468||Patrick Kane||449|
|7||Bill Guerin||429||John LeClair||447|
|8||Tony Amonte||416||Tony Amonte||443|
|9||John LeClair||406||Zach Parise||435|
|10||Patrick Kane||389||Joe Mullen||432|
|11||Zach Parise||386||Phil Kessel||422|
|12||Phil Kessel||371||Joe Pavelski||418|
|13||Joe Pavelski||369||Pat LaFontaine||414|
Pavelski has suddenly joined the 400-goal club, moving ahead of Lafontaine.
Do we start to have the argument that Pavelski can be a top-15 all-time American skater?
If we don’t yet, this is where Pavelski absolutely shines.
Unfortunately, Hockey Reference doesn’t have adjusted post-season stats. But we can do some quick-and-dirty math to approximate adjusted playoff figures — basically, I extrapolated regular-season adjustments and applied them to playoff goals.
Here’s your new top-six among Americans in post-season goals:
|Adjusted Playoff Goals||Playoff Goals|
Obviously, Pavelski is still sitting pretty.
And here’s something truly striking. Among the top-13 all-time American regular season goal scorers, Pavelski is the only one whose goal-scoring pace increased in the playoffs, albeit marginally:
|Player||Regular Season Goals Per Game||Playoff Goals Per Game||Difference|
Now that’s impressive.
Top-30, Top-20, Top-10?
Prime Pavelski is a clear top-30 American skater. Factoring in his longevity, top-20 seems reasonable. Do his post-season exploits get him into the top-10 debate?
I’m not sure — but if you had to win a Game Seven with all U.S. skaters, Pavelski would be a sure-fire pick. Besides production, you’ll also get inspiring leadership and reliable two-way play.
We’ll see if Pavelski can keep adding to his illustrious playoff legacy tonight.