Home World Former SJ Sharks legend Joe Pavelski left mark in 18 NHL seasons

Former SJ Sharks legend Joe Pavelski left mark in 18 NHL seasons

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SAN JOSE – A furious Joe Pavelski walked into the visitor’s dressing room at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona, nearly a decade ago and told his San Jose Sharks teammates to stop what they were doing.

With the Sharks desperately fighting to make the playoffs and down by two goals to the Arizona Coyotes, Pavelski commanded the room and spoke in no uncertain terms, saying, in part, “It’s going to be (expletive) hard for the other team. Get our (expletive) head on straight, and let’s (expletive) do it right.”

San Jose Sharks' Joe Pavelski (8) fights with Nashville Predators' Ryan Johansen (92) in the third period at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif. on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)
San Jose Sharks’ Joe Pavelski (8) fights with Nashville Predators’ Ryan Johansen (92) in the third period at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif. on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) 

Pavelski scored twice in the next period and added an empty-netter in the third to complete the hat trick as the Sharks came back to win 4-2. The Sharks still missed the playoffs that season, a year in which they went without a captain after Joe Thornton had been stripped of that duty.

But after that night in Arizona, everyone knew the Sharks had their next leader.

“Joe is/was as close to the perfect teammate as you can get,” Sharks captain Logan Couture, Pavelski’s longtime friend and teammate, told Bay Area News Group via text message on Tuesday.  “You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who would say something negative about him.”

San Jose Sharks' Logan Couture (39) and Joe Pavelski (8) celebrate Couture's open net goal against the St. Louis Blues in the third period in Game 1 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Western Conference finals at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., on Saturday, May 11, 2019. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)
San Jose Sharks’ Logan Couture (39) and Joe Pavelski (8) celebrate Couture’s open net goal against the St. Louis Blues in the third period in Game 1 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Western Conference finals at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., on Saturday, May 11, 2019. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group) 

Tuesday, two days after he and the Dallas Stars were eliminated by the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference final, Pavelski said he’s likely played his last NHL game after an 18-year career.

Pavelski, who will turn 40 on July 11, had 67 points in 82 games for the Stars this season but was noticeably less effective in the playoffs, with four points in 19 games.

“This was it for me. It was known for a while, probably,” Pavelski said Tuesday. “The plan is not to play next year. We’re still moving back at some point here, decompressing and figuring all this stuff out and logistics and stuff. I don’t want to say this is official, but the plan is not to be coming back.”

Pavelski can easily be considered the best draft pick in the Sharks’ 30-plus-year history.

San Jose has, of course, taken cornerstones like Patrick Marleau, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Couture, and Tomas Hertl in the draft. But Pavelski was selected in the seventh round, 205th overall, in 2003 and is in the top five in franchise history in almost every meaningful statistical category, including games played (963), goals (355), assists (406), and points (761).

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 16: Joe Pavelski #8 of the San Jose Sharks celebrates with teammates on the bench after scoring a shootout goal against the Arizona Coyotes in the NHL game at Gila River Arena on January 16, 2018 in Glendale, Arizona. The Sharks defeated the Coyotes 3-2 in an overtime shootout. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ – JANUARY 16: Joe Pavelski #8 of the San Jose Sharks celebrates with teammates on the bench after scoring a shootout goal against the Arizona Coyotes in the NHL game at Gila River Arena on January 16, 2018 in Glendale, Arizona. The Sharks defeated the Coyotes 3-2 in an overtime shootout. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) 

After winning an NCAA Division I championship with Wisconsin in 2006, Pavelski, listed at 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds, spent the first six weeks of the 2006-07 season with Worcester Sharks before making his NHL debut on November 22, 2006.

Pavelski, never the fastest skater, scored goals in four of his first five games and never spent another day in the minors.

“Never had anything handed to him. He worked for every single thing he got,” Couture wrote of Pavelski. “Undersized, late round pick, slower skater. He just outworked and outsmarted everyone. Elite-level hockey IQ. Crafty, always in the right spots. An obvious (Hall of Famer), in my opinion.”

Pavelski’s gaudy statistics only told part of his value to the Sharks.

The 2014-15 season was one of upheaval for the Sharks franchise. After a 40-33-9 season in which they missed the playoffs for the first time in 12 years, the Sharks and then-coach Todd McLellan mutually agreed to part ways. The new coach, Pete DeBoer, then made Pavelski the captain before the start of the 2015-16 season, and a new era was born.

With Pavelski wearing the ‘C,’ some key free-agent additions, and a clean slate for all involved, the Sharks would reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 2016. Over a four-year span, the Sharks had the third-best record in the Western Conference (183-113-32) and would compete in 60 playoff games, second-most in the NHL in that time.

San Jose Sharks' Joe Thornton (19), San Jose Sharks' Joe Pavelski (8), and San Jose Sharks' Brent Burns (88) celebrate with San Jose Sharks' Patrick Marleau (12), center, 499 goal against the Chicago Blackhawks in the second period of their NHL game at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., on Tuesday, January 31, 2017. (Josie Lepe/Bay Area News Group)
San Jose Sharks’ Joe Thornton (19), San Jose Sharks’ Joe Pavelski (8), and San Jose Sharks’ Brent Burns (88) celebrate with San Jose Sharks’ Patrick Marleau (12), center, 499 goal against the Chicago Blackhawks in the second period of their NHL game at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., on Tuesday, January 31, 2017. (Josie Lepe/Bay Area News Group) 

“He made everyone feel a part of the team,” Couture wrote. “Tremendous leader. Lead by example and had the trust and respect of every single person in the dressing room. Guys would do anything to follow him. He pulled everyone into the battle.”

Including the fans.

In 2019, less than two weeks after he suffered a gruesome head injury in Game 7 of the Sharks’ first-round playoff series against the Vegas Golden Knights, Pavelski, still unavailable to play, appeared during a stoppage in play in Game 5 of the team’s second-round series against the Colorado Avalanche. His appearance sent the sold-out Shark Tank into a frenzy.

Pavelski played in Game 7. Less than six minutes into the game, Pavelski scored, and the Tank exploded in applause. Pavelski then assisted on a Hertl goal for a two-goal lead. San Jose would win 3-2 to earn a spot in the Western Conference finals against the St. Louis Blues.

“It was nice, I’m not going to lie,” Pavelski said after the game. “I had a shot of adrenaline going since the drive into the arena.”

Pavelski was set to become a free agent in 2019 and was asking for a three-year deal from the Sharks, but it never came.

The Sharks didn’t have enough room under the salary cap to pay Pavelski fair market value after Couture, Evander Kane, Erik Karlsson, Vlasic, and Martin Jones signed lengthy contract extensions in the previous two years.



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