Is Ryane Clowe the New Leader of the San Jose Sharks?

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Ok Mr. Clowe, the floor is yours.

After an uncharacteristic (but welcomed) rant a couple days ago where a “pissed” Ryane Clowe called out essentially the entire San Jose Sharks roster for not giving their full effort as individuals, he will get the chance to back up his words tonight when the Sharks face the Buffalo Sabres.

Backing up those pointed words he absolutely must, as tonight’s game might prove the most important game of Ryane Clowe’s professional life, and set the tone for not only the rest of his season, the Sharks chances in this year’s playoffs but for the rest of his NHL career.

Tonight might very be the night Ryane Clowe assumes full leadership of the San Jose Sharks.

Clowe has battled mostly anonymously in the trenches since he came on board with the Sharks in 2005.  Starting off with a handful of games with the big club his rookie year, Clowe came on as an everyday player in during the 2006-2007 season, battled through injuries the following year and has been healthy these past two seasons in his role as the Sharks’ gritty, 50ish point forward.

Clowe has played that supporting role dutifully and without complaint.  He will grind for you, he will battle in the messy ice and he’ll fight anybody who wants to go.  That has been his ceiling though, a solid 50-60 point NHL player…but no star, no Team Canada, no Don Cherry coverage.

Now, no one would argue that what Clowe has done to date is not an amazing accomplishment for a 175th overall pick in 2001, but this is also not a career that will have him giving a HOF induction speech in Toronto one day either.  That has the opportunity of all changing tonight, and Clowe can reset his career trajectory this evening into realms reserved only for players who end up with brass plaques and jersey numbers hanging from arenas.

Tonight Clowe has a chance to crash through that grinder career ceiling, just like he crashes through opposing team’s head down pass-watchers every night.

His recent candid criticism towards his teammates fully evidences precisely why this might be his moment, and the night he takes the next step in his career development.  It is said nothing is gained without risk, and Clowe’s comments were indeed risky.  By putting targets on the entire Sharks locker room, he has effectively put the largest one firmly upon himself.  His accusations are of the entire team, his peers, not selling out to the best of their ability and though many on the Sharks will wholeheartedly agree, some will definitely not.

These will be the men who will be watching Clowe’s work most closely this evening.  He must absolutely rise to the occasion, for in order to lead all men, you much reach all men, and easily bruised egos by some of the more pampered stars on the Sharks or even quiet derision from a player who feels “wronged” by Clowe’s comments will effectively kill this effort, fracture the room and put the Sharks will be back to square one.

Rest assured though that every member, not just those upset by his comments, of the Sharks will be watching to see how much Ryane Clowe sells out himself tonight.  They will be watching for him to lead by example, and I would argue that is precisely what he will do.  The San Jose Sharks have sorely missed Rob Blake’s leadership, but have honestly lacked a strong Captain presence since Owen Nolan was in town.  Joe Thornton is one of the most talented players on the face of the Earth, but grit and attitude have to be painfully coaxed out of him at times.

Hell, Sharks Nation went ballistic when Jumbo went after Steve Ott that one time or dropped them versus Ryan Getzlaf in the playoffs.  I don’t even need to give you exact dates and times for those events because any Sharks fan knows precisely the moments I’m referencing…and that’s the problem.  There have been too few and far between moments such as this where Thornton has applied a more edgy and “pissed” demeanor.  That edge is sorely lacking in the Sharks game, but it isn’t Joe Thornton’s fault that it’s absent.  Joe might be large and freakishly strong, but he is just not wired that way, nor is Patrick Marleau or Vinny Damphouse for that matter for those of you who remember the rotating Captain carousel of shame during 2003-2004.

Ryane Clowe on the other hand, has the requisite chip on his shoulder in addition to the physical skills required to lead.  In fact, Clowe might just be the type of Captain, in the mold of the venerated Nolan, that ends up leading the San Jose Sharks for years to come.

His moment is tonight, the entire Tank and a very interested audience of 21 guys on skates will be watching him closely, and tonight might be the night that Ryane Clowe makes his first move into the upper echelon of the NHL.

Ryane Clowe has drafted himself to lead the San Jose Sharks, and I would not bet against him.

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