Editor's note: The above video is from Doug Wilson & Todd McLellan's "State of the Sharks" sitdown with Jim Kozimor & Kevin Kurz on the May 22 edition of Yahoo SportsTalk Live.
SAN JOSE – After four seasons, Joe Thornton is no longer the captain of the San Jose Sharks.
On Wednesday, general manager Doug Wilson and head coach Todd McLellan confirmed that the team will enter training camp in mid-September with no captain and no alternates, meaning former captain and longtime alternate Patrick Marleau will also be losing a letter.
After an uneventful offseason, the decision represents the first significant actionable item in response to the Sharks historically blowing a 3-0 series lead to the Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the 2014 playoffs.
But, the decision is about more than just Thornton and Marleau, according to McLellan.
“The focus shouldn’t just be on the guys that wore the letters,” he said. “There’s 20 other players that played here last year that should be participating and influencing the environment. They need to step up.”
Wilson said: “It’s a clean slate. There are no captains. There are no letters.”
And if someone were to say that Thornton, like Marleau in 2009, was stripped of the captaincy?
“You’d be wrong, because we’re just cleaning the slate,” McLellan said.
A new captain and leadership group will be determined at some point, but not necessarily before the start of the season. McLellan did not rule out Thornton becoming the captain again, although that would seem highly unlikely, as the Sharks plan to give their younger players a bigger stake in the club.
“We’re going to reestablish the hierarchy and the culture in the organization,” McLellan said. "If it’s real evident that [Thornton] is the guy, he’ll be the captain. If there’s somebody else that assumes that role and is prepared to take it on and is doing a very good job, then they will be. To say we stripped him, no. We’ve cleaned the slate, and we’re going to go forward.”
The likeliest candidates to become the next captain are probably Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture or Marc-Edouard Vlasic, as each of those players is in their prime and under contract for the next several seasons. McLellan didn’t name any names, though.
“They’ll sort it out. They’ll show us. They’ll tell us. Their actions will speak volumes,” McLellan said of the team.
The head coach has already spoken with Thornton and Marleau, who each begin three-year contract extensions with full no-movement clauses in 2014-15.
“I’ve sat with them. They understand what we’re doing, and they’re ready to continue their leadership role, and they’ll be the best leaders they possibly can.”
The announcement was not overly shocking in that McLellan suggested this could happen at the draft in Philadelphia in June, while Wilson said shortly after the season ended that the Sharks would have “new players in core leadership roles.”
Wilson also said that several players came to him after the season and said they felt like "co-workers rather than teammates." It was one of many suggestions the general manager made that there was a substantial rift in the Sharks’ dressing room that had to be addressed.
Consider this step one.