|The Shark's Jeremy Roenick leads the League in game-deciding goals.
Jeremy Roenick highlights
"(San Jose) is all-around better," Roenick said Monday when asked to compare the teams. "This team is more adept at scoring goals than we were back then. We had good role players back in Chicago. That's what is yet to be seen here in San Jose. Can the role players can pull their weight hard enough to win the Cup?"
Ironically, 16 springs after his only appearance in the Stanley Cup Final resulted in a 4-0 sweep by the Pittsburgh Penguins, Roenick is now one of those role players on the team he firmly believes gives him his best shot, and possibly his last, at winning that elusive championship ring.
Nearly every spring, there seems to be that one savvy veteran at the end of his rope that finally wins the Stanley Cup. All signs point to Roenick being that guy this season the way Ray Bourque, Dave Andreychuk, Glen Wesley and Teemu Selanne were before him.
To match his aging predecessors, all Roenick has to do is keep playing the same effective, gritty, medium role he played for San Jose throughout the regular season.
It starts Wednesday when the Sharks open at home against the Calgary Flames, who just happen to be coached by Mike Keenan, the same guy who led Roenick and the Blackhawks to the 1992 Final.
"I'm here as a role player and I think my job is to be as that in the playoffs," Roenick proudly said. "I'm a guy that will play on the fourth line, the second line, sometimes the first line and the power play. I'm a guy that has to grind it out and make it tough for (Jarome) Iginla and (Kristian) Huselius and (Alex) Tanguay. That's going to be my job. I look forward to that opportunity. I'm excited. No personal goals. Just try to win."
This is the new J.R. talking, the one who has all of a sudden found fresh legs at the end of his Hall of Fame career by taking on a lesser role. He's so happy now that you could picture the ear-to-ear grin he had to be sporting as he spoke with reporters on a conference call Monday.
"It's a lot easier when you're winning and you're not the spotlight of a hockey club," the normally outspoken Roenick said. "I have really enjoyed that feeling and that position I have this year."
If anything, his new philosophy has been the reason for his success. It's definitely one of many reasons the Sharks are the emerging hot pick to represent the West in the Stanley Cup Final.
Roenick said he recognized right away that he was coming to Joe Thornton's team, to Patrick Marleau's team, to Evgeni Nabokov's team. He knew that if the Sharks ever became Jeremy Roenick's team, chances are they wouldn't be the second seed in the West with a remarkable 18-2-2 record since the trade deadline.
He's just not that kind of follow-me-to-victory superstar anymore, but it's not a stretch to say that for the Sharks to win this postseason Roenick has to be at his very best.
But we're talking his best circa 2008, not 1992. That means giving 14 or 15 hard minutes a night, the way he did in the regular season. It means playing key power-play minutes, the way he did in the regular season. It means being a threat when the game is tight in the third period or entering overtime, the way he was in the regular season.
Basically, it means answering his own question by being a role player that indeed pulls his own weight.
Roenick, however, isn't quite ready to believe that this is his last shot at a winner, which is somewhat surprising considering this past summer he was all set to live with the notion that his best and only shot was 1992.
When San Jose GM Doug Wilson called, the recently retired Roenick decided he would sign "with the expectation of playing one more year and giving it one more shot."
Unless the Cup comes to the Silicon Valley this season, Roenick may have another year in him. Even if it does, don't be surprised to see J.R. pulling his own weight in San Jose next year, too.
"This has been such a great year for me and I think I have found a new way of approaching the season physically and mentally," Roenick said. "I feel great. Physically, I feel I can skate all day long and my speed has been one of my assets. I think I can go another year. If we win a Cup I might have to rethink that, but Doug Wilson thinks I can go another year."
After this season, who could argue?
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com.