Forward Joe Thornton has been captain since prior to the start of the 2010-11 season. Forward Patrick Marleau, who was captain from midway through the 2003-04 season until 2009, was an alternate captain last season. Defenseman Dan Boyle, who signed with the New York Rangers as a free agent, was the other alternate.
"It's a big honor and it's a big responsibility so it's a little strange when they take it away from you," Thornton told David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News.
McLellan said it would be an open competition to determine the next captain.
"We're going to re-establish the hierarchy and the culture in the organization," McLellan said, according to CSN Bay Area. "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."
Marleau told the Mercury News he expects to regain his status.
"I will do what I have always done," he said via text message. "Play hard, be professional on and off the ice, lead by example. That is why I will be wearing a letter after training camp."
The Sharks were one of the best teams in the NHL in 2013-14 but lost to the Los Angeles Kings in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs after taking a 3-0 series lead, becoming the fourth team in League history to squander that lead in a best-of-7. After years of regular-season success followed by postseason disappointment, general manager Doug Wilson and McLellan spoke of changes this offseason.
"Rebuild" and "a tomorrow team" were used early in the offseason, but Wilson and McLellan have offered clarifications after the only personnel changes were the departures of Boyle, defenseman Brad Stuart and forward Marty Havlat, Brent Burns moving from forward to defense, and the addition of forward John Scott.
McLellan addressed the Sharks' leadership group with NHL.com Senior Writer Dan Rosen earlier this month.
"Those will be some decisions that we'll make as training camp approaches, as players get back into San Jose and settle in," McLellan said. "We'll sit with them and talk about that situation. I think we talked about this at the draft, if there was a new rule that came into the League and there weren't any C's and A's, would there be a leadership group that took care of the team and would the followers step in and contribute when they needed to contribute? I believe so. So, with that in mind, we'll see what we do as move forward."