SAN JOSE --
At age 34, there's little Dan Boyle
has yet to accomplish.
The Sharks' top defenseman, Boyle won a Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004, captured Olympic gold earlier this year with Team Canada and helped the Sharks advance to the Western Conference Finals last season for only the second time in the history of the franchise.
But there's one thing Boyle has yet to enjoy in the NHL -- recognition as a team captain.
That may change in the coming weeks, and Boyle readily acknowledges it would mean a great deal to him.
"It would be pretty special," said Boyle, who is beginning his third season in Northern California. "I fought long and hard to get to this point. It would certainly be an honor."
Boyle says he would take his cue from others who have captained teams he has played for such as Dave Andreychuk
, Scott Mellanby
and Rob Blake
, whose retirement after last season created the Sharks' vacant "C."
"I'm not a rah-rah guy," Boyle said.
His attitude toward the sport is what qualifies him for strong consideration.
"He's a junkyard dog," San Jose General Manager Doug Wilson said. "He's a hockey rat. He plays so hard, he competes and he loves to compete. It's leadership by example."
If Boyle wasn't a junkyard dog and hockey rat, he might never have made it to the glaring lights of NHL and Olympic arenas.
The Ottawa native went undrafted when he was 18, good news for his academics if not his hockey career. After a four-year career at Miami (Ohio), Boyle signed with the Florida Panthers
, but in his first two years as a professional he appeared in only 35 games, spending most of those seasons in the minors.
The breakthrough came in 2000-01 when Boyle appeared in 69 games for Florida, scoring four goals and recording 22 points. Three years later, having been traded to the Lightning, Boyle was drinking from the Stanley Cup.
But Boyle wants more. He wants another Cup, this one for the Sharks' fans and organization. The only way that will happen, though, is for he and his teammates to improve their games and to learn from past experiences.
Boyle's biggest learning experience of last season came in the opening round of the playoffs when the heavily-favored Sharks lost Game 3 at Colorado despite outshooting the youthful Avalanche, 51-17. The winning goal came when Boyle accidentally put the puck in his own goal and the manner in which Boyle handled the situation spoke loudly of his approach to the game.
He couldn't wait to get back on the ice.
"The last thing I wanted to do was crawl under a rock," he said. "I wanted to go back out there. I learned to face the music, I guess."
Two nights later, Boyle scored 72 seconds into Game 4 and the Sharks escaped Colorado with a victory that catapulted them to a six-game series win.
The Sharks' dressing room is laden with veterans, young and old, who are leaders and worthy captains. If Boyle is chosen, it will be because he has remained relentless throughout his career in his efforts to always find another level.
"We think everybody has more to their game," Wilson said. "Sometimes, it's how you handle situations. You learn every day. You're always learning. When you stop learning and asking questions, you stop growing."