The Sharks departed for Nashville on Tuesday, looking for the first of 16 wins that would bring the franchise its first Stanley Cup.
Back on February 28, Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson, acquired Bill Guerin, the only Sharks player who has won all 16 postseason games and hoisted hockey’s Holy Grail.
Now Guerin is looking to show he is the missing piece to the Sharks playoff puzzle. While Guerin’s talents are obvious, it is his leadership and experience that may prove to be the ultimate acquisition.
Winger Milan Michalek was around when the Sharks went to the Western Conference Finals and played through the second round in 2006 as a rookie, but he knows there is another level.
“He knows what it takes to win the Cup,” said Michalek. “He’s been through it.”
Guerin knows that the Sharks are knocking on the doorstep as his Devils did before taking it all in 1995.
“In (New Jersey), we lost in the Conference Finals before the year before we won,” said Guerin.
And the experience of having “been through it” is extremely valuable. It is the younger players who start out with strong clubs that feel that they could win multiple times throughout their career and they need to know that it might be now or never.
“I don’t know if I could grow a beard the last time I was in the playoffs,” said Bell of his first year in Chicago. “His (Geurin) experience is invaluable. He is great in the room and he scores big goals.”
Bell makes up a third a line that features Captain Patrick Marleau
“Billy compliments Patty, but he can compliment a lot of different players,” said Wilson. “He is a different voice in the room and is great at teaching.”
Guerin wants to be there for his teammates, but he isn’t going to push his experiences on anyone.
“You want to bring the experience, but you don’t want to be preachy about it,” said Guerin. “I have been there, but everybody has to go through it themselves. You can help with certain things.”
Guerin was a young buck when he helped the New Jersey Devils hoist the Stanley Cup and he remembers the veterans that he followed.
“We had Claude Lemieux and Stephane Richer, guys who won in Montreal,” said Guerin. “They did tell some stories, but it was more over beers. Nothing too pronounced.”
Guerin will be taking the same attitude with this young squad where is clearly the eldest statesman at 36-years-old.
“It’s not about the big rah-rah speeches,” said Guerin. “I’ll be there for the guys.”
And Guerin is there for his teammates in multiple ways. Fans love the goal scoring, but in the postseason, the goals won’t come without winning the tough physical battles in the corners. Plus, if the officiating calls for a highly skilled affair, or a bit of mucking it up, Guerin can go either way.
“He’s not just good at scoring,” said Wilson. “He’s good in all areas of the rink, and he’s tough. That is a reason he’s had success in the playoffs.”
The Sharks have had unbelievable success building their club through the draft, so it is a strong statement about Guerin that Wilson surrendered a first-round pick to acquire him.
“His resume includes a Stanley Cup and a World Cup,” said Doug Wilson. “He’s got an infectious personality. He knows when to be serious and that there is a time to lighten up.”
As for the ring he won more than ten years ago?
“I don’t wear it any more,” said Guerin. “I can’t tell you the last time I had it on.”
But he did smile a bit when he followed that up with, “I still pull it out to look at it.”
Hopefully Guerin will have a matching set this June and he likes what he’s seen the past month and a half in San Jose.
“This is one of the best teams I’ve been on,” said Guerin. “We’ve got two top centers and good depth. It’s a really good team.”
And the hockey world is about to find out how good starting on Wednesday.