When Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson inked Craig Rivet to a four-year extension last summer, it did not garner the attention that Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton did with their re-signings. But his signing may play just as an important of a role in the Sharks 2007-08 success.
Rivet has traditionally been a rock-solid stay at home defenseman for most of his NHL career, but in his last few years, he has shown the ability to ratchet up his offensive game.
He scored a career high 34 points with Montreal in the 2005-06 season via seven goals and a career-best 27 helpers. In no other campaign had Rivet posted more than 25 points. Then last season, he registered 22 points with Montreal and San Jose.
What stands out this season is Rivet’s point-per-game output with Team Teal. While it is only six games into the current campaign, Rivet has five assists. Now, it is too early to predict a point production in excess of 60 for the current season, but Rivet’s regular season numbers in Silicon Valley have been outstanding.
In 17 regular season contests to close out last year, Rivet registered eight points. That is 13 points in 22 games which would prorate out to 48 points. A season at that clip would outdistance his previous best by 14 points.
Part of the explanation is Rivet has been given more power play time in San Jose than he was afforded in Montreal.
“Opportunity is the number one reason,” said Rivet. “In Montreal I was behind Sheldon Souray who had the best slap shot in the league and Andrei Markov who is considered an elite guy in the league.”
In San Jose, the door was open for a right handed shot on a defensive corp loaded with lefties.
“Obviously this organization didn’t have many rights, but it gives a different look,” said Rivet. “Shooting right or left, the D is just trying to get the shot through to the net.”
“He’s an experienced player,” said Head Coach Ron Wilson. “He’s a right shot and that has worked to his advantage. It was a little by default, but he took advantage of it. He hasn’t let us down, so we’ll keep giving it to him.”
Rivet does not pretend he is reinventing the wheel when it comes to running the power play.
“We have big forwards and I want to get the puck to them,” said Rivet. “Not for a second do I think I’m Niklas Lidstrom. I’m giving the puck to talented forwards to let them do the work. Simplifying things can make things more productive.”
Playing more offensively has been a bit of an adjustment for the Ontario native.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been in that role,” said Rivet. “I like what I’m playing now. Sometimes you have to take out the cobwebs when you get the opportunity to get better.”
Although he is currently flourishing on offense, Rivet has not abandoned the hard-nosed style that made him attractive to the Sharks at last year’s trade deadline.
“He’ll fight and step up for his teammates,” said Wilson. “He’s helped stabilize our D.”
“That’s always first and foremost, playing good defense,” said Rivet. “That is what the D-man’s job entails. Our first focus is to play our best, whether it’s against the first or fourth line.”
Wilson feels Rivet will only improve as he gets more games under his belt.
“I think he’ll get better,” said Wilson. “We have an entirely different pace on our game. He’s still tyring to make adjustments to meet them.”
This season Sharks fans are getting their first real look at the man who spent his entire career with the Montreal organization. He missed much of last year dealing with pneumonia and was never really at full strength in the playoffs.
“Maybe about 80 percent,” said Rivet of his condition last year. “I was not as good as I wanted to be. Mentally I was stronger than I was physically. I knew that and it played on my mind. I wanted to be at my best and I wasn’t in a spot to give 100 percent.”
Not being at his best was bothersome to Rivet, but he was good enough that the Sharks awarded him with a four-year extension.
“I had an opportunity to be unrestricted and I stayed here because I felt at home,” said Rivet. “I enjoy San Jose and everything it has to offer. This team now, and in the future, has the opportunity to win the Cup. It’s a great nucleus of younger and semi-older players.”
“I’m still trying to win the respect of my teammates and I want to play hard,” said Rivet. “I want them to know they can count on me. I’m willing to give it all.”
Maybe it is that laid back personality that allows Rivet to fit in California and lets him laugh it off when his short last name is frequently mispronounced. The mispronunciations continues though as Rivet doesn’t go out of his way to correct people. While Rivet is from Ontario, his grandfather was French, thus the correct pronunciation is Ree-Vay.
“I don’t even correct people because I’ve heard it a thousand different ways,” said Rivet rattling off some of the more popular naming efforts.
As long as their calling him in California, Rivet seems to be happy with it.
HOCKEY FIGHTS CANCER The 2007-08 Season marks the 10th Anniversary of Hockey Fights Cancer. To help raise awareness, all NHL players will wear a pink Hockey Fights Cancer decal on their helmet during all regular-season games in October. You can help join the fight by logging on to shop.nhl.com or visiting any concourse merchandise stand tonight to purchase commemorative Hockey Fights Cancer items including men’s pink ties, ladies’ team caps and REFLECTIONS on a Hockey Season photo books.
READING IS COOL Practice was closed to the public for the invitation only Fremont Bank Reading Is Cool Private Practice.
NEXT GAME San Jose will host Detroit tomorrow night at HP Pavilion in a 7:30 p.m. faceoff. A limited amount of tickets will be released.