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Let The Stars Be Your Guide, or Not

Patrick Marleau: Starry Knight?

Prompted by the Sharks message board, I spent some time trying to figure out who would be a good Captain for the Sharks, if Blake retires.  I’m not entirely clear on what the Captain’s duties are, though obviously facing the press, when no one else wants to, is one of them.  Also, sportscasters seem to make a big deal of Captains who perform brave or inspiring feats on the ice, or dole out retribution on behalf of their teammates.

I’m not inclined to think those last two need to be done by the Captain.  Anyone doing something impressive will get the blood up.  Seems like getting hit in the face with a puck works well, as it did for the Flyers and also the Blackhawks.  I don’t imagine anyone would counsel a Captain to go around doing that on a regular basis. 

Outstanding performance requires a lot of focus and drive from the individual, which does not always translate into leadership skills.  I may be overly influenced by Jágr’s choices on the matter, or other people’s choices about him, but I don’t believe every superstar makes a good Captain.

A Captain doesn’t usually take the helm, he plans the course.  A Captain should be a big picture guy, able to notice when someone is trailing or ready to charge ahead.  A Captain would have to keep his cool, or at least his optimism when all signs point to despair.  In many ways, the Captain should put himself between the enemy and his crew, but that is also, technically, the role of the Beta, not the Alpha.

Wow.  Suddenly I want a Captain. It sounds so nice.

Boyle being helpful

But I wouldn’t want to be a Captain.  It must be a whole lot of work emotionally, mentally, physically.  I imagine a lot of people feel that way, though men are encouraged not to acknowledge it.  I think a lot of us would rather focus on our own thing, and not have to take responsibility, specific or general, for everyone else.

I took it into my head to look to the celestial for guidance.  Monthly horoscopes being too detailed, I looked at birth years, using the Chinese system.  None of the Sharks were born in the Year of the Snake, which I consider a very good year for pressure-cooker leaders.  Only Blake was born in the Year of the Rooster, which is not a great year for leaders but they are known to be “usually right.”  It is a moot point.  There are no other Roosters on the roster.

So my next choice for innate leadership skills was someone born in the Year of the Dragon.  Apparently this should have been my first stop, by Chinese horoscope standards:

Seen as the symbol of the Emperor in Ancient China, the Dragon is charismatic, enthusiastic and imaginative. They are often dramatic and love to be the center of attention. Dragons have the ability to inspire others.  They are powerful and dominating and like to take the lead. On one hand they make helpful and considerate friends, on the other, they are idealistic and are prone to impose high standards on others. Dragons are dangerous in enmity.  (Chinese astrology, Dragon, my ital)

I am not sure an “emperor” is what you need in a Captain, but it sounds leaderly, as does the rest of the description.  It simplifies matters tremendously that there is only one Sharks player (over the age of 22) born in the Year of the Dragon, and that’s Dan Boyle.  (Jamie McGinn and Jason Demers should be noted as young Dragons lying in wait.)

I had actually settled on Boyle as a good candidate before I found that.  He may be a little hot headed, but not so hot headed that he says anything demoralizing, or not that I have seen quoted.  This is professional hockey, not the Democratic Party.  Flipping off the naysayers is hardly cause for defenestration, not when you expect the same guy to make liberal use of body-crunching hits during a game.  Boyle has been impeccably supportive of his team, even when he was being mauled for the own-goal fiasco.  Saying your team will win is never wrong, even when it turns out you were wrong.

His performance on the ice has been admirable, nothing wanting there.  I have many times thought “aha!  Good thing Boyle was there just then,” and I don’t recall thinking “what’s he doing, doesn’t he know there is a game going on?”  I won’t address the own-goal, I did that earlier and I stand by that argument.  He has the air of being his own best critic.  Whether or not he is, I cannot say, but he knows how to act like it.  This is another good quality in a leader:  never be seen to shift the blame.

Pavelski: trailblazer?

There are other players favored by the message board fans.  Thornton, Marleau and Pavelski all got a lot of “votes.”  I will not say there is any agreement on the subject.  I think there is some merit to all those choices, especially since I don’t know for sure how teams choose a Captain.

Pavelski is frequently called an avid “student of the game.”  This is a good thing to be, but it makes me think his relative inexperience is never far from anyone’s mind.  It can be good to choose a young leader, if you want to find a new direction, but even in unfamiliar territory, experience is valuable. So I think Pavelski may well be future Captain material, but not the best choice for the present.

Pavelski was born in the Year of the Rat:

Rats are always honest, and they are observant and curious. The Rat is intelligent, charming, social and likable.  They are hard-working, innovative and full of ideas. Rats are almost always ambitious… knowing how to take advantage or make the best out of a situation, they are often successful.  Rats are good at hiding their emotions, which often leads others to perceive their cool exteriors as those that are not easily roused. People born under this animal sign are frequently nocturnal. (Chinese astrology, Rat, my ital)

Sounds pretty good.  I don’t see a specific reference to “leadership” in this description, but the qualities that seem to be useful for a hockey team Captain are there, even the nocturnal part.

Thornton and Marleau have a lot in common as fan favorites and senior players.  Celebrity can be a problem for someone who has to inspire or lead the group, and represent them in any public capacity. Any celebrity on the team will be identified with the group, and their celebrity will reflect on the team. But sometimes it is better to segregate that star factor from the team’s general image, limit the “star” to being part of the team, not the whole team. Thornton and Marleau both have this to contend with. Maybe one or both of them has some amazing leadership skills, maybe one would be perfect for the team’s morale. But to the public eye, it is better to let the stars be stars and someone else wear the Captain’s star, so to speak. (I know they don’t wear stars.)

They were both born in the Year of the Goat:

The Goat is the zodiacal archetype of genuine goodness and consideration. Goats are lucky about being in “the right place at the right time.” Goats don’t like to stand out in a crowd, but they are elegant creatures and can be very creative. In general, they are serene and nurturing. Goats will only fight under extreme provocation. (Chinese astrology, Goat, my ital)

Thornton: right place, right time

Clearly people born in the Year of the Goat are likable folks, and good to have on your team.  I imagine a hockey game presents many an opportunity for extreme provocation.  Aside from that it doesn’t look like someone born in the Year of the Goat has any burning desire to be in charge.

Some argued that being given the Captain’s position would inspire that player to better performance.  That sounds like a waste of a perfectly good leadership role.  Better to choose a leader who can inspire said under-performers to perform, along with everyone else on the team.

As long as I am exposing signs, and perhaps to better put my argument in perspective, I was born in the Year of the Rooster.  Aside from what I said above, we are also, according to some dubious sources, notorious know-it-alls.

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