Gaetz could have been one of the greats, too much booze, too much chaos and one too many demons.
After Gaetz you had Jeff Odgers. Odgers never got the credit he deserved, but he was a legit heavyweight and suited up 81 times in the magical 93-94 season that culminated in the first round ousting of the heavily favored #1 seed Detroit Red Wings. Later in his tenure with the Sharks, he was named team captain, a huge honor for a guy whose main task is to drop the mitts. I can remember going to buy the latest edition of "Tuff Guy" magazine, a yearly almanac of the top 25 enforcers in the NHL, and much to my delight found that Odgers had snuck in at number 25. It had been after he went to Boston, but he still made his bones in Downtown San Jose and even to this day it is easy to find a couple Odgers sweaters peppered throughout Sharks Arena. (I don't care what they call it these days)
Other guys like Shawn Cronin, Dody Wood, and Jim Kyte took part in the enforcer role during the age of Odgers, but it wasn't until the emergence of Andrei Nazarov that the Sharks would have their next serious heavyweight.
Considering that Nazarov led the pack when all-timers like Marty McSorley, Tim Hunter and Todd Ewen had roster spots is a testament to the ability Nazarov had.
After Nazarov, the enforcer role got real sketchy. They had guys like Ronnie Stern, Brantt Myhres, Scott Parker and Andy Sutton sharing the duty, but Stern was little past his prime and Myhres and Parker were often injured. I liked Sutton, however, he only played in 71 games in 4 seasons with the club.
It was during this time that the Sharks made a leap to being a consistent playoff threat and for whatever reason Old Man Wilson really tried to shy away from suiting up a legit enforcer. You can also look back at this time as the Sharks being labeled soft, Stanley Cup pretenders.
Now I'm not saying if the Sharks win the Stanley Cup it is because of their current enforcer Jody Shelley, but.......they are playing with a confidence and determination that is brand new to the franchise. A prime example of the Shelley factor could be found in a game the Sharks had with the Stars a few weeks ago. The score was 6-2 with five minutes to play, the Stars had already mailed it in and the only reason I was watching was too see if Ghost Avery would try to take any liberties. Sharks Coach Todd McClellan had the shenanigans of Avery in mind as well and had placed Shelley out on the ice for the better part of those last five minutes. Shelley even got what I think was his first career shift on the power play.Of course, with Shelley on the ice, Avery morphed into an obedient, Best In Show Pink Poodle and much to my dismay those last moments were void of carnage.
The Sharks have been involved in a few of grind it out games that obtained a heavy principle of playoff atmosphere and came away successful. They are playing with targets on their backs every evening and it does not seem to bother them. They've got Jody Shelley to keep the other team honest and there has yet to be one display of brutality tinged swagger posed by the opposition like years past. Shelley has played the role of enforcer well, no foolish penalties and the right amount of aggression at the right time.