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2018-2019 Season




MARC-ÉDOUARD VLASIC: For The Sharks' Shut-Down D-Man, It's All About Winning


By Paul Freeman

Marc-Édouard Vlasic - from Stanley Cup Finals Game #4 at SAP Center in San Jose, CA - June 6, 2019.

Marc-Édouard Vlasic, known affectionately to his San Jose Sharks teammates as "Pickles," has always relished thwarting the opposition's chances to score. The six-foot-one, 205-pound defenseman, who hails from Montreal, has been a key cog in the Sharks success ever since his 2006 debut at age 19.

Vlasic isn't showy, but he sure is dependable. His hockey sense ranks at the elite level. And his talent, consistency, courage and determination have earned him the utmost respect of his peers.

His skills were evident early. In the 2005-06 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League season, Vlasic won the Memorial Cup. He played such a prominent role, his team, the Quebec Remparts, retired his jersey a decade later.

The Sharks chose Vlasic in the second round, at number 35, in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. He was subsequently selected to the NHL All-Rookie Team. Every season since then, he has been one of the league's top shut-down D-men.

He has also excelled on the international stage. Vlasic helped Canada to capture the gold medal at the 2014 Olympics. He entered a different sort of spotlight, when he and his spouse, Martine Auclair-Vlasic, joined the cast of the hit Canadian TV reality show, "Hockey Wives."

With a new eight-year contract, Vlasic will be starring on the Sharks' blue line for many seasons to come.

TOP SHELF:
Halfway through the season, do you feel that this particular squad has as strong a chance to get to the Cup as any Sharks team you've been on?

MARC-ÉDOUARD VLASIC:
I do. I think we've had good teams in the past. I think we're good again. Are we better than we were before? We'll find out. We are a very good team.

TOP SHELF:
So you have the right mix of players, in terms of both talents and personalities? And there a strong bond there -- is that the key?

VLASIC:
It is. We've always had that. We've always had a pretty good group. We have a bunch of players right now that have been with the team for a very long time. And I think, whenever we bring in somebody, it doesn't take them very long to become best buds with all the guys.

Since I've been here, we've always had a good group. Some players leave. Some players come in. But I think the players that do stay create such a welcoming locker room. The team does a good job. I think we've always had a good group of guys. And I think, year after year, we're getting better.

TOP SHELF:
Adding Erik Karlsson added to the D-corps -- what has impressed you most about him?

VLASIC:
Well, I've played against him, but I've never known him personally, but he's a really nice guy. He gets along with everybody. He's just a great player, a great teammate. I'd heard good things about him and then when he came here, I saw those good things. He gets along with everybody and everybody gets along with him, which is good, too.

TOP SHELF:
Getting to the Final a couple years ago, does that just make you hungrier to go all the way?
Marc-Édouard Vlasic - from Stanley Cup Finals Game #4 at SAP Center in San Jose, CA - June 6, 2019.

VLASIC:
Yes. It's so hard to win. You don't win every year and then, on top of that, you don't get to the Finals every year. Getting to the Finals is a nice accomplishment, but unfortunately, in hockey, only one team gets to win. And being in the Finals and not winning, you realize how much work it takes to you just to get to that point. If you do get to that point again, you better make sure you win it. The guys who were there saw what it takes to win. And everybody wants to win.

TOP SHELF:
But having to go through that whole grueling season and the playoffs, is it hard to get geared up, the next season, to start the challenge all over again?

VLASIC:
Well, every year, there's only one team that wins, so everybody else is disappointed. But when you get to that point in the Finals, yeah, you work so hard to get there and one team wins, one team doesn't. That's the sport. One team's going to lose. And it's not like you get to the Finals and then one team's like, "Oh, okay, I'll lose, so you can win." No, both teams want to win. Unfortunately, only one team can and the other team has to start all over again to get to that point.

But in order for somebody to get to the Finals, that's a chance to win. And there's 28 other teams that year that would have wanted to be in our situation. It just sucks that we lost. But it's a motivation to want to win the following year even more... just like it was the one year we didn't make the playoffs. Or lost in the first round. You've just got to start from scratch and take it from there.

TOP SHELF:
I guess each season must bring its own set of new challenges. What has been the most challenging aspect of this season for you?

VLASIC:
Well, year after year, I get to play against the best players. And I've been lucky enough to be on the up side of it. This year, it's up and down. There's no room for error. When you fall behind against the good players, it's tough to come back. It's a lot harder to get on the positive side than the negative side with these top players. But that's the challenge I face.

On every given night, I'm playing against the best players. And the room for errors is so, so small that you have to be at your best every shift, every second that you're out there. That's what I like about my role, what I do. On most nights, I'm on the good side of it. Some nights I'll be on the bad side. And it's just normal [chuckles], because you're playing against such good players. But that's the challenge that I'm dealing with every night.

TOP SHELF:
So you can put the current game behind you as soon as it's over and just focus on the next one?

VLASIC:
Oh, yeah, absolutely. Yeah, because once it's over, there's nothing you can do about it. You just move on to the next one.

TOP SHELF:
Having such great chemistry over the past seasons with Justin Braun, is it difficult to adjust when you are paired with someone else?

VLASIC:
Not necessarily, not for me, personally. I've played with many guys throughout my career. Just in San Jose, the last five, six years, has been Justin Braun. But the Olympics was Doughty. I've played with Burns. Played with Weber at the World Cup. So I've been able to find chemistry with the best players.

And we're professionals, too, so the transition is a lot easier. I mean, you know what he's going to do. You've seen him play. He knows what you're going to do. We know guys out there. So it's just a matter of communicating, more so with a new partner than somebody you've been playing with for a couple years.

TOP SHELF:
Being from Montreal, did you grow up a fan of the Habs [Canadiens]?

VLASIC:
I grew up watching the Habs... but not necessarily a Habs fan. Being in Montreal, the Habs are always on.

TOP SHELF:
Was there another team that you particularly rooted for then?
Marc-Édouard Vlasic - from Stanley Cup Finals Game #4 at SAP Center in San Jose, CA - June 6, 2019.

VLASIC:
I was more of a fan of the Detroit Red Wings, growing up.

TOP SHELF:
What was it about them that drew you?

VLASIC:
Well, they had a good team. They had good players. They had Yzerman, Federov, Shanahan, Lidstrom, Murphy, Osgood. I'm missing some for sure. That's just to name a few. They had some really good players, a really good team. I don't know, I just flashed on them.

TOP SHELF:
When you began playing hockey, did you try playing forward first?

VLASIC:
No, I was always a defenseman. I started off as a defenseman and stayed. I've never been a forward.

TOP SHELF:
What made you want to play defense?

VLASIC:
I just started off playing D. When I was young, my dad just threw me in as a D-man. And I'm not too sure. I just love trying to stop people from scoring. I would always be more excited about stopping somebody and then be very mad, if somebody scored against me. I guess that's a good role for a D-man [laughs].

TOP SHELF:
So your dad coached you for a while?

VLASIC:
He did. He coached me, not for a very long time. He coached me in Novice, that's for sure. But once you're a little older, it's not the parents that coach anymore. But he did coach me in summer hockey for a while. He and two other parents coached us for a bunch of years. And then he stopped, because we have four boys, so he had his hands full with just driving us to the rink and other activities. So coaching would have added a lot more work for him.

TOP SHELF:
Did he try to impart to you any sort of philosophy or approach to the game that you would need to be successful at it?

VLASIC:
As much as he could. He played for McGill [University]. So he tried as much to teach me about stick position, where to be, gap. It's long time ago. I forget exactly, the things he said. But as much as he could, in order to help me throughout growing up and trying to get better. But I remember one thing he said, he's like, "Yeah, I made McGill. You have my defensive abilities. But you're even better offensively."

TOP SHELF:
That must have been encouraging.

VLASIC:
Yeah, it was. Absolutely.

TOP SHELF:
The year of the Memorial Cup win, that must have been a great learning experience, being with that team.

VLASIC:
That was awesome. I remember that year and the Finals. I remember everything. But not necessarily that particular year, that moment when we won, but it was those three years with Patrick [then head coach Patrick Roy]. I think really, really helped me, just being there at 16, 17, the Memorial Cup at 18. I think those three years were really helpful in order for me to be here in San Jose at 19.

TOP SHELF:
And they retired your jersey a couple years ago?
Marc-Édouard Vlasic - from Stanley Cup Finals Game #4 at SAP Center in San Jose, CA - June 6, 2019.

VLASIC:
They did. Yeah, they retired it twice -- once at the old place and then they brought it over to the new rink. So it got put up twice. But yeah, they retired it, two three years ago, maybe.

TOP SHELF:
And what did that feel like?

VLASIC:
That was really, really cool. I didn't expect it. And it just happened. I keep tabs on the Remparts., how they do. I keep in touch with Patrick. Five, six years after I left there, still nobody had my jersey number. Eight years later, nobody had it. And then I win a gold medal and then I hear the Remparts are like, "Oh, yeah, we're thinking about it." But the moment it got retired, it was cool.

Okay, you're getting old, but you've accomplished so much, for your jersey to be up there. I still live in Quebec. I love that city. I have so many friends and family members there. The fans are great. So it was nice to be a part of that.

TOP SHELF:
In Juniors, did you already have the nickname Pickles? Or did that not come until you joined the Sharks?

VLASIC:
No, I didn't have it there. It was nice not having it in Quebec, because the Vlasic pickles weren't out in Canada yet. So I was able to go a good 19 years without getting it. And then Ron Wilson gave it to me my first pre-season game and it stuck ever since.

TOP SHELF:
Were you playing against Sidney Crosby in the Quebec Major Junior League?

VLASIC:
Yes, I was for a year-and-a-half, two years, until he left. I played maybe six to 10 times against him each year.

TOP SHELF:
That must have been quite a challenge.

VLASIC:
It was, because not only was he there, but they had one of the best offensive teams they'e ever had, when I was playing against them. So it was even tougher, because they had not just Crosby, they had guys on his line scoring 50, 60 goals, as well. So it was even tougher. But it was a lot of fun. I mean, obviously I knew he would go far. So nice to match myself up against him, to know, "Okay, this is where he's at. This is where I'm at. This is where I'm going." So it was fun, as well.

TOP SHELF:
And then the international experience, being on the podium, with the Canadian national anthem being played for the Olympic gold medal ceremony, was that the greatest thrill so far in hockey?

VLASIC:
Probably. There's different age groups. When you're a junior, there's nothing that beats the Mem Cup. Obviously a gold medal tops that, but when you're that age, you cannot win a gold medal. So yes, the gold medal is by far the greatest achievement, the greatest moment, just being Canadian, being an athlete, not necessarily an NHL player, it's just being a part of Canada, representing your country at the Olympics, being the best athlete at that level, to perform for a gold medal, that was great. I'll remember that forever.

The fact that you get one shot at going to the Olympics and you don't know if you're going to win, the odds, yes they may be in your favor, but the chance of winning a gold medal really is so small that this gold medal for me is incredible, because that was probably my... hopefully the next one, I'll get to go -- but if not, I'll only have one Olympic appearance and I was able to capture the gold medal.

TOP SHELF:
Hopefully you'll get to participate in China.

VLASIC:
I hope so. Like 2018 might have been another chance for me, but then we weren't allowed to go. So that's an eight-year period that somebody might have had a chance to go, but they don't. So then their chance to go to the Olympics is ruined. So I was very fortunate to be a part of that... and win on top of it.
Marc-Édouard Vlasic - from Stanley Cup Finals Game #4 at SAP Center in San Jose, CA - June 6, 2019.

TOP SHELF:
Over the course of your career, you're always getting the job done, being so reliable, certainly having the respect of your peers. But playing on the West Coast, you don't get the attention some of the flashy, offensive defensemen do, particularly those in the East. Can that be frustrating?

VLASIC:
No, I'll be honest, it doesn't bother me at all. I do my thing on the ice, off the ice. I know what I have to do on a nightly basis. I go out and do it to the best of my ability. And my job is to try to win hockey games. I'm not there to impress anybody. I'm not there to look good, if you know what I mean.

TOP SHELF:
And you take pride in that shut-down role.

VLASIC:
I take pride in that. I take pride in going out, playing against the best players, trying to shut them down... and trying to contribute offensively, because if I can do that against the best players, that helps our chances to win. And throughout my 13-year career, yes, I'll be some up, some down, but I think for most of those 13 years, I've had pretty good success doing that.

And I'll keep doing that. I mean, I've got eight years left. I'm going to keep doing that role till I retire, just going out there, winning hockey games. Nowadays, that's all that matters. That's what I do. I don't mind about not having my name out there with other guys, being talked about. I just go out there, do what I have to do on a nightly basis and win hockey games, not impress anybody.

TOP SHELF:
Putting yourself in the lane to block a slap shot, what kind of mindset does that take?

VLASIC:
Well, my mindset is, if it's your turn, you block. But yes, there are some guys that block more shots than others. There are some guys that are willing to be in the lane more than others. And you're going to pay the price. I've been front of slap shots to the face, to the mouth, broke a couple of cheekbones -- a Weber slap shot to the face. It's going to happen.

And you get a blocked shot and then everybody is like, "Oh, great blocked shot, great blocked shot." But your face is half-broken. But it's those little things that nobody sees on a score sheet. If somebody just looks at the score sheet, "Oh, that guy scored four goals." But you just stand in front and tap it in. But this other guy had five hits, 10 blocked shots, playing against the best player -- maybe he helped the team just as much as the other guy. So that's where I'm at. I do all the little things that helps the team win.

TOP SHELF:
Switching gears, was it fun to be part of the "Hockey Wives" TV series?

VLASIC:
That was pretty neat. My wife and I, we enjoyed that. It was a cool experience to go through it, having us be filmed, filming our dogs. It was something new, different. It was a pretty cool experience. It didn't take much of your time. It wasn't a hassle. People were very nice. It was a cool experience.

TOP SHELF:
How did the two of you first meet?
Marc-Édouard Vlasic - from Stanley Cup Finals Game #4 at SAP Center in San Jose, CA - June 6, 2019.

VLASIC:
We met a long time ago. We met in Junior. The family I stayed with, the daughter was friends with my wife. And that's how we met.

TOP SHELF:
You mentioned the eight years earlier. Signing the long-term deal with San Jose, what is it about the team, the city, the organization that made you want to make that sort of commitment?

VLASIC:
We've always had a good team. Some teams are rebuilding. Some teams are young, in a transition phase. But I had meetings with coach and GM and I was like, "I want to be competitive every year." You want to have a chance to win every year.

Since I've been here in '06, we've had a good team. We've had a team good enough to compete for a Cup every year. Yes, we've fallen short, but we've had a team up there to compete with all the best teams. And I think we're still headed in that direction. And this team, I think we have a better chance that we did before.

So every year, we've been good enough to win -- and that's what I want. I want to win. I want to try to win every year. And if I do win, I just want to win the next year. You always want to win. I can't talk about anybody else. Maybe some guys are like, "Well, I'm all right just playing hockey, padding the stats, doing this, doing that." But I want to win. I want to be on a team that has a chance to win every year.

And that's what we have out here. The city's great. The fans are nice. Put that all together and it's a great place to play.

TOP SHELF:
And the best is ahead.

VLASIC:
Hopefully. Yes. Hopefully that's right.




   
 



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