Joe Thornton is a favorite among San Jose Sharks fans, but that doesn’t mean his team should re-sign him.
Remember when the Sharks stripped a player of his captaincy for the second time in five years? Thornton was that player. In 2014, general manager Doug Wilson and former head coach Todd McLellan confirmed that Thornton will no longer wear the “C.” Marleau was the first to lose his captaincy in the five-year span after the Sharks’ first-round loss to the Anaheim Ducks in 2009.
The following year, Thornton recorded 16 goals and 49 assists along with a minus-four rating in 78 games. The former captain put up slightly better numbers in the 2015-16 season, recording 19 goals and 63 assists along with a plus-25 rating in 82 games.
So far, Thornton scored three goals and 28 assists in 50 games. It’s the halfway mark of the 2015-16 season. The Sharks swept the season series against the Colorado Avalanche, thanks to Marleau, who took over the third period Tuesday with a natural hat trick along with a fourth goal. Marleau is three goals away from the 500 mark, justifying his case as an NHL Hall of Famer.
What has Thornton done? Not much because he has begun to decline offensively.
The idea of trading Thornton isn’t crazy as his cap hit is $6,750,000 per year. He’s eligible to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. His trade value isn’t going to be very high, so he’s not going to overwhelm the salary caps of other teams.
If Thornton wants to stay with the Sharks, he must take a substantial pay cut.
Thornton hasn’t been a man of class and dignity. In 2015, Wilson held a press conference in front of approximately 350 Sharks fans to explain his reasons for stripping Thornton of his captaincy. Thornton wasn’t happy with Wilson’s decision, and as a result, threw verbal jabs at his general manager.
Thornton told the Mercury News: “I think Doug [Wilson] just needs to shut his mouth…I think that’s the bottom line…All I’ve got to say is, I’ve been here every day working hard. I haven’t taken a sabbatical. He just needs to stop lying, shut his mouth.”
Former Mercury News’ Sharks beat writer David Pollak responded in a calm, polite manner.
Wilson told Pollak: “The reason we took the ‘C’ off him, Joe [Thornton] carries the weight of the team on his shoulders, and he’s got such a big heart that when stress comes on him, he lashes out at people, and it kind of impacts them…The pressure and stress, I felt, was getting to Joe…And I sat him down and said we need other players to step up and share this. He got it. He didn’t like it, but he got it and he understood it.”
Moreover, Marleau’s recent success has overshadowed Thornton’s abilities on the ice. Not to discredit Thornton’s accomplishments, but right now, he’s not a forward who belongs on the Sharks’ top line with Marleau and captain Joe Pavelski. He’s currently on pace for his first under 70 point season.
Neither veteran has what it takes to be described as elite so far this season, but unless if something happens and Thornton takes a turn in the right direction, he’ll just be another player on Team Teal.
The only debacle is that Thornton possesses a no-trade clause. Thornton seems to want to win a Stanley Cup in San Jose.
Last year, Thornton told NHL.com: “I always believed that next year was going to be the year…I really did. I always thought we were a couple of pieces away. Even last year not making the playoffs, I honestly thought we were a couple of pieces away, and here we are. You’ve got to put in the hard work in the summertime. You’ve just got to believe, and this can happen.”
Thornton has been on the thrust of the Sharks’ trade block after their disappointing exit in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games.
The Sharks’ top line often relies on captain Joe Pavelski to produce offensively. Pavelski has 16 goals and 26 assists in 50 games thus far.
Thornton continues to create numerous scoring chances for his linemates, however, he doesn’t score a lot of goals anymore. He prefers to make passes instead of shooting the puck. He’s not as clutch as he used to be, logging around 18:35 of ice time per game.
The Sharks continue to call up fresh faces such as Kevin Labanc, Timo Meier and Barclay Goodrow. All three players shook off slow starts and ended up putting points on the scoreboard to lead the Sharks to multiple victories.
The Sharks should be on the lookout for a talented forward. They traded forward Tommy Wingels to the Ottawa Senators Tuesday in exchange for right wingers Buddy Robinson and Zack Stortini and a 2017 seventh round draft selection. That’s a good step because a solid, two-way center who can win at least 50 percent of his faceoffs is crucial to a team’s success.
Time is money and if Thornton doesn’t put up big offensive numbers, there’s a chance he’ll see his final season with the Sharks in the near future.