Sharks’ Management to Blame, Not Joe Thornton

Writing on the Wall

Stadium Series
(Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

If losing the Stadium Series in your home football stadium against your biggest rival wasn’t the nail in the Sharks proverbial coffin, well, pull out whatever cliche you wish, but the writing is now on the wall. After a dominant first period against the Detroit Red Wings who were playing their third game in four nights on Thursday, the rested Sharks mustered less than 10 shots over the final two periods. Even a stellar bounce back game by Antti Niemi couldn’t save the Sharks from blowing a 2-1 third period lead in the final minutes to lose in regulation 3-2. Let’s pull out all the cliches, the Sharks playoff chances are all but over. You can stick a fork in them and make a Shark meat sandwich.

The Sharks, once known for being a home juggernaut have now lost seven straight home games, and are now 3-7-2 over their last 12 games. Fans frequently chime about a lack of passion from the Sharks in various forums and it is hard to argue against that claim. This team continues to look like a group that knows they aren’t good enough to compete with the best of the best. During the offseason, GM Doug Wilson said his team wasn’t close enough “with where the other teams are at.” While Wilson was wrong at the time, he certainly has turned the club into a team that isn’t close enough.

Blame Management, Not Thornton

Is the “uninspired” play really all that surprising though? Given the ridiculous summer put on by the Sharks front office? Making their best player out to be the scapegoat, stripping him of the captaincy, reverting one of the NHL’s best power forwards back into a defenseman (for the first time in two years), signing John Scott, re-signing Mike Brown, and fixing zero roster holes via free agency? Yeah I would be sour too playing for a team that handled the summer that way. The players will say all the politically correct things to those of us in the media but don’t be fooled for a second into thinking losing the captaincy didn’t bother Joe Thornton. No player in any level of hockey gets the C taken off his chest and is happy about it. But Thornton is far from the problem, he is still a top contributor and the Sharks top guys are still elite.

The Sharks are a team with arguably the best five guys you could ask for on a top power-play unit with Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns. There doesn’t get a more lethal five man power-play unit in the NHL on paper. Yet the Sharks flounder year after year because they don’t have the lower line depth, the defense depth, nor the goaltending. Blaming anyone of the top unit power-play guys is not only absurd, it is down right comical.

San Jose Sharks center Andrew Desjardins  (Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr)
San Jose Sharks center Andrew Desjardins (Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr)

San Jose didn’t lose Thursday night because the Red Wings have more talent, they lost because they have no identity. Who are they? One night they are rebuilding, and the next night developing players are scratched for John Scott and Scott Hannan.

Perhaps the best example of the Sharks’ lack of identity is in the recent stretch of games for quality fourth liner Andrew Desjardins. The Ontario native is a terrific face-off guy, quality penalty killer, and has underrated play-making skills. When not playing with “five, or six, or seven minute players” like he frequently does, Desjardins is capable of being a 20 plus point, defensively responsible fourth line center.  However, two games after scoring twice against Dallas (a game in which his line was the Sharks’ best on the night by far), he is a healthy scratch. Two goals against Dallas was followed up the next game with having to play alongside John Scott against the Kings, and then scratched against the Red Wings. Congrats on having a great game against the Stars with quality players in Tomas Hertl and Chris Tierney as your linemates, your reward is to play the next contest on a line with arguably the worst player in the NHL, and then you will be benched the following game after that.

13 thoughts on “Sharks’ Management to Blame, Not Joe Thornton”

  1. Sharks have had the depth, they have been one of the deepest teams for years, they have talented guys on those last 2 lines. What betrays them is their superstars do not get it done when it matters most. When Shepard and Irwin are your primary goal scorers in games 6 and 7, your chances of winning are not going to be good. It is not even goal scoring by the top guys, it is being on the ice when goals are being scored against. This team has had goaltending, Nabby, and Niemi (Vezina candidate a couple of seasons ago), Sharks had a blueline that was among the best in hockey in Vlasic and Boyle, they’ve had Rob Blake ….the problem has always been the same: Marleau and Thornton have not led this team to the promised land, and because their play sags later in rounds because they do not raise their game, the team follows. It was inexcusable for these guys to digress from the system. To lack that commitment after the first 3 games is embarrassing, that is 100 percent on the players and mostly the leaders of the team. Wilson has given then these guys a ton of support, and they have not done much with it. They should be hitting everyone in sight and throwing around their size with reckless abandon. When the Kings raised their game, Sharks did not match it , and it started up front. Sutter said the Kings had no answer for the Sharks depth lines. Games 1-3 you could clearly see what Wilson had been trying to build with Hertl and Torres……the future looked amazing, and then the leaders failed to get this team through. Why is Pavelski on camera giving an invective filled tirade to motivate these guys, where the hell are Thornton and Marleau blowing people up…..that’s the problem.

  2. Andrew this is a nice article, but lets get over the fact that it was the bottom 6 who caused this team to lose in the Playoffs last year and every year. Every single playoff series loss you can see a direct correlation between the either the 1sr of 2nd line not scoring. Last years in games 4-7 the 3rd and 4th lines outscored the 1st and 2nd lines. You can spin it anyway you want, but go back and look at those elimination series and give me the numbers of the top 6 vs bottom 6 and if they were better in the playoffs and post season. Here’s an example Matt Irwin scored more goals then Logan Couture, Patrick Maleau, and Joe Thornton in games 4-7 vs the Kings last year. Clearly you feed into the PR hype you get from Wilson and the PR group yearly always blaming the easily changeable bottom 6, while ignoring and avoiding where the real issue lies. And that is what makes Doug Wilson so good as a GM, he is able to persuade and sell you and others a bill of goods. A bill not backed up in fact. Its easy to repeat and rephrase what others say, and to continue to repeat the same message. its hard to actually look at facts and stand on your own two feet when the bill of goods is a bill of bull.

    • What makes Wilson a good GM is the fact he is a good GM bringing in good pieces and giving this a team a chance to win every year. He did a masterful job turning around the mess from Lombardi and has not looked back sense. You can win with a guy like Thornton. What Wilson has not done is brought in the alpha male that everyone looks to when times get tough. The refresh he did 2 seasons ago was one of the more amazing jobs Ive seen a GM do to slightly alter the team dynamic and jettisoning two guys who were way past their ability to contribute on a consistent level anymore yet adding some nasty and skill. Wilson can rebuild this team better than it was before.

  3. While you can solely blame Joe Thornton for the Sharks playoff failure, you can not absolve him from it either. He’s been stellar for some games, while inconsistent and down right bad in other games. He’s never been much of a leader either. I think many in the Boston Bruins organization would tend to agree with this. Fact is Thornton, like Marleau was missing in action in games 4-7 vs LA last year. And if you look at the series the Sharks have lost in the playoffs their is one simple denominator that being Thornton, and or Marleau having a subpar series. To blame players such as Scott and Hannan for 7 years of playoff failure really misses the point.

    • we would have won that series if vlasic didn’t get injured and you wouldn’t be saying that you can blame joe thornton for the sharks playoff failure if we got out of that first round without losing 4 straight. so in my opinion what you are saying is just invalid. The article isn’t talking about the sharks’ postseason appearances anyways, but instead about their inconsistencies and lack of passion this year, which indeed can be attributed to coaching and front office moves such as moving burns to d, signing and playing scott, brown and hannan instead of developing players that DW seems to trust as the Sharks’ future. Also, losing in the playoff doesn’t mean that thornton isn’t a leader, because frankly you have no idea how he acts in the locker room or off ice so you are in no position to say he isn’t a leader when you watch him on TV not produce points in a few playoff games.

      • Oh I stand corrected I always thought you had to score goals to win. I guess games 5 and 6 were we scored a combined 1 goal would’ve been enough with Vlasic. Just stupid. As for Thornton, like I said ask Boston, they stripped him of his captaincy then traded him, and won a Stanley Cup. Seems to me that if two different organizations and coaching staffs strip a player of his captaincy its an issue with leadership, but hey who knows right?

        We gave up 2.67 goals per game with Vlasic and 3.00 without Vlasic, barely a difference by the way. The difference was we scored 5 goals in the last 4 games. And unless Vlasic is somehow a secret 40 goal scorer to say missing him is the reason we lost is dumb

      • How do people say the Sharks would have won the series if Vlasic had not gotten injured. The SHarks were already toast in game 5 by the time he got injured. The performance as anemic as it was, was the death knell for the team. To come up that small in a clinching game at home, that was embarrassing. I have little doubt they were not coming back from that even if Vlasic did not get hurt. Could argue that two seasons ago Sharks beat the Kings if Torres does not get embarrassingly bad suspension which clearly did handicap the Sharks.

        The lack of passion is disgraceful and shows what mental midgets the veterans are, their legacies are riding on redeeming themselves. And if they do not turn it around starting tonight there will be no chance at redemption. Wingels spoke truth about the team not making sacrifices to do what it takes to win games and that is an indictment against the veterans . Wingels brings it almost every night.

        Larry Robinson gave us some insight into why Thornton fails as a leader…..he is not the kind of guy everyone feels they can go to.

  4. Great article ! DW et. al, have made a mess of things. This team does lack passion. Perhaps, as you suggest, this is in response to the treatment they received in the offseason. DW didn’t improve the team in the offseason and the players are responding in kind.
    Hopefully, changes will be made before the deadline and certainly in the offseason, especially in goal and in the front office !

  5. The Sharks spent 2 million per year on Raffi Torres.
    Regardless of how well he plays in the lineup it doesn’t matter since he has only played 16 GAMES OVER THREE SEASONS. Burish had better health than that. Though he didn’t put up as many points at least he wasn’t a complete waste of money, cap space and time. It wouldn’t be surprising if Torres days in the NHL are over.

    To put this in perspective John Scott has now played MORE GAMES IN TEAL THAN RAFFI TORRES.

    • What exactly is your point? They spent the money BEFORE HE WAS HURT, and Torres was well worth 2 million per year. They didn’t waste money because he had no history of missing big portions of seasons prior to being signed. Easy to say after he signed the contract and was hurt that it was a bad deal.

      • Torres did have a history of getting suspended for lengthy periods in critical times, including playoff series in back to back seasons. The fact he’s missing a lot of time shouldn’t be a surprise. Even if the reason is different from the expected one.

  6. The blame game is about to get going in a big way. As best as I can tell, its Hasso vs DW vs TMc vs top players vs bottom players — and every possible iteration among these groups. That is just the internal finger pointing. For the fans, the opponents, the media, etc — its gonna be a field day!!

  7. You have to remember it was/is that very same mgmt. whom gave BOTH Marleau & Thornton NTCs AND guaranteed contracts. So they/mgmt. facilitated how both players would perform for the duration of their contracts. Without incentive(s) to play well and “try” win every game, both players have played inconsistently and only show up to play hard, when it suits them. Yes, mgmt. is to blame but both players are too, since mgmt. cannot go out on the ice every night and play for these malingerers. I’m not chastising their talents (as both are in the top 10% of their trade), I am describing their inconsistent play, no grit/edge/motivation and lack of leadership.

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