This year is going to be a transitional year for the San Jose Sharks. Since the 2021-22 campaign ended, a lot has changed. First, Patrick Marleau announced his retirement and earned a jersey retirement ceremony. Next, Mike Grier and David Quinn joined the squad as general manager and head coach, and finally, Brent Burns and Adin Hill were shipped out of San Jose. However, with all of the changes facing the team, one interesting commonality may be returning: Joe Thornton.
It was reported by Sheng Peng of San Jose Hockey Now that “Jumbo Joe” Thornton had been spotted in San Jose, but there was no official comment by the Sharks as to the implications of this reunion. In fact, the team has denied his return being related to them at all and that he has no official role as of now. So with that in mind, is there a chance Thornton returns in some capacity to the Sharks this year?
Sharks Could Bring Thornton Back as a Player
Despite being 43 years old, Thornton has not made an official announcement as to whether or not he has any plans to retire. As a result, it would not be entirely surprising to see him return to the Sharks as a skater. His production took a massive hit last season, but that makes the possibility of him donning teal again all the more likely. His interest around the league is likely at an all-time low. If the Sharks wanted to, they could potentially convince one of their franchise cornerstones to return.
The Sharks have no clear direction in place for this season. While 2021-22 was not the best for them, they hope for a rejuvenation year with a slew of new faces. In that regard, bringing Thornton back works any way you slice it. If the team does well and maybe even makes the playoffs, he can get a chance to win a Stanley Cup in his career. If the team falls apart, Thornton gets a chance to retire with the franchise he is most associated with. There is virtually no downside.
However, while bringing Thornton back as a player works logistically, there are a few issues with the idea. First, he would essentially be brought back just to fill roster space. His play has declined, and there might not be room for him anymore, with more rookies planned to debut. In addition, would it be worth it to pay Jumbo the league minimum to essentially take up a roster spot? It could be; however, I believe something else might be at play here, and it has nothing to do with him returning as a skater.
Thornton Could Earn a Management Position With the Sharks
Letting go of franchise players is hard to do. When a team has a player that almost wholly defines the organization, they will almost always find a way to bring them back in some capacity when their playing tenure has come to an end. However, for the Sharks, they had the benefit of having Marleau alongside Jumbo. With that in mind, perhaps they plan on bringing both of their former captains into the fold in some sort of management position.
If the Sharks really want to make their attitude change ripple across the league, there would be no better way than changing jerseys, revamping the roster, and bringing Thornton and Marleau into management. The attention on their team would be enormous. Obviously, they would not be given high-ranking positions right out of the gate, and perhaps they would take offensive or defensive specialist roles, but it would still be something. Anything that can bring these two legends back to San Jose full-time would be enough to please any Sharks fan.
Whether or not Thornton is actually returning to the Sharks in any capacity, it is good to hear that Jumbo has returned to San Jose. He made the franchise enormously better. Now that Marleau’s jersey retirement ceremony has been given a date, Thornton should not be too far behind. Either way, the big-bearded legend has landed in California once again, and let’s hope it is for good this time.
Andrew Stille is a freelance writer for THW who is currently studying Journalism and Communication in college. In addition, he’s a devoted NHL content creator looking to grow and learn daily. Andrew is a trustworthy source for everything San Jose Sharks-related and strives to create fun and exciting articles for all readers.
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