Thornton Silences Doubters, Leads Sharks Past Ducks

Bad Leader? Think Again

*(Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports)
*(Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports)

Apparently some people in the hockey world, including some on his own team, aren’t fans of Joe Thornton’s brand of humor. That’s totally fine, if you don’t find the thought of Thornton scoring four goals and celebrating with his shaft to be hilarious, that’s your opinion. But enough is enough with people dogging the future hall of fame center as being a poor leader. Not only is he the best passer in the world (sorry Sid), but he fights, performs in the playoffs with a separated shoulder, and dominates the league in possession stats year after year. The guy is everything you could ask for in a No. 1 center. As a captain the last few years he nearly always met with the media after every game, it wasn’t required, but he did it anyway. Not to say he hasn’t ducked the media before, rare to find a player who can say they’ve never done it, but Thornton is generally approachable and available.

After dropping four straight games capped by a horrendous performance Saturday to the lowly Sabres, Thornton led the Sharks to a 4-1 win over the red hot Anaheim Ducks on Sunday. Midway through the first period Thornton blocks a slap shot off his toe and hobbles immediately to the bench, struggling to get off the ice. Shortly thereafter he is back out on the power-play and perfectly timing his laser shot pass for Joe Pavelski to re-direct home for a 2-0 lead. Poor leader? I don’t think so. The guy back-checks his butt off. He does everything on the ice as a two-way player ever since the first round collapse to Anaheim back in 2008-09. Since then he has transformed his game into being a more defensive minded center. The video below, that is thievery on the back-check on some guy named Henrik Zetterberg.

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For whatever reason, outside media have always liked to center all the Sharks blame on Thornton and Marleau. This past offseason Sharks GM Doug Wilson blamed his top players and that only fueled outside criticism of Thornton but nothing seems to bother the guy. Even with all the offseason rumors surrounding him and his no movement clause, despite getting the C removed from his jersey, Thornton is still doing all the same things on the ice that he always does. He now has nine points in his first 10 games of the season, still a point per game two-way player at 35-years-old. Even more remarkable is those nine points have come without his running mate from last season in Brent Burns and with his left wing Tomas Hertl struggling and bumped down at times to other lines. Thornton, as he showed in the 2011-12 playoff series against the St. Louis Blues, can dominate the game without any of his teammates playing at a high level. He is still San Jose’s best player, and if the Sharks had any semblance of depth during his tenure, he would most likely have the Cup ring that everyone criticizes him for not having. Plus, if he wanted to, Thornton could be making eight plus million dollars a year like Ducks stars Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. Instead, he signs discounts to stay in San Jose, currently making $6.75 million, nearly two million less than Sidney Crosby and three million less than Evgeni Malkin.

A stud No. 1 center playing for less than $7 million in today’s NHL should be a contract the Sharks are bragging about having, not looking to trade. As colleague Dan Rice points out, he is a no doubt hall of famer, he deserves better from his bosses and the hockey world at large.

12 thoughts on “Thornton Silences Doubters, Leads Sharks Past Ducks”

  1. Would have to agree that based on stats, Thornton didn’t lead the Sharks past the Ducks. That’s about the only thing that is close to right, by far Thornton is the best player the Sharks has EVER had and is still playing at that level. The vast majority of the Canadians on the Kings didn’t make the Olympics either, but they got the cup and rings…. The Sharks top 6 are arguably in the top 4-5 teams first two lines, the Sharks bottom 6 are weak and have never been consistent and the defense has been poor especially in playoffs with mediocre goal tending. To blame Thornton and or Marleau is stupid and there are not too many teams that wouldn’t love to have both of them.

    • Thanks for the comment Dan, yeah other players had more points than Thornton, but the way he fired home that assist just a couple shifts after hobbling over to the bench just shows the type of player he is, he will play through as much pain as anybody to help the team win.

  2. Silences doubters? Yeah, let me know when Joe “I’m sooooo disappointed” actually does something in a game that means something. I might be impressed then. Until that happens, (don’t bet the farm on it) his, oh, I’m sorry, his COMBINED with Marleau’s .155 goal average in deciding games will be the real proof of his utter lack of heart when the pressure’s on. You want heart? Alec Martinez, two series winners in OT to take the Cup. That guy understands getting it done. Joe never has, and never will.

    • I’m not saying Thornton is the best player in the league or anything but I’m pretty sure that all things being equal (including salary) the Sharks could convince the Kings to trade Martinez for Thornton. I could also compile you a long list of exceptional athletes who have not won a championship and an even longer one of subpar professionals who have. Once again, not arguing that Thornton is the best, but to say he’s lacking heart because his team beat the eventual champions 3 times instead of 4 is pretty silly. Just point out that a Kings team led by Drew Doughty (maybe best shutdown defenseman in the world) was able to shut him down when it mattered.

    • He has assisted on or scored at least 5 stanley cup playoff ot goals. He also has a playoff ppg rate as good as Toews’. Your comparison of a bottom pair defenseman to a No.1 center is as apples and oranges as you can get.

  3. Giroux, Seguin, and Couture among others didn’t make team Canada’s roster so I assume none of those guys aren’t good leaders either. I’d also have to say that puck possession is generally a good thing although holding the puck too long can get you in trouble too. However, I would assume that a player with a tendency to always hold the puck too long would be benched or told to dump and chase. Bottom line is, Thornton is still producing at point-per-game pace and not many players in the NHL are able to do that. Take Thornton away from the Sharks and I guarantee that offensive numbers for the team will drop across the board.

  4. ^^^ You do not understand a bit about hockey and would better keep your mouth shut instead of being a clown

  5. How did he lead the Sharks past the Ducks? He had one assist and was even for the game. The Couture line which is actually the first line(minutes and matchups) had two goals and was plus two.
    Nope, still a bad leader. There was a lot of fact backing what went on this summer and none of it was connected to Marleau. Don’t defend someone when you don’t have the facts.
    If Thornton was the player you believe he is he would have made Team Canada. He didn’t fit their criteria. They only picked players who were both defensively responsible and offensively dangerous,
    The fault in all of this is on DW for resigning Thornton. That came as a huge shock to many in the org.
    Watch the next few games and count how many of his so called amazing passes actually connect with another Shark. See how often Thornton is unable to keep the zone.
    Why is the pk so bad this season? The only difference is that Thornton is on it. He might not be on for the goals against but it shows you how offensive it is to his teammates that he is on it.
    You are correct that Thornton leads the team by a very large margin in puck possession. When you take puck possession and quantify that by production Thornton was 8th last season among the teams forwards, ranking behind Tyler Kennedy. That tells us that Thornton having the puck so much is actually detrimental to the Sharks.
    Advanced analytics has been a hot topic around the league. Mike Babcock was asked if he used them and his response was we just call that homework. It appears that the Sharks who should be the most tech savvy team ignore them completely or McLellan has a blind spot when it comes to Thornton.
    If you are basing leadership off of being willing to talk to the press that is a shame. In many cases those with tremendous ego really like the attention of the media.

    • “Thornton having the puck so much is detrimental to the sharks” lol, having the puck means the other team can’t score. When you have the puck a lot versus like baseball having a lot of at bats, it’s easy for your production to not look as good versus someone as kennedy who has fewer opportunities but has put up some points in limited action Don’t tell me you think Kennedy would put up 70 plus points in top line minutes.

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