08 May 2007

Joe Thornton and San Jose bow out meekly

After three games the San Jose Sharks led the Detroit Red Wings 2 games to 1...only to lose the final three. I expected a lot more out of the Sharks overall, and especially last night.

A shutout at home? In a do-or-die game?

For the series the most glaring individual failure came from captain Patrick Marleau: 0 points, -3. Yet for me Joe Thornton (1 goal, 4 assists - 12 shots in 6 games) failed to lead this team as he could have. I was going to write "should" have but I think it's finally time to reevaluate that, and him. Here's something I wrote on a board last night while watching the game:

Joe Thornton just lacks...something. Maturity? Constant killer instinct?

One must be wary of creating impressions based on short experiences. Nevertheless, when I saw him play one game ~11 years ago for the Soo Greyhounds, he scored a goal on his first shift and almost quite literally spent the rest of the game circling in the offensive zone, waiting. Never creating. Watching.

This against the worst team in the league, a team that a year before had set an OHL record for futility (3 wins). And that afternoon the lesser team, the feeble London Knights, beat the first place Soo. And ever since then I've always wondered about Thornton's mettle. Not saying it isn't there. But it is buried. To me he would benefit from playing second-fiddle to a seasoned-warrior. Behind a total pro uber-respected vet like Joe Sakic. Or Brendan Shanahan. Or Chris Drury.

Just wondering.

Again last night - zero shots and on the ice for both goals-against? ZERO shots? ZERO hits? Where is the passion?

As an aside, I think Boston Bruins fans love the fact that they traded Thornton - it gives them (yet another) reason to blame management; another phantom scapegoat incident. Fact is - and I live in the Boston area, I was here for the trade - fans had little love for JT the day before the deal was made. He was in the last year of his contract, he was playing dispirited hockey, he was in many ways an on-ice symbol for the failings of the Boston Bruins organization. Fast-forward to the trade - yes, the net deal was awful for Boston, but not in terms of what they gave up - if they had made more of an effort with their returned assets (sign Brad Stuart and Marco Sturm long-term, use extra money saved on Thornton's deal to shore up other areas, e.g. defence) it could have eventually worked out for them. But I digress.... suddenly Thornton was this massive superstar who was "given" away.

My point is this - Boston fans knew. They were frustrated with his inconsistent play and increasing MIA status in many games. Frustrated because they'd seen him play a dominant game, they'd seen the force he could become.

It's time to re-evaluate Joe Thornton. I think Jaromir Jagr was jobbed out of the MVP last year (even though awards are meaningless, I tell myself - e.g. Theodore over Iginla?) - the voters completely discounted the first 25% of the season Joe played (a listless game) in Boston. And I think Joe Thornton is a player who - in some ways like Pierre Turgeon before him - will go down in history as one who put up great numbers but left everyone who saw him play wanting more, so much more.

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