The start of training camp practices gave the media the first chance to speak to the bulk of the San Jose Sharks Friday, Sept. 19. For his part, Joe Thornton did not pretend to be on board with general manager Doug Wilson’s off-season conclusions in the wake of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoff collapse.
The pictured five statements in that Working the Corners entry for the San Jose Mercury News show why David Pollak worked “Thornton makes it clear he and the general manager weren’t always seeing eye-to-eye” into the title. The player comments deserve to be examined further, and pretty much confirm speculation the captain was the target of some of Wilson’s statements.
Thornton was asked if it felt different being in camp after losing the captaincy ahead of the 2014-15 NHL season: “When I got it put on me it really didn’t feel any different. You’ve still got to go out and work hard. It really doesn’t matter if you have (the “C”) on or off.”
He also said he does not need someone else to tell him the Sharks cannot win the Stanley Cup. He also does not see them as a “tomorrow team” as Wilson suggested in May. Then again, they might be more focused on the 2014-15 NHL season if Thornton and Patrick Marleau had been willing to waive their no-movement clauses.
If Thornton feels Stanley Cup failures were put on him, that only confirms what was obvious despite San Jose’s backtracking when the summer of the rebuild ended up being the summer of the blue-line personnel tweak. It also gives a sign of how he will respond to being called out, at least for the start of the 2014-15 NHL season.
Even if resentment is part of his attitude, knowing how he feels is better than wondering. Harmony would be ideal but there is a resolve in those comments and plenty of players have succeeded in defiance of a general manager or owner.
On the other hand, it is almost sure to add tension during any poor stretches of the 2014-15 NHL season by Thornton or the team. In the end, he probably wins if they butt heads because of the no-movement clause he got from Wilson probably means the player wins the battle if they do butt heads.
Either way, Thornton assures everyone he will be behind whatever leadership is chosen. The possibility of Examiner’s predicted (though Marc-Edouard Vlasic was endorsed) next captain Logan Couture was examined by Curtis Pashelka of the Mercury News, while CSN Bay Area Insider Kevin Kurz repeatedly predicts it will be Joe Pavelski.
Vlasic said of the deposed captain that “nothing bothers him, but he’s motivated now more than every to prove (people) wrong.” As far back as the State of the Sharks event in 2009, I challenged him to play mad: Thornton scored a goal and two assists in an angry performance in the third game of the Stanley Cup playoffs, but had just two assists in the other five games.
After a disappointing loss to a Pacific Division rival ended a promising season, Marleau lost the captaincy. It should be noted that each Western Conference final appearance in franchise has come after a change in captains. I have maintained this team needed shaking up the entire five seasons.
Hopefully Wilson has succeeded in lighting that fire: San Jose makes the Stanley Cup playoffs if Thornton plays the 2014-15 NHL season with a chip on his shoulder, and moves from pretender (the only fitting term for an elite team that fails to compete after the second round in 10 straight postseasons) to contender if he carries that edge into the postseason.