Thornton on losing captaincy: 'It's a big responsibility so it's a little strange when they take it away'

Aug 20, 8:07 PM

The San Jose Sharks announced on Wednesday that captain Joe Thornton and alternate captain Patrick Marleau (who was stripped of the captaincy in 2009) will come into training camp without letters on their jersey. 

"We are going to have a fresh slate at training camp as far as leadership goes," Sharks head coach Todd McLellan told David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News. "The veteran players that were on this team last year will have to come up with the way they're going to carry themselves, the way they're going to lead. And then we'll determine who our 'C' and 'As' will be as we go forward."

While McLellan indicated that Thornton had been appraised of the club's plans, when Pollak reached out to Thornton for comment, Thornton indicated that he hadn't been informed of the teams plan prior to the announcement. 

"It's a big honor and it's a big responsibility, so it's a little strange when they take it away from you," Thornton added.

Though McLellan and Thornton have reportedly sorted out this poorly timed lack of communication, it will do nothing to quell the theory, espoused by Hockey Night in Canada's Elliotte Friedman in late June, that the Sharks "are trying to get Thornton to go."

Aug 26, 3:00 PM

Owen Nolan: Removal of captaincy doesn’t lessen Joe Thornton's value

Aug 26, 3:00 PM

Joe Thornton may have lost the "C" off his jersey, but he still has the faith of former teammate Owen Nolan, a man who also served as captain of the San Jose Sharks.

“It doesn’t make him any less valuable,” Nolan told Katie Strang ESPN.com. “He’s going to continue to be a leader on the team, but they may move in a younger direction and get younger players to take on more responsibility."

Nolan also pumped management's tires for standing pat after a meltdown in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

"I’m sure everyone is disappointed in the way they were put out of the playoffs," he said, "but I like the way they didn't panic. This team, as a whole, is a good hockey team. They didn't panic. They didn't blow the whole thing up."

Nolan apparently missed the part where the Sharks wanted to trade Thornton earlier this summer (see below).

Regardless of who is named captain, Nolan believes the Sharks are "a solid hockey team that can win," but also a group that needs to move on from last season's disappointment as quickly as possible.

Nolan appeared in 568 games for the Sharks between 1995 and 2003, and sits third in all-time scoring with 451 points, behind only Patrick Marleau (931) and Thornton himself (740).

Aug 22, 5:49 PM

Sharks' Robinson on clean slate: 'We're waiting for somebody now to step forward and take charge of this team'

Aug 22, 5:49 PM

The San Jose Sharks made waves this week, and all summer really, with their decision to strip Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau of their captain and alternate captain titles, respectively, ahead of training camp.

On Friday, legendary shutdown defenseman, Hockey Hall of Famer, and current Sharks associate coach Larry Robinson was a guest on TSN 690 radio in Montreal and discussed the club's thinking on this delicate matter.

"It's never an easy decision, and it's not the only decision, but there was definitely a shake-up needed," Robinson said per FeartheFin.com. "Especially after being up 3-0 and then losing four straight to a team that we should have never lost to.

"You always look to your leaders and we certainly look to all our top players, not just Joe and not just Patrick, but all of our top players as a whole and when you have one goal, two assists and collectively a minus-29 in your final four games, you have to start looking to shake things up a little bit."

Robinson went on to suggest that the club needed a new alpha-type voice in the room, a leadership voice that can - finally - get the Sharks over the hump in the postseason.

"I don't think this is to put all the onus on Joe or even Patrick for that matter, but there's definitely leadership that has to be found somewhere within," Robinson said. "If it's not Joe and if it's not Patrick then we're looking for somebody else to step forward and I think that's the main reason we're doing what we're doing. We're waiting for somebody now to step forward and take charge of this team."

A sharp hockey mind with nothing left to prove in a sport he has dominated for over four decades, Robinson also suggested that the 35-year-old Thornton's advancing age, and the transitional phase that the Sharks are entering, played a role in the club's decision:

[Thornton] had a tendency to sometimes have a cutting sense of humor and sometimes people can take that the wrong way. He sometimes had a delivery which a lot of the young kids felt intimidated by and you certainly can't be intimidated by your captain or even your assistants. You have to feel comfortable and if you had a problem or if you need something or are looking for a lift, you usually look to your leaders and your captains to get out there. And it's possible that maybe Joe didn't provide it for our team.

Thornton is still a capable first-line center, the key to San Jose's dominant power-play, and he generally handled the toughest matchups amongst all Sharks centers a year ago. He performed well enough in 2013-14 that the club signed him to a three-year contract extension before the season ended, and his deal includes a full no-trade clause.

Despite all that Thornton has accomplished, and despite the commitment the team recently made to him, it sure seems like Sharks' training camp is going to be at least a little bit awkward this fall.

[H/T Fear the Fin]

Feature photo courtesy of REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine

Aug 21, 1:30 PM

Sharks coach McLellan on team's next captain: 'They'll sort it out'

Aug 21, 1:30 PM

After four seasons with a "C" on his sweater, Joe Thornton will enter training camp as one of several potential candidates to fill the now-vacant captain's role with the San Jose Sharks.

Head coach Todd McLellan is confident the players will make a firm decision on who will take up the mantle, and didn't rule out the possibility of Thornton being called upon once again, as unlikely as that seems.

“[The players] will sort it out. They’ll show us. They’ll tell us. Their actions will speak volumes,” McLellan conveyed via CSN Bay Area. ""If it’s real evident that [Thornton] is the guy, he’ll be the captain. If there’s somebody else that assumes that role and is prepared to take it on and is doing a very good job, then they will be."

The most plausible scenario seems to be the passing of the torch to one of Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture or Marc-Edouard Vlasic, all of whom are under contract for several more seasons and younger than Thornton and his predecessor, Patrick Marleau.

Feature photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports/Ed Szczepanski

Aug 20, 5:23 PM

Sharks strip Joe Thornton of captaincy

Aug 20, 5:23 PM

Ever since the San Jose Sharks authored the most spectacular chapter in their long, sordid history of postseason fecklessness by blowing a 3-0 series lead to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, questions have abounded about Joe Thornton's status as the club's captain.

Questions have also abounded about Thornton's status as a San Jose Shark, but that's another matter ...

The decision has now apparently been made and Thornton will be stripped of the captaincy heading into training camp in September, per Kevin Kurz of CSNBayArea.com:

So Thornton is no longer San Jose's captain, but there isn't a replacement yet, either. The club will go into training camp with no set leadership group and the expectation that younger players like Joe Pavelski (who isn't actually young), Logan Couture and Marc-Edouard Vlasic might step into more prominent leadership roles next season.

Of course, it's also possible – albeit unlikely – that Thornton retains the C following training camp. Sharks coach Todd McLellan hinted that the door was open for such an outcome on Wednesday.

"We’re just cleaning the slate," McLellan explained per David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News. "Joe Thornton could end up being the captain. I don’t know. None of us know."

Thornton has worn the C for the Sharks since 2009. He replaced teammate Patrick Marleau as captain during the 2009-10 season, after Marleau was stripped of the captaincy following another disappointing showing by the Sharks during the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

Aug 12, 8:08 PM

Sharks' McLellan remains mum on Thornton's captaincy

Aug 12, 8:08 PM

With training camp opening in roughly a month, Joe Thornton's grip on the San Jose Sharks' captaincy appears unsteady. 

The 35-year-old has held the "C" since 2010, but after another disappointing early exit from the playoffs, head coach Todd McLellan speculated a shakeup in leadership could be coming. 

"Those will be some decisions that we'll make as training camp approaches, as players get back into San Jose and settle in," McLellan told Dan Rosen of NHL.com. "We'll sit with them and talk about that situation.

"If there was a new rule that came into the league and there weren't any 'C's and 'A's, would there be a leadership group that took care of the team and would the followers step in and contribute when they needed to contribute? I believe so. So, with that in mind we'll see what we do as move forward."

There were rumblings that both Thornton and Patrick Marleau were being shopped during the offseason, though McLellan dispelled those rumors, saying there is still a place for both veterans on the roster. 

I think a lot of people, especially in the media, immediately went to, 'Well, they're going to trade Thornton and Marleau.' That's not the case. We believe that those two are part of the solution, not part of the problem. That got a lot of play media-wise. That's not what we were about. We think we have a very good hockey club and we think we need to tinker with a few things and continue to push forward.

Since being acquired from the Boston Bruins in 2005, Thornton has scored 173 goals and added 567 assists for 740 points in 675 games, though, he's been unable to lead his team to the Stanley Cup Finals. 

Jun 28, 6:30 PM

Sharks' Todd McLellan open to idea of stripping Joe Thornton of captaincy

Jun 28, 6:30 PM

Despite his no-trade clause, speculation continues to grow that Joe Thornton is on his way out of San Jose. 

The Sharks are reportedly looking to move Thornton as part of a rebuilding process, but will require approval from the 34-year-old center before a deal can be struck. 

The team does have final say on who gets to wear the "C," though, and head coach Todd McLellan isn't opposed to the idea of removing it from Thornton's jersey if he returns next season.

"What would happen if nobody wore a letter on our team this year? Not a single guy?" McLellan said Saturday, via Craig Custance of ESPN.com. "What if nobody wore a letter? We'd still be the San Jose Sharks and we'd be a leadership group. What would happen?"

McLellan provided this answer: "I don't know."

General manager Doug Wilson has been open about his concerns over the team's group of veterans, telling reporters in early June that the Sharks "want players who want to play here, not just live here."

Regardless of whether Thornton returns, it sounds as though the Sharks are ready for a change in leadership.

"Jumbo's our captain right now and we'll make some decisions as we go forward," McLellan said. "We've got to get it right."

Feature photo courtesy of Reuters/Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Jun 28, 9:17 AM

Report: Stars have inquired about Sharks' Thornton

Jun 28, 9:17 AM

The San Jose Sharks, consistently an elite NHL club for nearly a decade, have been telling anyone who will listen that they're in "rebuilding mode" this summer. 

Such talk would seem mad, if not for the organization's storied history of playoff failure. That history that added new depths this April when the club coughed up a commanding 3-0 series lead against the Los Angeles Kings, lost Game 7, and were eliminated in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Whether that rebuilding talk is a smokescreen, or perhaps it's motivated by something more sinister, its become apparent that the Sharks may be questioning if captain Joe Thornton fits in with the club's vision for a winning future.

In early June it was reported that "at least six teams" had inquired about Thornton this summer and it would appear that one of those teams is the Dallas Stars. From CSNBayArea.com's Kevin Kurz:

According to an NHL source, Dallas has approached San Jose about acquiring (Thornton). The Stars could use help at the position behind budding superstar Tyler Seguin, while Wilson has clearly indicated he will be turning his team over to the younger core players on the ice and in the dressing room.

The interest from Dallas is meaningless, of course, if Thornton does not want to waive his no-trade clause. His agent and brother, John Thornton, indicated again on Friday that his client would like to remain in San Jose.

Even at his advanced age Thornton is still an excellent two-way player and a premiere playmaker, who would certainly add an additional element of dynamism to an already potent Stars offense. The big 34-year-old pivot has a full no-movement clause though, so he still controls his destiny, and he's consistently indicated that he'd prefer to stay with the Sharks. 

Thornton remains, so far at least, unmoved by the "rebuilding" talk in San Jose.

[H/T Pro Hockey Talk]

Feature photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports/Cary Edmondson

Jun 25, 9:05 PM

McKenzie: Sharks would like to trade Joe Thornton, but no deal coming soon

Jun 25, 9:05 PM

Joe Thornton's trade to the San Jose Sharks had an instant impact for the team, with the big center earning the Art Ross and Hart trophies in his first year with the club.

The Sharks would like to see Thornton have another positive impact on the team, this time via his departure.

TSN's Bob McKenzie explains: "I think in a perfect world the San Jose Sharks would like to try and trade Thornton and begin a rebuilding process using the return as a centerpiece for it."

McKenzie added that he doesn't see a deal getting done anytime soon, and that Thornton has a no-move clause that he isn't likely to waive.

McKenzie also notes that while there isn't a list of potential destinations, he believes the list Thornton would provide the team would "include teams the Sharks probably wouldn't want to trade him to like the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, or Chicago Blackhawks."

Thornton remains the captain of the team, which is surely in need of some leadership at the moment, having become just the fourth team in league history to lose a series after holding a 3-0 lead these past playoffs.

Jun 22, 1:28 PM

Agent: Sharks are the 'only team' on Joe Thornton's list

Jun 22, 1:28 PM

With Sharks general manager Doug Wilson seemingly eager to find a new home for captain Joe Thornton, and no shortage of suitors waiting to see how the situation plays out, the big center's agent and brother - John Thornton - told TVA Sports on Sunday his client has no desire to be traded.

"San Jose is the only team on his list," he said.

John Thornton previously said Joe is content in San Jose, and would only consider a trade "if he felt the fans didn't want him."

For his part, Wilson is intent on changing the Sharks' culture, presumably at the expense of trading away the team's captain and second-highest scorer in 2013-14.

At the end of the day, the Thornton's have the last word thanks to a handy no-trade clause in a recent contract extension signed with the Sharks.

Jun 20, 6:25 PM

Friedman: 'I think (the Sharks) are trying to get Joe Thornton to go'

Jun 20, 6:25 PM

Amid all the confusing talk of the San Jose Sharks "rebuilding" or potentially stripping Joe Thornton of his captaincy, one thing is clear: the relationship between the Sharks and Thornton has been frayed in the six weeks since San Jose's season was ended by the Los Angeles Kings. 

It's not just that the Sharks fell short in the Stanley Cup playoffs, again. It's that they did so in stunning fashion, by blowing a 3-0 series lead before losing to the eventual Stanley Cup champions in seven games. This Sharks core has consistently been among the league's elite in the regular season, but they've never advanced beyond the Western Conference final.

All of that apparently has Sharks management considering something drastic this offseason, something to shake up the room and turn the team over to younger stars like Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. It certainly seems unlikely that the myriad of rumors that have surrounded the Sharks' past two captains Patrick Marleau and Thornton this month are just coincidental.

Is there method to San Jose's madness? Sportsnet's new insider Elliotte Friedman seems to think so. "I think they're trying to get Joe Thornton to go," Friedman said on The Scott Rintoul show on Thursday night, "I really do."

Continued Friedman:

See the thing I think really happened there is that Joe Thornton is, like, he's such a dominant personality. He's an alpha male. He's a guy who likes to talk, and likes to ride people... But I think if you really want to (give) the room to Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski, y'know, it's tough to do that with him there. 

I think if they told Thornton, "you're not the alpha male on this team anymore" I think he would try to do it. I think he really wants to be there and really wants to win there. I'm just not convinced that the organization believes that it can be done with him still there. 

Added Friedman on the transferring of leadership question: "I think (San Jose would) be worried that some of the players wouldn't be comfortable enough taking bigger leadership roles with Thornton around, or might be a bit nervous about him - rightly or wrongly. I think that's why the team wants to try and move him."

Certainly Friedman's thinking appears to be buttressed by the public record. Just this week Sharks general manager Doug Wilson described San Jose as a "tomorrow team," and appeared to take an indirect shot at Thornton by saying "I don’t want to put a name on you, but you’re a guy that hasn’t won, had a long career, you want to go win. You might say, ‘this doesn’t fit for me.’"

The fly in the ointment here, of course, is Thornton's three-year contract that includes a full no-movement clause. Also the fact that the ink was basically still drying on the contract as San Jose began to shift into a "future team" posture. 

"The guy just took under market value to sign for three years and I think that's the thing that bothers him the most," Friedman said on Thursday. "He took that deal and now they want to trade him. He's like, well why wouldn't you just let me go and become a free agent? I think there's a little bit of bitterness between him and the organization for that."

It would be understandable if there was. 

Jun 10, 2:30 PM

Thornton might consent to trade 'If he felt the fans didn't want him,' says agent

Jun 10, 2:30 PM

In recent weeks San Jose Sharks captain Joe Thornton has been kicked around more than any California-based public figure since Richard Milhous Nixon. 

In the wake of the Sharks' brutal loss in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, when they blew a 3-0 series lead against the Los Angeles Kings, Thornton's leadership has been indirectly questioned and it's been widely suggested that the premiere playmaker is on the trade block this summer. 

There's only one problem with that theory: Thornton has a full no-movement clause and signed a three-year contract extension worth $20.25 million just a few months ago. If the Sharks want to see the Thornton era come to a close this summer, it's the skilled Sharks captain who will control the process.

"He's perfectly happy there right now," Joe's brother and agent John Thornton told David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News this week. "He wants to stay there and win the cup. He believes they still have enough talent."

So is there any scenario in which Thornton might potentially change his mind, and agree to waive his no-movement clause and join a new club? "If he felt the fans didn't want him in San Jose, he might re-think things," his agent said.

Jun 7, 10:57 AM

Report: Maple Leafs among 6 teams interested in Sharks' Joe Thornton

Jun 7, 10:57 AM

San Jose Sharks captain Joe Thornton isn't really on the market, but if he were, the Toronto Maple Leafs would be among "at least six NHL teams" that would have significant interest according to a report by QMI's Mike Zeisberger.

Zeisberger specifically suggests that the Leafs and "at least" five other teams have already 'kicked the tires concerning Thornton's availability.' A first-line center and premiere playmaker would make a lot sense for a lot of teams, so that level of potential interest shouldn't come as much of a surprise.

Ever since the Sharks bowed out of the postseason following four straight losses to the Los Angeles Kings in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, there have been significant rumblings about the potential for change in San Jose. TSN's Bob McKenzie even suggested in May that Thornton could be on his way out of Northern California this summer.

The key here isn't the "interest" that teams like the Maple Leafs have in a player of Thornton's caliber. The key is whether or not the Sharks decide to jettison a player that - even on a club with talented younger pieces like Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski - still draws the most attention from opposing team's defenses on a nightly basis. 

Anyway, for now it appears that Thornton isn't "on the market" per TSN's Pierre LeBrun

Right now [Thornton being on the market is] not the case but the Sharks have made it known they're rebuilding. What does that mean for a veteran like Thornton – does he want to be on a rebuilding team? That remains to be seen.

Basically several teams including the Maple Leafs would be interested in a star player if he becomes available, but he's not available at the moment and surely won't be unless a team - like the Maple Leafs perhaps? - make a significant offer. 

Just so long as the Sharks don't ask for one of the Maple Leafs untouchable players, like Tyler Bozak, in return.

Feature photo courtesy of REUTERS/Fred Thornhill