Archive for the ‘Joe Thornton’ Category

San Jose joins Chicago in the "Now or Never Club"

September 13, 2009

The bleak salary cap future for San Jose and Chicago … without an anti-semite to save them
Should FTF go from “Fear the Fin” to “Fuck the Future”?
It’s tough to avoid that question with San Jose’s bold trade of Dany Heatley and a 5th rounder for Jonathan Cheechoo, Milan Michalek and a 2nd-rounder. Certainly, it’s a smarter cap-based move than shipping Patrick Marleau to Ottawa because Patty M’s cap hit will dissolve after next season. Yet it begs the question: why exactly do the Sharks feel like the doomsday clock is approaching zero already?
Ever since the San Jose Sharks reached The Next Level after the Joe Thornton trade, the team kept getting older and older. The team seems to keep producing young talent, only to ship them out in favor of guys who – while often superior – are getting a little longer in the tooth.
Steve Bernier, Matt Carle, Michalek and many others have been shuttled out to make room for Rob Blake, Dan Boyle and other expensive veterans. Again, it hasn’t always been the wrong move but old over new is a trend that ultimately caught up with the Colorado Avalanche and might (evenutally? maybe?) catch up with Detroit.
Going forward, the Sharks have three extremely big contracts: Thornton ($7.2 million per year through 2010-11); Heatley ($7.5 million through 2013-14) and Dan Boyle (with his satanic $6.66 million through 2013-14). Now – don’t get me wrong – I’d rather shell out about $21 million for Heatley-Thornton-Boyle instead of wasting almost $13 million on the Cristobal HuetBrian Campbell shit sandwich.

After all, Heatley is absolutely the real deal. Anyone who thinks he will be a “bust” is allowing their (understandably negative) feelings get in the way of the fact that Heatley is absolutely one of the top five goal scorers in the league. He could genuinely flirt with joining Alex Ovechkin in the ultra-rare 60 Goal Club.

But what will become of San Jose’s depth?
Devin Setoguchi could be in line for a really nice raise if he puts up another feisty, 30-plus goal season. Joe Pavelski faces one more season in which he’ll be an underpaid gem, then he could see some really nice green. Even big contract guys like Evgeni Nabokov and Marleau will either need to be re-signed or replaced by comparable talent.
That being said, this trade makes Heatley an absolute top-10 fantasy hockey talent and re-establishes Jumbo Joe as a great guy to snag if you cannot get one of the Big Three.
It also will make San Jose one of the teams I’ll watch the most closely once the season starts. (Ah, the glories of Center Ice)
More than anything else, it’s going to be interesting as hell. Will the Sharks prosper from pushing all their chips to the middle of the table? Or will some bad metaphor gangsters break their knee caps after this Shaky Chemistry Gamble fails profoundly?
I can’t wait to find out.

Re-Draft Steals: Round 1

August 4, 2009

With the fourth round underway, it seems like there is enough separation to have a little fun with the CLS League Re-Draft.

To revive your memories of the first round, there were some big surprises amid the expected decisions.

Obviously, the biggest surprise was most likely Cassie‘s pick of Henrik Lundqvist at #3. It wasn’t the only pick that defied expectations, however, so there were some top-end players going toward the end of the first round.

Calling Evgeni Malkin (#4), Nicklas Lidstrom (#6) or Pavel Datsyuk (#7) steals might be a bit much, even if they were great picks. So for the sake of argument, we’ll go into the teens before we consider anyone a true “steal.” Feel free to vote and comment on whom you think ended up being the Hamburglar of the first round.

It’s not crazy to call Geno a steal at #4

11. Roberto Luongo

Perhaps it wasn’t a banner season for Bobby Lou after he faced a tough mid-season injury and fell victim to a Patrick Kane hat trick in the playoffs, but it’s still surprising that he was not the first goaltender taken.

16. Jarome Iginla

It’s been a while since Iginla powered the Calgary Flames to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, but he hasn’t shown many signs of slowing down as one of the premier power forwards in the game. He does everything you’d want, from scoring to fighting to being a charismatic leader.

19. Martin Brodeur

His stock is sliding a bit, but Brodeur is still one of the biggest names in the NHL. He’s won Stanley Cups, Vezina trophies, gold medals and oh yeah, the most games of any netminder ever. Couple that with a reasonable cap hit ($5.2 million) and what was a staggering workhorse streak before the 2008-9 season and he has to at least be considered a steal.

23. Chris Pronger

Pronger might be the most hated player in the NHL, considering that he poses a far more legitimate threat than Sean Avery‘s mouth. But for my money, if I want to win a Cup next year I’d either go with Pronger. He might not be as cerebral as Lidstrom, but that doesn’t mean he cannot think the game. He might not be as large as Zdeno Chara, but he makes up for their small size difference with an indifference for human life. Oh, and he’s also a helluva powerplay quarterback to boot.

25. Joe Thornton

Yes, he gets a lot of crap for his playoff chokings (whether that perception is fair or not) but Jumbo Joe is a guy who’s made millionaires out of solid forwards ever since he got comfortable in the league. He’s huge, awesome in video games and puts up huge numbers every year. In my book, he’s easily a top-15 player.

26. Henrik Zetterberg

Zetterberg can do it all. He’s one of the league’s best two-way players, can shift between center and LW with ease and score tons of points. His durability can be a bit of a concern, but other than that he’s a guy who has no business dropping to the later part of the first round.

Which player was the steal of the first round?(opinion)

Hockey Orphan: The Couch Tarts on the San Jose Sharks

April 2, 2009
(Click on Sleek’s logo above for all the Hockey Orphan entries)

So here you are, a lonely former sports fan with no recollection of your past life. Your friends are trying to stir your memories and lure you back into the fold, but you aren’t sure. There are other teams, other fan cultures to explore. Maybe you live someplace snowy and cold and yearn for sunshine. Sunshine, but not smog. Deserts aren’t really your thing and humidity is just the worst in your book. You X out the two southern California teams, ditch the desert dogs and go nova on the Stars. You settle you sights on the usually sunny, occasionally foggy, reaches of the south bay area. You pack your things and make the long (or short) trek to the south bay area in search of a new, teal life.

Magically, you find yourself walking the Teal Mile. It’s just before game time and the place is an explosion of teal and Thornton. You make a mental note to pick a more original jersey and follow the masses to your new home. The Tank rises like a beacon of light next to the Guadalupe River.* You enter the sacred building and walk in to find a writhing mass of fans and concession stands, Una Mas nachos and tasteless puck like burgers. You ascend to the upper bowl and find your place amongst kings. Here, in the upper reaches of the Tank is where the reputation of the loud and boisterous Tank is born.

Smelling the clean, fresh scent of “new fan”, a nice person takes you under their wing and leads you to your seat. How fortunate! You’re in 208! The perfect section to be introduced to the rituals of the Tank. Your mysterious guide hands you a pamphlet. In it you find a list of tips and important information for all Sharks fans.

1st (and foremost): Thou-est must not-ith lean-ith forward! NO LEANING!!

Denizens of the upper levels will raise quite a raucous if you lean forward during the game. We don’t pay to see the back of your head Mr. or Ms. New fan!

2nd: all must boo Pronger when he touch-ith the puck and must continually boo until it leaves his grasp.

3rd: If thou-est playing the Stars, thou must boo the word “star” in the National Anthem. Delicious sacrilege is at home here.

4th: If thou shall be sitting in 209 thou must arrive on time lest thou be subject to merciless taunts for the rest of the game. Also, thou shall be warned that 209 will yell “YOU SUCK” at the opposing team before the start of the anthem(s) and thou shalt be required to participate. 209 is the leader of the upper bowl and its traditions. Thou must follow the lead of 209.

5th: If at any time during intermission there is competition between the upper and lower bowl, thou must vote for the upper bowl. When the lower bowl wins a jersey, thou must complain about how they never give prizes to the “real fans” and that the lower bowl “can afford to buy their own jerseys.”

6th: Thou must hate-ith the following teams: Anaheim, Detroit, Dallas.

Thou may also hate-ith any of the other remaining teams as appropriate.

7th: Thou shalt worry endlessly when facing the Coyotes.

You look up as cheers erupt from the crowd. The team streams out of the smoking, glowing head of a Shark. How’s that for an entrance? You can look but you won’t find a better one anywhere in the NHL.

Suddenly it sounds like folks are booing? What’s this? Ah, they’re actually shouting “Cheeeeeeeechooooooooooooooooooooooooo” They take their train metaphors seriously here.

As you discover through dutiful observation as the period ticks by, Sharks fans are an emotional lot. They ride the ebbs and flows of the game as if they were a roller coaster. They are a passionate bunch, far better educated in the ways of hockey than most realize or give them credit for.

Cheers arise when bitter rivals are shown to have lost on the “out of town score board.” These fans know who is where in the standings, and who stands in their team’s way of greatness.

You feel overwhelmed and look back down at your pamphlet and read the following words of wisdom:

17,496. Get used to that number. It’s a sell out and you’ll hear it more often than not at games.

Yes, even here in sunny San Jose, fans stream in from all points of the bay to watch their beloved Sharkies. The Sharks have quite the following and a great deal of support from their fans both in and around the South Bay.

The buzzer sounds indicating your first period has come to a close. More time to consult your fandom pamphlet!

It’s not all rainbows and butterflies in the land of teal. Nay, there are some downsides to being a Sharks fan.

Despite the large and passionate fan base the Sharks have, the team remains one of the best kept sports secrets in the Bay Area. The lack of local coverage is astounding.

Second round taunts are common throughout the season. It doesn’t matter that the Sharks did, in fact, advance to the Conference Finals only to be defeated at the hands of the Flames in 2004. It’s all about those 3 consecutive second round eliminations.

Those three early bows have also left Sharks fans with a bit of a complex. They whine relentlessly if their team doesn’t win all 82 games. Come playoff time, it’s all woe is me and “we’ll never make it out of the second round.”, unless of course it’s, “this is our year!” and “nothing can stop us now!”

Sharks fans have a lot of pride in their team, and often take out their frustrations over not being taken seriously on the player/current position in the standings/Detroit/Ron Wilson.**

You will have to become used to hearing the following things:

not a real hockey market, it never snows there (ignore that the mountains surrounding the South Bay indicate otherwise), Californians don’t know jack about hockey, they shouldn’t have a team, they shouldn’t have three teams, all the fans are transplanted Canadians, the Tanks never sells out, no one there plays hockey, “disappearing Joe”, no heart…

It doesn’t matter that these fact aren’t true, you will hear them.

As the second period begins, you settle in. You feel welcomed in this new teal family and despite the downfalls, you’re going to stick it out. This seems like a good place. A season or two under your belt will only make it better.

*This is the Bay Area. It’s really more like a stream with mood swings.

** Only valid in the years 2003 through 2008.

(Thanks a bunch to Gray and the gang at Couch Tarts. Make sure to follow them and their great coverage of the San Jose Sharks.)

Couch Tarts: why Joe Thornton should be the All-Decade Center

February 17, 2009

(Earlier today, Jibblescribbits argued the case for Joe Sakic to be All-Decade Center. Now, for the pro-Thornton take, we enlisted the help of Mina from the always entertaining San Jose Sharks blog Couch Tarts. Go there for the adorable doodles, stay for the witty banter.)

Voters of the Hockey Blogosphere, when it come to making your choice for best center of the decade, there is only one true candidate: Joe Thornton. Don’t know much about Joe Thornton since he left the Boston and you couldn’t stay up for Sharks games? Can’t find Sharks games on national TV? Didn’t know that hockey was played in California? Fret not dear reader, it’s time to enlighten you about the awesomeness that is Jumbo Joe.

Joe Thornton has everything that you need in a hockey player: speed, skill, and the ability to make players around him better. You want a player who cares more about his fellow players?Joe Thornton is your guy.

Despite the fact that he consistently takes close to 100 shots per season, Joe has had more than 50 assists in 6 of the 9 seasons of this decade. That includes this season, which isn’t even over yet. He almost singlehandedly helped Jonathan Cheechoo win the “Rocket” Richard Trophy in his first season with the Sharks. Joe Thornton is one of only three players with consecutive 90 assist seasons. The other guys? Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. Not bad company there. Joe Thornton is a player who is selfless and helps others more than himself.

Sure we know that everyone is concerned about what a candidate will do when they reach the playoffs. Sure Joe had some rough years while in Boston. But that is all in the past. You want to look at a candidate’s recent performance and 30 points in 35playoff games over 3 seasons shows the kind of performance you can come to expect from Big Joe. Plus at 6’4″ and 235 lbs, Joe has the size to be able to take on all playoff foes and come out on top.

Despite being Canadian, Joe was made to live in California. He has the laid-back surfer attitude and chronic allergy to shirts that all good surfer boys need. And really isn’t that one of the most important qualities that you need in a player that is asked the lead a team: the ability to relax after a game so they can focus their energy on the game.

There are many things that make Joe Thornton the perfect center for your hockey team needs. Size, speed, a deadly passing ability, and the ability to make those around him better make Joe Thornton the greatest center of the decade. And remember, a vote for Joe Thornton is a vote for shirtless locker room interviews.

Jibblescribbits: Why Joe Sakic should be the All-Decade Center

February 17, 2009

(On Saturday, Earl Sleek wrote a great post covering one of the burning questions of the All-Decade team selection process: Niedermayer or Pronger? Today, Jibblescribbits covers one half of the other great discussion: Sakic vs. Thornton. Once you’re done reading about Burnaby Joe make sure to head over to his great blog that covers the Colorado Avalanche and hockey in general.)

Normally when I’m given a side in a point-counter-point argument The first thing I do is I try to mentally argue the other side in my head. Knowing your enemy gives you more ammunition and the ability to rebut the other side’s argument before they even make it, defusing it. But for this argument I have a hard time doing that, and that is because I cannot come up with one good reason to pick Joe Thornton over Joe Sakic for the all-decade team. (And I’m a huge Thornton fan)

Jos Sakic won his Conn Smythe in 1996 so I can’t use that. I guess all I am left with is a Hart, Lester B. Pearson, Lady Byng (all in ’01) NHL All-Star MVP (which I’ll admit isn’t worth a whole lot), and 3 NHL all first teams (’01, ’02, ’04). He’s also got one of those Stanley Cups in ’01 and then a Gold Medal (and Olympic MVP) in ’02. Instead of listing his all-star appearences, I’ll just list the years he didn’t go: ’03, ’08, ’09. All three of those years happened to be because he was injured.

Thornton has a Hart, and leads Super Joe Sakic in regular season points over the last decade 708-650(even though Sakic leads in goals 248-221), so there’s an argument that could be made here.

But dig any deeper and that argument quickly breaks down. Add in playoff points and it’s a virtual tie in points (747-744 edge to Thornton). Sakic also has over 400 less PIM than Thornton. Based on merits alone Sakic has a slight edge, but there’s more to hockey than stats.

I’m not a big fan of calling someone clutch. I think “clutch” is overused and is misunderstood. With a small sample size anyone can get lucky and appear to be clutch, and anyone can have a slump at the wrong time and look like a choker. I’m not going to call Thornton a choker, because that wouldn’t be fair (nor accurate).

That being said if there ever is such a thing as clutch.. well Joe Sakic is it. In the playoffs he’s playing at a smidgen under a point per game pace (94 points in 96 games) while Thornton has struggled to keep his regular season form in the playoffs (only 39 points in 53 games). And yes, Cups count. Thornton could win one this season (and I hope he does) but Sakic has 1 and there can’t be enough said of his trancendent Olympic Performance in Salt Lake in ’02. For what it’s worth, Sakic also has, and not too put too much hyperbole on it, the greatest goal of the decade on his resume. I consider a Game 7 series icer in which he makes not one, but 2 future hall of famers look silly while firing off his iconic wrist shot the greatest goal in history. Sure there’s more significant ones, but in sheer terms of skill combined with what was at stake they don’t get any better than this:

(1:44 mark)

None of this is any disrespect to Joe Thornton. I think he’s a fantastic player and certainly belongs in the discussion of greatest centers of the last 10 years. But he’s not at the top. Joe Sakic is. His regular season stats combine with his postseason stats to make him the best center of the last 10 (cough 15-20) years.

All-Decade Team: Worthy Centers

January 14, 2009

As we consider how the All-Decade Team will be determined, let’s get started on considering candidates for each position. For each player listed, there will be relevant stats and awards with a dash of opinion thrown in. It’s important to not try to sway opinions too much but we still need to have a little fun with this.

See a glaring absence? State a case for that player in the comments.

Joe Sakic

Stats from ’99-’00 to current: (656 points from 250 goals and 406 assists in the REG; 94 points from 41 goals and 53 assists in the playoffs)

Awards from that period: Hart Trophy (2001); Pearson Trophy (2001); First-team All Star (2001, 2002 and 2004); five All-Star appearances

The amazing thing (actually, one of the many amazing things) about Sakic is that he scored almost 1,000 points before the time frame of consideration. As difficult as it may be, try to consider Sakic’s most recent decade of work instead of his entire career.

Besides, Sakic still brought a level of grace (a “quote-less” grace) to the game that is rare for even a hockey player. Most people will remember Sakic for his wicked wrister, but he was also a very good playmaker to boot. An absolute clutch performer, Sakic is one of the best centers of his era.

Joe Thornton

Stats from that period: (760 points from 232 goals and 528 assists in REG; 48 points from 11 goals and 37 assists in the playoffs)

Awards: Hart trophy (’06); Art Ross (’06); First Team All-Star (’06); 5 All-Star teams

One of the leading point producers of the decade, the common knock on Joe Thornton remains his playoff output. Many would counter that Thornton’s post-season play is quite good since coming to San Jose (30 points in 35 playoff games).

Regardless of playoff critiques, Thornton is one of the NHL’s most consistently dominant players. His combination of size and playmaking are a nightmare for defenses. With a career average of 2.14 shots per game, it’s usually pretty obvious what Thornton is going to do on offense.

But like a pick & roll between Karl Malone and John Stockton, knowing what Thornton is going to do and stopping that act are two enormously different things.

Vincent Lecavalier

Stats: (612 points from 277 goals and 335 assists in REG; 33 points from 18 goals and 15 assists in playoffs)

Awards: Richard trophy (’07); three All-Star games

It took awhile for Lecavalier to become a star caliber player and that whole “Michael Jordan of hockey” thing probably will not come true. Still, the 6’4″ Lecavalier is the prototypical franchise center. He has great size, skates well, can make plays and is terrifying on a breakaway.

How much does playing on a Tampa Bay that – excluding their Stanley Cup run and a season or two around that time – is middling at best and awful at worst affect Lecavalier’s numbers?

Mats Sundin

Stats: (608 points from 260 goals and 348 assists in REG; 41 points from 16 goals and 25 assists in playoffs)

Awards: Four All-Star games

Before the free agent soap opera that eventually took him to Vancouver, Sundin was known as a big, talented Swede and a model of consistency. Even on a Toronto Maple Leafs team that failed to make the playoffs since the 03-04 season, Sundin still managed to record nearly a point per game. And unlike many franchise centers, he rarely had a quality winger to finish the scoring chances he could create.

Peter Forsberg

Stats: (445 points from 121 goals and 334 assists in REG; 92 points from 33 goals and 59 assists in playoffs)

Awards: Hart trophy (’03), Art Ross (’03) First All-Star Team (’03) and two All-Star teams

At this point, we’re entering a quality versus quantity discussion. Even though injuries kept Forsberg from putting up massive overall numbers, he’s only two playoff points behind Sakic and was one of the most captivating playmakers the hockey world has ever seen.

He also was like an injury prone Alex Ovechkin in that his game was extremely violent for a player of his star quality. Sadly, that tendency toward ultra-violence probably lead to a fragility that only Mario Lemieux and Bobby Orr can relate to.

Still, when Forsberg was healthy he’s arguably the best forward of the decade. Is that enough to overshadow the fact that he missed so much time?

Guys who are just too young/don’t have enough games under their belt: Sidney Crosby, Pavel Datsyuk, Evgeni Malkin

Honorable mentions: Mike Modano, Marc Savard, Scott Gomez, Brad Richards