October 07, 2010
Thornton, arguably, is more vital to the team on the ice, but more importantly personifies something vital about the Sharks.
We see the captaincy as something as symbolic as it is functional; to put the 'C' on a player who has to silence critics every time he steps on postseason ice, no matter what the numbers say about his past performances, makes him an emblematic leader for a team that must do the same.
Was putting the 'C' on Thornton the right move for the Sharks?
The folks on Fear The Fin dig the move, but there's some apprehension in the Sharks fan community as well. From Puck Buddy Andy S., in an email Thursday morning:
As a Sharks fan, I'm concerned. I'm not convinced he's the right guy to be our leader. I still remember reading in Dave Pollock's blog after the Anaheim series how Hiller was waiting for Thornton after the final game and Thornton was with Elvis -- both had left the building. So, he stood up his friend from Sweden. I'm hoping I'm wrong come this spring, but we have to wait 7 months to find out.
Thornton getting another shot at the captaincy should get an interesting reaction from Boston Bruins fans, who watched him serve as captain in his early 20s for two seasons before the team's notorious trade with the Sharks. Please recall this torching from Jack Edwards of NESN back in 2005:
Was Joe accountable as captain, and did he insist on his teammates' accountability? What players say in the room will stay in the room for the most part, so as non-players we never will really know -- but it sure seemed as if there were a few riders in the early part of this season that never got called out by the captain.
Maybe Thornton didn't feel comfortable doing that. Okay, again, it doesn't make him a bad person ... but it does make him an ineffective leader. I wish him luck in San Jose, and -- where he will not have to bear the burden of personal leadership -- he may have some fantastic years there.
Yowch. Obviously, Thornton's a bit older and wiser than he was with the Bruins, as he explained to the Mercury News before getting the Sharks captaincy:
"You grow as you age, and you kind of mature as a player," Thornton said when the question was posed. "I think you become more comfortable in your skin. Back then, you maybe let your game speak louder than your words and I think now you consider both. You can stand up and tell guys how it is or just go out and play."
When we interviewed Thornton this preseason, the conversation turned to how coach Todd McLellan tried to make him a more aggressive, "meaner" player in the playoffs. That's as much about actions on the ice as it is overall temperament. If the Sharks are going to win the Stanley Cup -- and based many of the preseason picks, they're nearly off the radar -- they need the leader Thornton identified in his quote above.
The question now is whether Thornton can be that leader.