In the last two years, Joe Thornton has worked hard to shake the reputation he's earned in the NHL as a passive player. He's been tougher, more aggressive and more assertive. Joe Thornton has been clutch, which is something a lot of us probably thought we'd never associate with Joe Thornton.
And yet, Joe Thornton calling someone or something else "soft" is like Tony Romo questioning another quarterback's late-game mental fortitude. It's like Jay Leno calling another comedian "stale."
After the San Jose Sharks lost to the New York Rangers, 5-2, on Monday night, Thornton said (via CSN Bay Area's Kevin Kurz):
Their performance against the Rangers was their worst of the trip, and it was a game that they should have won fairly easily, if you believe the captain.
"To be honest with you, they were probably the softest team we played against on this road trip," said Joe Thornton. "We played some good teams, and I think we probably should have beat these guys, to be honest with you."
Thornton was probably being a little more blunt than usual. The Sharks and Rangers won't meet again this season, and his comment isn't going to show up on any bulletin boards in the newly renovated locker room at Madison Square Garden.
To be fair: It's the last game of a road trip that began on Oct. 21, and a game that cost the Sharks a perfect six-game swing. Jumbo got his snark on here, trying to score more points in the postgame than he did in regulation (one assist, and a minus-1).
And to be fair: Thornton is saying the Rangers are softer than the Devils, the Bruins, the Predators, the Red Wings and the Islanders … which, given the teams in his sample size, really isn't as outlandish as outright calling the Rangers "soft" without a basis for comparison. Those are some gritty teams right there.
Still … to claim the Rangers are a soft team is sort of mindboggling. They have tenacious, physical forwards who forecheck like crazy. They average 24.3 hits per game; San Jose averages 17.7 They block more shots than a prophylactic factory. As NHL.com's Dave Lozo said: "The Rangers are a lot of things, but soft isn't one of them. It's a really odd comment."
Seriously, a player from a California team calling a New York team "soft"? This is how hip-hop wars start ...