The San Jose Sharks came arguably closer than any other NHL team to eliminating the Los Angeles Kings, who now appear poised to win their second Stanley Cup in three years. An optimist would look at that and say this team is close.
But optimism has been San Jose's way for awhile now, and this time around, they appear to be trying on something else. The pessimist says this team couldn't even make it out of the first round, and it's time to make drastic changes, like, for instance, parting ways with captain Joe Thornton.
That's easier said than done, however. Thornton has one of those no-trade thingies, and he's happy in San Jose. Why would he agree to leave?
The answer? According to Thornton's agent (and also his brother), John Thornton, while the Sharks' captain is perfectly happy in San Jose and still believes in the team, he would go if he knew he wasn't wanted.
"If he felt the fans didn't want him in San Jose, he might re-think things," John Thornton said when asked if his brother would want to play where it was apparent he was not wanted.
Without naming names, general manager Doug Wilson has stated that younger players will now be given a bigger leadership role in the wake of San Jose's epic loss to the Los Angeles Kings in the playoffs, and that it might be time for older players -- no-movement clauses such as the one Thornton has notwithstanding -- to depart.
This sort of reaffirms what I've long-suspected about no-trade clauses: a player negotiates it not so he can't be moved, ever, but so it's up to him and no one else if he moves. But he's still willing to consider consensus, because nobody wants to be where they're not wanted.
Hence, Thornton is willing to waive the no-trade clause if he knows that's what everybody wants him to do.
Granted, his brother said "the fans", and not "management", but it's not really all that difficult to align the two interests, if you're Doug Wilson. All it takes is a little leak to the media.
It raises an interesting question: if the Sharks are dead-set on this move, are they willing to go this route? Think of Mats Sundin in Toronto, who refused to waive his no-trade clause, and turned some fans against him. The fans may love Thornton, but if they happen to learn the Sharks are trying to move him (to improve the team!) and he's blocking the move, one suspects they'll side with Sharks' management.
In other words, things could get very interesting in San Jose this summer.