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Pavel Datsyuk and Claude Giroux are the only players who would provide more for the Sharks at a lower cost
Joe Thornton also has ultimately failed to move this team forward in the two years as captain, falling back to the second and then seventh seed and dropping by four and then 329 percentage points in the playoffs. In neither year did their playoff success match expectations.
Most of that is not his fault, but does not reflect well on him either. He often appears to lack intensity unless something on the ice sparks him. On a team that plays without an edge, a great leader would provide more of it than Joe does.
But even whether the San Jose Sharks may do better with someone else as captain is debatable. The team's playoff record over his tenure (10-12) is comparable to the previous two captains' (8-7 under Rob Blake and 30-28 under Patrick Marleau) and the team has only gotten one game deeper in franchise history.
Finding a player better than Joe would be difficult. Claude Giroux, Evgeni Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk and maybe the Sedin brothers are the only forwards in the world better on both ends of the ice.
If the Sharks feel they need more players with an edge, they are not going to find that in the Sedins. Malkin's cap hit is $1.7 million more than Thornton's, and only Giroux's cap hit is not within $1 million of Joe's.
Thus, San Jose is unlikely to be able to upgrade appreciably in production or value from their best forward. Therefore, he should remain with the Sharks unless they can get better value than expected.
A player with that value in the regular season who was his team's best postseason player has to earn at least an A-.