Twenty minutes after the final horn ended their season, Thornton avoided the same questions he has been trying to answer his whole career.
However, there was one remark that a maintenance worker overheard as Joe scurried to the bus:
I hate the playoffs. I hate playing in the playoffs. I want to play for the Leafs. They never make the playoffs. Perfect fit.
There you have it, Leaf Nation. Forget about your fantasy about landing John Tavares and start thinking of your potential deal to land Joe Thornton.
Thornton did not actually say that. Thornton doesn’t actually want to play for the Leafs. Who would?
After being eliminated on Monday, I was interested to see what Thornton had to say about his performance in the playoffs and how he felt about being eliminated. I wanted to know how he could justify winning the President’s Trophy and losing in the first round. However, I was denied. I found it disturbing that he left so quickly and avoided all media, but I don’t blame him.
I feel bad for Joe.
He tried everything to spark his team this past playoffs, yet it was not enough. He led the team in scoring, yet all of the blame is surely to go on the shoulders of Jumbo Joe. From initiating a fight with Ryan Getzlaf to jumping in the air in the Game Five OT win to slamming a Gatorade bottle when the final empty net goal was score, Thornton’s emotions were evident.
Despite what people think, Joe cares about losing.
Especially when you are consistently losing in big games, and all the focus is on you. It takes a toll.
Throughout his whole career, he has been scrutinized as not being a big-game player. Every year, he adds to this reputation. Every year he has to face the same questions from the media and try to look himself in the mirror every off-season and answer questions he has about himself. How frustrating.
When is the frustration going to boil over? Thornton has played off this “happy-go-lucky” attitude since he broke into the NHL, but I think that this will stop. Being eliminated this early has to change something about Thornton’s attitude. He has to take a harder line and make this past playoff exit a turning point in understanding the playoffs.
The reality is that the Sharks were not a good team after the All Star break. I noticed it, my fantasy team noticed it (I owned Thornton, Marleau, and Setoguchi—who single-handedly cost me the title), and the Ducks exploited it. However, because they ended up with the President’s Trophy, they were considered the best.
Evidently, they were not.
The Sharks ran into the worst possible team to match up against. The Anaheim Ducks were not your average eighth seed team. The core of the team won the Stanley Cup a few years back, and they had beaten the Sharks twice in the last week of the year. They had wily veterans and quick, skilled youth.
The Ducks played an up-tempo game; the Sharks tried to control the game with patience. This is the problem. By having Joe Thornton on your team, there is no other way to play. He is such a big part of the offense, that it has to revolve around his patience. Thornton’s game revolves around puck control and slowing the game down. The playoffs are about quick a controlled up tempo rhythm.
Throughout the series, Dan Boyle tried to pick up the Sharks’ pace, but was unable to because he was the only one trying to play that game. Jonathan Cheechoo can only play one shift a game at NHL speed, Patrick Marleau looked timid, so did Joe Pavelski.
It is too easy and too predictable to point the finger at Thornton.
How about pointing the finger at Jonas Hiller? He played outstanding and made crucial saves when he needed to. Hiller is to blame for the Sharks’ early exit.