Can Joe Thornton Win Another Art Ross Trophy?

Andy Bensch@@AndyBenschSenior Writer IOctober 18, 2009

UNIONDALE, NY - OCTOBER 17: Joe Thornton #19 of the San Jose Sharks scores a power play goal at 37 seconds of the third period against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum on October 17, 2009 in Uniondale, New York. The Sharks defeated the Islanders 4-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

During late November of the 2005-06 season, center Joe Thornton was traded from the Boston Bruins to the San Jose Sharks. Upon his arrival in San Jose, Thornton turned an average right-winger (Jonathan Cheechoo) into a Maurice "Rocket" Richard trophy winner. In doing so, Thornton racked up a ridiculous total of 125 points, 92 of which came while wearing teal and white.

Now the overwhelming majority of you reading this piece may be thinking to themselves: "Well, we know that already."

However, it's important to note that not only is Dany Heatley a better hockey player than Cheechoo, but Devin Setoguchi is a much better hockey player than Nils Ekman.

Back in '05-06, the top line that spent the majority of time together was the combination of Ekman-Thornton-Cheechoo.

Ekman, who posted a career high 57 points while on Thornton's wing is no longer in the NHL despite being just 33-years old.

Cheechoo, who is now with the Ottawa Senators, has struggled offensively so far this season with just two assists in his first six games. To make matters worse, Cheechoo failed to come even close to his career marks of 05-06 during his last two years in San Jose.

If Thornton could produce 92 points alongside these two wingers in 58 games, just how many points could he produce in 82 games alongside Heatley and Setoguchi?

Even if Thornton only managed to score at the exact same rate this season as he did while with the Sharks during his Art Ross Trophy winning season, he would reach new career point totals with 129.

But with Heatley and Setoguchi as his line-mates, it's safe to say Thornton is going to score at a higher clip this season.

Currently Jumbo Joe is second in the league in scoring with 13 points behind Alexander Ovechkin who leads the league with 16.

With 13 points in eight games, Thornton is currently on pace for 133 and that comes without the top line yet to fully develop their chemistry. In fact, since the line had been shut-out in two straight games, they were broken up during Saturday's 4-1 victory over the Islanders.

In the Shark victory, Thornton had a three point night posting a goal and two assists. However the kicker is that neither Heatley nor Setoguchi were in on any of Thornton's scoring plays.

Thornton set up Patrick Marleau and the newly called up Ryan Vesce. On an off night for the majority of the Sharks offensively (especially in the first period), Thornton still managed a three-point game.

Just imagine how many points Thornton has the possibility of racking up when the season really starts to get going in December and January. Barring any significant injuries to his line-mates, Thornton, who hasn't missed a game in his Sharks career has more than a legitimate chance at a 140 point season.

Granted he currently trails the seemingly unstoppable Ovechkin by three points for the league lead, there are a couple of factors working against the Russian.

In his four seasons, Ovechkin has never posted more than 54 assists or 112 points. Thornton on the other-hand posted 125 with a team with much less all around offensive firepower than the Capitals of recent years.

With that in mind, unless Ovechkin miraculously stays on his current pace, Thornton has a tremendous chance at winning the Art Ross because he doesn't even have to be better than his 05-06 version to win it.

Ovechkin on the other hand would essentially have to up his career point totals by 21 just to stay at Thornton's current pace.

Granted the calendar still says October, the NHL point race looks to be shaping up to be a heated battle between the best passer in the world and the best finisher in the world.

As of right now, I'd place my bet on the passer. Of course that's if I were a betting man.



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