Remember when the San Jose Sharks held a 3-0 series lead on the Los Angeles Kings and were outscoring them 17-8 in the series?
Good times, those.
Of course, the Sharks lost the next four and the Kings have imposed their will on everyone else as they now glide across the Stanley Cup finish line. Meanwhile, San Jose is in complete panic mode. Is Antti Niemi able to bounce back and win with this team? How will the Sharks replace Dan Boyle, beyond moving Brent Burns back to the blueline? Is this team a real contender, or should it get blown up?
Conventional wisdom is that something needs to change to answer such a miserable exit. Boyle is already gone and Havlat will be bought out at some point – but lately the conversation has shifted towards a much bigger star.
Do the Sharks need to trade Joe Thornton?
The soon-to-be 35-year-old – who had 65 frickin’ assists this season by the way – is a popular target after each playoff shortfall. But this year is different. This time, something must change and the perennial playoff underachiever tops a lot of people’s trade lists.
The problem is, Thornton just signed a three-year extension with the Sharks this season, which has a no-movement clause. So if the Sharks do trade Thornton, he’d have to accept it first. There’s no reason to believe Thornton would want to go somewhere that would give him less of a chance to win the first Stanley Cup of his career – and why would San Jose want to trade him to another contender?
Today, Thornton’s agent and brother, John, spoke out about the trade winds by suggesting Joe would consider moving on if he felt the fans no longer wanted him around.
From the San Jose Mercury News:
"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.
That, John Thornton said, has not changed his brother's resolve to stay in San Jose.
"He's perfectly happy there right now," John Thornton said. "He wants to stay there and win the cup. He believes they still have enough talent."
So now we sit back and watch how this one plays out.
But, really, trading Thornton over this loss is a crazy panic move that would be very uncharacteristic of Sharks GM Doug Wilson. Thornton is a regular, effortless 70- or 80-point guy who creates all sorts of chances for his linemates. He was a top 20 corsi relative player this season, finishing with the highest mark among all Sharks forwards.
Who the heck wouldn’t want this guy?
If the Sharks really want to make a change and do it with a substantial player on the current roster, they should first look to Brent Burns, who will be moving back to defense from forward next season. But after the loss of Boyle, what the Sharks need is another reliable minute-munching defenseman who can stare down the top players in the Western Conference, not a project. Burns can be used to try and get that proven entity.
And if not Burns, how about Joe Pavelski? His versatility and contract (signed through 2018-19) makes him valuable. Add in the fact he led the Sharks with 41 goals this season and San Jose could have a lineup of teams willing to shell out all kinds of assets for him. Could San Jose get a defenseman or two, plus a good prospect for first round pick? What could they get for Pavelski? It’s worth exploring, because at 30 years old, odds are he won’t score 40 again, especially since he'd only hit 30 once before. So sell high.
Meanwhile, odds are Thornton will hit 50 assists again. And, heck, why not 60 again too? Dominant, offense-creating, 6-foot-4, 230-pound centermen don’t come along very often, so you keep them when you get them.
And you especially don’t trade them away when they have complete control of the situation, when you’re in panic mode, and when at least four other top-level pivots are available on the market. Wrong time, wrong place for a trade. The Sharks already made a commitment to move forward with Thornton when they signed him.
Who would you trade out of San Jose this summer?