With training camp set to open next Thursday, September 12, I can already feel it in the air, just as Phil Collins did when the Sharks used to make their best entrance in all of sports out of the Shark head.
But, with a few guys on contract years like Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Dan Boyle, that feeling in the air for some of these guys might be ending after this season.
With that as extra motivation it will be interested in seeing how they perform this year. Especially interesting to watch all season, as he has been throughout his career, will be captain Joe Thornton. Let’s try and make some predictions for his season, shall we?
1. Jumbo Gets to 80 Points
Ever since Thornton started focusing his efforts on being a great two-way forward, his offensive production has slipped. He can still take over a game, but his points have slipped down into the 70’s over the last couple of years prior to the lockout. Part of that is probably just due to the fact that is his getting older as well, but I think this year he boosts that back up to about the low 80’s or so.
With Brent Burns most likely pairing with him full-time, teams will have loads of problems dealing with the two big bodies. Also, last season Burns was almost a point-per game player as a forward, tallying 20 points in 23 games when he was still getting used to his new spot. Just wait until he has had a full offseason to work at it.
And, if Thornton would only listen to me when I yell at my television for him to shoot the puck more, hitting 80+ points this season could be a possibility.
2. Thornton Does NOT Get Traded
Again, because this is the final year of his current contract, rumors will certainly be swirling all season about all three guys, but even more so for Thornton. His high level of skill and playmaking ability will be coveted at the trade deadline for teams looking to make a run. Unless the Sharks are completely out of the race by then, there is no way the captain gets traded.
Even so, the return Doug Wilson will be looking for would be too much for most teams to stomach because it would likely include a very high caliber prospect and high draft pick.
I just think he is still too valuable to the team to get rid of this season and even looking forward in the next couple of years. And, WHEN the Sharks make it to the playoffs again this season, they will need his leadership and poise to make another run at the Stanley Cup.
3. He Wins the Stanley Cup in His Final Year as San Jose’s Captain
I can have a little fun with the predictions, right? Besides, predicting the Sharks to win it all has become more like crying wolf than any kind of educated prediction these days. Still, with a deep roster this season, I think the Sharks do have a good shot to win it.
The bigger story in that prediction though is that this may very well be Thornton’s last season as captain. After the Sharks signed Logan Couture to a five-year contract extension starting next season, they made it obvious he is the face of the franchise for years to come.
For years now Couture has been growing into his leadership position on the Sharks, and with Thornton aging and most likely taking a pay cut for next season, it’s time for the change to be made. Even Brad Stuart told ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun in May that “in [his] opinion, he’s probably the leader of this team.” They were talking about Couture who left a playoff game early against the Kings then came back to score the game-winning goal.
I still see Jumbo getting the ‘A’ on his jersey for as long as he is with the team, but the ‘C’ might be gone. He and the other veterans have done well to mentor Couture to be the leader of this team, and I’m sure Thornton would have no problem stepping aside for the young center man. It would be for the better of the team, in my opinion; a team Thornton has helped to build into an NHL powerhouse for almost a decade.