San Jose Sharks: Future Uncertain for Thornton, Marleau

Jan 31, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks left wing Patrick Marleau (12) celebrates with center Joe Thornton (19) after scoring a goal against the Chicago Blackhawks in the second period at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 31, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks left wing Patrick Marleau (12) celebrates with center Joe Thornton (19) after scoring a goal against the Chicago Blackhawks in the second period at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports /

The San Jose Sharks were sent on an early vacation thanks to a first-round ouster by the Edmonton Oilers.  And as Sharks’ management ponders offseason decisions, two current players may not be back in teal.

One time San Jose Sharks head man Todd McClellan got the best of his former team in the opening round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The youth and speed of the Edmonton Oilers were evident throughout the series as the San Jose Sharks could not wreck the rig and advance.

An old group of veterans and a few young players could not finish games or beat Oilers’ goalie, Cam Talbot, losing in six games. A lackluster power play throughout the season carried over into the postseason and had little effect in the series.

But the reasons for their early playoff demise began in the final month of the season for the Sharks. A sizable lead in the Pacific Division was erased by a losing streak, allowing Anaheim to come away as the division champs.

San Jose picked a terrible time to play their worst hockey of the season where momentum should swing upward towards the playoffs. Lack of scoring from the Sharks’ depth players during the dry spell did not help, and new faces provided underwhelming support.

Logan Couture’s injury took a bite in the Sharks’ locker room. Couture took a puck from a Brent Burns shot and immediately left the game. Though he came back with his teeth wired and needing more dental work, Couture could not provide enough spark for his teammates. Throughout the series, Edmonton players targeted Couture around the face area to disrupt him from making an impact.

San Jose Sharks
Mar 14, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks center Logan Couture (39) celebrates with left wing Patrick Marleau (12) and defenseman Brent Burns (88) after scoring a goal against the Buffalo Sabres during the third period at SAP Center at San Jose. The Sharks defeated the Sabres 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports /

In short, the sting of defeat in the Stanley Cup Finals last season was not enough to propel San Jose back. A short offseason left no time for recovery as the Sharks simply ran out of steam towards the end of the 2016-17 season.

Questions indeed surround Sharks’ management with free agency approaching as well as who to protect from the upcoming expansion draft. Players who will likely see pay raises are Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Both are cornerstone pieces to the Sharks’ plan to remain contenders and are the likely the top priority.

With the wage increases, the flexibility could be more limited for Doug Wilson in re-signing both Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Though both players have been the driving force for the Sharks’ making runs toward the Stanley Cup, age is not in their favor and how effective the two can be. Both expressed interest in returning, but the price could prevent any chance of return.

Thornton’s status is highly questionable after he suffered a knee injury against the Vancouver Canucks. The extent of his injury did not become public until after the season ended.

Head coach Peter DeBoer eventually revealed that Thornton played with torn ligaments and would need surgery. Though nobody will question Thornton’s toughness, to play with a torn ACL and MCL is gutsy. His determination only shows how much he wants to bring a cup to San Jose.

Recovery is the biggest component factoring into whether Thornton comes back next season. Given the extent of his injury, it’s possible that Thornton may not see a minute on the ice next season as he rehabs.

Marleau will forever be Mr. San Jose Shark. Through triumphs and criticisms, Marleau bleeds teal. He certainly has a few more years left of productivity, but given that prospects with the San Jose Barracuda are knocking on the door, he may have to play elsewhere.

But if Thornton is unable to play next season, Marleau could possibly return.

There is a small chance of players returning But Sharks’ management would be better off turning the page and letting them both depart. To ultimately refresh the Sharks, Wilson needs to hit the reset button and allow prospects to take spots in training camp.

Thornton and Marleau provided great memories in teal and gave reasons for fans to pack the Shark Tank. The time is now to part ways and allow the upcoming youth to make a splash.

The departure of the two veterans would certainly make Wilson’s job easier so he could prioritize his agenda.

Next: Sharks Open Playoffs Against Oilers

Business decisions may not be easy at times, but for the benefit of the Sharks’ franchise, they should say goodbye to Thornton and Marleau. Painful as it may be, that can allow growth can take place, which will help keep the team competitive.

Optimism is abounding over what the Sharks decide to do with the aging veterans. For now, here’s hoping Wilson makes smart hockey decisions to keep the Sharks competitive.