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More mature Thornton ready for Sharks' captaincy

Thursday, 10.07.2010 / 10:04 AM / 2010 NHL Face-Off

By Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

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More mature Thornton ready for Sharks' captaincy
Joe Thornton was named captain of the Bruins at 23, but says now he wasn't ready. Now 31, Thornton says he's better prepared now to lead the Sharks
STOCKHOLM -- After Joe Thornton was named the eighth full-time captain in the history of the San Jose Sharks on Thursday at Globe Arena, he was asked if becoming a father during the offseason helped change his easy-going personality and resulted in him becoming a little more mature.

"I have to look after one kid at home and now I have to look after 22 on the road," he replied.

So don't expect Thornton to change too much.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan made the announcement to the team at the conclusion of practice. Defenseman Dan Boyle, clearly the second choice to be captain, was named a permanent alternate for the season. Forwards Patrick Marleau and Ryane Clowe will alternate the second "A," with Marleau wearing it at home and Clowe wearing it on the road.

"We had a really good assortment of choices," McLellan said. "It basically came down to two players. We just felt right now that Jumbo (Thornton) would be the right guy at this time. He's made some real big strides over the last couple of years. He changed the way he approached and the way he played the game. This is the next step in the evolution."

"I think last time I was just young. I was a shy kid and really didn't know how to express myself. Now I'm a father, I'm a man, I'm 31 years old. I'm a much different person than I was when I was 23 years old. I'll take all of those experiences and hope to learn from it. I want to be captain. I feel like I'm ready for this responsibility." -- Joe Thornton

This is the second time Thornton has worn a "C" in the NHL. He was the captain of the Boston Bruins for two-plus seasons, from 2002 until he was traded to the Sharks early in the 2005-06 season, but he received a lot of criticism about his leadership abilities during that time. Thornton said he's transformed into a more vocal person over the years.

"I think last time I was just young," Thornton, who was 23 when the Bruins named him captain, said. "I was a shy kid and really didn't know how to express myself. Now I'm a father, I'm a man, I'm 31 years old. I'm a much different person than I was when I was 23 years old. I'll take all of those experiences and hope to learn from it.

"I want to be captain. I feel like I'm ready for this responsibility."

The portrait of Thornton as a goofy guy who likes to keep things light is true to a certain extent, but that's the persona he shows to the media. Behind the scenes, players said there's another side to Thornton not many people get to see.

"The first thing you hear about him is that he's a laid-back, easy-going guy," Clowe said. "But when you get inside a dressing room or see him on the ice or on the bench, he's fiery. He's got a lot of fire. He doesn't like to lose. It kills him to have to go home every summer and not lift that Stanley Cup. He's got a lot of drive. It's not one of those things where he just says, 'Ahh, it's another year. Let's forget about it.' A lot of people look at it that way and obviously give him a hard time when it's not warranted."

Thornton has some big skates to fill as he takes the reins from defenseman Rob Blake, who retired during the offseason. But Thornton won't have the burden of being the leader of team solely on his shoulders.

"He's not going to be alone," said Boyle. "Whether you have a letter on your chest, I think we have a leadership group like a lot of teams have. We all just have to make sure we're pointing in the right direction and we're all going to help each other. Honestly, I think the media makes a much bigger deal about the 'C' than the players do. I think as a young guy, you might feel comfortable talking to someone who doesn't have a letter. It doesn't matter. At the end of a day, our goal is to win a Cup."

"I'm sure if they gave two 'C's,' Danny would be wearing one as well," Thornton said. "It's good for me to lean on a guy like that when I need some guidance."

Since arriving from Boston during the 2005-06 season, Thornton has been one of the most productive players in the NHL. In 383 games, Thornton has 116 goals and 361 assists. His 29 goals and 96 assists between the Bruins and Sharks in 2005-06 earned him the Hart Trophy.

Thornton has failed to find that level of success in the playoffs, however. He has just 15 goals and 50 assists in 91 career postseason games -- including zero points in seven games with the Bruins in 2004. But he had his strongest playoff showing of his career in 2010, registering 3 goals and 9 assists while helping the Sharks reach the Western Conference Finals.

McLellan said when weighing all the factors in choosing Thornton, his time in Boston wasn't a consideration. The move to give Thornton the captaincy also is a good sign that the Sharks have faith they can reach a long-term agreement with him when his contract expires after this season.

"I only know Joe Thornton and most of his teammates only know Joe Thornton as a Shark," McLellan said. "When we addressed (the team), we asked them to consider today and maybe tomorrow, but not necessarily the past."

For the present, the Sharks have the same old Thornton, who is completely different.

"I like to keep it fun in the locker room. But once you get out on the ice, I think there's a serious part," Thornton said. "I do play with some passion on the ice, but I like to have some fun. I think there can be both sides and I ride that very well."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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