He’s the NHL’s reigning Hart Memorial Trophy winner and could easily finish second in the NHL’s scoring race. Yet, for some reason, it just seems there is little buzz surrounding Joe Thornton
’s second season in San Jose.
Right now, Sidney Crosby is running away with the NHL’s scoring race, despite playing five less games than his nearest competition. Crosby has already posted 103 points with Vincent Lecavalier sitting in second with 94. Then comes Martin St. Louis with 92, Dany Heatley and Marian Hossa with 90, followed by Thornton with 89 points.
Thornton led the NHL with 96 assists last season and he’s second in the league with 72 assists this season. Thornton is the first NHL player to have consecutive seasons of 70-or-more assists since Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux both did that in 1995-96 and 1996-97.
“He’s just a really good player who gets points,” said linemate Jonathan Cheechoo.
And where Thornton gets his points is by setting up his teammates. His 72 helpers trail only Crosby for the league lead.
“He finds open teammates,” said Cheechoo. “If his linemates are not scoring, the defensemen are going to be very fortunate.”
Those who see a player always lighting a room with a smile and who defers to others with passes instead of shots, have always tried to judge Thornton in one way or another, but that is how things are near the top of one profession.
People who know Thornton know he is one of the most passionate players on the ice.
“He is a very competitive person and he wants to win,” said Cheechoo.
Thornton posted a three-point game Tuesday night and it seems his and Cheechoo’s fortunes may have improved with their new linemate Milan Michalek.
“I think we’ve played really well together,” said Cheechoo. “He’s really helped open the ice for us.”
The ice has opened up because the league’s best passer, and one of its most dangerous shooters, now has one of the NHL’s fastest skaters on their line.
Thornton’s coach knows how well his leading scorer has played this year, despite the “low” numbers.
“I think he played really well considering all he’s gone through,” said Ron Wilson of Thornton’s broken toe earlier this season. “It’s better for Joe now that he battled through those adversities.”
And Wilson isn’t concerned with how Thornton ranks in the scoring race.
“What’s important now is that we’re winning,” said Wilson. “We want to do much better than last year.”
Wilson ranks Thornton’s passing in the category with previous elite players he has coached, including Adam Oates and Paul Kariya. Only Wilson hopes that Thornton can help deliver an elusive Stanley Cup this spring.
PROSPECT PLAYER AWARDS
For the week of March 5-11, Sharks 2006 first round draft pick Ty Wishart was named the Western Hockey League’s Player of the Week.
Wishart earned WHL weekly honors by recording a goal and six assists and a plus 4 rating in three games during the week of March 5-11, leading Prince George to a 2-1 record.
The WHL’s February player of the month? Wishart’s teammate Sharks 2005 first round pick Devin Setoguchi.
Setoguchi, a product of Taber, Alberta, scored 11 goals and added 11 assists for 22 points in 14 games during the month, helping the Cougars to an 8-4-1-1 record.
The Sharks will play Phoenix in Arizona on Thursday with a 7 p.m. start on FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.