The San Jose Sharks resurgence since Dec. 1 could provide more than just a postseason berth. Several Sharks could also bring home some postseason hardware if they continue their hot play.
First and foremost, Joe Thornton
is in a battle with Jaromir Jagr for the NHL’s scoring lead and the Art Ross Trophy. However, even if Thornton doesn’t win the scoring title, he could end up with a bigger award.
The Hart Memorial Trophy is voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association. It is awarded to the player “adjudged to be the most valuable to his team.”
“We had high expectations when we acquired him and we feel he has exceeded those expectations,” said Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson. “With all due respect to other players in our league, it is hard to imagine anyone being more important to their team that Joe has been to our team. He’s been outstanding in all areas, both on and off the ice.”
Considering the Sharks sat in 12th spot in the Western Conference prior to his acquisition and that they are within striking distance of the fifth spot, Thornton more than fits into that category.
Jonathan Cheechoo continues his pursuit for the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s leading goal-scorer. He currently leads the Western Conference and with games in hand on the leaders could end up at the top of the heap come April 17.
Patrick Marleau is a must consideration for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, given every year “to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct, combined with a high standard of playing ability.”
Simply put, among the NHL’s top-15 point producers, Marleau has the second fewest penalty minutes. Among the NHL’s top-15 goal scorers, he has the fewest penalty minutes. Plus, Marleau has accomplished this while captaining the Sharks and tutoring rookies on both wings for the majority of the season. If Marleau should win the award, he would joint some elite company that includes Stanley Cup winners Joe Sakic, Wayne Gretzky, Brad Richards and Ron Francis among others.
“This has been Patrick’s best year to date,” said Wilson. “He’s done a terrific job of captaining our team and he’s done what he needs to do to get the job done, while not taking a lot of penalties. That demonstrates his ability to use his size and speed to dictate how the game is played each night.”
Sharks Goaltending Coach Warren Strelow was able to visit with the team during their stop in the Twin Cities. Strelow has not been able to be on site in San Jose since he underwent kidney transplant surgery and the time away has been difficult for Strelow, a man who thoroughly enjoys the game, but stays on top of everything via the NHL Center Ice television package and DVD’s.
“He looked good,” said Strelow protégé Evgeni Nabokov. “He has his ups and downs, but he looked good today. He’s a tough man. We still talk probably once or twice a week.”
“I didn’t realize how much I missed the guys until I got to see them,” said Strelow. “I stay in touch with Wayne (Thomas) and talk with him after every game. I talk to the goaltenders once or twice a week.”
The Sharks netminding coach is confident his club will reach the postseason and feels the netminders will play a large role in the process.
“I think we’re in good position to make it down the stretch with the games in hand,” said Strelow. “We’re confident in the two goaltenders. You can be confident in playing either one.”
THORNTON REJOINS TEAM
Left Wing Scott Thornton, who missed the last five games with a rib injury, returned to the Sharks and skated with the club in Minnesota.
Defenseman Josh Gorges missed Friday’s practice with the flu.
The Sharks are in Minnesota to take on the Wild at 5 p.m. Saturday. The game can be seen on FSN Bay Area or heard on the Sharks Radio Network or sjsharks.com.