“When you do a deal of this magnitude, character is still the main thing,” said Wilson. “The main thing is he fit in our core group. He is an upbeat guy who loves to play the game. We just want him to come in and be Joe Thornton
. He doesn’t have to carry us, but he can help elevate us. We have not been scoring timely goals and that is what Joe has done in his career.
Thornton, the first overall pick in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, selected just before his current teammate Patrick Marleau
, has played in the past three NHL All-Star games and was named to the NHL Second All-Star Team in 2003.
“He is a leader who scores points and makes other players around him better,” said Wilson. “To get a player of this caliber, you have to give up something to get something. You would make this trade last month, this month or next year. It follows our philosophy of making our team better for this year and next year.”
In 2002-03, finished third overall in the League's Art Ross scoring race as one of just three NHL players to hit the 100+ point mark and was second overall in the League in assists. He became just the third player in Boston history to score 100 points with 100+ penalty minutes, joining Bobby Orr (1960-70, 1971-72 and 1974-75) and Ken Hodge (1971-72).
Entering Wednesday’s NHL games, Thornton had scored the most career points (454) among all NHL players 26 and younger, ahead of Marian Hossa (418), Sergei Samsonov (362) and Patrick Marleau
He has played in three NHL All-Star games (2004, 2003, 2002), including being named a starter for the Eastern Conference Team at the 2004 NHL All-Star Game in Minnesota.
“We did a lot of research on this player,” said Wilson. “He’s the complete package. He’s played in the World Cup and the Olympics. He is one of the top players in the game.”
A power forward at six-foot-four and 225 pounds, the burly center possesses unbelievable skill as he posted a 101 point season in 2002-03. During the current season, Thornton leads Boston with 33 points on nine goals and 24 assists in 23 contests. The 33 points would be a team high for San Jose.
Thornton will also provide strength for Team Teal in the faceoff circle as he is successful 52.2 percent of the time and his even plus/minus rating was one of the best on the struggling Bruins.
San Jose is struggling to find goals right now, but the addition of Thornton will provide some much needed relief. Plus Thornton knows what the Sharks lineup can do when they have everything rolling.
“I watched them in the playoffs last year,” said Thornton. “They are a great team with great goaltending.”
The combination of Thornton and Marleau could give the Sharks the NHL’s best one-two combination up the middle.
“I’ve known Patty a long time,” said Thornton. “I think the world of him as a person and a hockey player. Hopefully it will be a good combination.”
The Thornton name is familiar to Sharks fans via Joe’s cousin Scott who has spent his best years in San Jose.
Boston is scheduled to play at home on Thursday, so the newest Thornton will likely join his new team in Buffalo for a Friday night debut.
Thornton is making in excess of $6 million a year, but is signed for three seasons and it is the first time he has ever been traded.
“It’s tough never playing anywhere but Boston, but I know Patty (Marleau), Hannan and obviously Scott is there,” said Thornton. “It is tough, but it is exciting. A couple of guys have come over tonight and they’ve been traded two to three times. They told me I’m lucky this is my first time.”
Selected by Boston with the first overall pick in 1997, he was named the 17th captain in Bruins history on October 8, 2002, Thornton has reached the 20+ goal mark in five consecutive seasons and led Boston in 2003-04 in assists (50) and points (73) for the third time in his career. He recorded his 400th NHL/Bruins point with an assist February 5, 2004 at Buffalo.
The six-foot-four, 225-pound native of London, Ontario spent the 2004-05 season with Davos in Switzerland, leading that team and finishing seventh overall in league scoring with 54 points (10 goals, 44 assists) and 80 PIM in 40 games. During the postseason, he led the league in playoff scoring with 14 points (4 goals, 20 assists) in 14 games as Davos won the Swiss League Championship.
Prior to making his mark in the NHL, Thornton played two seasons of junior hockey in Sault Ste. Marie/OHL scoring 198 points (71 goals, 127 assists) and 174 PIM in 125 career games. He was named the top rookie in all of Canadian major junior hockey in 1995-96 and earned a spot on the CHL All-Rookie Team. He finished second in the OHL in scoring in 1996-97 with 122 points in 59 games and earned OHL Second Team All-Star honors that season.
Thornton was the youngest member of Team Canada that won the Gold medal in the 1997 World Junior Championships, scoring four points (2 goals, 2 assists) in seven games. He played in the 2001 World Championships with Team Canada scoring two points (1 goal, 1 assist) in six games. In addition, Thornton won a gold medal with Team Canada in the 2004 World Cup, posting six points (1-5=6) in six games.
He is a cousin of current Sharks winger Scott Thornton and has played with Kyle McLaren (in Boston) and Marleau and Scott Hannan on various squads for Team Canada.
“My dad and his brother are excited they can travel together on a road trip,” said Thornton.
Wilson pointed out the accomplishments of the three departing players.
“These three individuals are not only outstanding hockey players but quality people as well,” said Wilson. “We wish them the best and thank them for their contributions to the San Jose Sharks.”
But now Joe Thornton
will don the teal.
“I’m a Shark now,” said Thornton. “I’ll take a peak and see what my friends on the Bruins are doing, but my focus is the San Jose Sharks now. Hopefully I can come in and help. I grew up on the East Coast, but I’ll deal with the West Coast just fine. Everybody else seems to.”
Scott Thornton actually considered joining his cousin in Boston as a free agent, but preferred the offerings in San Jose.
“He’s a great kid,” said the older cousin. “He has a great attitude. I had the opportunity to sign with Boston when I was a free agent and he would have been a big factor in that. He is an unbelievable player.”
Now Scott Thornton gets the best of both worlds, getting to play with his cousin and staying in San Jose.
The Sharks will faceoff with Buffalo Friday at 4 p.m. in what is expected to be Thornton’s initial contest. The game will be televised on FSN Bay Area and can be heard on 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.
Thornton’s home debut will take place December 6 at HP Pavilion against Atlanta. Tickets are still available at the HP Pavilion Box Office and at www.ticketmaster.com.