In the early part of the past two seasons and this year, Thornton has not started hot and been among the league leaders from day one.
That is not to say the Sharks superstar center doesn’t put up amazing numbers all year long – it’s more of a testament to playing steady in the first half of the season and then increasing his output in the second half. Some players get off to hot starts in the first 20 games of the season and then tail off. But Thornton is just the opposite
When he won the Hart Memorial Trophy in 2005-06 as the League’s Most Valuable Player, Thornton posted 32 points in the first half, skating mostly with Boston, but exploded for 64 in the second half. In 2006-07, when Thornton finished second in the NHL’s scoring race, he scored 56 points in the first 41 games and 64 in the second 41.
This season, Thornton posted 46 points in the first half, but has been tracking at a 55-point second half pace since Team Teal’s 41st game.
“He’s 20th, then 15th and then 10th,” said defenseman Craig Rivet. “He just keeps playing solid hockey.”
While the increased production has happened in the second half of each campaign since Thornton arrived in San Jose, he’s got his teammates respect for finding a way to be productive every night.
“You see some players with seven-point or four-goal games,” said Rivet. “Joe, on a consistent basis, gets points almost every single game we play. He is extremely consistent and one of the dominant forces on the ice.”
“Joe is consistent all year,” said Head Coach Ron Wilson.
Part of Thornton’s consistency is his approach to the game.
“He takes care of himself on and off the ice,” said Rivet. “He’s a superstar who never takes a day off, even when he should.”
Thornton is one of the Sharks hardest working players -- whether it’s during a game or practice.
“He works hard in practice and you can see it every game,” said Milan Michalek, who’s the left wing on Thornton’s line.
“Big Joe” jokes that while his practice habits are strong, his game doesn’t always display correctly when there is no official score.
“I’m a terrible practice player, but I try to work as hard as I can ,” laughed Thornton.
Thornton learned early in his career that preparation can affect so much more than his own performance.
“In my first years, everyone stressed consistency,” said Thornton. “It’s part of being a complete hockey player. When I was 20-21, I figured out you’ve got to play every night. A lot of people depend on you for their livelihood.”
Thornton is comfortable his best efforts aren’t always rewarded, but if his best effort is always there, the long term rewards find him and his teammates.
“Sometimes your best games come when you don’t score a point,” said Thornton.
With players like right wing Jonathan Cheechoo starting to connect on more and more of Thornton’s passes, his product ion can only get better.
“He (gets more) points when other people score,” said Wilson, noting Thornton’s set up abilities. “The lack of production from other people is not Joe’s fault. Joe gets his from assists and other people have to finish.”
About the only thing Thornton isn’t consistent on is how he will deliver the next amazing pass.
“You never know what he’s going to do,” said Michalek. “The passes can come from anywhere.”
Thornton may not suddenly jump to third in NHL scoring in the next two games, but if fans pay attention over the final 30 games of the regular season, they won’t be surprised if Thornton is sitting third or higher heading into the final weekend.
The Sharks will likely be without defenseman Douglas Murray
for the short term after he left Saturday’s game vs. Chicago with a hip flexor.
“He might be out a week,” said Wilson. “At least that is what I anticipate.”
The injury should open the door for Alexei Semenov to jump into the lineup.
“Semenov might end up playing on Wednesday,” said Wilson.
Kyle McLaren is still not quite ready for a return after having his knee cleaned out. He’s been on Injured Reserve since Jan. 13.
“Kyle is not ready to play,” said Wilson.
Left wing Ryane Clowe
continues to chase his goal of playing later in February. He’s been out since Oct. 28.
“Hopefully by the end of the month, or early March, he’ll be ready to play,” said Wilson.
Right wing Devin Setoguchi was assigned to San Jose’s top development affiliate in Worcester on Monday.
“I’m not going to keep him here if he might be a healthy scratch,” said Wilson. “At his age, he’s got to play.”
FRONT OFFICE UPDATE
Patrick Frost, an account executive with the San Jose Sharks ticket sales department, released the following statement regarding his experience this past weekend in the Lake Tahoe area, where he and a fellow skier were found safe and healthy.
“I would like to thank the Placer County Sheriff’s department, Placer County Aviation Team, Alpine Meadows Search and Rescue and all the volunteers who assisted with the efforts. I would also like to thank my family and friends for keeping Chris and I in their thoughts and prayers. I apologize for putting you through this.”
San Jose will play hosts to Colorado on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in a game that will be available on FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com. Limited tickets are available at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com.