Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Hart Trophy: Thornton should win

I've changed my mind.

Even only a few weeks ago, I had said Miikka Kiprusoff or Jaromir Jagr would and should be the frontrunners for the Hart Trophy, but in that time, Joe Thornton and the San Jose Sharks have been so dominant, it's been hard to ignore.

Tonight, the Sharks locked up a playoff spot with a 5-4 overtime win over the Vancouver Canucks, and it was The Thornton Show (and I don't mean Scott). Joe played 20 minutes, had four assists and was +3. In his last six games, he's got 13 points and is now just two back of Jagr for the NHL scoring lead.

The craziest part of Thornton's escapades, of course, has been the Sharks' record since trading for the big guy from St. Thomas.


A 112-point pace over a full season. And Thornton himself has scored on a 128-point-per-game pace in San Jose.

The Sharks have gone from looking like also-rans to Stanley Cup contenders.

And the thing is, unlike Jagr, Thornton is an excellent defensive player, a physical force and great on faceoffs (51.5%). He plays the second-most time shorthanded among San Jose forwards (2:03), behind only Alyn McCauley, and wouldn't be out of place among this year's nominees for the Selke. (New York Rangers coach Tom Renny, on the other hand, wouldn't be caught dead with Jagr on the penalty kill.)

OK, that's it — I've weighed in. It's Thornton.

Then again, there are three games left.


At 6:57 a.m., April 13, 2006, Anonymous Cat said...

Without Joe the Sharks aren't even close to the playoffs. The impact he has had on that team is unbelievable, and the sad part is that I'd be willing to bet that some of the Boston fans would use an MVP award to justify the Thornton trade. They would use the fact he won as proof that he was slacking off in Boston all these years, instead of considering that maybe if he hadn't been expected to do everything (shoot, hit, pass, shoot, fight, lead the team, speak out to fire up his teammates, and fight some more) he could have been a key to a competitive team. His talent is so obvious; how could so many fans completely miss what they had? I guess I just don't understand Boston.

At 8:48 a.m., April 13, 2006, Blogger The Puck Stops Here said...

Lets be fair. Without Joe in 2003/04 the Sharks made the semi-finals.

They had a slow start because both goalies Nabokov and Toskala went through injuries before Thornton was acquired.

San Jose is not nearly as bad a team as many people seem to believe before they acquired Thornton

At 11:50 a.m., April 13, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would be thrilled if the Sharks went deep into the playoffs this year, but that first round date with Calgary scares me. Here's to hoping they can pass Anaheim and get Nashville.

At 1:01 p.m., April 13, 2006, Blogger Hossim said...

Someone may have asked this before, but how many times has the Hart trophy winner been traded in the season that they won?

At 2:54 p.m., April 13, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That trade makes the Vince Carter deal look OK.


At 6:00 p.m., April 13, 2006, Blogger Danny Pugsley said...

Regardless of whether he had put up a 20 points season, for me trading Thornton will never make sense.
Despite all the mis-management by the Boston hierarchy over the years this is the one which they will continue to regret.
No one will ever be able to ever justify trading Thornton away.

At 11:11 p.m., April 13, 2006, Anonymous David Johnson said...

As good as Thornton has been in San Jose I cannot give him the MVP. An MVP should have been able to do more in Boston than he did during his time there this year. The MVP should go to Jagr. Thornton also has more talent around him in San Jose than Jagr does in NY.

At 11:58 p.m., April 13, 2006, Anonymous Cat said...

I didn't mean to imply that the Sharks stunk without Thornton. They started glacially slow, and were turning it around, but I think without the acceleration of the Thornton trade they would have run out of games in the season to improve. They will be a very solid team next year, but getting him moved up the improvement to this year.

At 5:00 p.m., April 14, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, you couldn't be more wrong about Jagr being more deserving of the Hart.

The Hart, for all intents and purposes, is a TEAM award. Jagr is a one man team, JT is the pivot man on a full team. That, and he actually plays defense (quite well). Unfortunately, the regular east-coast bias is clearly in full effect.


At 12:55 a.m., April 15, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The notion that Jagr can't play defence drives me nuts. He's +36 to JT's 29 and if anyone bothered to watch the Rangers they'd see he eats up a ridiculous amount of 5-5 icetime and he wears it well. +36 is leading the league, btw. Jagr for some reason has a bad rap in his own zone but watching he and Nylander (+33- second amongst all forwards) play keep-away with the opposition for 3/4 of his minutes makes me wonder at the pervasive view that he's a defensive liability. So what if JJ doesn't look like the prototypical defensive leader out there -- he gets it done in other ways. He makes virtually zero errors with the puck and when it's in his wide zone of control no one takes it from him. With the TOI he logs he couldn't possibly outscore at the rate he does if he was in some way defensively challenged.

JT and JJ are both easy picks for Hart. JJ, imho, has been a gamebreaker and a superb leader since game 1. JT plays the quiet game, comparitively, so a Hart nod for him would require other tangibles in his favor. But they aren't.

At 1:01 a.m., April 15, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lastly- to quantify Jagr's ES TOI dominance, he's #39 in the league (next best forward is at 88th) to Joe's 130-something. Not in the same galaxy. Presumably, if Jagr has a problem keeping the puck out of his net, the evidence would present itself in his +/-.

At 12:52 a.m., April 18, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jagr in his previous season with NYR could not lead his team into the playoffs. It is only because this season NYR have acquired a stronger supporting team that Jagr (a one man show) has had an easier time dominating. He has points but not heart. Sportscasters have habitually talked about how Jagr is for the first time enjoying the game, that is not something that should be turned on or off like a light switch. There is nothing special about a dominant player who is on a dominant team.

Now take Thornton, a dominant player who joins a weak team (San Jose). True, last season San Jose had a strong year, but the new NHL saw a team that was struggling. They were not considered a contender until Thornton entered the picture. Thornton single handly inspired this team to make the play offs. The hurdle of leading a team to the play offs plus it looks like Thornton's won the scoring title is a way greater leap than being a star that must be pampered which Jagr is known for being.

Thornton's ability to elevate the playing of his teammates has seen Cheechoo take the goal scoring title from Jagr most likely and Marleau having his first genuine stellar year.

When Jagr was traded to NYR from Washington, he could not inspire his team to the playoffs. This year, Jagr is the only star on the team. Nylander and Straka have done ok, but their play was not elevated by Jagr.

Thornton for MVP, his contribution to his team makes him more valuable.

At 8:07 p.m., April 19, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sure, Jagr's + is more than Thornton, but Thornton plays the second-most time shorthanded among San Jose forwards (2:03), while how often have you seen Jagr on a penalty-killing situation? Almost never!!!

At 11:33 a.m., April 20, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

cat said: "His talent is so obvious; how could so many fans completely miss what they had? I guess I just don't understand Boston."

What fans are you talking about? The fans are PISSED at Boston management for trading Thornton and for every other blunder they have done. So you are off when you say "so many fans completely miss what they had." It's management/ownership, not the fans. The Bruins owners and management are morons and they have lost me as a fan after 4 decades. I'm a Sharks fan now (not because of the Thornton trade, but because San Jose is the closest hockey town to me now that I moved to N. CA.). I'm just glad he was traded to San Jose! That was lucky.


At 5:40 p.m., April 20, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a TRUE Bruins fan, I can tell you that Thornton's inspirational play will be short-lived. Once he gets in his comfort-zone, he will continue to do the same thing he has done to Boston fans for years; take them to the first round of the post-season, make eggregious errors in key games, feign injury (see "abdominal injury versus Habs, 2004), and then boom, on to next season, rinse, repeat. Only once in nine years in Boston did Joe use his big shoulders to carry us to the second round. Trust me friends, once the sunshine and wine country grabs Joe's attention he will be just as cozy with the first round exit on the west coast as he was on the east.

And to my fellow "fan" who leaves a franchise after following it for four decades? Instead of leaving a team because of poor management, why don't you enjoy the blossoming of Patrice Bergeron and Hannu Toivonen? These players will be young and dominant for years after Joe has driven the Sharks back into mediocrity and retired.


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