SAN JOSE – There was finally some clarification on Monday on what Joe Thornton was playing through, as the Sharks gathered one final time at their practice facility before the offseason.
And, it was significant, as the 37-year-old was dealing with a “torn MCL and ACL” in his left knee, according to coach Pete DeBoer.
“I don’t know if the injury report has come out yet, but I’ve never seen a player play with a torn MCL and ACL,” DeBoer said. “Basically, his knee is floating there. It was as courageous an effort, him doing what he did, as I’ve ever seen.”
Thornton was scheduled to have surgery on the knee later on Monday afternoon, according to general manager Doug Wilson. Prior to that, the longtime centerman met with the local media.
"I'm going to go see the doctors right after this and see what they say,” he said. “So, I'll know more about it today. I just know it was pretty sore playing."
Wilson said: “I’ve been in the business a long time. To see a player play with that type of injury tells you everything you need to know about him.”
As for a timeframe for Thornton to return, Wilson said: “Don’t know. We’ll know after [surgery].”
Thornton, an unrestricted free agent who has spent the last 12 seasons with the Sharks, said that he would like to return.
"Yeah, I want to come back. I think this is a Stanley Cup caliber team and I think I'm a little bit older and I realize how good this team is,” he said. “Of course I'd like to [return]. But, we'll have to see. I'm sure we'll be talking. But right now I haven't been a dad for a long time. I need to turn into a family man for a couple months."
Thornton said there have not been any talks yet about a contract extension.
“I just wanted to focus on hockey this year,” he said. “There's no hurry, but yeah, I want to be back. This team is a real talented team, and I love playing here."
Wilson said: “We have lots of time … We’ve got four-and-a-half months until we’re back at it.”
Thornton, who has been downplaying the injury since it occurred on April 2 – including when he said three days later that there was “no doubt” he would return for the playoff opener, and then missing the first two games of the first round series with Edmonton – struck the same tune on Monday when asked what he had to go through to suit up.
"Just the normal stuff that hockey players deal with,” he said. “It was just unfortunate, the time of the year, that it happened three games before the end of the season and the playoffs [and] you’ve got to deal with something like that.
“Hockey players are a different breed. There's probably five or six guys that had to deal with different stuff. But it is what it is. I'll go get it checked out today, and go from there."
Although Thornton’s was the most severe, there were other Sharks playing through injury as is commonplace at the end of any NHL season.
Tomas Hertl suffered a broken foot in the same game as Thornton on April 2 in Vancouver, while forward Patrick Marleau had a broken thumb. Logan Couture played through a mouth injury that he has already revealed will require extensive dental work this summer, while Joonas Donskoi separated his left shoulder twice over the second half of the regular season.