Sharks

Sharks where Thornton's 'heart is, and where I'm happy'

Sharks where Thornton's 'heart is, and where I'm happy'

SAN JOSE – Off of the ice, Joe Thornton is a notoriously chill dude. There isn’t a whole lot that phases the veteran center and future Hall of Famer, who appears to go through his non-hockey playing life with a remarkably even-keeled attitude. 

We’re talking about the kind of guy that signs a one-year, $8 million contract sitting on a lawn mower. Just as the latest example.

Thornton couldn’t help but admit on Sunday, though, that all of the interest he received as an unrestricted free agent knocked him for a loop.

“There was a lot of interest, to be honest. I was kind of shocked that there was the interest that there was,” Thornton said. “It was crazy. Throughout the whole thing I talked to [GM] Doug [Wilson] a bunch, I talked to our owner, Hasso [Plattner]. Everybody has been so great to me and my family. It’s been crazy.”

But despite a reported 17 teams ringing his or his agent’s phone, Thornton implied that he never really had any plans of leaving the place he’s called home for the past 11-and-a-half seasons.

“It was nice getting courted by all these teams. I felt bad saying, ‘hey, I’m going back to San Jose,’ but that’s where my heart is and that’s where I’m happy,” Thornton said.

What Thornton isn’t so happy about is longtime teammate Patrick Marleau leaving town on a three-year, $18.75 million contract to join the Toronto Maple Leafs. Thornton, who turned 38 on Sunday, made no secret that he wanted Marleau to return to the Sharks. Instead, a report from TSN’s Pierre LeBrun said that the Sharks’ final offer to Marleau was two years and $10 million, much less than he got in Toronto.

Indications are that Thornton would have settled for less than the $8 million he got had the Sharks found a way to ink his buddy Marleau, too.

“Joe was so flexible with his contract, he agreed a couple days ago on the contract with some different versions depending on the circumstances,” Wilson said. “I can’t say enough about Joe being committed to making it work to keep the group together. … Joe deserves a huge compliment for what he was willing to do.”

Thornton said: “I was in constant talks with Patty, texting and calling each other. Obviously I’m bummed that Patty’s not coming back. But I think he’s going to do great in Toronto and I think it’s going to be a good fit. Patty is going to be a Shark for life, and he’s going to go down as the best Shark of all time. I’m just happy for him and his family. As far as the Sharks are concerned, everybody has got to just pick up the goal scoring a little bit and move on.”

* * *

That he settled for a one-year deal, rather than the three years he was seeking when the process began, is evidence that Thornton is confident that he’ll be fully recovered from a left knee injury that required surgery on April 24. Although he’s not 100 percent now, Thornton said he’s “pretty darn close.” 

Thornton plans on skating in Switzerland in about two weeks, which is his typical offseason routine as his family relocates to his wife’s home country for about a month.

Thornton had less time to train last summer, due to the short summer from the Sharks advancing to the Stanley Cup Final and the World Cup of Hockey in September. He said he’s focusing on his legs right now.

“I haven’t trained my legs like this ever in my career, so my legs are going to be stronger than ever,” said Thornton, who had seven goals and 43 assists last season.

If everything goes well, it could be another one-year deal this time next year.

“Working with Doug, I think one year works at this point of my career. Just really go year-by-year and see how I feel. I feel like I’ve got a lot left in the tank, and hopefully after this deal I’ll keep signing. I felt comfortable with it, the team felt comfortable with [it]. That simple, I guess.”

Jones strong in goal, contains Coyotes to snap Sharks' three-game skid

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USATSI

Jones strong in goal, contains Coyotes to snap Sharks' three-game skid

BOX SCORE

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Logan Couture scored another goal for San Jose but was happier to see the Sharks' top line get untracked.

"We've got to get those guys going to help us offensively," Couture said of teammates Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Timo Meier after the Sharks' 3-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday night. "We need them to produce."

Thornton opened the scoring for the Sharks, with Pavelski adding an assist, the pair's first points since November 8, a span of five games.

"I think with Timo with us last game it brought us a lot of energy and a lot of chances," said Thornton, who scored his first goal since October 26. "Me and Pavs really like playing with him."

Joel Ward added an empty-net goal with 47.8 to play for the Sharks, who snapped a three-game losing streak.

"We got enough offense to win," said Sharks coach Peter DeBoer. "That's all that matters. I thought we played a good road game. I don't care how it looks."

Brendan Perlini scored with 7:37 to go, ruining Sharks goalie Martin Jones' bid for his second shutout of the season. The Coyotes saw their season-high three-game winning streak snapped and lost for the eighth time in nine home games (1-7-1).

Jones finished with 26 saves.

"We defended really well," said Jones, who was tested seriously only twice in the first two periods. "The first 10 minutes they had a lot of jump and were buzzing around our zone, but after that not as much."

Coyotes goalie Antti Raanta left at 14:37 of the first period with an upper-body injury. Couture had collided with Raanta more than four minutes earlier, earning an interference penalty. Raanta skated to the bench during a stoppage in play and retreated to the locker room.

Scott Wedgewood took Raanta's place and was in net for only five seconds before the Sharks broke through. Wedgewood stopped Brent Burns' long shot from the top of the right circle even after it deflected off San Jose right wing Timo Meier. But the rebound kicked to the bottom of the right circle, where Thornton swept in and beat the goalie with a quick wrist shot.

"He (coach Rick Tocchet) looked at me and said go," Wedgewood. "I was like, alright. That's the tough part. Then shot, top, goal. That was tough."

San Jose made it 2-0 at 4:56 of the second, taking advantage of Arizona's inability to clear the zone while the Sharks were on a line change.

Justin Braun fought three Coyotes for the puck along the right boards before Joonas Donskoi swooped in, skated to the goal line then sent a pass across to Couture. Couture deked Wedgewood to the ice with a forehand fake, then scored on the backhand.

Perlini cut the lead to 2-1 when he redirected Derek Stepan's shot from the top of the right circle past Jones.

"We had some costly mistakes," Perlini said. "We got back within a goal but there were too many mistakes."

NOTES: Thornton has 22 goals and 83 points in 82 career games against Arizona. ... The Coyotes, who had played seven of their past eight on the road, opened a three-game homestand. ... Raanta made eight saves before leaving and has stopped 98 of the past 105 shots he's faced. ... Couture's goal was his first in five games.

UP NEXT:

Sharks: visit Las Vegas on Friday

Coyotes: host Los Angeles on Friday.

Don't blame Joakim Ryan for Brent Burns' struggles

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AP

Don't blame Joakim Ryan for Brent Burns' struggles

Over the last three years, Brent Burns played with only one defensive partner more in a single season than he has with Joakim Ryan in 2017-18.

That partner, of course, is Paul Martin, who’s missed all but two games this season due to complications from offseason ankle surgery. Martin is set to miss yet more time after experiencing a setback in his recovery, although the injury is not related to his ailing ankle, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

Martin’s absence, combined with the fact that Burns has gone 20 games without a goal this season, has naturally led to questions about whether their separation is causing Burns to struggle.

That’s not the case.

Burns is actually playing a bit better alongside Ryan than he was with Martin. In just over 257 minutes together at even strength, the Sharks have controlled 55.74 percent of the shot attempts with Burns and Ryan on the ice, according to Corsica Hockey, up from Burns and Martin’s 52.13 percent mark together.

The Sharks are attempting more shots than their opponents when Burns and Ryan play, they’re doing so at a higher rate. With Burns and Ryan on the ice, the Sharks are attempting nearly nine more shots per 60 minutes than when Burns and Martin together, and just over two more shots per 60 minutes are hitting the net.

As we’ve written about previously, Burns’ scoring struggles date back to the stretch run last season, when he was playing alongside Martin. It wasn’t Martin’s fault then, just as it’s not Ryan’s fault now.

The puck simply isn’t going in. Through 20 games this season, Burns has 82 shots on goal and zero goals. Through 20 games in his Norris Trophy-winning campaign, Burns had 83 shots on goal and seven goals.

It’s not like Burns was super lucky then, either, as his 8.3 percent shooting percentage through 20 games last season was only one percent higher than his career average. Shooting at a zero percent clip after 20 games is, clearly, the outlier.

Together, Burns and Ryan have been more unlucky than anything else. When the two skate during five-on-five play, the Sharks are scoring on only 3.45 percent of their shots, much lower than the 8.26 percent San Jose scored on when Martin and Burns played together.

At 32 years old, it would be a stretch to expect Burns to match or exceed his heights from a season ago, but it would be an even bigger one to expect him to struggle much longer alongside Ryan. 

They've done everything right, they just haven't scored.