Ex-Ducks GM’s Joe Thornton trade offer to Bruins ‘better’ than Sharks’


Ex-Ducks GM’s Joe Thornton trade offer to Bruins ‘better’ than Sharks’

Joe Thornton will go down as one of the most beloved and accomplished players in Sharks' history, no matter how long the franchise is around. But imagine for one second a world in which Thornton not only never played for San Jose, but rather, etched his name in the NHL record books time and again as a member of a chief rival.

Scary, right?

Well, according to former Anaheim Ducks general manager Brian Burke, that hypothetical nearly became a reality.

Burke, who was hired as Anaheim's GM following the 2004-05 lockout, apparently tried to change the Ducks' early-season trajectory in 2005-06 by making a blockbuster trade for Thornton. Unfortunately for Anaheim -- and tremendously for San Jose -- that never came to be.

"There are trades where I was in on them and didn't get the player," Burke said Thursday on Sportsnet 650's "The Starting Lineup." "The most notable one is Joe Thornton. We were in hard on Joe Thornton when Boston traded him, and we made what we felt was a really outstanding offer the morning he got dealt, and we didn't know that they had already committed to the trade with San Jose. But we stepped up in Anaheim and made what I considered to be a huge offer, and a better offer than Boston got. 

"I'm not going to tell you the players involved, but I can tell you one part of it -- 'I'm going to protect five guys on my team and you can tell me who else you want.' And we had a pretty good team in Anaheim, guys. It was a pretty good team. So if you're only protecting five, that sixth player is pretty darn good -- plus a first, plus a something -- we were going to package it up. So, we were talking a meaningful player, a first-round pick and a couple of kids. And they made the deal with San Jose instead. I was really choked about that. Mike O'Connell was the GM -- good guy -- but I didn't think they shopped him at all."

Hindsight is 20/20, and it's important to remember that the trade that brought Thornton to San Jose happened more than 14 years ago. When the Sharks sent Marco Sturm, Brad Stuart and Wayne Primeau to the Bruins for Thornton, Sturm was 27 years old and coming off three consecutive 20-goal seasons, Stuart was 26 and regarded as a future Norris Trophy contender, and Primeau, 29, was a solid depth forward. It's impossible to know what the Ducks' offer consisted of, but a look at Anaheim's 2005-06 roster doesn't necessarily match up with Burke's conclusion.

Prior to that season, the Ducks had lucked out and ended up with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2005 NHL Draft, which they used to select Bobby Ryan. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry -- two longtime Sharks nemeses -- both made the opening night lineup at just 20 years of age. Beyond the three youngsters, the Ducks' top players that season consisted of 35-year-old Teemu Selanne (40 goals, 50 assists), 32-year-old defenseman Scott Niedermayer (13 goals, 50 assists), 28-year-old Andy McDonald (34 goals, 51 assists), 22-year old Joffrey Lupul (28 goals 25 assists) and 26-year-old Chris Kunitz (19 goals, 22 assists).

Let's hypothetically assume that Burke would have protected Niedermayer, Lupul and the three youngsters. It's unlikely Boston would have accepted a 35-year-old as the centerpiece of a return for Thornton, and surely would have insisted on at least one of Ryan, Getzlaf and/or Perry. But let's say the Ducks stood pat. How would a package of McDonald, a first-round pick and one or more prospects have compared to what the Sharks offered?

As for which offer is superior might come down to personal preference, but I would argue the difference isn't very significant.

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The trade worked wonders for San Jose. Thornton's arrival turned the team's season around, and he won the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league's regular-season MVP. The Sharks made it to the second round of the playoffs before being eliminated in six games by the Edmonton Oilers, whereas the Ducks advanced an additional round to the Conference final despite Burke failing to land his white whale.

Just as Anaheim did that season, the Sharks always have fallen short of the Stanley Cup, regardless of Thornton's presence in the lineup. San Jose fans have had to deal with their fair share of constant heartbreak, but at the very least, they haven't spent the last decade-and-a-half rooting against the player who undoubtedly has become one of their favorites.

Sharks' Logan Couture speaks up on racism, in support of Evander Kane


Sharks' Logan Couture speaks up on racism, in support of Evander Kane

Sharks captain Logan Couture thanked Evander Kane and former NHL player Akim Aliu for speaking out against racism in hockey, tweeting a note Saturday that said the sport and society "are only scraping the surface in what desperately needs fixing."

"Racism exists in society, it also exists in hockey," Couture wrote. "That's a fact. Growing up in this game is a privilege. [At times,] I think most of us have been at fault for turning a blind eye when it comes to racism. It cannot continue."

Kane later tweeted his appreciation of Couture's message.

Kane, who is black, has become increasingly vocal speaking out against racism within -- and beyond -- the sport in the past year. In September, Kane told TSN 1040 in Vancouver that hockey lagged behind other professional sports in diversity and addressing racism after fan told him to "stick to basketball" in an Instagram comment. Kane called a story in "The Players Tribune" earlier this month authored by Aliu, whose revelation that Bill Peters directed racial slurs towards him in the AHL led to the Calgary Flames firing their now-former coach late last year, a must-read for everyone involved in hockey.

George Floyd's death in Minneapolis police custody Monday outraged Kane, tweeting that video of the incident made his "[f---ing] blood boil." Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, could be heard on video saying "I can't breathe" as former officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee into Floyd's neck while three other officers at the scene looked on. Chauvin and the three officers were fired Tuesday, and Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

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Kane said Friday in an interview on ESPN's "First Take" that white athletes couldn't leave speaking up against systematic racism to their black peers. While Kane felt supported by his teammates, he told "Writers Bloc" on CJCL in Toronto later that day that hockey's team-first culture often encourages silence on a wide range of issues in the sport and outside of it.

“Is it going to change? I hope," Kane said (H/T Sportsnet's Sonny Sachdeva). "I’m going to try to be a part of the solution and process in creating that change. But … when it comes to social injustices and racism in hockey, it requires change at the top. Because, you know, that’s the only way true change is going to take place. At the top. Because it’s going to have a trickle-down effect.

“And until things change at the top ... until they make the necessary change to condemn these sort of acts and mindsets … and really weed out that type of thought process, we’re going to be stuck in the same position we are today, and that’s unfortunate.”

Sharks owner Hasso Plattner, who doesn't often publicly comment, said in a rare statement Friday that the Sharks applauded Kane's "rational and thoughtful response to the terrible tragedy" of Floyd's death. Defenseman Mario Ferraro retweeted the statement, and Couture's note is the first tweeted by one of Kane's San Jose teammates in support.

Evander Kane says white athletes must speak against police brutality


Evander Kane says white athletes must speak against police brutality

Sharks winger Evander Kane called on prominent white professional athletes to speak out against police brutality against African Americans.

Kane, who is black, joined ESPN's "First Take" on Friday morning to discuss George Floyd's death in police custody in Minneapolis earlier this week. The 28-year-old Kane said it can't just fall on black athletes to lend their voices to causes of racial justice, and white players joining their black peers is "the only way" for professional athletes to truly affect change.

"We've been outraged for hundreds of years and nothing has changed," Kane said of black people speaking out against racism (H/T Fear the Fin's Sheng Peng). "It's time for guys like (Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback) Tom Brady and (Pittsburgh Penguins center) Sidney Crosby and those types of figures to speak up about what is right, and clearly in this case, what is unbelievably wrong. Because that's the only way we're gonna actually create that unified anger to create that necessary change, especially when you talk about systematic racism."

Bystanders in Minneapolis recorded video Monday of Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, having a white police officer's knee pressed into his neck for nearly eight minutes as three other officers looked on. Floyd pleaded that he couldn't breathe, but state charging documents alleged that the officer, Derek Chauvin, continued to have his knee on Floyd's neck for almost three minutes after he became non-responsive. Chauvin and the three other officers were fired Tuesday, and he was arrested on charges of third-degree murder and manslaughter Friday.

Kane tweeted Tuesday night that the video of Floyd's death made his "[f--king] blood boil." He shared a petition Wednesday night calling for the four former officers to face charges.

The forward has been increasingly outspoken against racism in the last year, particularly in hockey. Kane is one of just 43 NHL players of color, according to WDET, and they account for fewer than 5 percent of the league. He said he hasn't seen "too many" hockey players discuss Floyd's death, but Kane feels supported by his teammates in speaking out.

"In terms of my teammates, they're incredibly supportive of me and what I stand for," Kane said. "I think hockey, unfortunately, has a different culture than some of the other sports in terms of speaking out and using your voice and speaking your mind. I think for me, I'm one of the anomalies when it comes to NHL players doing that. That's another part of the problem, guys being scared to really speak their mind and stand up for what is right."

Sharks owner Hasso Plattner, who doesn't often address the media, shared his support of Kane in a rare statement Friday hours after Kane's appearance on "First Take."

"There is no room for racism in society," the statement read. "We applaud Evander for his thoughtful and rational response to the recent terrible tragedy. Events like this occur way too often. We all must find a way to do better."

Kane tweeted he was "proud to be part of" the Sharks in response.

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Kane said sports have the inclusive potential to bring people together from a variety of backgrounds. In order to live up to it, Kane thinks athletes -- white and black -- need to pull in the same direction off the rink, field and court.

"[When] we talk about our own personal battles outside of sports, there's a lot of people that are silent on issues," he said. "They're important issues. They're issues that have been going on for hundreds of years, and we need that same type of team mentality to be brought to issues outside of our sport."