It’s going to be weird for Sharks fans to watch Joe Thornton skate in a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater this season. At least he’ll be flanked by a couple of Patrick Marleau’s best buddies along the way.
Marleau took on something of a big brother role with center Auston Matthews and right wing Mitch Marner during his 2017-to-2019 stint in Toronto. Now Jumbo is the elder statesman of the Leafs' top line with the 23-year-old rising stars, and Marleau is back in San Jose.
“They’re two special guys and really fun to be around, and obviously really talented,” Thornton said of Matthews and Marner. “To start with these guys is pretty special.”
Just another fun wrinkle to add to the Thornton-Marleau switcheroo for hockey fans.
Thornton, 41, reportedly has made a great impact with his fun energy and veteran presence during the young training camp, and has called the transition “pretty easy.”
“I was quarantining with some of the guys for 14 days, so I got to know guys right off the hop,” Thornton told reporters Monday. “I felt comfortable, even though I was in San Jose for so long. The guys really made me feel comfortable here, they got a good staff, and a great group, so really I feel at home again.”
The earliest San Jose and Toronto could meet would be the Stanley Cup semifinals, given the NHL’s new divisional realignment. Looking at the betting odds for the Sharks this season, the prospect of them winning two playoff series seems like a pipe dream.
The Leafs, however, are the odds-on favorite to win the North and among the favorites to hoist the Stanley Cup at the end of the year. After spending the past 15 seasons in San Jose, Thornton clearly has landed in a better situation to win in the twilight of his playing career with his hometown Leafs.