Joe Thornton is one of the Sharks’ all-time great players, but the 41-year-old signed with the the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday after 15 years in San Jose, hoping to have a better chance of competing for a Stanley Cup as he enters his 23rd NHL season.
During a virtual press conference with reporters Sunday, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said he understood why Thornton chose to move on, but he believes San Jose still has what it takes to be a competitive club next season.
“We have to re-establish our game, we have to get our best players back healthy,” Wilson said Sunday. “We had to rejuvenate, we’ve gotta have an infusion of youth, we’ve gotta have playing the game the right way for longer periods of time, so that’s a fair and honest evaluation with how it sits today. It’s up to us to go change that.
“I fully understand that, but we as an organization have gone through this a couple times before in the past and we’ve bounced back very quickly and in this league, there’s teams that did the same thing. So it’s up to us to go to work, get back at it, learn from what happened last year, get the guys healthy.”
Wilson also set expectations for his group whenever the 2020-21 NHL season gets underway, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to create a lot of unknowns around the future schedule.
“As far as our team, we expect when we do start up, to be ready to go, healthy, with guys with a chip on their shoulder, and that’s never a bad thing,” Wilson continued.
Toronto did end last season with 81 points to San Jose’s 63, and the Maple Leafs were one of the 24 teams invited to the NHL’s playoff bubble but didn’t advance past the qualifying round.
Patrick Marleau’s return will help fill some of the leadership void left with Thornton’s departure, but Wilson clearly expects the Sharks to get back to being a contender in the Western Conference.