Sharks' Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau committed to keeping things fun

Sharks' Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau committed to keeping things fun

Reunited, and it feels so good.

The fact that Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton are teammates on the Sharks -- for the second time -- is, frankly, just absurd. It's entirely awesome, but yes, absurd.

Thornton and Marleau were the No. 1 and 2 picks in the 1997 NHL Draft, respectively, and they're the last two players standing from that draft class. They're both 40 years old. One guy has had major surgery on both knees. The other wasn't signed until four games into the current season.

The odds were most definitely against the two future Hall of Famers being reunited in San Jose, but they beat them anyway. And now, they're having a blast together again.

That much was readily apparent through a recent Q&A Thornton and Marleau did with The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun.

"Never," Thornton said of if he thought they would ever be teammates in the first place. "We played together for Canada on under-18 so we knew each other before the draft. But going 1-2, I thought he was in the West and I was in the East permanently. Yeah. We’d play together internationally and stuff like that but never on the same NHL team. No."

As for being reunited, Thornton was as pleasantly surprised as the rest of us. "Isn’t it great? Who would have seen that!"

"Couldn’t stay away from the big guy here," Marleau quipped.

Thornton and Marleau had been teammates for the better part of 12 seasons prior to the current one. That's a lot of time together in close quarters, but the two longtime friends have always seemed to enjoy each other's company -- even when they didn't have to.

When the NHL returned from the 2012-13 lockout, a rule in the CBA was changed that required all players past their entry-level contracts to get their own hotel room on the road. Thornton and Marleau were both 33 years old at the time.

They kept rooming together anyway.

"It might have been more than a year," Marleau recalled.

"Yeah it might have been like two years," Thornton corrected.

Apparently, the choice to remain roommates on the road was a logical one.

"Yeah, we always woke up at the same time," Thornton said. "It was just, why change it? It was working out. We were playing good ...

"Yeah but it was 9:30 p.m. and shut out the lights (laughs)."

Now teammates -- again -- in their 40s, their friendship can be traced back multiple decades.

"We’ve had our fun," Thornton said. "But I just think the fact that we’ve had quality time together. We’ve got to know each other’s families. I’ve got to know the Marleau family, which is important. We have a lot of good memories, played on a lot of good teams."

"Right from when we were 17 years old," Marleau interjected. "We got in trouble that year (starts laughing)."

Oh? (eyes emoji)

Do tell.

Marleau then proceeded to remind Thornton about some good old-fashioned boyhood fun that went a little overboard -- literally -- back while they were playing on Canada's under-18 national team.

"We wrecked a couple of kayaks," Marleau recalled. "We had rented a couple of kayaks one day and somehow ran into each other.

"A couple of us jumped off and went swimming a little bit."

"So we had to pay for the damages," Thornton remembered. "They said, ‘You owe us money!’"

[RELATED: Exclusive: Marleau reflects on Sharks return in ride to SAP]

While Thornton and Marleau attempt to steer the Sharks better than they did those kayaks, they now have more time to build more memories together.

"The fun isn’t ending," Thornton said, "that’s for sure."

Well, as long as it doesn't keep the old-timers up past their bedtime.

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NHL rumors: Ex-Sharks coach Peter DeBoer 'willing to listen' to offers


NHL rumors: Ex-Sharks coach Peter DeBoer 'willing to listen' to offers

Former Sharks coach Peter DeBoer has not been out of a job long, and he reportedly might not wait longer. 

DeBoer is open to coaching elsewhere this season, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported Saturday night during "Hockey Night In Canada."

"Sometimes coaches wanna take time, maybe the rest of the season before they come back," Friedman said. "The word is ... that, depending on the situation, Peter DeBoer is willing to listen and will consider coaching this year. But again, it depends on the situation."

The Sharks fired DeBoer, assistant coaches Steve Spott and Dave Barr and goaltending coach Johan Hedberg on Wednesday. Bob Boughner was the only coach retained and he now is the Sharks' interim coach, with longtime minor league coach Roy Sommer and former Sharks Mike Ricci and Evgeni Nabokov filling out the rest of the staff. 

DeBoer's tenure in San Jose lasted parts of five seasons, which was his longest stint as an NHL coach. He led the Sharks to a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2015-16 and another appearance in the Western Conference final last season. 

The Sharks started slowly this season, winning just four of their first 15 games. San Jose later rattled off a six-game winning streak, but DeBoer's time behind the Sharks bench ended with another five-game losing streak. 

[RELATED: Dell earns another start by lifting Sharks past Canucks]

Goaltenders Martin Jones and Aaron Dell did not bounce back as expected this season, and the two combined for the NHL's fourth-worst save percentage (.887) at the time of DeBoer's firing. Those struggles coincided with others in the Sharks' defensive zone, as San Jose allowed the fifth-highest rate of expected goals (2.41 per 60 minutes) and rate of high-danger chances (11.73 per 60 minutes) in the league this season under DeBoer, according to Natural Stat Trick. A rash of offseason departures, including the loss of captain Joe Pavelski, didn't help the Sharks, nor did the slow acclimation of the team's prospects trying to take their place. 

The Sharks opted to change the coaching staff in order to correct for those circumstances. They won't be the last team to do the same this season, and DeBoer -- whose .548 winning percentage is better than all but five active coaches -- reportedly will listen when another comes calling. 

Aaron Dell lifts Sharks to big win vs. Canucks, earns another start


Aaron Dell lifts Sharks to big win vs. Canucks, earns another start

SAN JOSE - The Sharks named Aaron Dell the first star on the evening after they defeated the Vancouver Canucks 4-2 at SAP Center on Saturday. Really, it would have been silly to give that first star to anyone else.

But in San Jose's first win with Bob Boughner behind the bench, the 30-year-old backup netminder didn't just keep the team in front of him in the game. He also earned himself his first back-to-back opportunity of his 2019-20 campaign, with Boughner all but confirming after the win that Dell would get the start over Martin Jones when the Sharks host the Coyotes on Tuesday.

Earlier in the season, Jones might have gotten the nod to start Tuesday's game regardless of how Dell played on Saturday. But this is Boughner's team now. And the interim head coach is going to play whoever the hot hand is.

"This is a competition," Boughner told reporters after San Jose's victory over Vancouver. "Both guys are good goalies."

Despite an up-and-down first few months of the season, Dell came up big in his first start of Boughner's tenure. He had a shutout bid going against the Canucks up until 7:57 in the third period. Sure, he let two goals in late, but he also strung together some highlight reel-worthy stops to stymie Vancouver's mounting offensive push. Dell stopped 33 of 35 shots, improving to 18-6-3 in his career when recording 30 or more saves in a contest. Needless to say, the performance added to Dell's glowing resume against the Canucks, who he holds a 6-1-0 all-time record against.

"He was our best player," Boughner said of Dell. "He made some key saves at key times and kept us in it when we were starting to take on water. That's what a goalie does in a win like that" 

Teammate Timo Meier agreed with his new coach

"Definitely wouldn't have been able to win without him," Meier said. "He was really solid in net. He played great for us. He's definitely a huge part of this win. He kept us in the game."

Although Dell will start San Jose's next game, Jones won't be sitting around waiting around for his next start. No. 31 is expected to get some extra practice time in with newly-appointed goalie coach Evgeni Nabokov, which Boughner sees as a big positive for San Jose's goaltending tandem.

"Jones is going to get a chance to work with Nabby for a few days, which is an advantage for us," Boughner said.

As for Dell's next outing, it's anyone's guess how he will play in a second straight start. He's 2-2-0 lifetime in back-to-back starts and, again, hasn't played consecutive games yet this season. If his next start is anything like his start on Saturday night, however, the Sharks should be in a good position to get another win.

Of course, San Jose's success won't start and end with how Dell plays on Tuesday against Arizona. The Sharks might have gotten into the win column on Saturday, but they still have work to do to improve the game -- mainly when it comes to playing tight defense for a full 60 minutes.

[RELATED: How Thornton, Marleay feel about ex-teammates as coaches]

"It's just one game so we've got to string some (wins) together," Marc-Edouard Vlasic said after Saturday's win. "We played better. We stuck more to our system. Turned (the puck) over too many times, but other than that, we played the way we wanted to."

"It's a start," Meier said. "We know there are still a lot of things we need to clean up, but it's a step in the right direction."