When the Boston Bruins selected Joe Thornton 1st overall at the 1997 draft everyone knew he was a tremendous talent. However nobody could have imagined it would take 18 seasons for the man nicknamed “Jumbo Joe” to appear in the Cup final.
In the world of hockey, there aren’t many 6 foot 4, 222 pound natural centers who command the ice like Thornton.
For god sakes just Google his newest installment to the playoff beard phenomena. This guy is the man.
While his ability to grow insane facial hair has never been questioned. His ability to lead has. Striped of his captaincy last off season following a campaign that saw the Sharks miss the playoffs for the first time since his arrival. This, coming off multiple playoff conquests that either ended too soon or in back breaking fashion.
It was a foregone conclusion last September that the Sharks were most likely bound to struggle and perhaps miss the playoffs again. New coach, new captain, but most importantly a new goalie.
That’s not a cocktail titled success.
Through it all the Sharks have been tested, and have succeeded. Decimating their opponents in the playoffs. Major contributions coming from newly appointed captain Joe Pavelski, standout defenseman Brent Burns and of course “Jumbo Joe”.
People tend to have grudes against teams like Chicago, Los Angeles and Tampa Bay because they enjoy a lot of success. But when it comes to San Jose, they’re an all around likable team.
For years they’ve been synonymous with repeated playoff failure. In fact, every time you began to believe that this was the year, you were brought back to reality. The reality included watching San Jose implode on themselves in eerily similar fashions year in and year out.
Rob Blake, Dany Heatley, Jeremy Roenick, and Evgeni Nabokov have all been Sharks during Thorntons tenure and one by one failed to push San Jose over the hump.
So now you begin the understand, why?
How fantastic it is that San Jose has not just won their conference for the first time ever. But that it’s the franchises first trip to the finals. They are patiently awaiting either the Tampa Bay Lightning or Pittsburg Penguins who will play a game 7 tonight.
Whoever wins tonight will have more than a plateful of match ups that need attending to. San Jose can and will run 4 complete lines against their opposition. On top of that 3 pairings of defensemen and overwhelming confidence in a first time starter in net.
St. Louis threw everything they had at San Jose, who in return embracing every blow and calculating the perfect counter punch. In the end, which subsequently was game 6 in San Jose. The Sharks were just too much to handle at home and the devastation was more than apparent on the faces of the Blues. St. Louis has some difficult decisions to make come July 4th.
Long, turbulent and emotional, the ride has been for Joe Thornton. Aside from many successes in international tournament play, this is Thorton’s biggest task.
Any veteran will tell you that when you get to the finals, the mindset always has been ‘I must win now because I may never get here again.’ As a pose to a younger mans ideology which may be, ‘we’re young and talented, we’ll be back for sure.’
My personal bias may be interjecting a bit here. But Joe Thornton is the man the casual hockey fan should be rooting for. All around class act, can put a puck on your stick from the parking lot, future first ballot hall of famer, and is a man seeking his first Stanley Cup Championship. How can’t you love him?
Don’t forget there is still a game 7 tonight between Pittsburg and Tampa Bay. But I’ve already found my team.