(Photo: Cassie Houchin)
The truth about why Joe Thornton was demoted from his captaincy of the San Jose Sharks, with some very specific words between Thornton and General Manager Doug Wilson, surfaced Thursday evening. As if this unpredictable season couldn’t get even more worse, here we have some winds to stoke the fire.
During a press conference Thursday evening with season ticket holders, Wilson claimed that Thornton lashes out at teammates when times get stressful. Thornton’s response? “Doug needs to shut his mouth.”
Sharks’ columnist David Pollak first reported the comments.
“He cares about the game so much. The reason we took the ‘C’ off him… Joe carries the weight of the team on his shoulders, and he’s got such a big heart that when stress comes on him, he lashes out at people and it kind of impacts them. The pressure and stress, I felt, was getting to Joe and I sat him down and said we need other players to step up and share this. He got it. He didn’t like it, but he got it and he understood it.” – Doug Wilson
Thornton was stripped of the “C” on his chest last August before the 2014-15 season, leaving the question of who would have the responsibility as captain looming in everyone’s heads, both fans and players alike. The Sharks moved forward into the season with four alternates: Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Thornton. The former Boston Bruin served as captain for that club before he came to the Sharks, where he wore the “A” before regaining the “C” from 2010 – 2014.
Wilson stands behind his decision to remove Thornton as captain, stating that the team had and does have a plan to rebuild and that meant moving around players and letting young guys step up to the challenge. He also reinforced that rebuilding takes time, even though we “want it to happen today.”
Thornton had a few words for Pollak regarding Wilson’s comments:
“All I’ve got to say is I’ve been here every day working hard. I haven’t taken a sabbatical. He just needs to stop lying, shut his mouth.”
We will never know what goes on behind closed doors in the locker room, but from how much Thornton is respected by his teammates, I’d like to think Wilson may be exaggerating with his comments. Plus, I don’t think it’s appropriate to say that to the public, true or not, about one of your top players and a veteran who is so respected in the league. It’s just wrong.
Looking at things from Thornton’s point of view, from someone who works hard day in and day out, to hear a negative comment like that from a higher up has got to sting and would get under the skin of anybody. It comes down to respect and being respected for the job that you do. Every work place, professional sports included, has conflict between management and their employees at times. Perhaps this will all blow over, or perhaps there will be big changes.
Whatever the case, this couldn’t have come at a more inopportune time. The Sharks head out on a seven-game road trip for their last 14 games of the season and are just outside the playoff picture. The last thing they need is distraction from the game. And if there has been bad blood between these two the entire season, it hasn’t affected Thornton’s game. He continues to thrive on the ice, and if anything, this unsettling ripple in the Sharks’ waters might have given him more gumption to be even better.