Tuesday, April 12, 2011

NHL Playoffs: No One Tell Joe Thornton It Is Playoff Time

We've seen it before. The San Jose Sharks have an amazing regular season and hopes are high heading into the NHL playoffs.

There's too many weapons on this team to fail, right?


The NHL playoffs are a bigger beast and big names tend to crumble during this time, especially if they're wearing a Sharks jersey, or so history claims.

The perfect example of a big name becoming miniscule when the lights are on them is Joe Thornton.

Thornton had another very productive season at center for the Sharks. His 2010-11 tallied 70 points, just three points behind the team leader Patrick Marleau.

It was Thornton's lowest point total in five seasons.

But Shark fans know that this means nothing and has meant nothing for the last several years because Thornton seems to flop when it counts. I'm talking about playoff time.

Fact: A team with Joe Thornton on it has made it passed the second round of the NHL playoffs only once. That was last year.

The solution this year is to not tell him that he is playing in the NHL playoffs starting on Thursday. So be quiet...

It didn't always used to be like this.

Thornton's entry into the NHL as #1 overall pick in 1997 put the pressure on him to perform early in his career.

In his first playoff appearance at age 19 with the Boston Bruins, Thornton led the team in an upset of third-seeded Carolina before falling to Buffalo in the second round. Thornton would tally nine points in 11 games in those playoffs.

In 2002, Thornton lead the Bruins with six points in six games, but fell in the first round. Still, there was production.

It was the 2004 playoffs that started this whole mess of Thornton as a playoff flopper.

He would total zero points and finish at minus-6 in a seven game series.

After being traded to the Sharks, things have only gotten worse.

Thornton has never gone back to the type of production he had in that 2004 playoff series. In fact, Thornton has never been a total playoff flop. He has always scored around a point-per-game, but he's never been special around this time. There's never been anything to set him above everyone else, which is who he is during the regular season.

A more accurate term to describe Thornton when it matters is "underproductive."

We expect more from him.

Fans are always looking for the best players to go above and beyond in the heat of the moment, and Thornton has never been that guy.

Thornton has averaged 1.06 points-per-game in 995 regular season games played in his career.

His playoff average is 0.71 points-per-game.

That's not quite going above and beyond when it counts.

Until their captain and team leader starts producing when it counts, neither will the Sharks, or any team with Thornton on it, for that matter.

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