36-Year-Old Center – San Jose Sharks
Joe Thornton Contract Information:
Agreed to a three-year, $20.25 million contract with the Sharks in January of 2014.
Thornton notched a power-play goal in Monday's 5-1 loss to the Sharks.
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RotoWire's Preseason Outlooks
Much has been made of the supposed decline of Joe Thornton. He's 35 and a veteran of 16 NHL seasons, but tales of his demise are seriously overblown. He probably won't get you 20 goals this season, but that won't stop him from delivering impressive totals. Jumbo Joe's 76 points last season ranked 13th in the league and his 65 assists were second in the NHL. And advanced stats show that there's no reason to think there's a step back coming this year. With admirable advanced stats like Corsi For and Relative Corsi despite getting unfavorable zone starts, Thornton is proving he still has lots of value AND that the Sharks are better with him on the ice. And with the talent in San Jose's top six, Thornton is going to have dangerous weapons on the wings and will continue to produce this season. Expect a mirror of 2013-14 for this season.
Jumbo Joe finished last season with seven goals and 33 assists. He's not passing that point-per-game mark that he used to hit so regularly, but he's far from irrelevant. Thornton is still a leader for the Sharks, but he has evolved his game into a more two-way approach. The team now relies on him to win face offs and check, too, rather than just deliver points. His value is clear -- his 58.5 percent success in the face-off circle put him fourth overall in the NHL last season. His 33 assists still had him tied for 12th overall in the league as well, but his age and the declining number of goals might make him a sneaky pick-up later in the draft than you might expect. Don't sleep on him, though -- the arrival of Brent Burns on his wing could lead to a bit of a renaissance for Jumbo Joe and it's plausible that he could get back to his point-per-game pace with an increased load of assists.
The days of league-leading point totals for Jumbo Joe are long gone. But, he has been able to grow his two-way game in ways that no-one -- maybe not even Thornton himself -- ever imagined. He's great in the faceoff circle and he's the guy they call on most, deep in the Sharks zone, to get them out of trouble. Go figure. Even with this two-way growth in his game, he was still able to lead his squad in scoring, potting 18 goals and setting up 59 others last year. Those 59 assists put him in a three-way tie with Erik Karlsson and Evgeni Malkin for third in the NHL. So, what's in order for this 33-year-old pivot? A repeat of those totals and maybe even a return to the point-per-game plateau. Thornton's not as sexy a pick any more, but that just means he might slip a little further on draft day. And that's totally to your advantage.
The Sharks swam away from the past regular season with six forwards having notched 50 points or more. And while the casual hockey fan could have expected Thornton (21 G, 49 A) to be in that mix, those point totals actually represent the captain's lowest output in six seasons as a Shark. To be fair, the bulky center seemed to have more of his focus on the defensive aspect of the game, as he was tops in the NHL with 114 takeaways. During the playoffs, Thornton morphed back to Jumbo Joe and went on to record three goals and 14 assists in 18 contests, a career-high mark for the skilled passer. He's a safe pick in the early rounds of most fantasy drafts, and should fall within the 70-80 point range with another full schedule on tap.
Drafting Thornton is a luxury in the world of fantasy hockey because you know that you are getting a proven skater who consistently produces across the board, every single year. At 31 years old, Jumbo Joe remains an assist master who has averaged more than 70 helpers over the past five seasons. Of course, if you're Thornton, it never hurts to have fellow Canadian Olympic champs Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley as your linemates. No. 19 is a safe option in all fantasy league formats given his consistency, talented supporting cast and clean medical history.
Thornton's numbers dipped across the board for the third consecutive year with head coach Todd McLellan making a concerted effort of pulling offense away from Jumbo Joe and onto the sticks of the blue line. For the most part, the strategy worked, but you have to think that Thornton will be more involved this season. He has size and strength working to his advantage and is Mr. Reliable in the assist department. With 23 more helpers, he'll have accumulated 600 for his career.
No player was more generous than Thornton in 2007-08 when 67 of his passes went for scores. But Thornton's 96 point-season (29G, 67A) was actually a down year relative to his standards. Former coach Ron Wilson's defensive system is partially to blame for Thornton's slide in offensive production. However, if McLellan can manage a scoring line with far more balance than the '07-08 Sharks had, then Thornton will boast his tremendous strength and vision to the tune of 100+ points. He remains a top-3 fantasy option at the center position.
Jumbo Joe, Big Bird, MVP, regardless of what you call him he's an elite option at center and should come off the board in the first round of most drafts. Thornton finished second in the NHL in points (114), while leading the league in assists (92). His numbers were down from his MVP season when he posted 125 points, -- 96 coming from assists -- in his time between the Boston and San Jose. The Sharks will continue ask Thornton to shoot the puck a bit more, and if he could rack up 300 shots, he could be looking at 30-plus goals this season.
He could never seem to do enough right in his eight years in Boston to satisfy critics, but Thornton did little wrong in his five months with the Sharks last year, bagging league MVP honors along the way. You want scoring, playmaking, physical play, leadership, they all come standard on the Thornton model. From a fantasy standpoint the two caveats are this: Thornton doesn’t back down from many physical challenges, so you worry a little about him holding up for the length of the season, and he’s merely a solid goal scorer, not a dominant one. But if you want Thornton on your fantasy roster in 2006-07, you’re going to need a very early selection, because this is a blue-chipper all the way.
Jumbo Joe's ascension to greatness will continue in 2005-06. He is a dominant power forward with the ability to not only put up points but also to physically and psychologically intimidate his opponents. He still pulls the occasional bone-headed emotional move, but that's easily forgiven given his talent. This franchise center is due to make a jump in offensive output and should form the nucleus of any fantasy squad, dynasty or single-year format.