The last thing the Sharks need in their desperate dash for a playoff spot is a quarrel between their star player and general manager.
But exactly that appears to have unfolded, as Joe Thornton and Doug Wilson traded biting remarks with one another through the media regarding Thornton being stripped of his captaincy.
In a Q&A session with season ticket holders Thursday, Wilson was asked about the decision to remove the “C” from Thornton’s sweater. Via David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News:
“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.”
Thornton served as captain of the Sharks from 2010 to 2014, but following last season’s playoff collapse against the Kings, the Sharks stripped Thornton of his captaincy and opted instead for four alternate captains.
When asked about Wilson’s comments by Pollak, Thornton retorted:
“I think Doug just needs to shut his mouth. I think that’s the bottom line. 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.”
To which Wilson responded, via CSN Bay Area:
“If he’s got an issue, he knows exactly where I am, and I’ll be glad to talk to him about it. There’s zero issue here. I was asked a question at a season ticket holder function, and my response was to do my job and be accountable to our season ticket holders and tell the truth. It’s nothing I haven’t said before.”
Thornton has largely avoided the spotlight this season, meeting less with the media. He had not sounded off on the captaincy situation until Friday.
If Thornton does bear a grudge, it isn’t showing on the ice. Thornton has once again been one of the Sharks’ best players this season, leading the team with 44 assists and ranks second in points with 57. His 13 goals are also an improvement from last season.
The 35-year-old Thornton has two years remaining on a three-year contract he signed in January of last year, which came with a no-trade clause. With the Sharks rebuilding, much has been speculated about the Sharks trading Thornton, but he has given no indication of wanting to leave San Jose, where he has been a mainstay for 10 seasons.
Is this a power play by Wilson to incite Thornton to waive his no-trade clause? Or was it just a poor choice of words made worse by the circumstances?
Either way, the Sharks have too much at stake on the ice right now for an off-ice controversy to break loose. On the outside looking in on the playoffs, it would be best for both Thornton and Wilson to shut their mouths and focus on salvaging what has been a disappointing season thus far.