After an uninspired 5 - 2 loss on Broadway to wrap up a six game road trip San Jose Sharks' Captain Joe Thornton said it was a game they should have won and proceeded to critique the Rangers stating: "To be honest with you, they were probably the softest team we played against on this road trip." A roadie that included stops in Boston, Nashville, Detroit, Long Island and New Jersey. Thornton elaborated, "We played some good teams, and I think we probably should have beat these guys, to be honest with you."
I disagree with Thornton, but not in the fact that he did say it but his rankings of teams. New Jersey, Boston and the Islanders are all out of the playoff picture if the season ended today, the Rangers are atleast knocking on the door in 9th with games in hand. Nashville is in 8th in the west but at times have looked awful. I would say the Rangers were more middle of that pack in terms of softness.
I'm not sure if his use of 'soft' meant he felt the Rangers lacked sandpaper but it seems he was implying that overall they were a very beatable team, and what's wrong with coming out and saying that after game? What's wrong with a team Captain addressing the media and saying, 'Ya, we should've had that one.'? So many other team leaders would've defended their team play that night and pumped the winning teams tires, but not Jumbo Joe, and I applaud him for doing it.
The only problem, as Rangers' Head Coach John Tortorella pointed out today, is that Joe hasn't won anything in the NHL. That doesn't stop Thornton from addressing a should-be win turned loss but it does set him up for a very easy jab from one of the best verbal sparrers in the game.
Tortorella innitially dismissed the comments but took the opportunity after todays morning skate to shoot back saying, "Joe's a heck of a player, but here's a player popping off about our team and Joe hasn't won a thing in this league. He could go down, as a player, being one of the better players in our league never to win anything. So what he should do is just shut up. It was uncalled for, it was classless, and I've never had it happen like that before."
This war of words could potentially escalate over the next couple days but I expect it to lose mommentum sooner rather than later as these two are from seperate coasts, and that is largely why I feel Joe said it. He had an opportunity to deflect pressure from his team and put it on himself in a situation that won't be as volatile or long lived if he had, say called out the Ducks, Coyotes, Kings or Stars. With the exception of a select few NHL hockey players don't typically say things on camera without thinking. Joe also had to know he'd be dealing with a very willing combatent in Tortorella and for his words to resonate they needed a response. Kudos to Joe for taking the weight off his teams shoulders.
This is a Sharks squad that is under tremendous pressure to win now. They've been on the cusp for years and haven't advanced to the finals despite being eliminated in the third round in each of the past two seasons. GM Doug Wilson had a busy offseason acquiring Martin Havlat and Brent Burns and yet the Sharks have come out of the gate with a modest 6-4-0 start in a tough Pacific Division. Thornton knows the stakes are high and he should be commended for speaking from the heart and giving an honest answer, but, John Tortorella has every right to call him out on his well noted postseason failures, a fact I'm sure Jumbo Joe realizes. The reality is the clock is ticking on his career and the window of opportunity to win in San Jose won't be open forever. Thornton probably relishes the critique from Torts because it's likely not going to happen from within the franchise or his circle of confidants and he might just feel he needs a little extra motivation.
Joe spent last season becoming a better defensive player in his effort to achieve the ultimate goal and now this soft spoken giant is showing the chops to be an emotional leader off the ice. San Jose fans should be happy.