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Captain no more: Sharks strip Thornton of ‘C’

Aug 20, 2014, 5:46 PM EDT

Joe Thornton Getty Images

The inevitable has happened in San Jose.

No, they haven’t made a franchise-altering trade – they’ve stripped Joe Thornton of his captaincy.

Kevin Kurz of shared the update from GM Doug Wilson and coach Todd McLellan. Instead of Thornton wearing the “C,” no player will enter training camp with a letter. The Sharks will have no captain and no alternates and have no obvious form of leadership. That means former captain, and now former alternate captain, Patrick Marleau also loses his “A.”

As for who the next captain will be, that’ll be determined later and perhaps not before the start of the season. From Kurz:

“A new captain and leadership group will be determined at some point, but not necessarily before the start of the season. McLellan did not rule out Thornton becoming the captain again, although would seem to be a long shot, as the Sharks plan to give their younger players a bigger stake in the club.”

Thornton losing his letter isn’t a big surprise as McLellan said in late June there was the possibility of that happening.

That said, considering how the team has changed its tune regarding he and Marleau saying they’ll be “part of the solution,” it’s just another thing to add to the list of baffling moves the organization has made in the wake of blowing a 3-0 series lead to the Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the playoffs en route to a seven-game defeat.

If you think this is all head-scratching from the outside, imagine what it’s like being a Sharks fan.

  1. patthehockeyfan - Aug 20, 2014 at 5:51 PM

    McLellan should have been the one to go after last season. He’s just continuing to muck things up. I feel for Sharks’ fans.

    • storminator16 - Aug 20, 2014 at 6:47 PM

      Revisionist history.

    • avfanforlife - Aug 20, 2014 at 9:17 PM

      I actually watch quite a few Sharks games (because I think your TV announcers are great) and I’ve watched the Sharks knock my boys out of the playoffs, and I’ve watched what seems to be a strong Cup contending team exit early year after year. I must admit that I feel sorry for the fans in SJ but I don’t know enough about the true situation as to why they (sorry) choke every year. I hate it when coaches get the boot too early, but maybe it is his time to go.

      • sanjosecupcrazy - Aug 21, 2014 at 2:51 PM

        Haha, they fired Drew Remenda, our color guy, because he was a little too “down the middle” for their taste. They want a homer. This has been the summer of absolutely stupid Sharks moves.

  2. christopher39 - Aug 20, 2014 at 6:03 PM

    Couture or pavelski witll get a c or a classic will get other a and if they go with 4 assistants I could see braun

  3. sgs32 - Aug 20, 2014 at 6:03 PM

    I don’t get this, they want to change things but still don’t want to trade players, only thing they’ve changed so far is that what displays leadership for the fans has been removed, they are still leaders aren’t they? They didn’t get the letter to Be a leader, they got the letter for being a leader.
    Maybe they will realise that the answer is the playing style, think the Caps had the same problem, and they are trying to change that, phenomenal in the regular season and bad in the playoffs. Sharks need to change that..not just some letters on jerseys

    • rssaspe26 - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:22 PM

      Well said, but should the Capitals really be held up as a model of how to respond after a disappointing playoff exit? The caps changed their style and went from being a contender in the east to barely making the playoffs to actually missing the playoffs. When you have something good going, you don’t mess with it.

      • bethgoesglobal - Aug 21, 2014 at 1:37 AM

        I think the question is really DO the Sharks still have something good going? (or will they go the way of the Caps?)

        I must say I kinda like the idea of seeing who has the teams confidence to be their Captain. I wouldn’t mind the Caps doing the same thing.

    • mrwhite07 - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:26 PM

      Kind of hard to trade players when the ones they want to trade have NO-TRADE clauses in their contracts

  4. sjrulz17 - Aug 20, 2014 at 6:16 PM

    I’m a die hard Sharks fan and yes it sucks that they historically lost and continue to lose in the playoffs but it could always be worse, I could be a Leafs fan.

    • faulkingallstar - Aug 20, 2014 at 11:27 PM

      I don’t know is better to be a fan of a team that is expected to fail and fails or a team that is expected to succeed and fails?

      • rmccleary97 - Aug 21, 2014 at 12:21 AM

        Carolina fans support a team that has typically been bad more often than it’s been good – but at least they’ve got one glorious run to a Cup that they can always fall back on. I’d take that over both of the above scenarios in a heartbeat.

    • alliceishome - Aug 21, 2014 at 12:00 AM

      He’s still just mad that the Leafs knocked the Sharks out of the playoffs in their very first appearance.

      Go back to the Cow Palace, ya hoser!

  5. vancouversportsbro - Aug 20, 2014 at 6:18 PM

    First off that picture made me laugh. And I laughed at this news. Feel bad for Joe though.

    Second, I thought they looked like a cup team last year. They played well in the season. Choked yet again though. Time to let MacLellan go.

  6. ronniethec - Aug 20, 2014 at 6:23 PM

    Sjrulz17. It could also be better. You could be a fan of that team down south.

  7. sjsharks66 - Aug 20, 2014 at 6:25 PM

    Ow.. Reading that hit me straight in the chest.. I always pictured Joe getting his photo and lifting the cup first, if that day ever came. The C should go to Pavs, Vlassic or even the strange theory of Torres.

  8. pirovash88 - Aug 20, 2014 at 6:32 PM

    They probably refused to drop their no trade clause for anyone so this was their punishment, hahah!

  9. afrozenpond - Aug 20, 2014 at 6:53 PM

    Irrelevant, but I still love this…

  10. broadstreetbeatdown - Aug 20, 2014 at 7:05 PM

    Breaking News: Jumbo requests a trade. What a joke of a management team. Yeah the Sharks blew it out their a$$ but the blame does not fall solely on his shoulders. This is disgraceful.

    • jernster21 - Aug 20, 2014 at 7:55 PM

      Gee, bold move SJ Sharks. Didn’t have the sack to trade Marleau or Thornton and yanking a letter off their chest is suddenly going to motivate them in the playoffs. You’d think choking year after year would be enough motivation but they seem to think that doing the same thing over and over with the same personnel is going to result in something different.

      • faulkingallstar - Aug 20, 2014 at 8:17 PM

        Have you guys been following the sharks at all this season? Doug Wilson tried to trade both Thornton and Marleau but they refused to waive their NTC. Selfish players like that don’t deserve captaincy. Sharks are trying to get ready for life after Thornton since it doesn’t look like they’ll be winning anything with him on the team.

      • hockeyflow33 - Aug 20, 2014 at 11:03 PM

        How is he a selfish player because he exercised his mutually agreed to contractual option? Seems like he believes in the team because he wants to stay.

      • faulkingallstar - Aug 23, 2014 at 3:14 PM

        Most players are willing to waive their NTC if they aren’t wanted. And I think Joe owes it to the fans who hes let down soo many times

    • jernster21 - Aug 20, 2014 at 7:58 PM

      Why would he request a trade? Management was looking at him and Marleau when they said they wanted players to want to play in SJ and not just live there….then they didn’t move them and Boyle was the scape goat because he was a UFA. hahaha Hilarious.

      • mrwhite07 - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:29 PM

        He was a RESTRICTED free agent, and the sharks traded his rights for a draft pick- regarding Boyle

      • jernster21 - Aug 21, 2014 at 11:59 AM


      • skr213 - Aug 21, 2014 at 5:24 PM

        To clarify, Boyle was unrestricted, but the Sharks traded his negotiating rights to the Islanders in early June. The Isles failed to sign him and he went to the Rangers.

  11. norcalsportsknowledge - Aug 20, 2014 at 7:35 PM

    This had to be done. Now this year someone needs to earn it. I see Pavs or Couture stepping up and maybe Pickle getting the “A”.

  12. marcedge - Aug 20, 2014 at 8:04 PM

    They want to move Jumbo, but he has refused to waive his NTC.

    • faulkingallstar - Aug 23, 2014 at 3:17 PM

      It looks like theyre still trying to move him. Depending on how long this goes on it could get pretty ugly. SJ is trying as hard as they can to make Joe hate this place, which is good.

  13. sjsharksfan11 - Aug 20, 2014 at 8:08 PM

    I love the bashing of the organization. It’s hilarious. Aside from that everyone panicking now will be changing their tune come playoff time. The team just needed more heart and grit. I think this will bring the team together to play as a whole. Opens up for good competition and for the entire roster accountable to eachother. The Sharks will be fine people. Get over the political ploys through media. Pieces down the road will be added to help get over the hump. The organizational problem has been drafting poorly and trading prospects before they bloom. I’m not a fan of Thornton or Marleau but perhaps out of the spotlight will help these two rise above their plateau failures.

    • budzo83 - Aug 21, 2014 at 11:28 AM

      I agree with you on the fact that when changes are made, fans need to pump their breaks and let things play out. However, it’s not much of a solution you’re offering by saying that they just need more “heart and grit.” “Heart and grit” are called intagibles for a reason. This team has fallen short of high expectations so many times that if that type of character was there, it would have materialized by now. And if it were easy to acquire “heart and grit,” every team that has ever been on the bubble and lacking these intangibles would just go out and get it. So if all they need is “heart and grit,” where is that supposed to come from?

  14. djshnooks - Aug 20, 2014 at 8:14 PM

    Holy dysfunctional team…I thought the Sabres were dysfunctional! Lol.

    The difference in Buffalo is that if you are a captain, you actually get traded away.

  15. capsrockva - Aug 20, 2014 at 8:17 PM

    as a caps fan they should strip Ovi as Capt cause he is not a leader. I know this is off topic. My choice would be Brooks or Troy

  16. sjrulz17 - Aug 20, 2014 at 8:46 PM

    Pav’s should get the C. Heart and soul guy.

  17. canada2014gold - Aug 20, 2014 at 9:02 PM

    I’ve always liked Marleau but Thornton is a joke. The guy cannot raise his game when it counts. He’s very immature, remembering him sticking his hand in Sedin’s face during a meeting with the refs, his dumb “stroking” comments and then refusing to accept any trade. This guy is not a team guy, he’s is a big part of the playoff failure. I understand the Frustration sharks fans and management is feeling right now,

  18. sw19womble - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:09 PM

    As a Sharks fan I love this!

    It’s been obvious for several seasons that Thornton is an epic regular season player, but as useless as a chocolate teapot in the playoffs.

    If the Sharks want to continue to be a great regular season team and keep picking up pennants and a quick appearance in the playoffs, then great, keep Thornton as captain, Marleau as an icon and have us all singing happily in the Shark Tank.

    The Kings nad Blackhawks have proven it’s all about gutsy teamwork and rolling up your sleeves…

    Marleau can still fight to reclaim his A: and I was sad to see Boyle go, but I understood it. Now it’s about giving the youngsters a chance to step up, and hopefully Thornton will do the honourable thing and rescind his no-trade-clause. Or just let him sit and rot on the bench.

    PS Gary Bettman can go.f.himself.

  19. blomfeld - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:36 PM


    When the chips are on the table, Thornton is a ‘complete & utter’ failure as we Kings proved beyond a reasonable doubt this past spring. Nonetheless, the same should also be done ‘right now’ without further ado to Mister ‘Me Me Me’ there in the nation’s capital ! In fact, the following ‘5 Point Plan’ of mine might be a useful template for the Capital’s to use in dealing with ‘Ovechkin’ Question …

    1) the immediate removal of the ‘C’ from his jersey !

    2) the immediate reduction of his salary by at least 25% !

    3) a demand that he ‘formerly’ apologize to all Washington Capital fans for his parasitic ways !

    4) a demand that he ‘formerly’ apologize to all LA Kings fans for same !

    5) a demand that he plead guilty to the charges of buffoonery, indolence and vanity !

  20. ronniethec - Aug 21, 2014 at 12:33 AM

    Speaking of the Sharks, I just turned on the NHL channel and game 4 of the Sharks-Kings playoffs is on. They are showing the entire series. Kings are down 3 games to none. Boy, I hope the Kings can come back in this series. I have a good feeling about it. And if the do come back and win the series, they just may win the cup! My fingers are crossed.

  21. rmccleary97 - Aug 21, 2014 at 12:49 AM

    Possible next steps to get the players attention:

    — Mandatory bag skates on off days – unless the day ends in ‘Y’. On those days, players will simply skate around holding a plastic bag.
    — Certain phrases prohibited from being used when talking to the media – specifically, anything mentioning what the Sharks didn’t do this past summer.
    — Players no longer permitted to skate out of the giant shark mouth in the pregame ceremony. (Unconfirmed: the shark head will be replaced with a giant turtle shell flipped upside down that the players will climb out of.)
    — “Have you seen Hoosiers? I’ll play with only 4 of you out there!” to be screamed by McLellan before the Sharks start a 5-on-4 PK.
    — Mandatory group therapy sessions after each Sharks goal against where players can discuss how they feel and who (if anyone) should be held accountable and what consequences, ranging from “nothing” to “3-year extension with NTC” should be doled out.
    — Wilson says he’ll do the ice bucket challenge after every Sharks loss.
    — Postgame parties at Marleau’s house now cut back to 4 hours (except on Saturday nights, where the current “until the sun comes up” rule will remain in effect).
    — If things get really desperate: players will no longer receive the team’s group discount for greens fees in April, May and June.

  22. budzo83 - Aug 21, 2014 at 8:14 AM

    Enough with this “fire the coach” nonsense. Babcock has been getting the same treatment in Detroit and that’s just as nonsensical. It’s the personnel, not the coach. The coach can only work with the tools that the GM gives him. Doug Wilson is a GM failing to adapt to the “new NHL.” Much like Kenny Holland in Detroit, when was the last time Wilson hit a home run with a signing or a draft pick? Some bad trades, bad contracts, and draft choices not having the desired impact have hamstrung him and in the cap era you can’t just throw money at the problem.

    Although I agree with a lot of what he said when Wilson called out the players, I think that was mostly done to deflect criticism away from himself. I feel like Maclellan has coached the team up as much as he can, but the core guys that are stearing the ship lack that extra gear when it counts, plain and simple. And if they fire TM, what great hockey mind with all of the answers to this team’s problems is currently unemployed? As the old cliche goes “you can’t fire the players” so when a team under-performs, the coach gets the ax. When is it time for the guy that hired him to be accountable?

    • rmccleary97 - Aug 21, 2014 at 11:30 AM

      Hitting at the draft hasn’t been an issue for the Sharks (though it’s been made more difficult by dealing away picks in recent years). FA signings, … that’s not really been something the Sharks do – they’ve largely built the roster through the draft and by trades.

      Now … getting those pieces to fit together for when it counts? That’s squarely on Wilson at this point – and there’s no sign that he’s got this squad any closer to accomplishing that. Sure, he could fire McLellan and bring someone else in who can get the Sharks over the hump, but when Ron Wilson got canned in 2008 after going out in the 2nd round for the 3rd year in a row, a new coach was supposed to be the fix to that problem. To a point, they’re the 2nd coming of the St. Louis Blues, 1998-2003; solid team, lots of talent, question mark in net, great regular seasons, postseason duds. The only difference is that the Blues can say “we lost to the eventual Cup champions in 4 of 5 years” (Detroit in ’98, Dallas in ’99, Colorado in ’01, Detroit in ’02) while the Sharks only have a pair of those (Chicago in ’10, Los Angeles in ’14) to go with at least three bad losses in there (Edmonton in ’06, Anaheim in ’09, Los Angeles in ’14). The Blues never really showed signs they could go compete with the league’s best in the postseason, and the Sharks have that same vibe – with more of a history to back that up.

      • budzo83 - Aug 21, 2014 at 12:14 PM

        Agreed. Just as you pointed out, throughout history there have always been teams that are elite, but have the misfortune of playing in a division or a conference with teams that have a little something extra that they don’t. Unfortunately, the Sharks look like that team for this point in history.

        The 2009-10 Sharks are one of the best teams that I have ever seen. That squad rolled all the way to the Conference Finals, but ran into a Chicago team that was just better. There’s no other explaination for it. As good as San Jose was that year I thought that if they couldn’t find a way to win a cup that season, they never would.

        You have to be honest with yourself as a GM and recognize your “window” so to speak; Wilson failed to recognize when his team *ahem* jumped the shark.

  23. ronniethec - Aug 21, 2014 at 11:30 AM

    I just re-watched the 7 game playoff series. I think it is crazy to blame Thornton or any other single player for this loss. In the series. The playoffs are a physical and mental grind from game one. The Sharks problem is that they can’t roll 4 lines on a consistent basis. Other than that Rey are a good team with good goaltending. The kings are just a deeper team and quick has the uncanny ability to make the stops when most needed.

    • budzo83 - Aug 21, 2014 at 12:21 PM

      You’re right. But I think it’s his body of work that is drawing criticism.

  24. nyking1963 - Aug 21, 2014 at 12:21 PM

    By stripping him of his C and not being able to move him, as well as Marleau, you’ve just divided your locker room.
    There’s no such thing as being a former captain of your team. Whether he was a good leader or not is certainly debatable, but he was the leader. To have that taken away from you will only create resentment and conflict in the room and on the ice.
    You don’t see the Kings ever embarrassing their leaders, do you? It takes an entire organization to win cups, this is a completely dysfunctional organization starting at the top and trickling down to the players.

  25. selldannysell - Aug 21, 2014 at 1:17 PM

    Wish the Caps would do the same thing concerning their team captain.

  26. ronniethec - Aug 21, 2014 at 4:19 PM

    The best color guy that I have heard in years is Jim Fox and he is right down the middle. Of course you can tell he pulls for the Kings but when they screw up he is the first to point it out. And he does not hold back.

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