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"The Trade" redux
A new legacy began a year ago today
11/30/06 - By Mike Lee

The Sharks have acquired center Joe Thornton in exchange for forwards Marco Sturm, Wayne Primeau and defenseman Brad Stuart. Thornton leads the Bruins in scoring this season with 9 goals and 24 assists.

The 6-foot-4, 225-pound forward was the first overall pick in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft and signed a three-year contract with the Bruins last August. He will earn $6.6 million this season.

"He is a leader who scores points and makes other players around him better," San Jose GM Doug Wilson said in a statement. "To get a player of this caliber, you have to give up something to get something. You would make this trade last month, this month or next year. It follows our philosophy of making our team better for this year and next year." - November 30, 2005

Still hard to believe Doug Wilson pulled it off. Arguably the best transaction in San Jose Sharks history, the acquisition of Joe Thornton will probably be the defining moment in the legacy of the Sharks, should they parlay the deal into Stanley Cup gold within the next five years.

No, I'm not saying that it's going to take the Sharks five years to win a Stanley Cup, but should they pull it off in that timeframe, the Thornton deal will be the single most important event leading up to any such accomplishment.

Thornton has raised the Sharks a level since being acquired one year ago today. They are an elite team, regardless of the absence of a championship banner. Any general manager in the league would love to have the roster that Sharks head coach Ron Wilson gets to juggle each night.

Consider the fact that there is also fiscal sanity sprinkled into the equation, and there are sure to be some owners out there who are smitten with envy as well. Thornton turned a middle tier forward in Jonathan Cheechoo into a goal scoring champ in 2005-06.

Thornton has deflected much of the pressure applied by opposing defenses away from Patrick Marleau, allowing the team captain to center a second line that is better than 75% of the #1 lines in the league. Thornton has made the Sharks around him better players period.

With all of the accomplishments, the expectations have been raised to the rafters this season. Anything but the Stanley Cup will be considered a failure in San Jose. Anything less would tarnish the value of the acquisition, but should such a travesty occur, consider that Thornton at the very least has made hockey interesting in the Bay Area.

Nothing against Marleau, but Thornton has put San Jose on the sports map. He's the focal point of this team, and is the center piece for an identity mold that Doug Wilson continues to build on. Big, speedy, technically sound play makers is the template the Thornton has established. It's the template that Wilson is using to build around.

Mark Bell was supposed to be the next piece in the puzzle, but the jury is still out on Bell. He has yet to live up to expectations, but he is the new prototypical forward. Where Bell has lacked in scoring efficiency this season, he has at least tried to compensate with a physical demeanor on the ice. He has stepped in to fill the shoes vacated by Scott Thornton this season. Not a thug or enforcer, but a subtle reminder that the Sharks won't put up with the opposition taking liberties with the team money players.

By all accounts, the Sharks seemed destined power through the regular season. The playoffs are certainly another story. Many of the current Sharks have learned a thing or two about playoff hockey over the last two seasons, but the NHL's second season is where a players legacy is defined.

The experiences that the last two seasons have afforded the handful of current Sharks that were there to feel the sting of a playoff exist will either take it to the next level, or forever be remembered as the team that was good enough to get into the playoffs, but not good enough to win the big one.

All signs point to bigger and better things since Joe Thornton became a Shark. The Trade will continue to resonate as a cornerstone event in Sharks history. Only time will tell if that history is marked with a championship or frustrating playoff exits.

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