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Thornton should talk less
Sharks captain takes grilling
11/2/11 - By Mike Lee -

Say it ain't so Joe. On second thought, don't say anything. The last time you opened your mouth, some stuff came out that really isn't representative of the qualities of an NHL captain. After losing 5-2 to the New York Rangers on Monday night, Sharks captain Joe Thornton had an opinion about his opponent that simply didn't make sense.

"To be honest with you, they were probably the softest team we played against on this road trip," Thornton said of the Rangers.

Was Thornton channeling his inner Sean Avery when he spewed that little gem? Did Brandon Prust lay an unnoticed elbow to Thornton's head during the game?

Perhaps Thornton was trying to deflect questions pertaining to his team's lack-luster performance. Whatever the reason, you have to scratch your head. The comment caught Rangers head coach John Tortorella so off-guard that his initial response was just as baffling.

"Joe said that? Wonderful," said the former Stanley Cup winning coach.

I emphasize the part about Tortorella winning the Stanley Cup, because his follow-up response was a little more in-line with what you'd expect from someone as fiery as the Rangers boss.

"Yeah it caught me off-guard when it was brought up after the game," Tortorella said the next day. "It surprised me, and I've never heard a player say that. Joe's a heck of a player, but here's a player popping off about our team, and Joe hasn't won a goddamn thing in this league."

Hard to argue with the sentiment.

Thornton is supposed to be focusing his teammates, not focusing the spot light on them. And if you're going to take a shot at a team, doing it through the New York media probably isn't the best conduit.

"He could go down as a player, being one of the better players in our league never to win anything," Tortorella went on to say. "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."

If you think about great NHL captains, how many of them took pot shots at their competition, much less on nights when they go their tails kicked by those opponents?

The bigger issue I have with all of this is that Thornton may have put a target on his (or heaven forbid, his teammates) back. No other sport has codes like hockey. Spouting off about another player or team is a big no-no, because NHL players protect their own like no other professional athletes.

Luckily for Thornton, the only way San Jose sees the Rangers again this year is in the Stanley Cup Finals. It's the 28 other teams he needs to be worried about. Those teams have extra motivation to beat Thornton now. How likely is a player going to mail in a game if there's the threat of being called out by Thornton?

How are Thornton's teammates supposed to react? Are they going to have to stick their necks out for Thornton the next time someone tries to settle the score?

Tortorella was right. Thornton needs to shut up. It was classless. What Thornton needs to do is address the comment about "never winning a goddamn thing." Go win a Cup and shut Tortorella up. Until then, he needs to strike the word "soft" from his vocabulary.


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