The onus to produce and win in the playoffs is immense. Produce and a player will be revered amongst fans and media, but if a player can’t produce in the “real” season he will be chastised mercilessly.
Has a player been ripped more — and rightfully so — about his lack of playoff success than Joe Thornton? No, and that’s because since 1970, he along with Alex Ovechkin, Eric Lindros and Jose Theodore are the only players who have won the Hart Trophy, but not the Stanley Cup.
But has Thornton been that bad?
Lindros tallied 57 points in 53 playoff games, and led the Flyers to the Cup in 1996. Ovechkin has 20 goals and 40 points in 28 post-season games, and Jose Theodore had one incredible season, but most don’t consider him one of the league’s best players.
Thornton on the other hand has produced the second most points since the lockout with 510. Only Ovechkin, with 529, has scored more. Here are the rest of the top-ten point producers since the lockout.
Sidney Crosby: 506
Dany Heatley: 444
Pavel Datsyuk: 438
Ilya Kovalchuk: 437
Daniel Alfredsson: 424
Marty St. Louis: 420
Vincent Lecavalier: 414
Marc Savard: 392
Only Marc Savard hasn’t played in the Cup finals, but he has 20 points in 20 playoff games, while Thornton has 61 points in 85 career games, but since the lockout he has 43 points in 50 games. Not horrible numbers, but he only has eight goals and in many games his effort left you wanting more.
However, Thornton has goals in consecutive playoff games for the first time since 2002 and his Sharks are leading the Detroit Red Wings 3-0. Suddenly Thornton has eight points in nine games, and if the Sharks win the Cup he might shed his reputation of being a post-season underachiever.
For the first 13 years of his career, people doubted if Steve Yzerman could lead his team, but with three Cups in six seasons, he went from being considered an underachiever to one of the best leaders in the history of the game.
I always thought Yzerman was a great player, but even his own team doubted him, when in February of 1996 they allegedly almost dealt him to Ottawa for Alexei Yashin. However, Jimmy Devellano didn’t pull the trigger and a year later the Red Wings won the Cup.
Thornton isn’t as good as Yzerman, but he is one of the league’s most skilled players, and a true gentleman when you deal with him. But, up until now he’s been an unable to elevate his game in the playoffs, but if the last two games are any indication he could shed that reputation.
Outside of shedding the “can’t produce or win in the playoffs” label, he is also playing for enshrinement into the Hall of Fame.
Thornton has 931 points in 915 regular season games, but he’ll only be 31 next season, so 1200+ career points is realistic, but if he doesn’t win a Cup and can’t shake his current label he might not go to the Hall.
Currently there are 14 players with 1000+ points, who didn’t win a Cup who have yet to gain entrance into the Hall of Fame.
- Dave Taylor
- Bernie Nicholls
- Dino Ciccarelli
- Brian Propp
- Adam Oates
- Phil Housley
- Dale Hunter
- Brian Bellows
- Pat Verbeek
- Vincent Damphousse
- Pierre Turgeon (Eligible 2010)
- Jeromy Roenick (Eligible in 2012)
- Mats Sundin (Eligible in 2012)
- Keith Tkachuk (Eligible 2013)
Not surprising that the list of players with 1000+ points with a Cup ring who aren’t in the Hall is much shorter: Bobby Smith, Steve Larmer, Dave Andreychuk and Doug Gilmour. Gilmour is a front runner to make it this year, while Andreychuk will be a maybe.
***Joe Nieuwendyk (2010 Eligible), Alex Mogilny (2010), Brendan Shanahan (2012), Theo Fleury (2012) and Sergei Federov (2013) are not in yet, but they all should get in.***
Thornton has lots on the line when it comes to securing his place amongst the NHL greats, and he needs to realize his chance of success might never be as good as this spring. Nine more wins, and you he can punch his ticket to the Hall, but if he loses he’ll take another step towards a permanent seat in underachieverville.
ICE WOMEN OF THE WEEK
With the lovely snow in Alberta and the consistent rain in Vancouver hopefully these ladies from sunny hockey locales will send some warm weather our way. Sara warms the hearts of Kings fans, the Stars ladies are dressed in unison and who doesn’t like a Panther bikini!
- The Canadiens missed their chance to upset the Pens, by not being able to score in the 3rd period of game three. The Penguins know how to finish off an opponent, unlike the Capitals.
- I’m curious what is in the water in Boston, because Mark Recchi and Miro Satan look like they’re 27 not 42 and 35 respectively. Recchi is going for his 3rd Cup, while Satan is looking to win his 2nd straight. Satan only had one goal and six points with the Pens last year, but he leads the Bruins with five goals and ten points this postseason. Satan is making Peter Chiarelli look like a genius for signing him midway through the season.
- Speaking of ageless wonders, how good did Steve Nash look yesterday as the Suns took a 2-0 series lead over the Spurs? Nash’s vision on the court is incredible. He’s a Hall of Famer and has to be considered top-five greatest Canadian athletes of all-time when his career is over.
- The 2010 Hall of Fame inductees haven’t been announced yet, but I’m curious who will get in. Here are some of the more notable names: Alex Mogilny, Pierre Turgeon, Adam Oates, Doug Gilmour, Dave Andreychuk, Joe Nieuwendyk, Tom Barrasso, Mike Vernon, Mike Richter, Eric Lindros, Gary Suter and Andy Moog.
- Who do you think is most deserving? Keep in mind only four players can be inducted, but they don’t need to induct four. I’d put Gilmour in. He’s 17th all-time in scoring, won a Cup with Calgary and played hard. Adam Oates doesn’t have a Cup, and that will hurt him, but he’s 16th all-time in points and one of the best playmakers the game has seen. And I’d put in Mike Vernon ahead of Tom Barrasso. Barrasso only won 30+ plus games twice, while Vernon did it five times. Both have two Cups. Vernon has more wins in both the playoffs and regular season, and considering how much smaller he was, I think he did more with less. Who would you put in?
- The Oilers, Canucks and Flames probably won’t have a chance to grab him, but the name I keep hearing from scouts is Ryan Johansen. The 17-year-old is 6’3” and 190, and some scouts think he’ll only get bigger, stronger and better. He’s projected to go 10th-13th, and the Ducks really like him.