Is This the Last Throes of Jumbo Joe??

You have to feel for Joe Thornton.

Here’s a guy who has done a lot with his career. Closing in on 1,500 career points, over 1,500 games played, Olympic Gold, World Junior Gold, World Cup of Hockey Gold. He’s just missing that Stanley Cup to finish it out.

And it’ll have to wait another year.

Thornton did not get moved on Monday at the trade deadline, a record-setting deadline it was. Especially on a team of sellers that saw Patrick Marleau and Brendan Dillon get moved…oh and Barclay Goodrow. But there didn’t seem to be enough being sent back for the Sharks to part with the 40-year-old vet. His own team, the Bruins, were mentioned a lot, but it seems the price was too big for a guy who is getting on in years and not having the most productive of seasons– which I’m sure the Sharks’ struggles overall could be a reasoning for that.

Yet, will there be another year??

Let’s face facts, Thornton will be 41 over the summer, the numbers have been in a steady decline, and he’s had some injuries that have hampered his play. While he does have name recognition, he’s not the front of the line for teams wanting to pick up a difference maker at the tail end of the season.

Talk about “veteran presence” all you want, but that’s not going to make much of a difference if he’s more a hindrance on the ice– especially in the playoffs. Any contender loves those roster spots for players who are going to make a difference in the game. It seems a lot of teams wanted Thornton as a coaching figure more than a playing figure. But it looks like no one wanted another Reg Dunlop on the team if it’s going to cost them draft picks, prospects, and other assets for a guy who is on his last legs.

Granted, Dunlop won his last game and then moved to Florida to be a coach, but that’s besides the point.

You also have to wonder if Thornton would have been okay just being along for the ride and not being a contributor to the team deep in the playoffs. There’s a lot to be said about pride and how some athletes want to be used when going for a championship. Seeing as San Jose would respect his input before getting traded, you have to think Doug Wilson gave Thornton options to mull over when it came to where he could have been dealt and the offers out there.

So it goes with Thronton not getting a chance at a Cup. It may be the last time, it may not be. The biggest thing is to see what he wants to do and how he wants to go about trying to achieve it, if at all. The Cup is a hard thing to win and Thornton knows as much. There’s plenty of questions going into the end of the year: Will there be any offers from contenders in the summer?? Will he want to settle in a place where he’s not playing a decent size role?? Will he settle for San Jose to start and try to be desirable for next year’s trade deadline??

But more importantly, are we actually witnessing the last days of Joe Thornton as a player in the NHL??

Is There a Plan To Save Jack Eichel From His Loyalty??

June 30th, 2022. That’s the last day that Jack Eichel has no modifier on his contract. While he has no desire now to leave…what if these dreadful seasons in Buffalo continue??

Parallel thinking is a helluva thing because as we were discussing on FOHS the possibility of Eichel asking out of Buffalo, TSN’s Darren Dreger did a hit on TSN about this same topic (as you see from his tweet above). Meanwhile, Greg Wyshynski of ESPNNNNNNNNNnnnnnn talked about the disastrous seasons for the Sabres. So– for once, Buffalo is getting people in the hockey world talking.

For me, this is the same discussion I’ve had for a couple years about Connor McDavid and the dreadful way the Oilers have been playing around him. For their sake, they have gotten things together for the most part, as to not waste another year of his stardom– but now it seems the focus is shifting to Eichel. For all intents and purposes, Eichel has come into his own slowly and silently for the Sabres and the league for that matter. It’s a damn shame that the team around him hasn’t had the same climb he has.

In this “win now” culture of sports, there’s little room for error– which Jason Botterill is finding out right now. Even the absentee landlords that are the Pegulas are paying attention to the Sabres after the Bills made the playoffs and Penn State’s season is winding down. Maybe not good for this scenario, but Botterill has to find a way out or he’ll be on his way out.

However, I mentioned the Pegulas as absentees and that’s kind of how it’s been. Once they sunk their claws into the Sabres as their new shiny toy– they touted them around, touted the heritage of the team around, and tried to make Buffalo a hot spot for people. Yet, once they bought the rest of Buffalo and some of Happy Valley, the Pegulas really have thrown this toy to the side for their new– and more profitable– ones; which the fans have noticed and really been pissed off about in the blue-collar town.

The Pegulas can be as upset as they want, but until there’s action and some kind of direction for this team, they’re going to be a but of many jokes. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised to see the tales of player mismangement from this era of the team from some players who left and became bigger stars elsewhere.

Leading me back to Eichel. With nothing on his contract until his full no-move clause kicks into effect July 1st, 2022; you’re going to have the rumors of him wanting out or teams wanting to find a way to get him out. With situations not improving, you have to feel bad for a kid who’s too loyal to a team that may or may not get better because of him. A kid who probably won’t get to see his full potential on a squad that doesn’t seem up to snuff to get into a playoff race in the Atlantic Division.

Odds are, his loyalty will keep him in Buffalo despite what’s going on around him. He’ll focus on what he can do, how he can do it with what’s given to him, and then let the cards fall as they may. With six years remaining on his deal and two left with no modifier, we’ll see how much his loyalty holds if he keeps getting better and the team doesn’t.