St. Thomas honors hometown hero Joe Thornton with 'Jumbo' banner

Thumbnail image for jumbojoe.jpgWhile many observers will criticize him for failing to earn a Stanley Cup banner, Joe Thornton was honored by the people of his hometown with a big banner at a local rink. The St. Thomas Times has more on the ceremony.

He is arguably the biggest celebrity to hail from St. Thomas.

And, now, Joe Thornton has a permanent banner at the Timken Centre, marking two decades of hockey accomplishments in St. Thomas and beyond. Unveiled on Friday, the four-by-20 foot banner will hang in the upper level of the Timken Centre’s main rink.

While Joe Thornton was unable to attend, his parents, Wayne and Mary Thornton, were on hand for the official unveiling.

“We would just like to thank all of St. Thomas for supporting Joe throughout the years. They’ve been fantastic,” said Wayne Thornton. “All of his friends are here, everybody has been behind Joe to support him, sometimes financially, sometimes with moral support. The whole Thornton family really appreciates what St. Thomas has done.”

After a slow start to his career, Thornton has been among the NHL’s leading scorers – especially in the assists category – for years now. It will be interesting to see if he ends up in the Hockey Hall of Fame once his career is over; while many would penalize him for failing to lead a team to the Stanley Cup, Thonrton already has 931 regular season points. When you consider that he fought through some of the lowest moments of the Dead Puck Era, that’s a pretty impressive total.

He’s also been quite a bit better in the playoffs (at least with the Sharks), than people might realize. Many will never really forgive him for being a perimeter player in a power forward’s body, scoring 47 points in 56 playoff games with San Jose isn’t half-bad.

That’s a debate for another day, though. I’ll leave you with this semi-interesting tidbit which explains that his considerable size isn’t the real reason people call him “Jumbo Joe.”

Years of work and thousands of kilometres travel led to the creation of “Jumbo Joe, Olympic gold medalist and NHL all-star,” Vecchio said. The nickname is a homage to Jumbo, the famous elephant killed in St. Thomas 125 years ago.

(H/T to Kukla’s Korner.)

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    Busy Blackhawks bring back Pokka, reportedly let Rasmussen walk

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    A busy off-season for the Chicago Blackhawks continued with some smaller moves that may still surprise some.

    The eyebrow-raiser, at least in some quarters, came when the Blackhawks decided not to hand Dennis Rasmussen a qualifying offer, thus allowing the 26-year-old forward to hit free agency. That news comes from The Athletic’s Scott Powers.

    Rasmussen played in 68 games last season (along with three playoff contests), receiving almost 12 minutes of ice time per night. Both were examples of him seeing more of a role in his second year with Chicago.

    Still, he didn’t put up big numbers at either the AHL or NHL level, so apparently the Blackhawks decided to spring him free. The Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus reports that the team might have soured on Rasmussen after he rejected an offer for a contract extension back in March.

    Powers also notes that Ville Pokka was signed to a one-year deal, opening the door for him to possibly make Chicago’s roster.

    These developments aren’t likely to add to what’s already been a frustrating off-season for Joel Quenneville in particular, but this still lines up with a pattern of changes. In the latest edition of “30 Thoughts,” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman shares some details of Coach Q’s irritation:

    21. Joel Quenneville was at the draft Saturday after not appearing on Friday. He stormed out of a coach’s meeting — in full view of reporters — as news broke of the Chicago trades. It would have been very tough for him to lose Hjalmarsson, one of the NHL’s underappreciated great players.

    Quenneville’s cage was already rattled by the firing of assistant Mike Kitchen, so here’s hoping he at least signed off on these latest moves.

    Report: Red Wings grant Coyotes permission to interview Todd Nelson

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    There’s some activity as far as the Arizona Coyotes’ coaching situation goes, and soon there may be some answers.

    As noted during the weekend, the Coyotes were interested in speaking with Todd Nelson, who most recently coached the Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings’ AHL affiliate) to a Calder Cup victory. The Red Wings granted Arizona permission to interview Nelson, according to the Detroit Free Press’ Helene St. James.

    (Red Wings fans are greeting this news with despair.)

    It’s not the only noteworthy development, either, as the Arizona Republic’s Sarah McLellan reports that the Coyotes parted ways with associate coach Jim Playfair today. (The Coyotes confirmed the news moments after this post went up.)

    This is a time of change for this organization, and some are bristling at the way they’re handling things. Still, there’s also an argument that the team is ultimately making wise choices, and Nelson could end up being a big part of that.

    Assuming they convince him to come on board, of course.

    Gryba sticks with Edmonton on two-year, $1.8 million deal

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    After spending the last two seasons with the Oilers, Eric Gryba has signed on for two more.

    Gryba, the veteran blueliner that was set to go unrestricted on Saturday, has signed a two-year, $1.8 million extension with Edmonton, per TSN. The deal comes after the 29-year-old appeared in 40 games for the Oilers last year, and three during the club’s playoff run.

    Gryba is the second UFA blueliner Edmonton has re-upped with, having previously inked Kris Russell to a four-year, $16 million pact. It’s the byproduct of available cap space GM Peter Chiarelli created by shipping out Jordan Eberle to the Islanders in exchange for Ryan Strome.

    It’s likely Gryba will continue to play his existing role in Edmonton — a physical, hard-nosed depth defenseman that won’t play every night, but can jump into the lineup in case of injury or when the Oilers face a particular matchup.

    This move also gives the Oilers seven defensemen under contract for next season: Gryba, Russell, Andrej Sekera (who could miss extensive time with a torn ACL), Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Matthew Benning and Darnell Nurse.

    So, perhaps Chiarelli isn’t done signing blueliners.

     

     

    Report: Kings in contact with Joe Thornton

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    Yesterday, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported 12 teams were in contact with San Jose’s Joe Thorton who, on Saturday, will become an unrestricted free agent.

    Now, it’s been revealed that one of those teams is also one of San Jose’s biggest rivals — the Los Angeles Kings.

    Per LA Kings Insider, the Kings have “been in contact” with Thornton, who just wrapped the last of a three-year, $20.25 million deal with a $6.75M average annual cap hit.

    More:

    On top of Thornton’s abilities are his relationships with key figures in Los Angeles’ front office. He played with Kings General Manager Rob Blake in San Jose, while Senior Advisor to the General Manager/Development Mike O’Connell was Thornton’s general manager when he played in Boston.

    On top of these relationships, Thornton also remains very close with Glen Murray, a figure in Los Angeles’ player development, and I’m told the two, who played together with the Bruins for three and a half seasons, regularly communicate.

    LeBrun reported that staying with the Sharks remains Thornton’s No. 1 option, but it’s pretty clear interest in him is sky-high — and coming from a number of different places.

    Los Angeles has been making moves to clear cap space, recently buying out the remainder of defenseman Matt Greene’s contract. The Kings also lost blueliner Brayden McNabb to Vegas at the expansion draft.

    What happens with Marian Gaborik‘s $4.875M cap hit remains to be seen. The veteran winger underwent an offseason procedure for a “chronic” knee issue and, depending on his recovery, could open the year on long-term injured reserve.

    Thornton would give L.A. a formidable one-two punch at center along with Anze Kopitar (and a truly formidable 1-2-3 punch with Kopitar and Jeff Carter, for that matter). It’s also worth noting that as he’s gotten longer in the tooth, Thornton has successfully platooned as a winger — most notably during San Jose’s Stanley Cup run in 2016.