Joe Thornton, Ilya Bryzgalov

Jumbo Joe Thornton scores 1000th NHL point in Phoenix

Amidst teams all over the NHL battling for playoff spots on Friday night, the San Jose Sharks watched their captain earn an individual accolade that has been thirteen and a half years in the making. Joe Thornton became the 78th player in NHL history to reach the elusive 1000 point mark in a career—and only the second to do so in a San Jose Sharks jersey (Vincent Damphousse). Ironically, the man known as one of the best playmakers of his generation netted his 306 career goal for the milestone point.  Surely a perfectly set up saucer pass would have been far too predictable.

After the game, it was obvious Thornton would have preferred the victory over an individual accolade. After prodding, Joe Thornton had this to say after the game about scoring his 1000th point:

“You have to be blessed with a good supporting cast and luckily I’ve been blessed with a lot of good friends and family and good linemates and good players to play along. There are so many different variables that go into getting that many points.”


The former #1 overall pick from 1997 is in the middle of a few impressive milestones. Earlier this year, he passed teammate Patrick Marleau for the San Jose franchise record for most assists. On February 22, Jumbo Joe scored his 300th career goal. Unless he has 6 assists against the Coyotes in the season finale, Thornton will celebrate his 700th career assist early next season as well.

In 79 games this season, Thornton has posted 69 points (21 goals, 48 assists). Just as a measure of perspective, his point total is good for 24th in the NHL in scoring. Even more impressive is that these numbers represent an off-year for the #1 pivot. He managed to score his 1000th point in his 994 game—for math majors out there, that’s better than a point per game for the 14 year veteran. In fact, he currently ranks ninth in points and sixth in assists among active players.

For fans that missed it, here’s what the history making goal looked like:

With the numbers that Thornton has been able to put up in his career, it’ll be interesting to see how pundits look at his career when it’s all said and done. If he can stay healthy and continue to produce at this pace for another few years (he’s still only 31 years old), he’s going to be getting up into the elite players of all time. In just three more years at a similar pace, his statistics will be mentioned with Jean Beliveau, Bobby Hull, and Bobby Clarke. Of course, it’ll be a lot easier for hockey fans and historians to put him in the same conversation as those greats if he can help the Sharks win a Stanley Cup in the next few years as well.

Regardless of team success, it’s time to start talking seriously about the statistics Thornton has compiled over his career. A couple more years of this and we won’t be talking about a Hall of Famer; we’ll be talking about a first ballot Hall of Famer.

Foley aware of Seattle reports, but says Vegas is ‘proceeding as if we will play in 2017’

Gary Bettman, Bill Foley
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Bill Foley, the man behind Las Vegas’ prospective NHL expansion team, says he knows about reports claiming the league is keeping an eye on a proposed Seattle arena.

He also says he isn’t going to worry about things out of his control.

“I’m aware of what’s going on (in Seattle) but in my communication with the league, our situation isn’t dependent on third parties,” Foley said Tuesday, per the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “We believe we’re in good shape and we’re proceeding as if we will play in 2017.”

Over the weekend, a Seattle Times piece suggested the NHL had yet to award Vegas or Quebec City an expansion franchise because the league is “avoiding any expansion decision until after an upcoming Seattle City Council vote likely to decide the fate of Chris Han­sen’s proposed Sodo District arena.”

The piece also suggested Seattle could be granted an expansion club for the 2018-19 campaign.


That vote, on granting Hansen part of Occidental Avenue South for his arena, is expected by January. No one knows how it will go, only that the lead-up should be politically charged and fiercely contested.

But passing it — future legal appeals notwithstanding — paves the way for Hansen to obtain his Master Use Permit and have his arena “shovel ready” should he choose to build.

And that means, once a vote passes, it’s entirely possible the NHL could conditionally award Seattle an expansion team.

To his credit, Foley remains solely focused on his Vegas bid — not what potential rival bids could bring to the table. And while he confirmed he has yet to be invited to the Dec. 7 NHL Board of Governor’s meeting in Pebble Beach, he re-iterated his only objective is to strengthen Sin City’s case for a hockey team.

“I’m focused on trying to find a place to build our practice facility,” he said. “I’m focused on the new arena and our fans who’ve put down deposits on season tickets.”

Report: Sabres’ Lehner (ankle) suffered minor setback in recovery

Robin Lehner
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Sabres fans hoping Robin Lehner would return early from his high ankle sprain received some tough news on Tuesday — per ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, Lehner suffered a “little setback” in his recovery.

Lehner was hurt in Buffalo’s opening game of the year and, originally, slated to miss 6-10 weeks. Six weeks have now passed, but optimism he’d be able to return in the earlier part of the timeframe has been dashed — LeBrun says Lehner’s projected return is now for mid-to-late December.

(So, closer to the 10-week estimate.)

While it’s not great news for the Sabres, it’s a positive development for the club’s other Swedish netminder, Linus Ullmark.

Recalled from AHL Rochester shortly after Lehner got hurt, Ullmark is on a really nice run in November — just check his last five games played:


The last Lehner update from the Sabres came in early November, when head coach Dan Bylsma told the News his goalie was “doing really well,” but “not close yet to getting back on the ice.”

Welcome Ryan Johansen to the trade rumor mill

Ryan Johansen

Well, this kind of seemed inevitable — there are now trade rumblings involving Columbus center Ryan Johansen.

This evening, TSN’s Darren Dreger revealed that teams have been calling Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen about the talented pivot, adding that one team classified Johansen as being “softly” in play.

More (transcribed from video):

“That doesn’t mean [Kekalainen] is calling teams, saying ‘what are you going to give me?’ However, when teams call, he’s not dismissing the interest. He is saying ‘well, what’s your offer?’

“What that tells you is there’s at least some interest in considering the trade of Ryan Johansen and, as we saw on the weekend, his minutes dropped, he was demoted to the fourth line — so if the right deal comes along, they’ll consider it.”

The incident Dreger referred to occurred during Sunday’s 5-3 loss to San Jose, in which head coach John Tortorealla limited Johansen to just 13:52 TOI — his lowest total of the season.

It’s the latest incident from what’s already been a tumultuous year; not long after getting hired, Tortorella told the reigning All-Star MVP he was out of shape.

Johnansen was then away from the team for a pair of games dealing with an undisclosed illness. During that absence, the Dispatch reported Johansen had been hospitalized this summer because of an accelerated heart rate.

All this, of course, came one year after an ugly contract dispute at the start of last season, during which the Jackets and Johansen’s representation engaged in a public spat before agreeing to a three-year, $12M deal.

‘John leaves a lasting mark’: NHL announces Collins’ departure as COO

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One of the driving forces behind the NHL’s growth over the last decade is moving on.

John Collins, who’s served as the league’s chief operating officer for the last seven years, will be leaving his post to embark on a new business opportunity.

More, from the League:

Collins, who joined the NHL in November 2006, had been COO since August 2008.

“John leaves a lasting mark,” said Commissioner Bettman. “His energy, creativity and skill at building strategic partnerships helped drive significant revenue growth for our League. We are grateful for his many contributions and wish him the best in his new endeavors.”

Said Collins, “I’m grateful to Commissioner Bettman for his leadership and friendship over the past nine years. He had a vision for extending the reach of the NHL and supported us completely as we set out to make the game as big as it deserves to be.

“The NHL’s future is filled with promise and potential and I will admire and cheer the League’s successes to come on the global stage.”

Collins, 53, was regarded as one of main presences behind a number of the NHL’s most successful initiatives, including the Winter Classic and Stadium Series, the HBO 24/7 collaboration, the relaunched World Cup of Hockey, Canadian and American television deals and partnerships with companies like SAP, Adidas, Major League Baseball Advanced Media and GoPro.

During Collins’ tenure, the NHL was twice named “Sports League of the Year” by the SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily — once in 2011, and again in 2014.