Sounds like San Jose handled stripping Thornton’s captaincy really well

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The San Jose Sharks are in the midst of one heckuva offseason — in June, Tim Kawakami of the Mercury News suggested the club was “having a nervous breakdown” — and on Wednesday, the men in teal continued their bizarre summer by stripping Joe Thornton of his captaincy… without telling him first.

From David Pollak at the Merc:

 Sharks coach Todd McLellan said Wednesday that the team will begin without a captain or assistants, part of the franchise’s intent to change the locker room hierarchy following San Jose’s epic playoff loss to the Los Angeles Kings after winning the first three games.

That was all news to Thornton, who said he didn’t know that he had lost his captaincy until being informed by a reporter.

“I talked with Todd today, and he never mentioned anything about captains or assistant captains,” said Thornton.

Later, McLellan acknowledged that he could have been clearer in his “clean slate” talk with Thornton, and that the matter had been clarified.

The strangest part in all of this? Stripping Thornton’s “C” came nearly five years to the day of losing his alternate captaincy back in 2009, when the Sharks also took away Patrick Marleau’s “C”. That shakeup came after a massive playoff disappointment (sound familiar?) in which the Sharks won 53 regular season games before getting bounced in the opening round by Anaheim. That led McLellan to overhaul his entire leadership group (sound familiar?) and go into training camp with no captains or alternates (sound familiar?).

Marleau was eventually replaced by Rob Blake as team captain the following season, with Thornton — who, remember, already had his “A” taken away — re-installed as an alternate. Jumbo was then promoted to captain following Blake’s retirement in 2010, and Marleau was brought back into the leadership group as an alternate.

So, basically, the moral of the story is if Marleau and Thornton wait long enough, they’ll probably get their letters back eventually.

Isles sign Northeastern captain Stevens

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John Stevens, who just wrapped a four-year career at Northeastern University, has signed a two-year, entry-level deal with the Islanders, the club announced on Monday.

Stevens, 22, went undrafted but emerged as a valuable player for the Huskies, culminating with a senior season in which he served as captain and averaged better than a point per game (28 in 25 contests).

Stevens is the son of longtime L.A. Kings associate coach John Stevens, who formerly served as the bench boss in Philly.

A third member 0f the Stevens clan, Nolan, also played this season at Northeastern — his junior campaign — and was taken by St. Louis in the fifth round of last year’s draft.

McElhinney to start for Leafs tomorrow

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Curtis McElhinney will start in goal for the Maple Leafs when they host Florida tomorrow.

Which means Toronto’s regular starter, Frederik Andersen, will not.

Andersen, hurt Saturday in Buffalo, only lasted 20 minutes of practice this morning. The Toronto Star, citing a Leafs source, is reporting that Andersen “took a blow to his jaw from a player in Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the Sabres.”

McElhinney is 4-5-0 with a .919 save percentage in 10 appearances for the Leafs this season. He told reporters that tomorrow will be the biggest start of his NHL career.

It remains to be seen who will back up McElhinney against the Panthers. The Leafs have recalled goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL on an emergency basis. All three netminders were on the ice today.

Update:

Expect Sparks to be the back-up tomorrow.

Toronto has a three-point playoff cushion, with eight games remaining.

The Leafs also recalled forward Kasperi Kapanen, the 22nd overall draft pick in 2014. Kapanen, 20, has 18 goals and 25 assists in 43 games for the Marlies this season. He’s expected to replace Ben Smith on the fourth line, alongside Brian Boyle and Matt Martin.

Habs sign d-man Mete, who ‘does everything’ for junior team

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Victor Mete, Montreal’s fourth-round pick at last year’s draft, has signed his three-year, entry-level deal, the club announced on Monday.

Mete, 18, is in his third year with OHL powerhouse London, and finished this season with 15 goals and 44 points in 50 games. He’s developed a reputation as a terrific skater, and often plays alongside fellow Knights d-man Olli Juolevi, who the Canucks took fifth overall at last year’s draft.

London assistant coach Dylan Hunter had high praise for Mete this season.

“When it comes to little nuances of his game, stick on puck, knowing when to make a play and when there isn’t a play to just get it out, he’s one of the best there is right now,” Hunter said, per the London Free Press.

“He does everything for us.”

Mete has one year of junior eligibility remaining, so it’s likely he’ll be back in London next season. At 5-foot-10 and just 180 pounds, he’s undersized and could use another year of development before turning pro.

 

After ‘great’ senior year, Pens sign Union standout Taylor

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Pittsburgh wasted little time in getting Jeff Taylor in the mix.

Taylor, the Union College senior defenseman who had his collegiate career end over the weekend, signed a two-year, entry-level deal on Monday, and also inked an ATO to join the club’s AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Taylor, the club’s seventh-round pick in 2014, enjoyed a career year at Union, helping the Dutchmen advance to the NCAA Tournament by setting career highs in goals (9) and points (33) in 38 games.

Back in December, Pens assistant GM Bill Guerin spoke glowingly about Taylor’s last collegiate campaign, saying he was in the midst of a “great” senior season.

“This is a kid we’ve been looking forward to getting since we drafted him,” Guerin said, per the Post-Gazette. “I remember his first development camp, everybody was like, ‘Oh, wow, look at this kid. He can move the puck, he can skate, he’s quick. He thinks the game well.’ And it hasn’t stopped.

“He’s an undersized guy, but he has the ability to get himself out of trouble because he’s got great feet and he thinks the game well.”