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.