Hockey fans own plenty of go-to punching bags, but Joe Thornton’s supposed playoff woes are a near-universal favorite. There’s at least one group of people who are unlikely to bash Jumbo Joe, though: the wingers he made rich.
With Thornton’s 1,000th game in the books, here’s a look at some of the guys who should’ve given him a serious cut of their checks.
Sergei Samsonov: More than half of the speedy Russian’s career goals came in Boston. That is not a coincidence. It’s possible that Samsonov received so many chances to turn his career around because people dreamed that he’d find his old magic, but that magic came from someone else.
Glen Murray: Murray went from a solid 29-goal scorer with the Los Angeles Kings to a two-time All-Star with the Bruins, where Thornton helped him score a career-high 92 points. Murray never topped 62 without Jumbo Joe.
Jonathan Cheechoo: “The Cheechoo Train” is the most obvious example of The Thornton Effect. Cheechoo won the 2006 Maurice Richard Trophy after he scored 56 goals thanks to Thornton’s gigantic year. Now he’s relegated to minor league indignity.
Patrick Marleau: Obviously, Marleau was a great player before Thornton – the player who was drafted ahead of him in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. Still, his game jumped to a higher level with Thornton; the speedy forward posted a career-high 44 goals on a line with Jumbo Joe in 09-10. Even if they haven’t always lined up together, Marleau benefited from easier defensive matchups – all five of his highest goal scoring years came after the Thornton trade.
Thornton’s Hall of Fame worthiness is up to debate, but making average guys into stars (and stars into superstars) shows that he deserves a lot more respect.