Joe Thornton

Poll: Are the Preds legit Stanley Cup contenders?


The Nashville Predators are one of the big surprise teams of the 2014-15 NHL season.

Probably the biggest, actually.

Even with a healthy Pekka Rinne in goal and Norris Trophy candidate Shea Weber on the blue line, we can’t recall anyone who predicted the Preds would be 25-9-4 after 38 games, good for the highest points percentage in the NHL.

In fact, prior to the season, online sportsbook Bovada set Nashville’s point total at just 76.5. To fall short of that now, the Preds would need to finish something like 12-31-1. That’s how good they’ve been, relative to expectations.

So, with a spot in the playoffs seeming all but assured, the question is begging to be asked — do the Preds have what it takes to win it all?

The argument for ‘Yes’

Nashville has the second-best goals-against average in the NHL. And if there’s one thing that recent Stanley Cup winners have shown us, it’s that defense wins championships.

Goals against of past six Stanley Cup champs
2013-14 Kings (1st, 2.05)
2012-13 Blackhawks (1st, 2.02)
2011-12 Kings (2nd, 2.07)
2010-11 Bruins (2nd, 2.30)
2009-10 Blackhawks (6th, 2.48)

And as the Preds showed this weekend, they can also put the puck in the net. Nashville’s offense is now tied for seventh in the league, averaging 2.95 goals per game. Five-on-five, no team has a higher goals for/against ratio than the Preds, at 1.47.

The argument for ‘No’

It’s more of a subjective one. No matter how good Nashville’s numbers look right now, and no matter how much talent they have in goal and on the back end, can a team really win the Stanley Cup with Mike Ribeiro as its first-line center? Because that’s who it is for the Preds — the 34-year-old who signed for peanuts after he got bought out by the Coyotes due to “behavioral issues” and has never entered the conversation when debating the truly elite centers in hockey.

That conversation has been limited to the likes of Jonathan Toews, Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Patrice Bergeron, Joe Thornton, and Anze Kopitar. You know, players that have won Stanley Cups. Or Hart Trophies. Or Selke Trophies. Or Conn Smythe Trophies.

Go ahead and search the list. Try to find a team that’s won the Stanley Cup without a top center with some serious credentials. You won’t find many.

Time to vote!

With Thornton hurt, Sharks say slumping Marleau ‘has to find a way to produce’


With his club mired in one of its worst stretches of the season, San Jose head coach Todd McLellan is prodding the longest-tenured Shark to pick up the pace.

Patrick Marleau — pointless in nine games, with just one goal in his last 17 — has been asked to start producing with more regularity, especially with co-leading scorer Joe Thornton (upper body) shelved.

“There’s two ways of dealing with it. There’s getting down and wallowing in it, or pushing forward and being direct and finding a way to get it done,” McLellan said, per the San Jose Mercury News. “I think Patty will take the second approach. He has in the past.

“But there’s no doubt that for us to have success, especially with some of the injuries, that he has to find a way to produce.”

The Sharks are 1-3-1 in their last five, mitigated by the fact they went 5-0-0 in the five games prior. Still, their latest issues go beyond their record; San Jose’s offense has fallen off a cliff lately, with just nine goals and a power play that’s gone two for its last 22.

For Marleau, putting pucks in the net has become a problem. The seven-time 30-goal scorer is on pace for just 15 this year and his .18 goals-per-game average is his lowest since breaking into the NHL as an 18-year-old in ’97-98.

Now 35, Marleau admitted the slump is starting to get at him — but also said the opportunities to score were there.

“I’ve been getting tons of chances, and it’s frustrating that they haven’t been going in,” he explained. “One thing that I’ve learned over the years is that you just have to keep working for that next opportunity, and sometimes they just go in a ton at once.”

After Sharks’ blowout loss without Joe Thornton, he’s heading to IR


For the first time in 319 games, the San Jose Sharks had to play without Joe Thornton on Saturday and they suffered a 7-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues. They’ll have to bounce back without the star forward and their former captain though as Thornton has been placed on the injured reserve list.

The move is presumably retroactive to Dec. 31, but that still rules Thornton out for Monday and Tuesday’s contests. Sharks coach Todd McLellan previously described Thornton as day-to-day and an earlier report from the San Jose Mercury News suggested that it’s Thornton’s shoulder that’s bothering him.

Thornton has nine goals and 33 points in 38 contests in 2014-15. The 35-year-old hasn’t recorded fewer than 70 points in a non-lockout season since he had 68 points in 66 contests in 2001-2002.

San Jose also announced that they have called up forward Micheal Haley.

Report: Sharks’ Thornton ‘day-to-day’ won’t play vs. Blues

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The San Jose Sharks won’t have Joe Thornton in the lineup tonight when they play host to the St. Louis Blues.

According to David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News, Thornton’s injury is believed to be a shoulder injury.

The 35-year-old’s current ironman streak of 319 consecutive games will come to an end.

Thornton has nine goals and 33 points in 38 games this season.

Getzlaf: ‘I accept full responsibility for my stupidity’


Ryan Getzlaf threw hockey’s equivalent to a tantrum and got busted.

And his actions, which occurred at the end of the second period, put the Anaheim Ducks two men down, eventually leading to a San Jose Sharks goal in the third period.

He took responsibility for it after the Ducks, undisciplined on this occasion, lost to their California and Pacific Division rivals, the Sharks, by a final score of 3-0 on Wednesday. San Jose, even without Joe Thornton, who was injured on a clean Clayton Stoner hit, had eight power plays, and scored once with the advantage.

“I accept full responsibility for my stupidity and my role in that. That was my fault,” said Getzlaf, as per Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register.

“When you take (nine) or 10 penalties, you’re not going to win. We have to stay disciplined, shut up and stay focused,” said Ducks’ head coach Bruce Boudreau, as per the club’s Twitter account.