In a candid Q&A with Sharks season-ticket holders prior to Thursday’s win over Nashville, San Jose GM Doug Wilson provided a glimpse into the organization’s reasoning for taking Joe Thornton’s captaincy away last summer.
“He cares about the game so much,” Wilson said, per the Mercury News. “The reason we took the ‘C’ off him … Joe carries the weight of the team on his shoulders, and he’s got such a big heart that when stress comes on him, he lashes out at people. It kind of impacts them.
“The pressure and stress, I felt, was getting to Joe. And I sat him down and said we need other players to step up and share this. He got it. He didn’t like it, but he got it and he understood it.”
Thornton, who inherited ‘C’ from Rob Blake in 2010 and spent four years as team captain, was embroiled in a bizarre leadership restructuring last offseason that began with losing the letter in late August — Patrick Marleau was stripped of his alternate captaincy as well — only for the team to re-name Thornton to the leadership group at the end of training camp in October, making him one of four alternates for the season (along with Marleau — who was re-instituted — Joe Pavelski, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.)
The Sharks responded with an inconsistent campaign that currently sees them in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in 12 years. Head coach Todd McLellan has repeatedly questioned the team’s identity and, in mid-February, gave a curious interview to Sportsnet’s Fan 590, in which he said the Sharks were “better led” this season without a captain than they were with Thornton in charge last year.
“The situation of removing the ‘C’ from certain individuals isn’t an ideal one, but what we’ve got is what we wanted,” McLellan explained. “We have different people stepping up. We have leadership by committee.
“In fact, this year I believe we’re better led than we were last year without having a ‘C’ on. And that’s not an indictment on Joe Thornton by any means.”
But it sure sounds like an indictment now, especially in light of what Wilson told ticket holders yesterday.