Sharks’ Thornton going for his Bourque, Andreychuk moment

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San Jose Sharks forward Joe Thornton is a slam dunk Hall of Famer. Probably a first ballot Hall of Famer. Actually, forget the “probably” and just go with he should be a first ballot Hall of Famer.

He is one of the best passers and playmakers the league has ever seen, and even at age 39 is still capable of impacting a game in a significant way. He may not be quite as dynamic and physically dominant as he was in his prime when he was the NHL’s assist-king or an MVP contender (or in the case of 2005-06, an MVP winner), but he can still make plays, set up his teammates, and control the pace of the game through all three zones.

He has been consistently great, and he is still a key part of the Sharks’ team.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

The only thing his career is missing at this point is his name on the Stanley Cup.

His only trip to the Stanley Cup Final in his 21-year career came during the 2015-16 season when the Sharks (after beating the St. Louis Blues, their opponent in the 2019 Western Conference Final) lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games.

That is as close as he has ever gotten. The Sharks are now eight wins away from getting him that elusive championship, and if they do it will put Thornton in a pretty small club that can probably be best described as, “better late than never.”

Via NHL PR:

There are a couple of differences between the three, of course. Bourque had to leave Boston for Colorado after 21 years to finally win his Stanley Cup in his final NHL season, while Andreychuk won his in Tampa Bay in 2003-04 on what was his sixth different team in the league.

Thornton, meanwhile, has been the face of the Sharks for 14 years now as a member of a team that has always fallen just short.

The Sharks went all in on winning this season, from re-signing Evander Kane after acquiring him as a rental a year ago, to making the bold move to trade for Erik Karlsson before the season to give them one of the league’s best defensive groups, to adding even more offense at this deadline with the trade for Gustav Nyquist.

Right now they are only halfway to the goal and still have an extremely tall task standing in front of them starting on Saturday night when they play host to a St. Louis Blues team that has been one of the best in the NHL for the past few months. So far this postseason the Sharks have overcome just about everything that can be thrown at them, from major question mark Martin Jones getting hot at the right time, to overcoming a 3-1 series deficit and a three-goal third period deficit in Game 7 against Vegas, to being able to get through the Colorado Avalanche without Joe Pavelski for six games. There is plenty of work left to be done for Thornton and his teammates to finally get that championship, but they have certainly set the stage for what could be an incredible story.

Related: Sharks vs. Blues Western Conference Final Preview

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.