Joe Thornton’s Stanley Cup dreams dashed for another season

Joe Thornton
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Just before Monday’s NHL trade deadline the San Jose Sharks were able to find a match to help one of their franchise legends continue his quest for a Stanley Cup when they sent Patrick Marleau to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a conditional third-round draft pick.

They were not able to find a similar match for their other legend, Joe Thornton.

That development, and the realization that his Stanley Cup dreams will again be put on hold, was at least a little disappointing for the future Hall of Famer.

“Yeah, obviously I was willing to go somewhere, and try to win my first Stanley Cup,” Thornton said, via the Athletic’s Kevin Kurz. “I’ve been dreaming about that ever since I can remember and it just didn’t come to fruition, for whatever reason.”

“I wanted a shot, believe it or not,” added Thornton. “I’ve been hunting this thing down for 22 years. I wanted another shot at it. I wanted to get something in return (for the Sharks), but it just didn’t work out. Back to the grind. That’s how it is.”

The biggest problem in finding him that shot seemed to be a lack of interest from the top Stanley Cup contenders.

In the days and weeks leading up to the trade deadline it was speculated that Boston (Thornton’s original team) and Tampa Bay had kicked the tires on a possible trade, while Dallas emerged as a potential landing spot on Monday. Nothing ever came of it, with Pierre LeBrun reporting on Tuesday that a formal trade offer was never made by the Stars.

LeBrun also reported that of the handful of teams that did show interest in Thornton, none of them matched with what Thornton considered to be teams that would have given him the best chance to get him a championship.

So for now, he remains in San Jose to wrap up what has been a brutally disappointing season for the Sharks.

This was supposed to be an all-in kind of year for the Sharks, one that would get them — and the two greatest players to ever wear the team’s jersey — their first ever Stanley Cup. They were in the Western Conference Final a year ago, and even though they lost Joe Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi from last year’s team, they still had what seemed to be a great core in place.

But injuries have added up, some players have regressed or declined, and the status quo situation in net with one of the league’s worst goaltending duos all combined to produce one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history.

It has also left Thornton still in pursuit of the one hockey prize he has yet to claim.

Thornton may not be the MVP caliber player he was during his peak (or as recently as the 2015-16 season), but he still has value as a player. His playmaking and passing ability is still there, and he still has a positive impact in his ability to drive possession and play defensively. He could still be a great third-or fourth-line center on a contender.

Now it is a matter of how many more chances he will get at it, and where he will get those remaining chances.

It is worth noting that he is once again an unrestricted free agent after this season. If he was willing to leave San Jose as a trade deadline rental this season to get his shot at a cup it at least stands to reason that he might pursue his options in free agency this summer. That does not seem to be his preference, but the possibility can not entirely be ignored. Especially if there is reason to believe the Sharks may not bounce back next season. But for as bad as this season has been, there is reason to believe that could happen.

As Thornton pointed out on Tuesday, the last time the Sharks missed the playoffs (2014-15 season) they came back the next year and won the Western Conference before losing the Stanley Cup Final in six games to the Penguins. It is not a stretch to believe that with better health, a little better luck, and finally doing something to address the goaltending situation could again make the Sharks a contender as soon as next season.

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.