When a hockey player hits the young age of 30, it is generally accepted that they are at around the point where most players begin to show signs of a significant decline in performance. With that in mind the fact that now 40 year old Joe Thornton is still without a contract has had many fans wondering if we have seen that last of Jumbo Joe on a National Hockey League playing surface, but not so fast.
Although there has been no official announcement of any kind coming forth from either the Sharks or Joe Thornton himself, it now appears that any fears about Thornton walking away from the sport of hockey may be unfounded. The veteran of over 1500 NHL games recently spoke to one of his teammates, Sharks forward Logan Couture, and if Couture is to be believed it sounds like Thornton reassured him that he would come back for one more kick at the can.
"I talked to Joe a month ago and asked him what was going on and he said, 'Oh don't worry about it,' so I took that as he'll be back," Couture said in a recent interview with NHL.com. "I just kind of figure it's going to happen, he's still got time, I'm sure he'll be back with the Sharks."
It sounds like the Sharks, or at least their players, are also hoping that Thornton will be able to return for another season. In fact Couture made it clear that he simply feels the San Jose Sharks would not be the same San Jose Sharks without Joe in the locker room.
"He has the invaluable assets that you need in any dressing room. When he walks in, he demands respect, he creates a fun atmosphere and fun environment, I couldn't imagine playing on a team without Jumbo," Couture told NHL.com on Thursday. "My mind just can't work that out, not having Joe around, because it's been 10 years with him and it's been so much fun."
Those are certainly interesting comments, especially when you consider that the Sharks stripped Thornton of the captaincy not so long ago. That being said though it sounds like the lack of a "C" on his chest has done nothing to change just how invaluable Thornton is in the San Jose locker room.
"The word culture is used a ton, but he sets the tone for that," said Couture, who held his third annual charity casino event, All-in For Brain Research. "Everyone is allowed to be themselves, he's himself, Brent Burns is himself, Evander Kane is himself, everyone is different, but Jumbo starts that, and then there is accountability. You still need to be a professional and play the right way and he'll let you know if you aren't."
In spite of the fact that he just turned 40 years of age, Thornton is coming off a season in which he recorded 16 goals and 35 assists for a total of 51 points in just 73 games. He certainly plays like a guy that can still go despite his advanced age, at least by NHL standards.