Right after our last entry went up, one of the more notable off-season acquisitions was Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks heading to the hockey capital of the world, Toronto Maple Leafs. Jumbo is a future Hall of Famer who has yet to lift a Cup. Starting his career in Boston, a falling out with the ownership led to him finding a new home about as far away as possible out on the west coast. His point contributions have been elite throughout his career putting him at 14th all time.
At 40 years old he is only twenty behind legends Paul Coffey and Mark Recchi, and if he plays for more than this season could possibly catch Esposito at #10 all-time, who currently sits 90 points ahead. Thornton has the most points of any active player by a large margin. Ovechkin and Crosby are next up, but currently sit about 250 back while being six and eight years younger respectively.
In terms of assists, Thornton already resides in the top 10 all time at #7. The only active player who currently looks like he could eclipse that is Crosby, but that is far from a guarantee. Additionally, over the past decade, Thornton is 11th in primary assists, the statistic for players whose pass immediately went to the player who scored. Joe is older than everyone above him by a good margin, but finished with just 60 primary assists less than the leader in this category, Patrick Kane.
So Thornton has signed a 1 year deal for $700 000. While he hasn’t been considered an elite player for about four seasons, he has still contributed on the offensive end to a respectable degree. This move is not so different from his long time teammate, Patrick Marleau, going to the Leafs a few seasons back.
The Leafs, despite their lack of playoff results, are still one of the top contenders coming into next year. For a lot of Canadian born players, especially those growing up in the upper Ontario region, signing with the Leafs and possibly lifting a Cup there is a dream.
While Joe could be an asset offensively, that isn’t really what the Leafs need. Despite never winning the most coveted hockey trophy, Thornton is 9th all time in games played. The only active player ahead of him is Marleau, while the only other player in the top 50 active is Zdeno Chara. It is incredible that neither of those players has won it. Thornton is third in most playoff games of active players as well.
So for a Leafs team that isn’t big up front, and lacks playoff winning experience, Thornton is probably the best you could ask for in this free agency period. The asterisk here is that Thornton, who was formerly captain of the Sharks, before being passed over for Pavelski and Couture, has been criticized in the past for a lack of leadership leading to many disappointing finishes despite brilliant regular seasons.
The biggest headline over the past week was the signing of Alex Pietrangelo to the Vegas Golden Knights. Those who have followed my work for a while will know I have been anti-Knights defense far more than for it. This signing has the ability to elevate Vegas to elite status. For many hockey fans and bettors, the Knights have already been there, however when playoffs rolled around the last two seasons we have seen them absolutely flounder when they were not dominating the play and pace.
The players they had in net and the skating depth up front has, in my own head, affirmed that their core six on the backend is where the flaws have been. Why Alex has the potential to change that is because he soaks up so many minutes a night. He is basically a 10-year vet in his role as a top two pairing, but has led the way as a top two D for most of that.
Over his career, he averages 24 minutes a night while contributing on both the powerplay and penalty kill. Pietrangelo has maintained a positive plus/minus through every season he has been a starter except for one, when he finished -2. Additionally, he has been an iron man in playing at least 70 games in all but one season while also being nominated for the Norris, All-Star teams, and Byng trophies.
He is every bit the professional elite defensemen that led the Blues to a Cup two seasons ago. This is one of the best players the Golden Knights could have acquired. Understandably most sportsbooks currently have Vegas tied for first or second as the next Stanley cup winner between +700 and +750 such as BetOnline. (visit our BetOnline Review)