Thornton: Blues were 'flat-out better'

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Thornton: Blues were 'flat-out better'

SAN JOSE It might not have occurred to Sharks captain Joe Thornton right away, even though it was painfully obvious to anyone who watched San Joses five-game, first round flameout to the St. Louis Blues in April.

But at some point during his summer vacation time in Canada and abroad in his wifes homeland of Switzerland, Thornton watched some of those Sharks-Blues games again and came to a distinct conclusion.

They were just a better team. Flat out, they were just a better team than us last year, said Thornton, who has returned to San Jose to begin training for a season that is likely to be delayed due to labor issues.

RELATED: Sharks captain Joe Thornton thinking about hockey, not lockout

Thornton couldnt (or, more likely, was unwilling) to put a finger on any specific reasons why the Blues were better, when asked the natural follow-up question of why. But, he doesnt really have to.

General manager Doug Wilson told a media contingent on July 1, during a conference call to announce the signing of Adam Burish, that the Sharks have to re-establish their identity of going after people. That was a follow-up to what Wilson said in late June, prior to the NHL Draft:

One of the bigger issues that we talked about initially was the identity of this hockey team. We got away a little bit from it, said Wilson on June 18. The passive reactive...thats not part of our identity or how we want to play. There were moments where it crept in.

Against St. Louis, the Sharks looked like the decidedly slower team could their lack of aggression, on the penalty kill and elsewhere, be the primary culprit for that? Thornton doesnt disagree with that sentiment.

Yeah, when were aggressive, were tough to beat, said the captain, who turned 33 in July. Weve seen that in past years, and well get back to that. Im sure Todd McLellan wants to get back to being more aggressive.

The Sharks moves this summer, although they didnt pull off anything earth-shattering, are an extension of Wilsons philosophy that the team didnt impose its will on the opposition nearly enough. Defenseman Brad Stuart plays an in-your-face style and immediately improves the Sharks defensive depth, while Burish is known as an agitating motor-mouth that can get under an opponents skin, as well as aid the penalty kill. New associate coach Larry Robinson brings a wealth of experience to the San Jose bench, and he wont be afraid to kick the Sharks in the butt, as a team or individually, when necessary. Assistant coach Jim Johnson is also on board, joining the Sharks from Washington, while Matt Shaw was fired by San Jose.

REWIND: Robinson hire brings experience, credibility to Sharks

Playing against Stuey in Detroit and LA, hes a really strong reliable d-man who plays physical and plays hard minutes, said Thornton of the player that was part of the trade to Boston that brought him to the Bay Area. Who wouldnt want a guy like that on your team? I think thats a huge upgrade for our defense.

Adam Burish should help address the penalty kill issues we had last year. Hes just a scrappy player from playing against him, and is the type of guy you want on your team and is tough to play against.

REWIND: Sharks sign Adam Burish

What the Sharks didnt do (up to this point, anyway) is break up their core group, despite some speculation that they would try to trade defenseman Dan Boyle or ask Patrick Marleau to waive his no-trade clause. Instead, San Jose is seemingly hoping that players like Brent Burns can have a more effective second season in teal, while young talents like Tommy Wingels, Andrew Desjardins, TJ Galiardi and Justin Braun can all continue to improve and have an impact.

RELATED: Sharks roster

Thats fine with Thornton.

I think we still have a great team, and I personally still believe in this team a lot, he said.

I still think were one of the best teams in the NHL. It would have been strange seeing some guys go after weve done some pretty good things. Obviously, we havent won a championship, and thats our goal, but with getting Stuey and getting Adam I think were a better team than last year. Hopefully we can show it.

In push for playoffs, LA Kings acquire goalie Bishop from Tampa Bay

In push for playoffs, LA Kings acquire goalie Bishop from Tampa Bay

The Los Angeles Kings have acquired goaltender Ben Bishop in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Los Angeles sent Peter Budaj, defensive prospect Erik Cernak, a 2017 seventh-round pick and a conditional pick to Tampa Bay for Bishop and a 2017 fifth-round pick.

Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman announced the trade Sunday night, less than four days before the trade deadline.

Bishop, a pending unrestricted free agent, helped the Lightning reach the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. The Kings now have Bishop and 2012 and 2014 Cup winner Jonathan Quick, who returned Saturday from a long-term lower-body injury that had sidelined him since October.

The 6-foot-7 Bishop, 30, is 16-12-3 with a 2.55 goals-against average and .911 save percentage.

Three takeaways: Sharks stand up for Karlsson; avoiding the mumps

Three takeaways: Sharks stand up for Karlsson; avoiding the mumps

VANCOUVER – It was a successful first game coming out of the bye week for the Sharks, as they won going away against the Canucks at Rogers Arena on Saturday, 4-1. Here are our three takeaways from the evening in British Columbia…

1 – Slow start, strong finish

The league-wide trend of starting slow coming out of the NHL’s newly instituted bye week was on display in the first period, as the Sharks and Canucks played one of the uglier frames of NHL hockey you’ll ever see. San Jose was on its heels early, surrendering the first six shots of the game and looking particularly confused. They didn’t register a single hit in the period, either, which is hard to do.

The Sharks were lucky that Vancouver wasn’t much better, and that Martin Jones – whose performance we focused on in primary the game recap – was looking sharp and well rested.

The message after the scoreless first period, according to coach Pete DeBoer, was just to “try and get better.” That’s what happened.

“We knew it would be a little messy, and it was,” DeBoer said. “Jonesy thankfully was our best player, and gave us a chance to get our legs under us. I thought as the game wore on we got better and better. It wasn’t a pretty win, by any means.”

Chris Tierney said: “After the first 10 minutes [we] started to feel good and then kind of felt back to normal in the second there. It definitely took a little bit. Joner bailed us out in the beginning a couple times. I thought we started to get going in the second and third.”

2 – Standing up for Karlsson

Melker Karlsson was lucky to return in the third period after he took a heavy hit from Joseph Labate. Karlsson had to be helped to the dressing room after the blow, when his head violently snapped back as Labate ran him into the boards in front of the bench.

Micheal Haley pounced on Labate immediately after the incident, earning a two-minute minor that the team was probably happy to kill off. Labate, to his credit, answered the bell in the third period when he was challenged by and fought Brenden Dillon. The Sharks will face the Canucks three more times this season, including on Thursday, so a response to the hit was particularly necessary even if it was clean.

“That sends a good message to the team that everybody has each other’s back,” Mikkel Boedker said of Haley and Dillon’s efforts. “Those guys are real standup guys, and they’ve done it so many times. Every time they do it, it means something special to all of us.”

DeBoer said: “That’s a huge part of our team and our team identity. We’ve got a group that you’re not going to be able to push to of games, and I think we’ve shown that over the last two years here. You don’t even have to say anything, that’s just automatic.”

3 – Avoiding the mumps

Some eyebrows were raised in the press box midway through the game when the Canucks tweeted that defenseman Luca Sbisa would not return with the stomach flu. That’s one of the early warning signs of the mumps, meaning Sbisa could have exposed some Sharks to the virus, which is making its way through the Vancouver dressing room.

“What are you going to do? We’ve just got to cross our fingers and get outta here and hope that he didn’t rub up against anybody,” DeBoer said.

The Sharks coach said after the game that he thought “most of our guys” have had vaccinations, but “I believe there’s a couple that haven’t.”

After the virus invaded several NHL dressing rooms two seasons ago, the Sharks’ training staff will likely be on the lookout for symptoms when the team reconvenes on Monday. Hopefully, the outbreak will begin and end in Vancouver this time.

“Definitely, you want to make sure that you stay away from all that stuff,” Boedker said.