ANAHEIM – When you have a guy on your roster that just broke into the NHL’s top 25 in scoring, it’s probably difficult to tell him how to play the game.
Still, Joe Thornton is not putting up offensive numbers he’s accustomed to. Through 26 games, Thornton has just two goals and 14 assists for 16 points. Somewhat shockingly, both of his goals have come into an empty net, meaning he has yet to beat a single goaltender with a shot with nearly one-third of the schedule already in the books.
Coach Pete DeBoer remarked on Friday morning, “I think every coach that he’s ever played for would like him to shoot more.”
But has DeBoer told Thornton, who has 27 shots, to shoot more?
“I haven’t recently,” he said. “We’ve had conversations like all coaches do about it, but I pretty much let him play his game. I think most of the conversations we have are about other parts of the game.”
"For me, he does so many things so well for us that we’re not piling on that he needs to score or shoot more. He’s got to play his game, and the offense will come. He stirs our offensive drink, so to speak, and he does it well. I’m not worried about the fact that he doesn’t have goals, no.”
There’s reason to believe Thornton will pick up his production. In fact, his start this season is nearly identical to last year, when he had 15 points (3g, 12a) through 26 games. Over the final four months he up 66 points after Dec. 15, tied for Sidney Crosby for the most in the NHL.
The alternate captain indicated the Sharks’ short summer, combined with his playing for Team Canada in the World Cup, might have taken a toll on his 37-year-old body.
“Going deeper in the postseason I think, it just starts a little bit different – plus the World Cup started earlier. You just kind of jam it in,” he said. “I feel good lately, and hopefully [I’ll] continue it.”
Not surprisingly, the famously laid back Thornton isn’t concerned with the fact he doesn’t have any non-empty netters yet.
“They’ll eventually go in. It’s no secret I’m more of a pass-first guy,” he said. “When you don’t expect it, that’s when they usually come. I haven’t been squeezing my stick or anything.”
“It comes at the strangest times. For whatever reason, you get hot for little stretches of time. I’ve never been one to worry too much.”