The Boston Bruins surprised most hockey analysts on Wednesday when they traded away their popular captain Joe Thornton. Shock is the word that has bounced around the NHL, as the Bruins marquee player was dealt away to the San Jose Sharks, for Marco Sturm, Wayne Primeau and Brad Stuart. With the trade, the Bruins dump a whack of salary as they cut 1.5 million off of their payroll, but have trashed all credibility in the eyes of Boston fans everywhere.
The two teams hold down similar positions in their respective divisions and have been sluggish and unproductive in the last month. So its not surprising that the two teams have made deals, but it is a shake up that will have hockey fans talking for most of the winter.
As the Bruins struggled in this early part of the season, many thought that the GM Mike O'Connell or coach Mike Sullivan, or maybe both were the ones on thin ice, nobody expected that it would be Thornton the captain of the underperforming Bears. It was only a few weeks ago that the Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, suggested that changes were going to be made. Changes that had many Bruins fans hoping for a positive addition to the line up. With apologies to the three former sharks on their way to Boston, the name brand recognition of the three combined is not the same as that of guy leaving town. Losing a player of Thornton’s caliber is not going to make their arrival in Boston an enjoyable scenario in the short term.
The Bruins have been involved in some huge trades over the years, trades that change careers and provide enough ammunition to Bruins fans to last a year. It will be interesting to watch what effect this has on the management structure in Boston, the coach and GM are not out of the woods yet. If there is not an impressive change of direction and attitude in the Bruins, the howls of outrage will be heard all the way out to San Jose.
Thornton appeared to be in shock as the news broke of his new work assignment, he recently had signed a three year deal with Boston and felt that he was in for the long run. Many compared him to a Cam Neely type, a lynchpin of the franchise and one who would bleed Bruin black and gold for his team. Instead he’s been sent to the far west coast, out of the division and far, far away from the Bruins faithful.
For the Sharks the deal gives them a solid asset at centre ice, a name that the fans can attach themselves to, something they haven’t really had since Owen Nolan left the Bay area for Toronto and what seems like inevitable retirement. As he joins the Sharks, Thornton should do quite a bit to bring back to life an anemic offence that has struggled in the first quarter of this season. He should give a boost to a struggling Sharks squad that needed a spark to get back into the race in the Western Conference.
Sharks GM Doug Wilson must feel as though he’s won the lottery and as we all know, if you don’t buy the ticket you don’t win the prize. Wilson bought his ticket, time will tell if he or O'Connell are the ones to claim a jackpot. The early odds say that Wilson is the one with the winner.