"Jumbo" Joe Thronton is 37 years old and was selected by the Bruins with the #1 pick in 1997. Though their divorce was far from amicable and of course, centered on money, both Joe and the B's have moved on. Joe has had his detractors that said he wasn't physical enough for his 6'4", 220 pound frame, that he didn't impose his will in critical games, disappeared in the playoffs, didn't shoot enough, and wasn't a leader. In his 20 year career, he's only had two 30-plus goal seasons, and has averaged a pedestrian 24 goals a season.
But there is no doubting Joe's love for the game. He's played through criticism, injuries, and accepted different roles. His career numbers are Hall of Fame worthy. Ten times in his career he's averaged more than a point per game. Four times he's tallied over 90 assists, and he's the third player in NHL history to record back-to-back 90 assist seasons, only previously accomplished by Lemieux and Gretzky.
Despite being an ultimate pro and showing off an amazing beard, he's never won Lord Stanley's Cup. His two decade long career is coming to an end soon, and so is his contract, and he has to think about how he wants to complete his career. Shark fans love him, the feeling is mutual, but he is a pending unrestricted free agent. Though injuries are wearing him down, there are teams he can help, and he'll have to decide what teams he wants and doesn't want to play for.
14 Want: New York Rangers
What do Eric Staal, Rick Nash, Mark Messier, and Martin St. Louis have in common? They were all aging stars brought in by the Rangers to bring them a cup. So why not Jumbo Joe? The Rangers will call him and at first he will say "No way." Then, he'll warm up to the idea. King Henrik is fading fast and that window is closing. The Rangers have offense, but to beat the best they need more. Joe in the Big Apple is a clash of personalities, but there are enough Rangers that love the spot light that Joe can avoid it. All he has to do is take a modeling shoot with his beard for "GQ," and he's a New York Ranger. Would he pack up, deal with the culture shock and return to the East? The bet here is yes. A one or two year deal to balance the offence, help some of the younger wings and centers, could push the Rangers over the top and make his last hurrah a memorable one.
13 Not Want: Philadelphia Flyers
This won't happen and shouldn't happen for both of their sakes. First, the Flyers have a ton of centers and are determined to get younger, faster, and rebuild around their defense. They also need finishers, not playmakers, and they aren't going to reasonably contend for the cup within the next few years. The Flyers also have their eyes on the UFA class of 2017-18, when a great list of players hit the open market. It would also be a terrible decision to go for Joe. Why come across the country to play for a coach who relies on uninspiring AHL players and benches guys at random? This has zero, zilch, no shot of happening and would be a terrible way for Joe to end his career.
12 Want: Anaheim Ducks
Why not? First, you have a close rival saying "sayanora" and "bon voyage" to a fan favorite and the chance to haunt them for a couple of years. Thornton doesn't even have to move and he'd bring some fire and fun in his return to San Jose as the enemy. He'd have to take a lot less money, but the Ducks are a contender and he could fit almost anywhere. He wouldn't have the pressure of being a #1 center, could play on the second power play unit, and there's already a core of veteran leadership. It's a great fit, he would help in the face off circle, defensively, and he's humble enough to add stability, veteran poise, and skill. The only question would be if Thornton would be willing to sign with the enemy.
11 Not Want: New York Islanders
Garth knows Tavares is gone, but he'll figure if he can throw $10 million at Thornton he'd jump at the offer to play with #91 for one year. Garth will be all over Joe, and forget Joe is smart enough that this team is further from the Cup than Arizona. Snow will take him out for pizza, ship him Babka and meatballs, sell him that this team is also in New York, and Joe will let him down easy. He also knows Tavares is gone and the team is shallow, rather boring, and a complete mess. He also knows they might and should go back to the Island, and the Islanders will agree to split their final 20 home games between Brooklyn and Long Island. Then he'll do more travelling than the Vancouver Canucks and regret his decision. He's made too much money and paid too much of a price to get wrapped up in this mess.
10 Want: Chicago Blackhawks
It's probably impossible to find a player that wouldn't want to play for Chi-town, wear the chief crest, and listen to Jim Cornelison sing the National Anthem 41 plus times a year. Joe would fit perfectly and love every minute of it. He could easily take a pay cut and play with some of the greatest players with the best team chemistry in the league. He could fit anywhere, play 15 minutes a game, and help out in almost every situation. He'd relieve some key vets of minutes and help the young guys mature. Furthermore, Joel Quenneville is a players coach and would know just how to rest, play, and make him feel like a kid. It would be a great image to see Joe's beard ice up during an outdoor game, keep the dynasty churning, and win his first cup.
9 Not Want: Columbus Blue Jackets
In some ways this could be an interesting mix. The Jackets are a young, fast, up and coming team and Joe could add a lot to the mix. He would help their already great power play, their scoring wingers, and could move up and down the lineup causing mismatches at home or away. He would also be a cool, steady customer and help the team through dry spells or a playoff series. All of that would sound great to Joe, but then two words would make Joe hide and put the kibosh on that idea: John Tortorella. There is no way Joe would sign up to play for him. Torts would have him skating suicides for losing a face off, bench him for a penalty in the offensive zone, or just bench him for the car he drives. There's no way Joe needs any of John at this stage of his career.
8 Want: Minnesota Wild
The Wild are missing something and key players like Suter, Parise, Staal, and Koivu are getting older and less productive. They also have a nice, young core. So could Joe be that something? Don't see how a short term deal could do anything but make the Wild better, deeper, and even more well rounded. He'd fit right in with the veteran leadership group, the youngsters, and play valuable minutes. He can center both power play units, take face offs, and be used on the third line or as a checking center against deep teams like Chicago or Anaheim. A guy like Thornton could play and produce on any line, and cause the opposing coach fits in trying to find defensive pairings to match up.
7 Not Want: Los Angeles Kings
This is a team in trouble, on the downward slide, and I can't see Joe wanting any part of this. The Kings have two decent lines, but their bottom 6 is mediocre at best. They also need more help on the wing than down the middle. Though the same could be said for some other teams on this list, the Kings lack explosive, young, and skilled players on their 3rd and 4th lines. Thornton would be alone on those lines because he'd have no help in terms of a scorer or to cycle the puck. This would frustrate Jumbo Joe, for on other teams he could move up and down the lineup, use his experience, and help young guys gain experience and learn. But in Los Angeles, his talents and influence would be lost, and he'd also be a casualty of a shortened bench.
6 Want: San Jose Sharks
In many ways, this is probably his first choice. He's got a home, is a respected leader in the room, and the fans adore him. He's been as much of a leader in the room and community and when he does leave, he'll leave an obvious void. But like any relationship, the feeling has to be mutual, and the Sharks window is closing. Are they better than Edmonton, Chicago, Anaheim, or Minnesota? No. Do they let Pavelski and Burns play out their prime with players that aren't getting better, or do they bringing up some kids to add more speed and get younger? There's also holes they could fill via free agency. Every team goes through these questions with their aging stars, and the Sharks, albeit reluctantly, let Joe go. It's Pavelski's and Burns' team now, they're young enough to still build around, and it's their time.
5 Not Want: Vegas Golden Knights
Maybe 10 years ago big Joe would want to be the big dog on a team in a new city, especially Vegas, but he's got to be past any of the excitement or challenges that playing in Las Vegas can offer. Though there is no doubt he would bring the club instant credibility and form a solid leadership group, there's no way he'd want the headache. There's surely going to be young players that get caught up in off ice issues, and the responsibility to lasso them in will fall on him. Playing with castoffs would pose a unique challenge and he'd be a terrific mentor, but does he want to be a babysitter at this point? If he had already won a cup, he might consider it, but as the number one center he'd get no relief, play 20 plus minutes a game, and be depended on too much for a 37-year-old.
4 Want: Montreal Canadiens
REMEMBER YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST. Price is a UFA next year and WILL NOT be re-signed by the Habs. He's aging, more susceptible to injury, and they will not be able to match the gross over payment other teams will offer. They'll have one more season with Price, and they will go all in to win him a cup. Les Habitants struggle offensively, need options, and Joe fits. Though he'll have to be a leader and be depended upon in clutch situations, he might find the fountain of youth here as well. He'll need to take on the challenge of bringing his A game and the pressure will be intense, but he can go all out for one season to bring glory to a legendary team, and walk away from the game with the ultimate prize in the greatest hockey city. It would certainly be a test, his beard will earn it's story, and one of the greatest walks into the sunset since Ray Bourque.
3 Not Want: New Jersey Devils
This Devils team is really a mess and trending downward. Cory Schneider is 31, has played a ton of hockey, and is coming off his worst year as a pro. Plus, Hall just can't stay healthy, Henrique is a 2nd line center, and there isn't much excitement in the system. Joe would have to move all over the lineup, play tough minutes, and play with bottom 6 forwards that are green. He'd end up laying 18 plus minutes every night and the wear on his body would add up. And the lifestyle in a Jersey winter isn't fun. Weekday home games are quiet and empty seats are everywhere. To add to the weekday agony, rivalry games would feature more Flyer or Ranger fans than Devils' faithful. This would be the longest season of his life and age him in dog years.
2 Want: Toronto Maple Leafs
If there's one young team Jumbo Joe would pack up and go to it's the Leafs. He's from St. Thomas, Canada, which isn't too far away so it would be a homecoming of sorts.. He'd be joining a management and coaching staff he could trust and he'd have a clear role. He'd be a mentor for all the young talent and help them develop as pros; on the ice, with fans, and in the training room. He'd also play important but limited minutes and kinda' be looked like as the Godfather. For guys like Matthews, Marner, Nylander, and Kapanen, he'd keep them present, cool, and watching them would rejuvenate his aching bones. He'd drink from the fountain of youth and maybe the Cup, even quicker than anyone thought.
1 Not Want: Colorado Avalanche
Bet you thought the Arizona Coyotes would appear on this list, but at least they've got the Southwest and youth on their side. I don't care how much money the Avs would throw at Joe, this has to be the least appealing team in the league to play for. Joe Sakic seems absolutely clueless and nothing would frustrate Thornton more. Big Joe would start the season as a 3rd line center, but once the Duchene rumors start again, and again go nowhere, the Landeskog rumors will start, go nowhere, and Thornton will have to move into the psychiatrist's chair to help these kids. Joe would prove to be the best player on the team, play 20 plus minutes, and be so frustrated by management's indecision he'd wish he never signed there.
The sagas of Duchene and Landeskog would weigh everyone down again, and come deadline time, Joe Sakic will shop all of them to every contender. Joe will see the opportunities before him, will also be yo-yo'd around, and Sakic will refuse to trade him for anyone but Connor McDavid and a number 1. Once gain, think of Dog Years.
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