I suppose Joe Thornton thinks that pestering the Sedins is going to help him shed his reputation. Acting like a punk as a shortcut to gaining respect - at the expense of Henrik Sedin - is not surprising and not very original. Instead, Thornton was just embarrassing himself. He may get a few laughs from people who lack an appreciation of context, but when you get down to it, here is a guy who has earned the criticism he has faced and these kind of antics are not going to change that. Thornton is no tough guy and posturing the role is not going to reverse the fact that he is perceived as the one of the biggest and yet softest players in the NHL.
Perhaps it is human nature to try to project/displace that kind of thing - when Thornton called the Rangers soft, the irony was probably not lost on anyone. Tortorella responded appropriately. Who is Joe Thornton? What has he won? Thornton should just "shut up".
When it comes to fingering a Sedin, the same truth rhymes with excessive volume. Taunting guys that you know are not going to respond is actually kind of pathetic. He has gotten off his game, but it was still surprising to see Thornton stooping that low. Tough guys stand up to tough guys. If you want to seem tough, try gaining respect by facing off with a tough guy.
Some people seem to think this crap "works" against the Sedins. How well did it work in last years' playoffs? The Sedins walked all over San Jose. Ben Eager tried to do what many think Sean Thornton did for Boston - it backfired in his face - bigtime. Joe Thornton was acting like an idiot and the Sedins continued to torch San Jose, perhaps then more than ever. If Thornton was under the impression last night that this is a viable 'strategy', he was acting on a short memory and bad information - but I think it is just a lack of respect and lack of discipline more than anything else. What appeared to "work" for the Bruins last year had much more to do with the fact the Canucks were missing Hamhuis and Rome and were thinned out on the blueline, than being the result of a whole lot of officially permitted punking around. Any team that is missing a third of its blueline is also going to have trouble maintaining its offensive game. The Sedins don't do what they do by themselves - they are part of a five man unit which is part of a team, that complements each other. The Bruins success had a lot less to do with acting like punks and more to do with facing a depleted opponent - as well as a reversion to absentee officiating that suited their borderline play.
Let's face it, if Joe Thornton were not a Canadian, if he was, say, Swedish, he would probably be the most vilified and emasculated player in the NHL - even more so than he already is. Instead he gets a kind of waiver, a kind of poor Joe will come through eventually kind of thing, poor Joe is misunderstood. He plays for team Canada, so he does get a chance to taste victory in big games; but in my mind Canada wins despite him. There are many great Canadian players, two way players, that deserve to wear the Maple leaf ahead of Thornton. Here is a guy that has a huge frame and a great deal of natural ability. If he played with the type of passion most players have, and had the kind of mental toughness it takes to win, he would be truly dominant, but it doesn't come naturally to him; instead he appears to be playing angry. He is a centre - he should be a massive asset to his d-men as it is his job to get back, get behind his own net and be the third man that makes the breakout happen faster. He does do this... sometimes. I'm not suggesting Thornton needs to get tougher - but he does give the impression that there is a vacancy or something missing in his game - I can't quite describe it, but aside from the anger thrown in of late, his game is generally kind of mopey.
Here is some irony for you - Thornton could be a great player, in the class of a Mats Sundin - a physical Swede who always showed up (at least while he was a Leaf) - but Thornton has nowhere near the grit and determination of Sundin - and he has spent his whole career on vastly superior teams to those that Sundin played on. Instead he is just ho-hum Joe. I am not particularly impressed by his character, but I do feel for the guy, particularly as the chip on his shoulder grows. But acting like a punk and sticking his finger in the face of one of the most respectful men in the league, repeatedly, is just plain weak. If he thinks this kind of juvenile nonsense will get him some relief from criticism by gaining him access into a fraternity of pseudo-macho-Sedin-haters, it is sad.
Some people seem to be under the impression that Thornton, despite losing in 5 games to the Canucks, had a breakout performance in the playoffs last year. He was more assertive than in the past, but he has set the bar so low that 3 goals, 14 assists and a minus 5 in 18 games is a vast improvement. It is a long way from gaining him a reputation as a great leader and the kind of guy you want to lead you into the playoffs. He is a lifetime minus 28 in the playoffs. Hey Joe, before you go fingering the Sedins, you have a significant amount of climbing to do, and if you ever make it, fingering other guys will become unnecessary. Maybe you think you are a bigger man than the Sedins, perhaps on some level you resent them... whatever it is, you should rethink it.
Thornton, of all people, should show them some respect. They play a similar style game to his, but at a much higher level, with more consistency, and are much more dignified in the process. Where the Sedins are concerned, the criticisms don't stick, they haven't allowed chips to grow on their shoulders, and they have continued to excel in their style of hockey. With Thornton it is the perenial sense that he is capable of performing better, waiting for the 'real' Joe to emerge. Perhaps it is just the case that what you see is what you get - a case of unrealistic expectations.
The Sharks have some rethinking to do as well. Who can doubt that the biggest problem the Sharks have is that the guy wearing the "C" is not really the best choice to be their leader. The fact that Patrick Marleau is not the captain of the Sharks is a joke they keep playing on themselves; it is the biggest bottleneck in the way of their success. There is a guy you want to be front and centre - there is a class act who quietly leads by example. There is a player I would want to see in a Canucks jersey. Thornton... at this point, I honestly wouldn't give you a 5th round draft pick for him. He is looking less and less like a character guy, and more and more like a caricature. Take some of the load off Joe Thornton and give the "C" to a real leader - Thornton just doesn't seem cut out for that role, any more than he is cut out to posture as a tough guy. It is sad and no one buys it - he is reducing himself to coming off as a punk who is projecting, and the kind of crap he is resorting to is at the point of requiring intervention. Last night just confirmed that Thornton should have listened to Tortorella's retort.