The San Jose Sharks’ former captain fired a sharp message to his current general manager.
“I think Doug just needs to shut his mouth,” Joe Thornton told David Pollak of the Mercury News Friday, in response to GM Doug Wilson’s season ticket holder address. “I think that’s the bottom line.
“All I’ve got to say is, I’ve been here every day working hard. I haven’t taken a sabbatical. He just needs to stop lying, shut his mouth.”
Wilson held a question-and-answer session with approximately 350 Sharks fans Thursday night and explained his reasons for stripping Thornton, 35, of the captaincy last summer.
"He cares about the game so much. The reason we took the 'C' off him... Joe carries the weight of the team on his shoulders, and he's got such a big heart that when stress comes on him, he lashes out at people," Wilson said, via Pollak, "and it kind of impacts them.
"The pressure and stress, I felt, was getting to Joe," Wilson continued. "And I sat him down and said we need other players to step up and share this. He got it. He didn't like it, but he got it and he understood it."
Pollack noted that Wilson prefaced his comments by saying he was a big fan of Thornton's.
Wilson responded to Thornton's curt response Friday, via CSNCalifornia.com.
“If he’s got an issue, he knows exactly where I am, and I’ll be glad to talk to him about it,” Wilson told the site. “There’s zero issue here. I was asked a question at a season ticket holder function, and my response was to do my job and be accountable to our season ticket holders and tell the truth. It’s nothing I haven’t said before.”
Sharks head coach Todd McLellan spoke to Sportsnet about dressing room life without a captain last month.
“The situation of removing the ‘C’ from certain individuals isn’t an ideal one, but what we’ve got is what we wanted,” McLellan told Hockey Central in February. “We have different people stepping up. We have leadership by committee.
“In fact, this year I believe we’re better led than we were last year without having a ‘C’ on. And that’s not an indictment on Joe Thornton by any means.”
It must be noted that Thornton, signed through 2016-17, holds a full no-movement clause in his contract. The star forward was a subject of trade rumours last summer after San Jose's first-round playoff exit to the L.A. Kings but has maintained his desire to remain a Shark.
The Sharks (34-26-8) are three points outside of a wild-card berth and have won two straight. Thornton has 13 goals and 44 assists in 64 games this season.