After a tumultuous 24-hour period where the best player in franchise history took a massive public swipe at his general manager, the owner of the San Jose Sharks re-focused everyone on what is really important — trying to make the playoffs.
Via email, Hasso Plattner confirmed he talked to both Joe Thornton and Doug Wilson. Asked what he said, he replied, “What happens (with) the Sharks stays with the Sharks. All good.”
Everything started at a season-ticket-holder event Thursday. A fan asked why Thornton was stripped of the captaincy last summer, with Wilson giving the same kind of answer he’s given 1,000 times.
“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,” the GM said. “It kind of impacts them. The pressure and stress, I felt, was getting to Joe.”
No doubt Wilson thought this answer would create zero controversy, but he failed to consider how Thornton would feel about this scenario’s return — especially with San Jose in a fight for its playoff existence. It’s very possible he took it to mean he would be a scapegoat if the Sharks fell short.
Thornton said Wilson needs to “shut his mouth” and “stop lying.” He also said he’s not the one “on sabbatical,” a shot at the GM for not being around much this season. No one would confirm it, but both men spoke later Friday to hash things out.
Thornton has ultimate control over this situation with his no-move clause. He loves San Jose, and was revitalized when the local fans welcomed him back in training camp with open arms. If they reacted differently, he may have thought about leaving, but not now. The great irony in all this is Wilson has let it be known he has no desire to trade Thornton. The GM is believed to feel the ex-captain stepped up big in the aftermath of last year’s disappointment.
The controversy came at the worst possible time for the Sharks, who had won four of five to get back within three points of a playoff berth. They lost 6-2 to Chicago on Saturday afternoon, giving up four goals in the third period.
David Pollak, the San Jose Mercury-News reporter who broke the story, tweeted the following after the loss: “Thornton’s one-word response when asked if events of last 48 hours were distraction: ‘No.’ Response when question rephrased: ‘No.’”
“It’s about playing hockey and winning,” head coach Todd McLellan. “That stuff doesn’t matter. We’ve got to focus.”
A road trip through Canada starts Tuesday in Winnipeg, continues Thursday in the moderation capital of the hockey universe (Toronto), then goes to Montreal on Saturday. A firestorm right before that is the last thing McLellan needed.
It’s why Mr. Plattner stepped in, to try and cool the temperature. The challenge is already big enough.