Era Adjusted: Why Joe Thornton deserves your respect

Joe Thornton. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

Usually when I’m doing research for these articles I’ll discover something cool, smile and say “Wow!”

Today, I’m just mad.

This isn’t a Hall of Fame argument like the stuff I wrote about this year’s HHOF class or Theoren Fleury. This is about something much more insufferable. The scourge of our beloved sport. The most hated thing in all of hockey.

That’s right – that stupid 100 Greatest NHL Players list.

Some of the names left off the list are pretty unforgivable. Jarome Iginla immediately comes to mind. Evgeni Malkin is another many people brought up after he won his third Cup this past spring. Those players are fantastic but here’s the most unforgivable omission from the list:

Joe Thornton.

Let me stop you before you even start: “But he doesn’t have any Cups!”

Oh yeah? Gretzky had four Cups. Then the Oilers traded him. Then the Oilers won another Cup without him. And since Gretzky never won another Cup after leaving Edmonton, therefore he must not be that good.

See how stupid that sounds? Exactly. Hockey is a team sport.

Joe Thornton had 17 points in 18 playoff games in 2010-11, 21 points in 24 playoff games in 2015-16, and has 123 points in 160 career playoff games.

“Joe disappears in the playoffs,” some argue.

No he doesn’t, so shut up. Sorry, I’m heated, so let’s move on.

Joe Thornton is currently on a one-year deal with the San Jose Sharks, but he’s getting $8 million for it, so I’m going to safely assume his services are still wanted in the NHL and he isn’t about to retire anytime too soon.

That being said, Jumbo Joe is already 20th in all-time NHL scoring with 1,401 points. He recently passed Jarri Kurri and he won’t be done there. Thornton needs only a handful of points to pass names such as Dale Hawerchuk, Doug Gilmour, Adam Oates, and Bryan Trottier. Heck, by this season’s end he might even catch Teemu Selanne for 15th (1,457 points) or Stan Mikita for 14th (1,467 points).

The raw point totals alone say Joe Thornton is an all-timer.

As for the era adjusted numbers… wow.

Thornton made his NHL debut during the Dead Puck Era. Actually, pretty much his entire career with the Boston Bruins was during the Dead Puck Era. Even including his career-defining Art Ross win in 2005-06 when the NHL’s offence exploded, Thornton hasn’t exactly played in the most offence-friendly times in NHL history. As a result, era adjusted stats give his career totals a huge boost.

Adjusting for era bumps Thornton’s 1,401 career points all the way up to 1,579. That’s enormous. It also rockets Thorton up the charts to among the best era-adjusted scorers in NHL history.

He’s higher than 20th, that’s for sure. He’s higher than 15th, too.

Believe it or not, when adjusting for era Jumbo Joe cracks the Top 10 all-time at No. 8.

Here’s a list of the Top 10:

Rank Player Years PTS/A
1. Wayne Gretzky* 1979-99 2475
2. Gordie Howe* 1946-80 2190
3. Jaromir Jagr 1990-18 2096
4. Mark Messier* 1979-04 1732
5. Ron Francis* 1981-04 1711
6. Joe Sakic* 1988-09 1679
7. Steve Yzerman* 1983-06 1650
8. Joe Thornton 1997-18 1577
9. Mark Recchi* 1988-11 1569
10. Teemu Selanne* 1992-14 1565

My initial observation: All players with asterisks beside their name are already in the Hockey Hall of Fame. The only two on this last who aren’t there yet are Thornton and Jaromir Jagr and that’s only because they’re still active.

As you can see, Thronton has passed recent Hall of Fame inductees Teemu Selanne and Mark Recchi. Catching Steve Yzerman at No. 7 is going to take a while, but my guess is Thornton gets there by the end of next season barring injury. Thornton scored 50 points last season (55 era adjusted) and he’s on pace for roughly the same this season. If he maintains this pace, he would be within striking distance of Ron Francis for fifth. And if he plays another two seasons after this one, he might even challenge Mark Messier for fourth.

Just for fun, I split up Thornton’s era adjusted totals to show his time with the Bruins and his time with the Sharks. With the Bruins, Thornton had 501 era adjusted points. Not bad! Then the Bruins lost their minds and traded him in the middle of a Hart Trophy season without even getting a pick back. Coming into this season, Thornton had 1,028 era adjusted points with the Sharks. Thronton’s era adjusted point total with the Sharks alone surpasses Pavel Datsyuk’s entire career total.

But he’s not a Top 100 player all-time, right? Got it.

I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s the Cup thing. Maybe it’s because Thornton only has two 30-goal seasons and people like goals more than assists.

Whatever it is, Thornton deserves more respect. He’s an all-time play-maker, he’s a Top 100 player no matter what that dumb list says, and if he retired today he’d be a Hockey Hall of Famer in a walk.

Lucky for Sharks fans, he’s not retiring today.

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