Sharks stripping Thornton of captaincy for now

Joe Thornton was named captain of the San Jose Sharks prior to the 2010-11 season. (Christian Petersen/Getty)

The San Jose Sharks will enter training camp without a captain.

Head coach Todd McLellan told the San Jose Mercury News Wednesday the Sharks “are going to have a fresh slate at training camp as far as leadership goes.”

That means captain Joe Thornton and alternate captain Patrick Marleau have been stripped of their letters for the time being, although McLellan doesn’t consider the move a punishment.

“Thornton could end up being the captain. I don’t know, none of us know,” McLellan said. “If it’s real evident he’s the guy, he’ll be the captain … This is not an indictment of the guys who wore the letters. There’s 20 other guys that played here last year that should have been participating and influencing the environment, and they need to step up.”

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It’s uncommon for a team to revoke a player’s captaincy, but in fact it’s not the first time the Sharks have done it. McLellan stripped Marleau of the ‘C’ following the 2008-09 season and Rob Blake was named captain. Then, prior to the 2010-11 season, Thornton was named permanent captain after Blake retired.

“It’s a big honour, and it’s a big responsibility, so it’s a little strange when they take it away from you,” Thornton said of his captaincy.

Marleau added that this decision won’t affect how he approaches the upcoming season.

“I will do what I have always done,” Marleau said. “Play hard, be professional on and off the ice, lead by example. That is why I will be wearing a letter after training camp.”

The Sharks, a franchise notorious for underachieving in the post-season, became just the fourth team in NHL history to blow a 3-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup playoffs when they were eliminated by the eventual Cup-winning Los Angeles Kings in the first round this past April.

Thornton was criticized for generating just three points and going minus-6 in the seven games against the Kings.

In July, Sharks forward Logan Couture told Sportsnet 590 The Fan the criticism Thornton often faces is unwarranted. “We win as a team, we lose as a team. As cliché as that is, one person isn’t going to win a championship,” Couture said.

Both Thornton and Marleau’s names were mentioned in trade rumours earlier in the off-season. Each player has a no-movement clause and three years remaining on his respective contract. Thornton had 11 goals, 65 assists, while Marleau had 33 goals, 37 assists in 82 games last season.

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