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Jumbo Joe remembers… 02.10.09 at 2:16 pm ET
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Joe Thornton can’t help but remember the last time he was in Boston. Though he’d like to forget.

It was Jan. 10, 2006, less than two months after he was dealt to the San Jose Sharks in a blockbuster trade by then Bruins general manager Mike O’Connell.

He logged exactly 2 minutes, 10 seconds of ice time before taking a elbowing penalty at 5:13 of the opening period. That bad-boy behavior also carried with it a game misconduct and it was nitey-nite for Jumbo Joe, in his much anticipated return.

“I really don’t remember too much,” Thornton said this morning while surrounded by 25 reporters in the visitors’ locker room at TD Banknorth Garden. “I just remember going through warm-up and then I was out of the game, pretty much. I had a great warm-up and I thought I was ready for the game and I remember we won the game, actually, that’s the only thing I remember. But I don’t remember too much on the ice because I wasn’t on it long enough to remember anything.”

He hopes to have a better return tonight.

“It’s super for hockey,” Thornton said of the matchup between the top two teams in the NHL. “To have a game like this in mid-February that has so much buzz around it is good for the game and good for hockey.”

Other nuggets from Jumbo Joe.

He said he still stays in touch with old teammates, like getting text messages from P.J. Axelsson Monday night.

He said he has no great expectations on a reaction from the Garden fans.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Joe Thornton, NHL, San Jose Sharks
Jumbo Joe Thornton talks about trade from Boston 02.07.09 at 1:18 pm ET
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Returning to Boston the last time was a little awkward for Jumbo Joe

Returning to Boston the last time was a little awkward for Jumbo Joe

On Tuesday Jumbo Joe Thornton will return to TD Banknorth Garden for only the second time since being traded away from the Black and Gold for Marco Sturm, Brad Stuart and Wayne Primeau back in November of 2005.

The Sharks meet the first overall Boston Bruins at 7:00 p.m. eastern time on VERSUS. Here’s the transcript from the NHL-sponsored conference call on Friday morning with Thornton in anticipation of the showdown between the Best in the West and the Best of the East. It’ll be Joe’s second tilt at the Garden since getting dealt by Harry Sinden and Mike O’Connell back in 2005, and he said that much of the emotion left the matchup for him following the 5 minutes, 13 seconds he played the last time he was in Boston.

Here’s the transcript: 

Q. A lot has been said about rookie coach Todd McLellan, but can you tell me a little bit about what Jay Woodcroft has meant to your team? JOE THORNTON: He’s been great. He actually takes care of all the video part and some of the on ice stuff. But he breaks down the good things, the bad things in our game right then, and he works one-on-one with us after and at practices and things like that. He’s been a great addition to the whole coaching staff. 

Q. Also, could you tell me about the additions of (Rob) Blake and (Dan) Boyle and what that’s allowed your offense to do knowing you’ve had those two back there on the defensive line?  JOE THORNTON: Yeah, they’ve been great. They obviously played big, big minutes. They play both power play and penalty kill. They’re two stud defensemen that definitely should be up for Norris consideration. They’ve been great. They give other confidence to the other defense on our team, and they’re good veteran guys that won Stanley Cups, so you know you can rely on guys like that, too.

Q. Obviously you want to make this (trip to Boston) last longer than the last one. The fact that that game was so short for you a few years ago when you were here shortly after the deal, did that kind of leave a bad taste in your mouth? Do you kind of want to play a complete game now? JOE THORNTON: Well, yeah. It’s hockey and you kind of expect the unexpected, but obviously you want to play the full 60 minutes. It ended up working out well because I think we won, I’m not sure what the score was but we won pretty big that night. It worked out good; I got to eat some popcorn in the room and everything. But yeah, the plan is to play a full game and to have a good game. 

Q. Why are the Sharks better this year? What’s going on with that team? Is it moving the puck better from the back end? JOE THORNTON: Well, I think with the new coach we just tweaked our system a little bit, plus we added some big players on the point, so I think when you add all that together, you’re going to have a pretty good season, I guess.

Q. I’m actually working on a story on Mike Grier and would like to know from your standpoint, how would you describe his importance to the team? JOE THORNTON: He’s a big part of our team. He brings a lot of leadership, a lot of character. He’s huge on the penalty kill. He blocks shots, does all the little things that don’t get maybe noticed on the stats sheet and things like that. But he’s a big part of this team. Yeah, he’s been through a lot of wars, so you definitely can lean on a guy like that, especially for the young guys that expect what’s to come down here in the last 30 games here plus the postseason.

Q. I covered the Sabres for a number of years, including the time when he was there, and I recall a lot of the players when he left saying how much he was missed in the locker room because he always seemed to have a knack to say the perfect thing at the perfect time. Have you been exposed to that, and do you have any examples by any chance? JOE THORNTON: Yeah, he’s just a real positive guy, and I think when something needs to be said, I think a guy like him definitely has it where he can stand up no problem and address the room, and he’s done that in the past. I have no examples, but he is good with talking in the room and calming guys down if it’s a situation that needs to be handled a little bit or fire the guys up. So he has a good pulse on the team. 

Q. Is his family’s background a popular topic in the dressing room? JOE THORNTON: Yeah.

Q. What comes up about that, and how do you think that ? How could you imagine that that family background has impacted his development as a hockey player, even though we’re talking about different sports? JOE THORNTON: No, I think just his dedication to sport, obviously his family all into football, one is in Houston, one is in Miami. No, it comes up a lot. We love talking about football because we usually have Sundays off, so he knows quite a bit about it. I think he reads your magazine front to back, as well. He’s well?groomed in the sports category area. 

No, I think for his father just to be part of the NFL, I think he just learned a lot of discipline from him and maybe just leadership qualities from his dad. Yeah, he’s just a tremendous teammate.

Q. Just kind of going back to the return to Boston, lots of time has passed, lots of water under the bridge. Are you still in touch with a lot of the players there? I can’t even imagine that there would be very many guys that remain from when you played there. JOE THORNTON: No, there’s not. Well, I still talk to PJ once in a while, but I think he came in the same year as me, and that’s about the only one that really started with me. Timmy Thomas was there a little bit and Patrice Bergeron was there, but that’s pretty much it on the player side. You talk to the trainers a little bit here and there and the equipment guys, but everything else has pretty much all changed there.

Q. So is it then easier to go back in a situation like that, because even though it’s the team where you started, there’s I guess the sense that it is another game, an important game because they’re the top team in the east? JOE THORNTON: Yeah, really that’s all it is to me. There’s not too many ex-teammates over there, and it’s just really an important game in the schedule. They’re the best in the east, and we’re the best in the west. So it’s an important game that way rather than I’m playing against friends, I think.

Q. And then just one final follow-up. There’s some of us that are imagining, like occasionally there’s upsets in the playoffs, but sometimes the top teams get through, and if the top teams do get through this year, there would be a San Jose/Boston Stanley Cup final, which I guess from your perspective would look good because it means you’re competing for the Stanley Cup. Do you allow your mind to wander, or is it too dangerous to do that because you’ve got to get there first? JOE THORNTON: You wander a little bit, but obviously we’ve still got a lot of hockey to work out here. If that were to be the case it would be great because both teams made it there, but I think both teams would agree we’ve still got a lot of work ahead of us.

Q. Just to go back to that Boston game three years ago, the fans gave you a pretty good ride. You did not hang around long to get booed more, but they gave you a pretty good ride. Do you expect the same thing this time?  JOE THORNTON: I don’t think you expect anything. I think you go in with no expectations. That’s how I’ll go into Tuesday’s game, just with no expectations again. 

Q. Do you have any regrets about what happened in Boston, or is that passed? JOE THORNTON: I have no regrets at all. That’s years and years ago. I had no regrets when I played there and when I left, no.

Q. How about the feeling of being traded at that time? What did it mean to you when you got traded at that time? JOE THORNTON: Well, I never in juniors had gotten traded, so that was my first dose of getting traded. It was a little weird, a little emotional to be leaving. But really, after I got traded, from that night on, it was tough, and then the morning came and I flew and I met my new teammates with the Sharks. I think after really that first 24 hours, I think it wasn’t hard, it was just back to business, I think. It wasn’t too tough after that.

Q. About this season, new coach, and McLellan obviously comes in with a winning pedigree from last year especially, but I guess you could expect that you guys would be a good team, but did you expect that it would be like this? JOE THORNTON: Well, you expect it to be good because I think with having Dan Boyle, I don’t think too many people outside of Tampa really knew how good he was. But I played with him in the world championships and things like that, so I expected him to make a big impact, and Rob Blake, because Rob, we play here in California all the time.

So I knew those two guys were going to make a big impact, but I just didn’t know how big. I think with those two guys coming here, our expectations were real high. But to have the start we are, I don’t think anybody expected that, no.

Q. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you’re still with Setoguchi and Marleau, correct?  JOE THORNTON: Yes.

Q. There seems to be a pretty good chemistry there, and all three of you guys were in Montreal for All-Star weekend there, as well, which must have been pretty special to have a whole line there. Where do you think it all stems from, that chemistry, if you can just break it down a little bit? JOE THORNTON: Well, I think you look at Paddy has tremendous speed and so does Seto. They both shoot the puck really, really well, they both see the ice well. I’m a big believer in good players make each other into great players. I think that’s the case with us.

We’re all good players, and when you put them together, we become better players. All three of us have good hockey sense, and I think when you throw three guys in a line that have good hockey sense, usually good things come out of it.

Q. McLellan keeps pushing the right buttons. What’s different with him in the room with him as the coach this year? Has much changed? JOE THORNTON: Not too much to be honest with you. I think just our daily approach is just a little bit different. We just really focus in on that day. I think in years past we kind of looked maybe too far ahead, and this year we’re just working out our kinks now, and we’re working hard each and every day and focusing on that day. I think that’s probably going to be the difference.

Q. Does the Stanley Cup from last year ever get brought up? Does he ever bring it up and say this is what works? JOE THORNTON: It does come up a little bit, and we saw his ring when we came to Detroit there and the Red Wings came to the rink. So we do talk about it a little bit, what championship teams do. So it’s nice having a coach that has been there and done that.

Q. You were talking about the Boston thing. Have you ever understood why or got an explanation why you were traded? JOE THORNTON: Really, I don’t really know. I know at the time I can remember the team wasn’t doing so well. But no, I really don’t know or I don’t think anybody knows other than a couple people why that happened. But yeah, I still don’t know.

Q. You said there’s not a lot of people associated with the team in terms of players that are still there. How about do you still have friends in the community that will be pretty cool to reunite with for at least one day?JOE THORNTON: Yeah, my brother still lives in Boston. He goes to school there at Boston University. It’s going to be nice to see him. Yeah, I’ve still got quite a few friends there over the years. I started when I was 18, so that’s a lot of good friends that I still have there. So it’ll be nice when we get a couple days off, which will be good to kind of go visit some people that I need to.

Q. And the last question would be this weekend, in different circumstances, but obviously Marian Hossa will go back to Pittsburgh this weekend and back to one of his old teams, albeit he didn’t play there that long, be he might get a little bit of a cool reception. Any advice for Marian when he goes in there, how to deal with it? JOE THORNTON: No, I just think you go in with no expectations, and that’s about it, really. You’ve just got to go play your game. That’s the bottom line.

Q. I’m calling from Swedish television, and I was just wondering, why is San Jose playing better than Detroit this season? JOE THORNTON: We’ve been real consistent since day one, and that’s probably the one thing is just our consistency. We try to play hard each and every night, and we’ve got lots of talent. I think when you work hard and you’re consistent, you’re going to get results. I think that’s the case this year.

Q. And Douglas Murray has a lot of fans here in Sweden. What can you say about him and his season so far?JOE THORNTON: He’s had a great season, actually. He’s just so big and strong, and he just controls the puck when he has it. But he’s been great for us all year long. He plays big minutes for us on the penalty kill and things like that. But he’s been a big, huge part of our success.

Q. When you’re looking back now in hindsight at getting traded and going to San Jose and everything, how beneficial was the trade from Boston to San Jose and going from one situation to the other for your career? JOE THORNTON: Well, I think it’s worked out well for me, obviously. But you know, I thought it was going good in Boston, as well, though. I don’t think there was anything wrong there to be honest with you. But I think just being a little bit older, I think I was young then and now I’m just maturing to be an adult now. So I think just maturity-wise you get to know the game a little bit better, you get more confidence, and you just know your body a little bit more.

I think it just really is two parts of a hockey player that I was.

Q. Did you use that trade as motivation or like you kind of maybe had to prove something to somebody after the fact? JOE THORNTON: No, not at all. You just play hockey, and that’s what I do. I’m a hockey player. But no motivation or anything like that. You just have to earn respect from your new teammates, and that’s about it. But there’s no new motivation. You have enough on yourself that you don’t need any more.

Q. How different for you personally is it going to be going back to Boston this time than last time? Maybe a lot less emotional than the last time you were there? JOE THORNTON: Yeah, I feel like I’ve been a Shark for a long time now. It’ll be a little bit funny, but I don’t think now, being through it once before, I don’t think it’s going to be a big challenge for me.

Q. And when you kind of look back on that one other time, that five minutes and 13 seconds that you were actually in the game, what sticks out in your mind just from that day going back? Is there anything that you really kind of think of when you think of that day? JOE THORNTON: Just how weird and awkward it was to be honest with you. It just felt really strange to be on a different side on the bench and skating a different way. Just a little bit awkward, I think.

Q. I just wonder if you could walk me through what a typical week for a pro hockey player is, the rhythms of the week with practice and games and whether there’s a particular day that you think you do better on or look forward to playing on or something like that? JOE THORNTON: Pretty much typical days are you play a Tuesday, a Thursday and a Saturday, and on the Monday, Wednesday and Friday you usually have practice at 11:00 o’clock. So you wake up 9:00-ish, quarter to 9:00-ish, go to the rink, grab some breakfast and away you go. And then after practice there might be a little light workout or things like that.

Then usually home, and then here in California you can sit out by the pool if you like and then play some Tiger Woods in the afternoon, and then dinner time and then maybe see a movie or watch a TV show on television, then just do it all over again the next day. I like Saturdays personally. I like Saturday night games. They seem to be fun.

Q. Why is that?  JOE THORNTON: I don’t know, just…well, we sell out every night here, so it’s really just that if you’re on the road, usually Saturday nights will be sold out on the road and there’s quite a good atmosphere in the building. Saturday nights, it’s Hockey Night in Canada, too, you to get to watch Don Cherry on TV.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Joe Thornton, P.J. Axelsson, San Jose Sharks
Joe Thornton still thinking about Boston 01.23.09 at 6:52 pm ET
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MONTREAL, Quebec — San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton has played only one game as a visiting player at the TD Banknorth Garden, and admitted to the assembled media at the NHL All-Star Game this weekend that he’s already circled the Feb. 10 statement game against the Black and Gold. Playing Boston is apparently pretty high up on his pucks “to do” calendar for this season. In his only other visiting game in Boston way back in 2006, Jumbo Joe was ejected only 5:13 into the first period after rising up in anger and blasting Hal Gill from behind with a hit menacing enough that he was booted out of the game with a game misconduct.

The youtube clip above features the classic call from 850 WEEI’s own Dale Arnold, who did everything but have Joe Thornton twirling his mustache and tying the damsel to the railroad tracks after wall-papering the boards with the 6-foot-7 gentle giant body of Gill.

Jumbo Joe still has Boston on the brain...

Jumbo Joe still has Boston on the brain...

Despite all that, the 29-year-old is excited about the prospect of his front-running team in San Jose taking on the Big, Bad B’s in their own backyard in a soon-to-be-hyped Stanley Cup preview between the Western Conference-leading Sharks and the Eastern Conference-leading B’s.

“You do things day-to-day, but you circle those kinds of games,” said Thornton, who is just outside the NHL’s top five in scoring with 55 points and is tied for second in the NHL with 43 assists this season. “I haven’t been back there [in Boston] since I got kicked out. So it’s going to be fun going back and seeing it all again.”

While this particular matchup against the Bruins won’t be nearly as emotionally charged as the contest back in Jan. 2006 — a game that was in front of his old coach, many of his former teammates and a good deal of the Boston brass that shipped him out of town for three Sharks players and an immediate membership to the Northeast Division basement – it’s lining up to be everything that a statement game should be between two teams that are seemingly on a collision course this spring.

Has the 6-foot-4, 235-pounder allowed himself to think of a Stanley Cup Finals against the Spoked B? Has that been a fleeting thought in his hockey-addled brain given the way that the two teams have jumped ahead of everybody else this season?

Of course it has for Jumbo Joe…you betcha by golly wow. .

It’s a scenario that’s obviously way, way, way down the paved puck road, and Thornton will have to do something he’s never done before in his much-ballyhooed 10 years in the NHL: carry on a team on his back to the Cup Finals. But the potential is strong for it to happen this season, and could all begin with that game circled in red ink on his Inspirational Thoughts wall calendar for the 2008-09 season.

“Oh if [our playoff fortunes] allow it, it would be awesome,” said Thornton, who is wearing the ‘C’ for the Western Conference All-Stars during this weekend’s festivities. “But we’d have to win in the Finals to make it even more special. But it’s a long, long way to go. It would be kind of neat to see them in the Finals.”

For the record the only players still with the Bruins from Thornton’s era in Boston are Patrice Bergeron, Tim Thomas, P.J. Axelsson and Mark Stuart.

FOR COMPLETE COVERAGE OF ALL-STAR FESTIVITIES FROM MONTREAL, CHECK BACK WITH PUCKS WITH HAGGS THROUGHOUT THE WEEKEND.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Hal Gill, Joe Thornton, Mark Stuart
Ready to drop the puck! 10.09.08 at 5:38 am ET
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Which one of these doesn't belong?

Which one of these doesn't belong?

So, I’ll have a full-blown NHL preview up on PWH at some point today, but I just wanted to troll around the Internet and A) see if I could travel all the way to the end of it or B) find as many NHL previews as possible to get a sense of what the “National” sentiment is concerning the Bruins.

I imagine that most hockey experts are in one of two camps when it comes to the guys in the Spoked B’s sweaters: either they feel like the Bruins showed real improvement with a young cast of characters last season and should be better with ever-maturing prospects skating along with a healthy Patrice Bergeron. The other school of thought is that the Bruins overacheived on some level while sneaking into the playoffs, and they won’t be able to sneak up on unsuspecting hockey teams this season like they did last year.

Bobby Bobblehead says "Yay" to the playoffs

Bobby Bobblehead says "Yay" to the playoffs

I’m more inclined to go with the former theory that the Bruins are playoff-worthy with tight defense and an aggressive sandpaper style of hockey, but this season they should be a bit more potent offensively with Bergeron on the PP. But that’s just me. Let’s see what everyone else has to say:

ESPN’s John Buccigross (who I’ll give full credit to for being one of the few true “hockey guys” in Bristol) has the B’s finishing seventh in the Eastern Conference. An excerpt from his capsule on the Bruins: There is something about this team that I like. I sense a positive vibe around the Bruins that should be enhanced with the return of their best player, Patrice Bergeron. The Bruins have not won a playoff series since 1999, the only series they’ve won since the 1994 lockout. Not the 2004 lockout. They have been a sorry franchise. The Bruins are certainly not a lock to make the postseason, but for the first time in a while, Boston seems to have some organizational passion and a plan. The margin for error is small. The key players need to be healthy, and the young players need to be important players without a drop-off.

The Hockey News has the Bruins finishing tenth in the Eastern Conference: There isn’t much explanation behind their pick on the Hockey News web site, but they see the Bruins finishing ahead of only the Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers, Atlanta Thrashers, Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Islanders. This is one prognostication that I would consider the “glass half-emptiest prediction.”

Sports Illustrated picks the Bruins to finish seventh in the East and again qualify for the playoffs while also picking Zdeno Chara as the Northeast Division MVP and Milan Lucic as the division’s “player to watch”: Don’t mistake these Bruins for the bruisers who famously carried the club in the 1970s and ’80s, but this is the Northeast’s most physical team, and Boston should bully its way to a second straight playoff berth.  Boston was 24th in the NHL in goals last season, something the addition of free agent Michael Ryder will help but won’t cure by itself. The Bruins’ real center of attention is mild-mannered pivot Patrice Bergeron (above), who missed all but 10 games of the Bruins’ 18-point revival last season. 

Yahoo Sports Hockey Editor Ross McKeon picked the Bruins third in the Northeast Division, but says they’ll

Dude...seriously.

Dude...seriously.

 be hard-pressed to again make the playoffs (one thing I would say is that he really needs to get over the Joe Thornton trade): The Bruins still miss Joe Thornton, whether they admit it or not. It seems like everything is going to have to go right for Boston to be a solid playoff team, sand considering all the bumps a team faces in the regular season, the guess is the Bruins will be in a dogfight to slip into a playoff spot again. 

CBS Sportsline’s Wes GoldStein has the Bruins finishing second in the Northeast Division and has coach Coach Claude Julien winning the Adams Award this season: The Bruins accelerated their building process with a surprise appearance in the playoffs last season and nearly upsetting Montreal in the first round. The expectations will be higher this time. The best news though for Boston has been the return of Patrice Bergeron, who missed almost all of last season because of a concussion, and has looked very good in the preseason. 

Inside Hockey’s James Murphy has the Bruins finishing seventh in the Eastern Conference and making the playoffs: The Bruins were one of last season’s most pleasant surprises, reverting back to the hard working, bruising style that defined them when the likes of Terry O’Reilly and Cam Neely wore the black and gold with pride. Much like those Bruins icons, sophomore winger Milan Lucic has become one of the faces of the franchise. The biggest additions are three players returning from injuries — center Patrice Bergeron, defenseman Andrew Alberts, and goaltender Manny Fernandez — all of whom could make a huge impact. If Tim Thomas can deliver a repeat performance between the pipes and Fernandez can provide a solid complement, the Bruins are fine in goal, and the Zdeno Chara-led defense is unquestionably stout. The biggest question is whether newcomer Michael Ryder and the returning Bergeron can conspire to make the Bruins’ offense click. 

Fox Sports’ Darren Spang sees the Bruins returning to the playoffs and Spector (apprently rock stars and hockey analysts are in the same boat when it comes to one name monikers) has the Bruins finishing seventh in the Eastern Conference: The return of a healthy Patrice Bergeron at center should provide a significant boost to their offense. A consistent performance this season by goaltender Tim Thomas should bolster the Bruins’ postseason hopes. The improvement of young forwards Phil Kessel, Milan Lucic and David Krejci could also boost their forward depth, while head coach Claude Julien’s defensive system should make the Bruins tough to score against. Captain Zdeno Chara is still nursing a shoulder injury from last season and management is on the lookout for another puck-moving defenseman. While some gaps in the roster remain to be addressed, the Bruins appear in better shape this season than they were a year ago.  

Be back in a bit with my own take on the Bruins and the NHL this season…let’s drop the puck already!

Read More: Andrew Alberts, Boston Bruins, Cam Neely, Claude Julien
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