One of the most decorated and longest tenured players in the NHL is still at it and feeling confident that he is still capable of playing at a high level. San Jose Sharks star Joe Thornton told The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz that he is feeling good as the 2018-19 season approaches:
I feel good. I know my birth certificate says 39, but I think not playing a full 82 games and playoffs last year, my body feels really, really good and I feel healthy. It’s kind of like a lockout year for myself, you get time to refocus and finally train a little bit and go again. I’m real excited for the year… I think when I’m out there I dictate the play. It doesn’t matter who I play against, I usually dictate the play. I’ve had that criticism for 22 years. I think I’ve kept up pretty good.
Thornton is coming off his second straight season with a major knee injury, having torn the MCL and ACL ligaments in his left knee in 2016-17 and then again in his right knee midway through last season. Thornton tells Kurz that his left knee didn’t feel fully comfortable until November of last year, but that he made better progress with his right knee. While Thornton did miss the final 35 games of the regular season and did not appear in the playoffs, he admits that he was “real close” to getting back into the lineup. As such, he has been able to prepare this summer like any summer, with two healthy knees for the first time in a while.
If truly back at full strength, Thornton could be a season-altering presence for the Sharks. The 39-year-old managed to post 36 points in 47 games last year and part of the campaign he was still dealing with injury. The last time the big center played a full season, he registered 82 points in 82 games in 2015-16. Overall, the future Hall of Famer has 973 points in 961 games since coming over to San Jose all those many years ago. With the likes of Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and Evander Kane and youngsters Tomas Hertl, Kevin Labanc, and Timo Meier up front, Thornton has plenty of weapons to work with and could find his way back to elite level production. If that happens, it could push the Sharks over the top in their search for an elusive Stanley Cup title.