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5 Thoughts For & Against a Joe Thornton Rebound Year

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Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks
Credit: mark6mauno (CC BY-SA 2.0)

History is against 41-year-old Joe Thornton coming back next season and being an impact player.

But we know that. This year, Thornton was already betraying significant cracks in his game. His 31 points in his age-40 campaign for the San Jose Sharks were his lowest since his rookie season 23 years ago.

Time, as fellow past-his-prime warrior Rocky Balboa mumbled, is undefeated.

However, digging through Hockey Reference, a few interesting stats revealed themselves. Historically speaking, is there even a chance of a rebound season from Jumbo?

On the Way Down?

In the NHL’s century-plus history, there have been 115 campaigns by 40-or-older skaters (age as of February 1st that season). Not surprisingly, 56 of those seasons were authored by 40-year-olds; 34 were forwards.

This was the average line for a 40-year-old forward: 57 Games Played-13 Goals-23 Assists-36 Points.

That’s 0.63 Points Per Game (PPG). Thornton put up 0.44 this season, a bit short of that benchmark.

Can Thornton Rebound?

This 0.44 PPG was a sharp decline from last year’s 0.7 and the last half-decade’s 0.79.

Historically speaking, is there a chance of a rebound in his Age-41 season?

15 of the 34 40-year-old forwards played another season.

Did any of these 15 forwards score at a higher clip at 41 than 40?

Predictably, some forwards experienced sharp declines from 40 to 41. However, two of them improved their production as they got older: Daniel Alfredsson went from a 0.55 PPG in 2012-13 to a 0.72 in 2013-14; funny enough, Jaromir Jagr went from a 0.78 to a 0.82 in the same period of time.

I’m sure the San Jose Sharks would be thrilled if Thornton matched Alfredsson’s rebound.

However, chances are, Thornton will continue to decline. It’s just nature.

41 and Not Done

Overall, there have been just 17 41-year-old forwards in league history:

Can Thornton produce at a level on par with the upper half of this list? This would go a long way toward bringing next year’s San Jose Sharks back to respectability.

Together Again?

If Patrick Marleau re-signs with San Jose, as expected, Thornton and Marleau would form the seventh 41-or-older duo in NHL history:

• 2013-14 New Jersey Devils: Martin Brodeur (41), Jaromir Jagr (41)
• 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings: Chris Chelios (46), Dominik Hasek (43)
• 2006-07 Detroit Red Wings: Chelios (45), Hasek (42)
• 2002-03 Detroit Red Wings: Igor Larionov (42), Chelios (41)
• 1979-80 Hartford Whalers: Gordie Howe (51), Bobby Hull (41)
• 1973-74 Minnesota North Stars: Gump Worsley (44), Dean Prentice (41)
• 1967-68 Toronto Maple Leafs: Johnny Bower (43), Allan Stanley (41)

Holding Serve

Interestingly, the average line for a 40 and 41-year-old forward are nearly identical:

At least that bodes well for Thornton and the San Jose Sharks. A rebound would be manna from heaven, but if the 41-year-old can even hold serve next year, that would be useful. Maybe pre-preseason games in Switzerland will help?

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Jackson Edward

I wouldn’t judge his capability by this year’s production. Everybody on the team had a down year this year, which, I think, proves that it was a culture and coaching struggle more than a performance and potential struggle.

Jackson Edward

I think the scouts’ angle is the hot, dramatic take, but I have a feeling the more realistic but boring take why Jumbo didn’t have any takers was his cap hit. Patty cost the Pens league min, but Jumbo would’ve cost a team a prorated $2M against their cap, which is 3x more than Patty. Except for the Avs, any team Jumbo would’ve given the green light to be traded to would’ve been severely cap-strapped.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jackson Edward
Jackson Edward

This conversation alone is worth the price of admission. Thank you for your insight, Sheng!

david barnard

i was going over some McCurdy data on Jumbo and his most often linemates and their deployment, and just to summarize, i thought Jumbo did have some positive impact, but it’s really Labanc who has the biggest impact on his linemates. it used to be the other way around a couple of seasons ago when Jumbo was nurturing/mentoring the young RW. Jumbo also takes longer each season to get going. his numbers improved, again, the deeper into the regular season the team went. it appears that Jumbo still has some positive impact in him, and playing in Switzerland-if the rumors… Read more »

david barnard

both averaged about 15:30 ATOI for the season. PM was getting more than that for most of his time with the Sharks, upwards of 17-18 mins a night a good amount of the time he was in the line up. he scored 10 goals in 58 GP. i just don’t trust a Sharks HC not to play him/them too high in the line up and that’s the main problem. the other is that’s 2 F spots taken up by 41 yo’s. i wonder how many points a young F in our org would score getting their ice time and QoT?… Read more »

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