Winnipeg Free Press Newspaper Archives Mar 18 2015, Page 27

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Winnipeg Free Press (Newspaper) - March 18, 2015, Winnipeg, Manitoba C M Y K PAGE D3 S PEND five minutes in the San Jose Sharks dressing room and it’s perfectly clear Joe Thornton is still the alpha male among his teammates, which makes the fuss over his leadership both laughable and lamentable. This is Thornton’s team despite any talk to the contrary. Calling him out in public and sparking a feud with weeks left in the season and with a playoff berth in the offing is ill- timed and foolish. Thornton has all the power here both in contract and in the dressing room. Fighting him is a no- win situation as GM Doug Wilson is quickly realizing. Wilson watched his team climb back into the playoff hunt and then last week inexplicably opened his mouth about Thornton’s leadership and some behind- closed- doors interactions between management and the player. Wilson’s timing was horrific and his team has now lost two straight since he started to blab about in- house matters at a season- ticket holders’ function last Thursday. “ Joe carries the weight of the team on his shoulders and he’s got such a big heart that when stress comes on him he lashes out at people,” the GM said to a roomful of season- ticket holders last Thursday. “ It kind of impacts them. The pressure and stress, I felt, was getting to Joe.” Let’s retrace Wilson’s dealings with the 35- year- old Thornton, dating back to the winter of 2014. First, Wilson signed Thornton to a three- year $ 20.25- M contract extension with a full no- trade clause. Then, following a first- round playoff collapse, he floated out feelers on trading Thornton despite the no- move clause. Then, he stripped him of his captaincy. Last week, he talked openly about it all, which became a little too much for Thornton. “ Shut up,” “ stop lying,” and “ I’m not the one on sabbatical,” all came out of Thornton’s mouth. If this distraction costs the Sharks a playoff berth, someone needs to be held accountable — and that’s Wilson. Leadership is supposed to start at the top and Wilson hasn’t led by example or with his words. The Sharks looked horrible Tuesday night, losing 5- 2 to the Winnipeg Jets and playoff thoughts are growing more and more distant. The Sharks look lost. Ownership has had to wade in and tell the GM and player to cool it. Head coach Todd McLellan looked grim on Tuesday morning and is perhaps resigned to the fact he’s going to pay with his job for a mess made by others. Namely his boss, Doug Wilson. The handling of this matter is rather surprising as Wilson is from the old school and fully understands the workings of a team. He knows players see through a phony effort and he should know better than to reveal team secrets at a corporate function. Really, what good can come from revealing the substance of private, closed- door discussions with the booster club? Thornton rightfully seethed when Wilson aired his opinions his player’s leadership skills and the machinations behind stripping him of his captaincy. Read those quotes again. That’s a future Hall of Fame player talking about his GM. None of it is conducive to winning and now the Sharks almost surely will miss the playoffs. “ It’s not an ideal situation but it’s behind us now,” said McLellan, prior to Tuesday’s game with the Jets. “ It can be a galvanizing moment for our team. Jumbo plays for the team and the guys play for him. He’s still a big leader for us and I think the guys voiced that.” Thornton has 1,253 points in 1,273 career NHL games and is heading to the Hall of Fame. He took less money to stay in San Jose rather than go to the open market. Wilson wanted him to retire as a member of the Sharks. So he gave Thornton an extension and a no- trade clause. Six months later, he changed his mind. But he ceded control to Thornton with the no- move clause. The entire affair was predictable and has been mishandled. The Sharks are the worse for it. This hasn’t been Wilson’s finest hour. Not even close. Late in Tuesday night’s game Winnipeg fans taunted Wilson chanting, “ Who’s your captain?” Last season, the Sharks were the fourth seed in the Western Conference and were just six points back of the President’s Trophy pace set by the Boston Bruins. Now, they’re a punchline. McLellan finds himself stuck between his GM and his key veteran. He should be praying he gets fired. He’ll get another job immediately and he won’t be stuck in the middle of a messy divorce. The Sharks need a remodel, all right. But it should start in the front office. Make that the corner office. gary. lawless@ freepress. mb. ca Twitter: @ garylawless D3 WINNIPEG FREE PRESS WEDNESDAY, MARCH 18, 2015 winnipegfreepress. com AFTER BURNER UP NEXT VS. BLUES œ THURSDAY, MARCH 19 œ 7 P. M. / TSN3 / TSN 1290 SHOTS > 22 Blake Wheeler, 4 Mark Scheifele, 4 GOALS Adam Lowry ( 8) Mark Scheifele ( 12) Andrew Ladd ( 24) Blake Wheeler ( 21, 22) SHOTS > 40 Melker Karlsson ( 7) Matt Irwin ( 4) GOALS Joe Pavelski ( 33) 3 STARS Blake WHEELER Was flying all night and contributed two goals; now has five in his last five games Mark SCHEIFELE Has picked up his game lately. Had a goal and an assist vs. Sharks Ondrej PAVELEC Has wins in back- to- back starts after 38 stops Bl k š š š š š š SH Me KEY PLAY ANDREW LADD scored his 24th of the season to make it 3- 0 Jets in the first period. HITS SHARKS 11 : Mark Stuart, 3 JETS 23 : Ryan Callahan, 4 ICE- TIME LEADERS SHARKS: Justin Braun — 22: 11 JETS: Jacob Trouba — 23: 50 5 35- 23- 12 2 34- 28- 8 SAN JOSE SHARKS GARY LAWLESS WHEN a blood- vessel injury sidelined Henrik Lundqvist in early February, everyone knew the New York Rangers’ playoff chances would be affected. Thanks to backup goaltender Cam Talbot, it has been in a positive way. With Talbot starting 18 of 20 games, the Rangers have earned 33 of 40 possible points to shoot into first place in the Metropolitan Division. “ You never really think that you’re going to go a big run like this,” Talbot said Saturday in Buffalo. “ Everyone in this room stepped up. When you lose one of the best goalies in the world, everyone else has to kind of pick up their game because he’s a big piece of this team. Myself included I had to really step up and try to fill those shoes because it’s not easy to do.” Talbot is 13- 3- 3 with a 2.20 goalsagainst average and .927 save percentage since becoming the de facto starter in Lundqvist’s absence. His consistent success is thanks in large part to a film session with goaltending coach Benoit Allaire last month. “ Benny and I took a look at some of the game film where I wasn’t playing as well as I wanted to play, but luckily we were still winning,” Talbot said. “ He’s like, ’ If you can just make little tweaks here and there, you should be able to cut down a goal or two a game.’ “ Ever since we went over that video, I’ve been better positionally, it helps you be a little bit more patient, and when you’re stopping the first shot a lot more, it makes you a lot more confident.” The 27- year- old Talbot is one of three improbable goaltending stories influencing the NHL playoff race right now. Devan Dubnyk has almost singlehandedly saved the Minnesota Wild’s season, and Andrew Hammond has the Ottawa Senators at least able to dream of the playoffs. This run for Talbot is reminiscent of when he was just as hot as Hammond when he debuted in the league. He allowed two goals or fewer in nine of his first 10 starts before opposing shooters could get a book on him. Talbot believes he’s a better goaltender now, 46 starts into his NHL career. He’s more patient and mature than he was as a rookie. Lundqvist was cleared Tuesday to resume practising with the team. Coach Alain Vigneault has said Lundqvist will be the starter when he returns, but it hasn’t hurt to give Talbot a taste of full- time work. — The Canadian Press Talbot gives Rangers new life By Stephen Whyno Cam Talbot San Jose jumping the shark Bungled Thornton situation has once- proud team waterlogged JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Winnipeg’s Adam Lowry battles San Jose’s Joe Thornton for the puck during first- period action Tuesday night. D_ 03_ Mar- 18- 15_ FP_ 01. indd D3 3/ 17/ 15 10: 11: 45 PM

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