In a recent Soapbox article on my website I reviewed the November 30, 2005 trade which sent superstar Joe Thornton from the Boston Bruins to the San Jose Sharks and concluded that five years later Thornton and the Sharks were the clear winners of that deal.
A few Bruins fans however contacted me to defend their club’s actions, stating that moving Thornton ultimately cleared the necessary salary cap space to sign superstar defenseman Zdeno Chara and play-making center Marc Savard, making the Bruins a better team than it would’ve been with Thornton.
Undoubtedly the Bruins couldn’t have signed Chara to a five-year, $7.5 million per season contact or Savard to a four –year, $20 million deal had they retained Thornton, who at the time was earning $6.67 million per season.
The trade also created a need for the Bruins to land a first line center thus the signing of Savard.
Since Chara joined the Bruins in 2006 he’s had a positive impact upon their roster. He won a Norris trophy (his first and so far only one) in 2009, has been their captain since his arrival in Boston and is considered amongst the game’s elite defensemen.
Savard meanwhile was the Bruins leading scorer in his first three seasons with the club, netting 96, 78, and 88 points respectively. Injuries (foot, knee, concussion) limited him to only 33 games last season and post-concussion symptoms have kept him sidelined this season.
The pair helped the Bruins make the playoffs three consecutive seasons from 2008 to 2010, which included topping the Eastern Conference standings in 2009.
Their post-season record however hasn’t been that great, winning only two playoff series over that time, including last spring’s humiliating collapse against the Philadelphia Flyers, becoming only the third team in NHL playoff history to blow a 3-0 series lead and lose 4 games to 3.
Thornton meanwhile had a more positive impact on the Sharks – five straight playoff appearances, four consecutive 100-plus point seasons, topping the Western Conference standings twice, winning the President’s trophy as the best regular season team in 2009 and advancing to the 2010 Western Conference Final.
It’s been suggested the Sharks already had a much better roster when Thornton joined them than the one he left in Boston but when they acquired him they were near the bottom of the Western Conference standings and desperate for a season-saving move.
Thornton did more than save the Sharks season. He elevated his game to a level rarely seen during his years in Boston. The Sharks went from a good club with playoff aspirations to a terrific team which over the past five years finished each regular season amongst the best teams.
His presence also made the Sharks a destination of choice for notables like Dany Heatley, Rob Blake, Dan Boyle, Brian Campbell, Bill Guerin and Jeremy Roenick via free agency or trades.
Chara and Savard made the Bruins a better team but their accomplishments pale in comparison to Thornton’s impact on the Sharks.