2011-2012 San Jose Sharks Season Review: Joe Thornton

Mar 24, 2012; San Jose, CA, USA; Phoenix Coyotes goalie Mike Smith (41) defends his goal in front of San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton (19) during the third period at HP Pavilion. San Jose defeated Phoenix 4-3 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE

This will be brief since most of what I want to say about Joe Thornton's season I discussed in a post late in the year. I still stand by my statement that this was the finest season of Thornton's Sharks career; better than the Art Ross and Hart Trophy wins in 2005-06 and better than when he was basically the only player on the team to score in 2007-08. This was the season in which Thornton really emerged as a premier two-way force in the NHL, finishing top ten among forwards in quality of competition league-wide while starting more shifts in his own end of the rink than the offensive zone and still clobbering the opposition he faced territorially and in terms of goal difference. When Thornton was on the ice 5v5 this season, the Sharks recorded 409 scoring chances to their opponents' 297, a ridiculous 58% chance percentage that was very likely among the best in the league.

I can't stress the rarity of Thornton's accomplishments this season enough. Since Gabe Desjardins, Vic Ferrari and co. began tracking advanced statistics with the advent of the NHL's real-time scoring system in 2007, no forward has posted a better Relative Corsi rating than Thornton while facing the quality of competition Jumbo did this season or greater. To put it in other words, no one in the last five years has had better even-strength results than Thornton playing minutes as tough as he did in 11-12. Of course, having Joe Pavelski (who we'll cover tomorrow in our final season review, unless Nate wants to go ahead and write one for James Sheppard) on his wing for essentially the entire season was a huge contributing factor but it's incredible to realize that Thornton controlled play at an even better rate this season than he did playing uber-sheltered minutes in 07-08.


Joe Thornton Statistical Overview

Season GP TOI/60 Corsi Rel QoC DZone% Corsi Rel PDO P/60
2011-2012 82 15.37 (1st) 1.497 (2nd) 50.1% (8th) +14.9 (1st) 1010 (1st) 2.43 (1st)
2010-2011 80 14.75 (4th) 0.664 (3rd) 48.2% (10th) +1.7 (5th) 1007 (5th) 1.73 (6th)
2009-2010 79 14.61 (2nd) 0.964 (3rd) 50.2% (8th) +2.4 (5th) 1031 (2nd) 2.76 (1st)
2008-2009 82 14.75 (1st) 0.425 (6th) 46.0% (9th) +4.7 (4th) 1015 (2nd) 2.34 (3rd)
2008-2009 82 15.17 (1st) -1.229 (12th) 42.0% (7th) +12.9 (1st) 1024 (3rd) 2.84 (1st)


FTF Grade: A
. Thornton and Pavelski were neck-and-neck for team MVP honors this season in my mind, unquestionably the two best players on the team. In addition to his even-strength dominance, Thornton was among the league leaders in power play on-ice shot generation and continued his phenomenal year into the postseason where he was by far the best Shark in their five-game series against St. Louis. Like with Boyle, albeit to a lesser extent, one wonders how much longer Thornton can keep up this level of play but if he can put together two more seasons anywhere in the neighborhood of his 11-12 to close out his current contract with the team, that will have been a steal of a deal.

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