Last week I did a piece on Patrick Marleau scoring his 500th goal that could make him a first ballot Hall of Famer, but what about fellow teammate Joe Thornton?
Thornton is a six time all star, an Olympic gold medalist, has won the hart trophy and the Art Ross trophy. The only thing missing on Thornton’s already impressive resume is Lord Stanley’s Cup. With Patrick Marleau falling under the same category, is Thornton destined to be a first ballot Hall of Famer, or will he have to wait for years to come?
As of right now, he has 380 career goals and 994 career assists. Closing in 1000 assists, he is 13th on the all time list. He is currently chasing Avalanche great Joe Sakic, who has 1,016. Thornton looks like he wants to play three to five more seasons, and certainly appears to have the ability to. So where does this put him on the list? If he keeps up this pace, he’ll pass Sakic, Lemieux, Dionne, Howe, Yzerman and Oates. All of those players are Hall of Famers.
When Thornton’s career is done, everyone expects him to be a Top 10 assist man and he has a chance to crack the top five. That might be tough (Jaromir Jagr is fifth with 1,139 and Ray Bourque has 1,169), but Sharks fans can definitely see him doing that, even if it isn’t in teal.
So does Thornton not winning a Stanley Cup (so far) hurt his chances of being a first ballot Hall of Famer? My answer: No. Thornton will be a first ballot Hall of Famer when his career ends. He has an easier path to the hall of fame than Marleau because of his accolades and stats. Los Angeles Kings great Marcel Dionne is in the Hall of Fame despite never winning a Cup, and Thornton will likely pass him on the all time assist list.
This question becomes moot if Thornton reaches 1500 points. He currently has 1374 points and if he plays three to five or more seasons, or more (watching Jagr play, it certainly seems possible), he looks on pace to pass that. That would put him 14th on the all time list, passing greats like Stan Mikita, Bryan Trottier, Doug Gilmour and Jari Kurri. All of those members, unsurprisingly, are in the Hall of Fame.
Thornton is already considered one of the great passers the league has ever seen. The assumption that he’ll likely be on the top 10 list for assists, solidifies his chances to be a first ballot Hall of Famer. Even if he doesn’t make 1000 assists (lol) he is still guaranteed a spot. If Thornton ever wins a Stanley Cup with the Sharks he’ll undoubtedly be on the first ballot. Whenever Jumbo decides to call it quits, three years afterwards he will inducted into the National Hockey League Hall of Fame in Toronto, Stanley Cup or not.