This isn’t good.
Joe Thornton’s injury is to his right MCL. He is out at least “several weeks,” per Doug Wilson. Team waiting for results of MRI.— Kevin Kurz (@KKurzNHL) January 24, 2018
As reported by Kevin Kurz of The Athletic, Joe Thornton will be out for several weeks with a right MCL injury. The injury came in the dying minutes of Jets vs. Sharks on January 23. As the play moved back into San Jose’s end, Mikkel Boedker got tied up with a Jets player and ended up falling down. As Boedker slid, he took out Thornton from the right side and toppled the big pivot. Thornton was in immediate pain as he got to his feet and headed off the ice and directly to the locker room. Jumbo did not return to the bench for the overtime period.
There is no two ways around what this means. This is a potentially catastrophic loss for San Jose heading into the home stretch of the season. Thornton is an integral part of the San Jose offense, including playing key minutes on the power play. If Joe is sidelined for longer than “several weeks,” it will require a complete team effort to mitigate his loss. Thornton is second on the team in total points, and on the “With or Without You” chart, (credit to Micah McCurdy, @IneffectiveMath) the Sharks are a good team with Thornton on the ice and an average one when he is on the bench.
Going forward without Thornton probably has two likely paths. The first path isi that San Jose treads water and maintains their status as a playoff team in the Pacific. This is reasonable, as the division is not great around them and they currently hold a points and games in hand advantage over Los Angeles and Anaheim. If San Jose can find a way to stay in the playoffs, it will be a big success heading into the playoffs and could help galvanize the team.
The second path is far darker. Without Thornton, San Jose could spiral out of control, as the roster cannot make up for the Jumbo sized hole in the lineup. The Sharks in this scenario would slide, and slide hard, and fall out of the playoffs and behind Calgary, Anaheim, Los Angeles, and potentially Edmonton as the season unravels. This could also trigger a deadline sell-off of assets as San Jose looks to the future and begins a rebuild, either on-the-fly or full tear down.
Also, without Thornton, San Jose is going to need to ice some new line combinations, as the Thornton-Pavelski pair has stuck together over several seasons.
It will be a very interesting time in the Bay as we learn what San Jose will be able to do in the face of some big time adversity.