Justified or not, Joe Thornton has become the poster child for postseason futility in the NHL, leading to the creation of TradeJoeThornton.com (be careful what you wish for).
In his 11-year career with Boston and San Jose, Thornton has yet to play beyond the second round of the playoffs, while his production hasn't quite matched his lofty regular season totals. Despite his perceived postseason struggles, he stills cracks my top-10 as one of the elite players in the NHL.
There's no question that Thornton has had his share of postseason clunkers. His first appearance in 1997-98, as an 18-year-old rookie, saw him go scoreless in six games. He was also shutout in seven games in 2003-04, his final appearance with the Bruins. Since joining the Sharks he's registered 35 points in 41 postseason games, and has led the team in postseason scoring the past three seasons.
The Bruins selected Thornton with the No. 1 overall pick in 1998 (one pick before San Jose selected his future teammate, Patrick Marleau), and after spending parts of eight seasons in Boston, he was traded to San Jose on November 30, 2005, for Marco Sturm, Brad Stuart and Wayne Primeau. Talent-for-talent, it was, and still is, a steal for the Sharks and the type of trade proposal that would get you kicked out of your fantasy hockey league. Fortunately, the Bruins were able to salvage the underwhelming return by packaging Stuart, Primeau and a draft pick to Calgary for Chuck Kobasew and Andrew Ference in February, 2007.
While he's yet to get his name scratched on Lord Stanley's Cup, he has won the Art Ross Trophy as the league's leading scorer, the Hart Trophy as league MVP, and has led the league in assists three times. One of the best playmaking centers and puck distributors in the league, Thornton has twice registered at least 90 assists in a single season. Just to put that into perspective, consider the following:
1) The 90-assist plateau has been reached just 30 times in NHL history.
2) Prior to Thornton achieving that mark during the 2005-06 season, it had not been done since Mario Lemieux and Ron Francis during the 1995-96 season.
3) Only five players have ever recorded 90 assists two or more times in their career: Thornton (twice), Adam Oates (twice), Bobby Orr (twice), Mario Lemieux (five times), and Wayne Gretzky (13 times). Ron Francis, Peter Stastny, Paul Coffey, Doug Gilmour, Steve Yzerman and Paf Lafontaine all accomplished it once.
And now, your obligatory YouTube video...