My Thoughts On Thornton, Marleau, and The Sharks Future (DR, Part Three)

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Here is the third and final part in the blog-series Diverging Realities. You can read Part One here, and Part Two here. Please enjoy part three!

After the first two parts of Diverging Realities where I talked about the all the divides and contradictions among fans in terms of what other people believe, some of you reading may have had the thought, WELL WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IN, EXACTLY! WHO ARE YOU! DO YOU EVEN BELIEVE IN ANYTHING AT ALL?

So to answer that thought, well… Hi, I’m Shark Circle. And I believe in marmalade on a hot summer’s day.

Oh, you meant when it comes to hockey? And in this case, analyzing the Sharks? How about, I believe in… noticing what happens in the moment, and then what that moment turns into the past, I believe in remembering what I noticed. Because, you see, memories in sports can be fickle. Especially complex sports like hockey. There are hundreds of “events” every game (thousands, really), so most people don’t remember the details of a playoff series that happened five years ago. It’s not like football where you can just point to a couple of plays that decided the Superbowl or a playoff game. But for all the “fancy” stats available today, I remember some “simple” stats, not to mention performances, from past playoff-years that have colored my opinions on Joe Thornton and Patrick Marlaeu as much as anything else. And I noticed them simply from paying attention to the games back when they happened.

I remember that Dion Phaneuf outscored Thornton and Marleau in a 2008-playoff series where the Flames came one great Jeremy Roenick performance away from eliminating the Sharks. I remember (with 99% certainty, anyway) that Mike Ribeiro, Brenden Morrow, and Brad Richards all did the same in the very next series, winning the first three games and eliminating the Sharks in six. Most people don’t remember those details. But most Sharks fans don’t need to remember the details of five years ago when they’ve seen similar stories unfold every single year. They know the overall truth it points to. It’s only when you have a set of stats in the present, selectively looked at, that tell you a completely different story, that some people start to have the events they observed overruled. Because then they’re forced to see if they can come up with counter-statistics, but those aren’t in front of them. They exist only in the details, which can be hard to remember and even harder to look up. And when they can’t remember, it’s only all to easy to succumb to the narrative that’s most readily in front of them. Finding a stat that says Thornton had a good corsi this year, or that Marleau has scored more playoff goals since whatever year, is easy. Thornton and Marleau defenders have those locked and loaded at their keyboards, ready to go, at all times. It’s much harder to look up, or even remember to look up, how well Thornton and Marleau did in relation to the top players they went up against in the playoffs four or five years ago, which is actually what matters most when it comes to advancing in the playoffs.

It’s like if someone asked you to name ten reasons why you didn’t like the George W Bush presidency. While it was still happening and you were there in the moment, things probably happened every week that you disagreed with. And that’s probably not unique to just that presidency. But now that it’s over, can you really point to anything wrong with him besides the Iraq War, the Patriot Act, that 9/11 happened, Katrina, and that he was… slow? I mean that’s a pretty long list in itself for one president, but you can only name those things because they were such major things that happened. And maybe you can name the Pretzel-choking episode because it was such a big story. But what about the details, week-to-week? The gaffes or mistakes he made that didn’t become such huge stories like Pretzel-gate did? The lesser bills he signed? You probably don’t remember most of those details now. But you remember how you felt back then. And you know you had your reasons for feeling that way. Even if you can’t name them all now, you know they existed, and you know they were valid.

The details matter. Especially in hockey. Even if you can’t remember all of them from five years ago, they matter, especially when you’re trying to make sense of what might be the most nuanced, mysterious trivia question hockey fans will ask about this era of the NHL twenty years from now: “what exactly was the story with Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and the San Jose Sharks?”

And for my money, anyone who takes the time to look back over what’s happened the last ten years in Sharks hockey, whether they currently argue for or against Thornton and Marleau’s career playoff resume, will know what most Sharks fans are talking about when they say those two have repeatedly disappointed in the playoffs. What we now think of as just “details,” just history, were at one point entire playoff series and post-seasons, entire elimination games where Thornton and Marleau could have controlled their own destinies had they performed, where the Sharks could have progressed towards their first Stanley Cup. These weren’t tiny details at all back then. We forget that now when we simply look at their career numbers and calculate how their total production ranks. We forget how a Flames team with very little talent almost eliminated the Sharks in large part because Thornton and Marleau let a defenseman outscore them. We forget how the old, well-past-his-prime former-leader of the Sharks, Owen Nolan, played almost as big a role in that series for the Flames as the current leaders for the Sharks, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, did for the Sharks in their primes. If you’ve ever wondered why some Sharks fans pine for the previous era of Sharks hockey led by Owen Nolan and Mike Ricci, maybe that’s why. Maybe it’s more than nostalgia. And in game seven of that series, it wasn’t Thornton and Marleau who saved the team’s bacon, it was public enemy number one among Marleau and Thornton-defenders, Jeremy Roenick, likewise well past his prime. Those faded stars of bygone days showed up just as much or more when it counted than Thornton and Marleau did at their peaks. Maybe we should have caught onto that. Maybe we should have caught on when Doug Wilson signed a 43-year-old Claude Lemieux to come in and bring something Thornton and Marleau apparently weren’t bringing. It’s almost as if Doug Wilson had more faith in these faded veterans from another era to battle and elevate their postseason-games at fifty-percent than he did in Thornton and Marleau at one-hundred. Maybe we should have caught onto those things. Most seem to have forgotten them now. And the next series after Calgary it wasn’t Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau, the biggest stars on the ice, who performed as series-standouts, it was Brenden Morrow with half the talent. It was Mike Ribeiro and Brad Richards, also a little bit passed his prime. While teams like the Red Wings would regularly dominate their 1st round series back then when they were supposed to, like against the Columbus Blue Jackets, we forget how Thornton and Marleau never could. Teams we were supposed to dominate, like the Calgary Flames or Dallas Stars, either pushed us to the brink or outright eliminated us. Teams we were supposed to beat in tight series, like the Anaheim Ducks in 2009 (more on that later), would regularly beat us. All that history is set in stone now, but back then it wasn’t. Each was a moment that held great promise for the Sharks to move forward, and the Sharks, led by Thornton and Marleau, came up short in almost every single one. We tend to forget now just how many they were.

And what about the year before the unacceptable performances against Calgary and Dallas? Eliminated by the Red Wings in 6, couldn’t buy a goal, Thornton and Marleau were completely dominated by Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, and Mike Grier came the closest to scoring in the elimination game out of anyone off a giveaway from behind the Red Wings net. That was a home game. I was at that game. Thornton and Marleau didn’t get within 20 feet of scoring a goal al night. Not even on the power-play.

Or what about the year after? “Best team in franchise history” eliminated in the first round to the Anaheim Ducks. Thornton and Marleau, the leaders of our team, again dominated by the equivalent players on the opposition, this time Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Even a rookie by the name of Bobby Ryan was able to outperform them. The same Bobby Ryan who was left on the US Olympic team last year because of a reputation that he doesn’t play with any extra level of intensity. But whatever the criticisms of Ryan, even he, as a rookie, knew how to make himself more visible than Thornton and Marleau.

Those opportunities can never be retrieved. They are in the past. They could have ended differently for the Sharks, better, but Thornton and Marleau were consistently outplayed by the top players on the opposing teams, and you’re never going to win a Cup when your best players are being outplayed with regularity.

Have Thornton and Marleau performed better in stretches, maybe from 2010 to 2012? Yes, but they still got outplayed by their equivalents on the Canucks in the 2011, the Sedin twins. They’ve just never been better, in any given year, than the top players on the other best team, or teams, in the Western Conference, let alone the boogeymen out East like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Even oft-concussed Andy Mcdonald outplayed them in 2011-2012, far past his best days, one year from retirement! Yet again a player from a previous era, and not even a superstar one at that, plays better at 70% of his best than Thornton and Marleau in their primes, at 100%.

Plus it’s misleading to just mention that Thornton and Marleau have been “better lately” when in reality, so has everyone else. It’s 2014. The game may not be “better than ever” like Gary Bettman would have you believe in terms of skilled play and entertainment, but the level of team-defense, back-checking, and shot blocking that is taught and required now of NHL teams is certainly higher than it’s ever been. Joe Thornton hasn’t figured out anything in his thirties that Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Toews, Ryan Getzlaf, and Patrice Bergeron didn’t all figure out in their early twenties. And then you have players like Patrick Kane who really never “figured out” how to play “playoff hockey” to perfection, but who succeed in the playoffs anyway because they just have that “it factor” that, it has always been my belief, Patrick Marleau, at the very least, has always been missing. When players do well for your team, it’s easy to forget sometimes that there is a difference between “stars” and “superstars.” And that’s a talent thing. John Stockton and Karl Malone were great, but they weren’t Michael Jordan, to give a really obvious and unsubtle example. And I’d trade Jumbo and Patty for the NHL-equivalents of Stockton and Malone in a heartbeat. When I watch Marleau skate, I marvel in awe of his talent, every time. Then when I catch some old highlights of Mike Modano in his prime, I remember: there are different levels of “good” or “great,” and Marleau is not a superstar like Mike Modano was. And Modano managed what, one Cup? And that’s because even Modano had questions about him for much of his career. Even Modano wasn’t necessarily Peter Forsberg, for example. I mean I’m picking at straws here because Mike Modano is pretty damn good, so who knows, it’s hard to really put anyone above him. But Forsberg? Sakic? The safest way to put it is simply that Modano could not match Forsberg and Sakic, together, in their primes. And Patrick Roy. And that’s understandable. But to his credit, he still won a Cup. He was still on that level. On his best day he could match Forsberg or Sakic, and maybe outduel Yzerman or Federov.

Patrick Marleau, while an excellent hockey player, is not on Mike Modano’s level in terms of talent. Both were amazing skaters, but not all amazing skaters are created equal, either. Modano simply had the “it factor” Marleau’s never had. The power forward skills to go along with that, sometimes, even if he wasn’t a big hitter for most of his career. And Marleau has never had that level of talent even though he is one of the more talented players in the NHL. But there are different levels. I would rather have Nathan Mackinnon for one Cup run, even at the age of 19 in only his second NHL season, than Patrick Marleau in his prime. Is Mackinnon even the league MVP or anything? No. But I see that “specialness” to him already. That’s just one example. You can compare him to the best players of the current era as well. Is Marleau as talented as Patrick Kane? No. He’s bigger, has a better shot, but Kane is quicker, more skilled, more creative, and just more dynamic all around at everything besides finishing, basically. What about Malkin? No, Malkin has more physical talent than pretty much anyone. Crosby? No. Stamkos? No. Kopitar? No. Carter? I’d take him now over Marleau in a heartbeat. Toews? Giroux? Seguin?? Jamie Benn? I’d take Benn. Corey Perry? Pretty much just as skilled as Marleau even if he’s not quite as fast, but with way more of a physical, power-forward game. I’d take him. Getzlaf? Same.

So the list goes on and on. Marleau is a great player, and a great talent, but even the talent part isn’t top 20 in the NHL. You could end the analysis there if you like, but then when you add in all the smoke that has followed him for most of his career regarding his leadership and work ethic in the playoffs, I think you have to factor that in, too.

So, as usual, there are factors both physical and mental to blame for Marleau’s past playoff disappointments, but the bottom line is that pretty much every time he (and Joe) went up against the champions of his era during their primes, whether it be Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, and Justin Williams these past two postseasons, or even Marian Gaborik this year, or Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Pavel Datsyuk, and Henrik Zetterberg in past seasons, those players almost always outplayed him (and Joe). Marleau had that one good series against the Blackhawks in 2010 where he cashed in on a lot of open-net goals, and there’s maybe one series against the Red Wings later in Datsyuk and Zetterberg’s reign when they were both suffering from injuries and Franzen didn’t play where some might say Marleau matched them, although I would argue they were still better (let’s face it, every time Datsyuk steps foot on the ice, it doesn’t matter how many points he puts up, he’s just better, always. Which is the problem!), but other than that, it’s pretty much been a white-wash. And even in the 2010 series against the Blackhawks, Marleau still wasn’t the best player on the ice. Once again he got outplayed by someone making considerably less against the cap than him, this time Dustin Byfuglien. And those names don’t even count all the non-champions who outplayed him. Just because Ribeiro and Morrow didn’t go on to win a Cup afterwards doesn’t make the fact they outperformed Marleau and Joe en route to eliminating the Sharks in 2008 and preventing the Sharks’ chance at the Cup any less palatable. That was another year that was supposed to be “ours.” And the advanced stats people arguing that the Kings’ Cup win this year makes our elimination against them more palatable would argue (if they were actually consistent) that being performed by non-champions is even worse. Well, that’s just common sense, actually, but I wanted to slip in that dichotomy.

As for Joe, he has the type of skill set that is so unique, it benefits by avoiding comparisons. Is he Crosby or Modano? No, but then again he’s not supposed to be. He was supposed to be some awesome mix of Mario Lemieux, Keith Primeau, and Wayne Gretzky that a very unique team could be built around. But at the end of the day you have to look at overall impact, not the style or skill set with which its delivered, and has Thornton’s impact ever been that of the true great superstars, other than 2005-2006 when the NHL was still adjusting to the new rules? He’s been closer than Marleau has, that’s for sure, with two 100-plus point seasons in his career and four 90-plus seasons. But would I have ever taken Thornton in his prime over Forsberg or Sakic in their primes? No. What about even Pavel Datsyuk? No. Henrik Zetterberg? No. Crosby? No. What about just in his division? He and Getzlaf faced off during both their primes, and Getzlaf was significantly better. Kopitar has beat him with the Kings in the playoffs both times he’s been healthy and dressed for the team. And let’s remember, Gretzky scored 92 goals in a season. Thornton’s lucky to get 92 shots. Too many Sharks fans complain about that all year long, and then completely forget to connect it to his playoff failings at the end of the year. Why can’t he get it done? What’s he missing that the other stars aren’t? What could it possibly be? Well haven’t you already identified that he’s one of the only star forwards who doesn’t shoot? Even the advanced stats fans make that observation. So why aren’t they making the connection? Instead, when he disappoints in the playoffs, they just call it luck. Sample size. There’s nothing else it could be! No? You noticed a unique aspect of his game, right? And you complain about it, right? Well, why? Because it’s a good thing? No. Because it’s a flaw in his game. Yes? Yes. So if it’s a flaw in his game, doesn’t it stand to reason that maybe it could be affecting his playoff performance? That his flaws are being exposed against a greater level of competition in the playoffs, as has been known to happen in the playoffs? Just saying. Details. Details.

But overall on the talent side of things, the difference between Thornton and Marleau is that while there seems to exist shortcomings in leadership, or whatever you want to call it, how about the mental side of the game and the ability to elevate their games in the postseason, with both of them, Thornton is the one who I feel like had the talent to truly be a close to a superstar. Or at least he did in his prime. Obviously it seems that neither has fulfilled their physical potential completely when it comes to performing in the playoffs, but it’s not like Marleau was ever going to quite be Peter Forsberg or Pavel Bure, in my opinion. Thornton, however, probably did come into the NHL with the potential to make the same kind of mark as Joe Sakic and Steve Yzerman did, to name two names, even if it would have been with a different style of play.

But he hasn’t. He’s even struggled to come out on top against the top centers in his division, Kopitar and Getzlaf. How are you going to lead your team to the Cup, which goes to the best team in the league, if you can’t even outplay the guys in your division? Too often, Thornton’s star has been outshone by the star across from him. Hockey is more of a team game than a game like basketball so the hope is always that you can compensate for that type of star-discrepancy with greater depth, but that difference still matters. Was Calgary’s depth really better than the Sharks in 2008? Because they almost beat us. Was the Stars? And even if it was, would it have mattered if Jumbo and Patty had even been able to match Mike Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow, who weren’t exactly world beaters anyway? The Blues have had better depth than anyone the last few years, but the Kings and Blackhawks were able to beat them anyway because their stars were better. And I’m not even saying this has been the case for most of those series, but sometimes you just have to play well enough to win regardless. We were never going to beat the Red Wings on paper in 2008 at their peak, when they had a top-three defense of Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, and Nicklas Kronwall, all in their primes. And when Darren Helm and Johan Franzen were both enjoying the healthiest seasons of their careers. The only way possible was if Thornton and Marleau played out of their minds. And that’s one of the years where, if they had lost to Detroit, you could have put just as much blame on Doug Wilson’s shoulders. But unfortunately, Jumbo and Patty couldn’t even get by Dallas first. They couldn’t get past superstars Mike “Behavioral Problems” Ribeiro and Brenden “Wheels” Morrow.

And even if advanced stats people want to put all the blame on Wilson now and say he never gave them, for instance, a top-three defense of Lidstrom, Rafalski, and Kronwall to play in front of, well then why did all the advanced stats Sharks fans “laud” him for the last decade? Because 2008 was right smack in the middle of that lauding period. Not to mention every other Stanley Cup champion since the lockout except for Anaheim managed to win without a defense that compared favorably to that one.

There is always an excuse, and the only time anyone ever gets blamed is when it is to deflect blame away from someone else. That stacked Red Wings team was just one example. Jumbo and Patty had Dan Boyle, Rob Blake, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Christian Ehrhoff as a top-four to play in front of the very next season and they still couldn’t make it out of the first round that year.

The bottom line is that Thornton and Marleau have been outplayed by the equivalent-players across from them in the playoffs, especially against the best teams, much more often than not. The quality of the rest of the players on the roster, that is Doug Wilson’s responsibility, but the playoff performance of Thornton and Marleau against the comparable players with the comparable salaries and cap-hits on the other team is their responsibility. And, if they’re also the captains of the team, which they both have been during Wilson’s tenure here, then the cohesion and performance of the rest of the team is partially their responsibilities as well, in addition to their own performances. And with Doug Wilson revealing that the players in Thornton and Marleau’s locker room felt more like co-workers than teammates, and with Rob Blake saying in retrospect after he retired that the Sharks just never elevated their play in the postseason, it would seem that Thornton and Marleau haven’t been performing as well as the competition when it comes to leadership, culture, team-cohesion, or playoff-elevation, either. The fact that they were also powerless to prevent the Sharks’ historic collapse against the Kings, despite having four separate opportunities to find a way to elevate their own play or the play of the team enough to get just one win, also suggests those criticisms are valid.

But even when you put the captaincy concerns and team-cohesion concerns aside, there’s not much Doug Wilson can do that’s going to make a difference so long as the two best players on his team consistently get outperformed as individuals on the ice by the best players on the opposing teams every postseason. And that goes for Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski the next few years the same as it’s gone for Thornton and Marleau the last ten. It’s a cliché but it’s the truth: in the playoffs, your best players have to be your best players. And more than that, they have to be better than the other team’s best players. Thornton and Marleau have failed more at that last aspect of the equation than anything else.

How much of the failure was physical versus mental, I don’t know. I’m sure the team didn’t benefit from feeling like co-workers rather than teammates, though, or having leaders who at best you would have to characterize as “not among the best of their era,” or who weren’t committed enough, or who were lacking whatever it is they needed to raise their level of play in the playoffs even just enough to steal one game out of four against the Kings, which I keep going back to.

It’s clear that there many factors have been at play affecting the playoff-careers of Thornton and Marleau, and the Sharks under their leadership. But the result is that Thornton and Marleau were never able to consistently match the level of playoff-performance that we’ve seen true superstars reach in the past, whether that be Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Pavel Bure, or even Brad Richards during his Smythe-winning season, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier the same year, Eric Staal and Rod Brind’amour during their Cup year, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and even Johan Franzen during their prime years… I mean some of these names aren’t even superstars anymore, but still the level they reached in the playoffs, Thornton and Marleau could never reach, at least not so far, not for more than one game at a time. Ryan Getzlaf. Anze Kopitar. Evgeni Malkin won the Smythe with a fantastic postseason in 2009. He is a true superstar, and I’ve just never seen Marleau or Thornton play at that dynamic level in the playoffs.

Could Doug Wilson have done more? Definitely! My point is just that with the way Thornton and Marleau have played for most of the playoff series during Doug Wilson’s tenure as Sharks GM, he has always been fighting an uphill battle where he’s had to try to engineer a team that could over-compensate for its top-line forwards getting outplayed by the other team’s top-line forwards (whether they went head-to-head or not, the production matters) a majority of the time. And since the idea of trading Marleau and Thornton has been has been the biggest discussion-point this offseason among the Sharks fan base, particularly among the #fancystats-segment of “Sharks fans” who actually seem to be rooting primarily for Thornton and Marleau at this point instead of the Sharks, I wanted to address the forgotten “details” of their playoff-histories with the Sharks. And I didn’t even touch on the Edmonton Oilers series, where a core of Oilers players that largely hasn’t been heard from since outside of Pronger also outplayed the Sharks stars. Losing Milan Michalek should not be an excuse to completely disappear and let the series slip away.

So what would I do with Marleau and Thornton? WHAT DO I BELIEVE IN? It’s an impossible question to answer because of the butterfly effect. If I was in charge, the team would look very different to begin with, so the circumstances would be different, which would make this decision different. What if I took over as GM right now? Even that’s hard to answer because the moves I would make in the trade market outside of what I decided about Thornton and Marleau, and in free agency, would no doubt be completely different from whatever Doug Wilson decides to do, and they would be impossible to separate from my decisions on Thornton and Marleaul. But none of us know what Wilson is going to do exactly so it’s impossible to say.

Do I believe Thornton and Marleau can still perform as good, valuable players next year? Yes. Do I believe the Sharks could win the Cup next year with them on the roster, if the rest of the roster was good enough? I believe any team can win the Cup with any two players on their roster, provided the other 18 are good enough. Canada won an Olympic Gold medal with them at the bottom of the roster, so certainly the Sharks could win a Cup with them on the roster as well, provided the locker room wasn’t just completely toxic as a result of all the culture issues Doug Wilson has alluded to with Joe Thornton in charge of the locker room. But for those looking to put off the retool for as long as possible, I believe it already started with the departure of Dan Boyle. Now Brent Burns is moving back to defense, and that’s where the rebuild is really going to start, with rebuilding Burns as a defenseman.

If I was Sharks GM, I would have done a lot of things differently. I would have signed depth players like Benoit Pouliot and Anton Stralman, whose talent I identified a few years ago, to cap-friendly deals before they were well-known. I would have tried to trade for Jeff Carter despite his front-loaded contract, something Wilson has always been against. And the list goes on. So the team would look completely different, and maybe under those circumstances, with Jeff Carter as part of the core, I would bring Thornton and Marleau back because the depth would be there to contend for the Cup next season without them to perform to the level of other team’s $7M forwards, not to mention LA wouldn’t be anywhere near as strong without Carter.

But this is the perspective of an outsider who knows nothing of culture that’s been fermenting between the players in Joe Thornton’s locker room, formally Patrick Marleau’s locker room. Maybe if I knew what Doug Wilson knew, maybe if any of us knew what he knew, we would do the exact same as he says he’s planning to. And as things stand now, with Doug Wilson as General Manager, I believe the rebuild has already started. Thornton and Marleau are 34-years-old and soon to be on the decline. The locker room culture is a mess and the team has been conditioned to expect playoff-disappointment. The team’s best offensive defenseman of the last five years is not returning to the team, and Joe Thornton’s best line-mate is leaving Thornton’s flank and moving back to the blue-line to reacclimate to the position he was initially acquired to play to replace him.

In other words, the wheels have already been set in motion.

So that’s how I see the Sharks situation at large, specifically with Jumbo and Patty. I know some #fancystats Sharks fans will disagree, although I hope after reading my thoughts here that they will understand the criticisms most have about Thornton and Marleau, as well as what’s happened with the fan base (Part Two). But as I talked about in Part Two, it feels like many in this small group of #fancystats fans who call themselves Sharks fans are not even rooting for the Sharks versus the 29 other teams anymore, so for those fans, there’s probably nothing that will convince them to let go of the fallacies they’ve constructed around those two players. These specific fans have become deeply, deeply invested in the fate of these two players’ continued-careers in San Jose through years of manipulating false narratives in their favor. And if the players don’t live up to those false-narratives or false realities, which they haven’t up until now, or if it turns out they’ve run out of chances to with the sharks, then the fact that these fans manipulated those narratives will become common knowledge, and these fans will have to admit that the reality they created is actually a fallacy, not just to everyone else, which would be difficult enough for such an assured segment of the fan base with so much pride built-up from all that group-reinforcement, but worst of all to themselves. In that sense, they are facing the end of their very own hockey-reality that they’ve built around Thornton and Marleau within the Sharks fan base, and they are desperate to prevent that from happening. That’s why they will say anything to convince people Thornton and Marleau should stay in San Jose, from continuing to spread fallacies about them to threatening to cancel their season tickets, to everything in between. For me, the situation with the Sharks as a whole, and the solutions, aren’t black and white like that. But I do know that the criticisms Sharks fans have had about Thornton and Marleau on the ice over nearly the last decade are real, no matter how these fans try to get around that fact. And from what Doug Wilson has said, it sounds like the criticisms about their leadership off the ice have some weight, too.

Thanks for reading! This concludes the three-part blog series Diverging Realities. “As God as my witness, I’ll never go writing again!”

Written by Shark Circle

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