Want to see a great disappearing act? Just watch Joe Thornton in big games.
Thornton has been in the league for 12 seasons now. The story remains the same - strong regular season point producer, and terrible playoff performer.
Here's the stats breakdown
Goals Per Game
NHL Season - 0.32
NHL Playoffs - 0.15
Assists Per Game
NHL Season - 0.69
NHL Playoffs - 0.53
Points Per Game
NHL Season - 1.01
NHL Playoffs - 0.68
Those are some pretty significant drops.
It should not be surprising, I suppose. The playoffs are no place for perimeter players who are unwilling to pay the physical price to succeed and handle to pressures of winning. Pretty play makers with no grit get nowhere in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The maddening thing is, of course, Thornton is 6'4" and 235lbs. He should be able to handle the physical game. But he flat out refuses to pay the price and drive to the net, score the big goal and be the hero. He would rather set up shop on the boards, out of harm's way, and make cross ice passes.
Steve Yzerman and Hockey Canada better be taking note. I am sure they are. After a promising showing at the 2004 World Cup, Thornton was one of the worst players on a disappointing Canadian Olympic team in 2006. Without any Stanley Cup playoff success to suggest growth, and with a long list of talent to pick from, Hockey Canada has not forgotten.
Even more disappointing than his performance in big games is his leadership abilities.
Look at his comments after going down 2 games to 0 against Anaheim. He showed no sense of urgency, just offering reassurance that if they just keep doing what they are doing "it will come."
Compare that to Calgary's Jarome Iginla. Also down 2 games to 0, an angry Iginla challenged his teammates to be better and to get the job done.
And After falling behind 3 games to 1 in game four, Thornton avoided the media altogether, slipping out the back door.
Who would you rather have on your team?
If there is a common trait Canadians will want to see on their 2010 Olympic team it will be big game players and leaders. Joe Thornton may be the highest scoring player this decade, but he will not be on the 2010 Canadian Olympic team.