NHL Betting: Why Maple Leafs Needed To Sign Joe Thornton
Joe Thornton returns to the lineup.

“Jumbo” Joe Thornton has had an illustrious career. He has been playing world-class hockey for twenty-two seasons and continues to contribute despite his age and numerous achievements. At an age where many players retire to greener pastures, Thornton has decided to give it another season. This time with the Toronto Maple Leafs, a team that many consider a cup contender and a strong betting option heading into the 2020-21 NHL season.

Toronto Signs Joe Thorton

The Maple Leafs signed Thornton at the opening of free agency. A one-year deal at the NHL league minimum of $700,000. That’s a far cry from the last three one-year deals which saw him paid an average of $5 million by the San Jose Sharks but puts him in a position for one last cup run with a more competitive Toronto team.

While the signing didn’t change this season’s hockey betting futures much, it did add a veteran presence to a young team that many people believe could go all the way this season. The Leafs are now stacked with three overall first-round picks playing down the middle in Thornton (#1, 1997, Boston Bruins), John Tavaras (#1, 2009, New York Islanders), and Auston Matthews (#1, 2016, Toronto Maple Leafs).

Thornton’s Resume

After playing two years in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, Joe Thornton was drafted first overall in the 1997 draft by the Boston Bruins. Thornton played eight seasons for the Bruins but was traded mid-season in 2005-06 to the San Jose Sharks for defenceman Brad Stuart, and forwards Marco Sturm and Wayne Primeau.

On the international stage, playing for Canada, Joe Thornton has won:

  • 1997 World Junior Championship Gold Medal
  • 2004 and 2016 Canada Cup Gold Medal
  • 2005 World Championship Silver Medal
  • 2010 Winter Olympics Gold Medal

At the NHL level:

  • NHL All-Star 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2009
  • Won the Art Ross Trophy in 2006
  • Won the Hart Memorial Trophy in 2006
  • NHL First All-Star in 2006
  • NHL Second All-Star 2003, 2008, and 2016.

Thornton is currently 14th in all-time in NHL history with 1509 points (420 goals and 1089 assists). He narrowly trails Paul Coffey (1,531) and Mark Recchi (1,533) and could finish 12th all-time with a decent season.

Thornton’s Impact

While Thornton is originally an Ontario native, he’s said his move to Toronto was 1-percent Mom and Dad, but 99-percent hockey.

“I think this team is ready to win now. I’m ready to win. This team is a very, very good team. I need to win a Stanley Cup.” ~ Joe Thornton

There is no doubt that the Leafs are competitive. They have solid pieces everywhere. Four world-class forwards in Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander, a back end that’s anchored with Morgan Rielly and includes veterans T.J. Brodie and Jake Muzzin, and a very competent Frederik Andersen in goal. However, good teams don’t always reach the summit.

Toronto has coveted Thornton for three years, and they’re hoping his veteran leadership can lift them to the next step. But for a young team, the Leafs get old rather fast when it comes to their bottom-six forwards. Thornton is expected to see time with Wayne Simmonds (32) and/or Jason Spezza (37) and will be expected to produce at even strength.

Time on the second power-play unit is likely where Thornton will see the most success. He’s still one of the best pure passers in the league, particularly when set up in the zone.

Hockey Futures Impact

The Maple Leafs opened at a 20-1 underdog to win the 2021 Stanley Cup and adding Joe Thornton didn’t do much to budge that number.

Currently, the defending Stanley Cup Champion, Tampa Bay Lightning are the +600 favorites to repeat, with the Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights at +700 at the time of this writing. The Leafs also sit behind the Boston Bruins (+1200), Philadelphia Flyers (+1600), and the Washington Capitals (+1600), and are even with the St. Louis Blues, Vancouver Canucks, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Dallas Stars at +2000.