Raeto Raffainer, Joe Thornton's general manager at HC Davos in Switzerland, thinks Jumbo Joe could be the veteran presence the Toronto Maple Leafs need in order to find success this upcoming season.
"When the coaching staff gives him a role, he'll be there," Raffainer told Sportsnet's Luke Fox. "The question is: Do you want to play him through all the games? He needs to find a way to help the organization jump this first playoff round. They will be smart with him. They know exactly what they bought with him. The fire in his eyes and his whole body to win something is going to be huge. And he will help this organization to win, that's for sure."
Thornton, who signed a one-year contract with Toronto this past offseason, has posted six points in six games while playing overseas in the National League. Although he's lost some speed, Raffainer believes Thornton's hockey IQ and off-ice habits will stand out.
"I've known him as a player for almost 20 years, so he's still the best in the league anticipating the game, seeing plays, and seeing people nobody else sees," Raffainer said. "(He's) so strong on the puck. Obviously, he's not the fastest anymore, but he's the smartest player that we have. And he's still so good at passing and on the (power play).
"That's one part of why I'm happy he's with us, but the other part is just his human skills. His energy. His happiness. And the way he's working out, coming in even when we give our group a day off. He's there. He's working out all the time and skating all the time, even when the other guys are home."
Thornton, who put up 31 points in 70 games for the San Jose Sharks last season, sits 14th on the all-time list with 1,509 points. He said in October that he joined the Leafs because they're "ready to win now."