San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton is firing back after general manager Doug Wilson told season-ticket holders that Thornton was stripped of the team captaincy because the pressure and stress became too much.
"I think Doug just needs to shut his mouth," Thornton told the San Jose Mercury News on Friday.
"All I've got to say is I've been here every day working hard. I haven't taken a sabbatical. He just needs to stop lying, shut his mouth," Thornton told the newspaper.
On Thursday, when talking about why the captain's "C" was taken from Thornton, Wilson told about 350 season-ticket holders, according to the Mercury News, "He cares about the game so much. The reason we took the 'C' off him ... Joe carries the weight of the team on his shoulders and he's got such a big heart that when stress comes on him, he lashes out at people and it kind of impacts them.
"The pressure and stress, I felt, was getting to Joe. And I sat him down and said we need other players to step up and share this. He got it. He didn't like it, but he got it and he understood it."
Wilson, when contacted by CSNCalifornia.com, played down Thornton's comments.
"If he's got an issue, he knows exactly where I am, and I'll be glad to talk to him about it," Wilson told CSNCalifornia.com. "There's zero issue here. I was asked a question at a season-ticket holder function, and my response was to do my job and be accountable to our season-ticket holders and tell the truth. It's nothing I haven't said before."
Thornton was stripped of the captaincy in the summer, with the Sharks coming off a first-round playoff elimination that came after they blew a 3-0 series lead, only the fourth time such a comeback has occurred in the history of the NHL. The boiling over comes as the Sharks fight for a playoff spot in the tough Western Conference.