Tim Thomas Puts Boston Bruins in Bind by Taking Year off
Tim Thomas was the architect behind the Boston Bruins' 2011 run to the Stanley Cup championship. He was rewarded with the Conn Smythe Trophy and further built his iconic status in Boston.
A second consecutive Stanley Cup title seemed within reach when the Bruins went 21-2-1 in November and December and clearly looked like the best team in the league again. The team eventually cooled down, but the Bruins were clearly one of the prime contenders for the title.
A first-round playoff matchup with the Washington Capitals didn't appear to be much more than a low hurdle to overcome. But the Capitals were the hungrier team, and they pushed the Bruins to seven games. When Joel Ward knocked home Mike Knuble's rebound in overtime, the Bruins headed off for an early summer vacation.
As general manager Peter Chiarelli prepared for the offseason, he got a strange message from Thomas. The goalie cited personal issues—friends, family and faith—and said he was thinking about taking the 2012-13 season off.
Shortly thereafter, Thomas took to his Facebook page to confirm the news. It was a shocking decision that will put the Bruins in a significant hole.
In addition to his playoff MVP award (the Conn Smythe Trophy), Thomas has also won two Vezina Trophies as the top goaltender in the league. While he is 38, he is still playing at a very high level.
Backup goalie Tuukka Rask is a very competent player who should perform adequately at the position. He recorded a 1.97 goals against average in 2009-10 when Thomas was slowed by a hip injury, but he does not have Thomas's playoff pedigree.
Thomas is certainly within his rights to take a year off, but the practicality of a 38-year-old athlete taking the time off and then return in the future is questionable.
It's also a move that will hurt the team. Thomas's $5 million salary is on the books for the Bruins, and unless new terms are spelled out in the next collective bargaining agreement, the Bruins will not be able to use that cash to add to their roster.
Thomas is guaranteed legendary status in Boston after leading the Bruins to their first Stanley Cup in 39 years. However, his decision to take a year off when the team should be a prime contender will not help his status with his teammates, coaches, management or fans.
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