Boston Bruins: 4 Reasons the Lockout Makes Tim Thomas' Return More Likely
When Tim Thomas announced his one year sabbatical from the NHL in June, he was planning on foregoing an 82-game slog. As the lockout drags on, threatening the length of the season, Tim Thomas might just be willing to give it another shot.
The Bruins are planning to move forward with the young and talented Tuukka Rask, who has served admirably as Thomas' understudy for several years now. However, Bruins fans have been reluctant to move on from Tim Thomas' glory days, which included two Vezina Trophies, a Conn Smythe and the 2011 Stanley Cup.
Here are a few reasons the 38-year-old goalie might reconsider sitting out:
A Shortened Season
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In June, Tim Thomas announced via Facebook that he needed to take time "to reconnect with the three F's: "Friends, Family and Faith." As hopes for an 82-game season become nearly extinguished, Thomas may have plenty of time on his hands regardless of his own decision.
Thomas made it very clear that he intended to stay in his usual outstanding shape. So supposing that the season could be shortened to 60 or even fewer games, Thomas may feel comfortable returning to the ice.
The grueling slate of games in a full regular season obviously detracts from one's home life. But after half-a-year away from hockey, Thomas could return in January or even later, having had sufficient time to devote to the relationships he has so often been forced to neglect in pursuit of NHL success.
In the event of a return, Thomas would most likely split action with Tuukka Rask, who has earned an increased role with several seasons of excellent backup play. He could start 20 to 30 games in the regular season, giving him just enough time to prepare for a grueling postseason.
Thomas certainly still has elite ability, so another shot at the Stanley Cup is likely worth six months of his time, even if he can no longer commit his entire life to the game of hockey.
Tuukka Rask's Health
As Tuukka Rask shoulders the load in net, the Bruins will desperately need him to stay healthy. Having lost one leg of what was arguably the NHL's best goaltending tandem, there is no longer a proven safety net in the Bruins' crease.
If Tuukka Rask is once again struck by the injury bug, the Bruins may beg on bended knee for Thomas to return.
Rask missed the final six weeks of last season with a severe groin injury. Groin injuries can be tricky, and often nag over long stretches of time. Bruins nation took a collective deep breath on October 23rd as Rask left a game in the Czech Republic with another groin injury.
Rask, who is spending the lockout with HC Plzen, supposedly just took a precautionary rest after feeling minor groin pain. The injury is not considered to be serious, but it certainly reminded the Bruins about the fragility of their goaltending situation.
If a championship-caliber Bruins team were to be stranded late in the season with no better goaltending option than Anton Khudobin, Tim Thomas could make a heroic return to salvage a season for his brothers in black and gold. Suddenly needed by his teammates more than ever, Thomas may have a change of heart.
In this scenario, Thomas would only have to play a limited number of games and could be seen as the Bruins savior, enhancing the legend status he has already earned.
The 2014 Sochi Olympics
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In 2010, Tim Thomas won a silver medal with Team USA in Vancouver, and despite his distaste for certain American politicians, he would be ecstatic to represent his country in Sochi come 2014.
With young American goalies like Jonathan Quick rapidly establishing themselves in the NHL, it is almost impossible to imagine Thomas making the team without playing this season. Thomas' reputation alone will not earn him a roster spot.
Olympic gold is practically the only prize that Thomas has not yet collected, and the goalie who has made a career out of proving people wrong must yearn for one more shot. Getting revenge against the Canadians, who took gold from the US on Sidney Crosby's overtime goal, or beating the Russians on their home ice would be one more feather in Thomas's impressive cap.
The US will have a reasonable shot to take gold in Sochi with Zach Parise and Patrick Kane once again leading the way. They could also be aided by Montreal Canadiens draft pick Alex Galchenyuk or even potential top pick Seth Jones.
Thomas' pride and competing levels are off the charts. His desire to wear red, white and blue one more time could drive him to return to Boston for one or two more years.
Another Shot at the Cup
Tim Thomas was sensational in the 2011 playoffs, as he backstopped the Bruins to their first championship in 39 years. For his efforts, he was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. Two years later, the Bruins have all of the necessary pieces to make another run at history.
With young stars Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand catching up to the NHL's elite and tremendous veteran leadership in Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron, the Bruins are well equipped to contend for a title in 2012-13. If the Bruins are riding high in the standings come spring time, Thomas could be tempted to get back in goal for another wild ride through the playoffs.
So few players get to go out on top. Tim Thomas might like to live that dream. A late season return ending in a second championship would be a spectacular finale to Thomas' incredible career.
Also, as the playoffs near, Thomas may begin to feel the lust for the Cup that resides deep within all of the game's greatest players. He may not be able to resist seeking Lord Stanley's Hardware just one more time.
As a two-time champion, not to mention two-time Vezina winner, Thomas would make a great case for the Hall of Fame despite his limited body of work.