Tim Thomas Will Always Be a Boston Legend, Despite Sad Ending to Bruins Career

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Tim Thomas Will Always Be a Boston Legend, Despite Sad Ending to Bruins Career
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Not every story has a happy ending.

Tim Thomas became a hero in Boston after he led the Bruins to their first Stanley Cup championship in 39 years with a legendary performance during the 2011 NHL playoffs. On Thursday, his Bruins career came to a sad conclusion, one that was unimaginable just 18 months ago.

Thomas was traded to the New York Islanders in what was purely a bookkeeping move for both teams that will give the Islanders some breathing room above the salary cap floor and allow Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli to acquire a star player for the playoffs.

"He had a very good career here, and I can’t say enough of his contributions to the team," said Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli on a conference call Thursday. "Two Vezina trophies, a Conn Smythe trophy, the journey he took us on in the Stanley Cup was amazing. I was happy to be along for the ride."

In June 2011, Thomas was the biggest star in a city with multiple superstars on every sports team, and some people even wanted a statue of him to be built outside TD Garden. He re-energized a loyal fanbase and brought Stanley Cup excitement back to the greatest hockey city in the United States.

Just a few years ago, the Bruins were a complete afterthought in Boston as they watched the Patriots, Red Sox and Celtics all won championships from 2001-2008. Not until Thomas arrived did the Bruins become a playoff contender and ultimately a champion again.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Thomas with his Conn Smythe (left) and Vezina trophies in 2011

Thomas was an inspiration to so many people in Boston because of his remarkable championship performance, and his unlikely journey to the pinnacle of the NHL that proved hard work and determination really do pay off.

The 38-year-old goaltender was on top of the Boston sports mountain, which is not an easy thing to do. But unexpectedly, in a matter of months, Thomas went from the biggest sports star in Boston to someone that fans weren't sad to see leave.

The beginning of the end for Thomas in Boston was when he surprisingly decided to skip the team's Stanley Cup celebration at the White House on Jan. 23, last year. Thomas' explanation for not joining his teammates in what was a team, not a political event, was brief and posted to his Facebook page:

Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL.

Unfortunately, many people will remember Thomas' Bruins career for his White House snub, and the "INDIVIDUAL" he was on that day.

However, Thomas' actions in his final months as a member of the Bruins don't paint the proper picture of his time in Boston.

He was one of the most competitive players the NHL has ever seen, and he's one of the few goaltenders in this generation that people actually pay to watch just as often, or more than the best goal scorers in our game.

The defining moments of his Bruins career came during 2010-11, in which Thomas had arguably the best season of any goaltender in league history. The memorable moments from Thomas' 2011 playoff run that will forever be engraved in the minds of Boston sports fans.

Who could forget his series-saving stop on a 2-on-1 in double overtime of Game 5 versus the Montreal Canadiens in the first round, his brilliant performance in Game 2 of the second round series versus the Philadelphia Flyers or the incredible save he made to rob Tampa Bay Lighting forward Steve Downie in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, which I'm still surprised he saves regardless of how many times I watch it.

But most of all, Thomas should be remembered for having one of the greatest Stanley Cup Final performances of any goaltender in the history of the NHL.

Thomas was undoubtedly the best player in the final series versus the Vancouver Canucks with a 1.14 GAA and two shutouts, including one in Game 7 on the road to clinch the championship. He even added to the physicality of the series by crushing Canucks star Henrik Sedin with a huge hit in Game 3.

Thomas also set new playoff records with 798 saves through four rounds and 238 saves in the Cup Final. In the regular season, his .938 save percentage broke future Hall of Famer Dominik Hasek's record.

Towards the end of his career in Boston, Thomas was a distraction with his Facebook posts and controversial comments on certain political issues, but his performance on the ice was consistently strong, and he always gave 100-percent effort to help the Bruins win.

"I do know that we don’t win the Cup without him. He was a character here, was a terrific goalie, was a great story and he had some interesting side stories that became distractions at times," said Chiarelli.

"I had to manage this stuff, but I can’t stray from the fact that this guy won two Vezina trophies and a Conn Smythe and was terrific when we won the Cup...but, I was thinking about this, this morning, coming in. Going back through the run we had with Tim and he was outstanding."

How will you remember Thomas?

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Your final actions are often what people remember most about you, but Bruins fans, I hope, will judge Thomas' career in Boston based on his performance in net and not his personal and political actions or views.

Remember Thomas as one of the greatest Bruins in franchise history and someone who made watching the B's exciting again after decades of heartbreak. He was a nice person, respectful to reporters and stood up for what he believed.

Thomas will never be forgotten among Boston sports fans, and over time, people will appreciate the tremendous impact he had on bringing the Bruins back to the forefront of the city's sports scene.

 

Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter.

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