BOSTON (CBS) – The Tim Thomas era in Boston is over, but what the netminder brought to the Bruins — both on and off the ice, the good and the bad — will not soon be forgotten.
Thomas’ story is one made for Hollywood: a journeyman for years in the minors and over in Europe before finally making it to the NHL at the ripe age of 28. But he didn’t become the Bruins starting goaltender until 32, when he emerged to win two Veniza Trophies. No season was better than 2010-11, when he set an NHL record for save percentage and went on to become the oldest winner of the Conn Smythe at 37 — standing on his head to end a 39-year Stanley Cup drought for Boston. Thomas made an NHL record 798 saves that postseason, and became the first goalie to shutout a team on the road in Game 7, stopping all 37 shots the Vancouver Canucks sent his way.
But for the storybook beginning and middle, it was not a happy ending. In the season following the Stanley Cup victory, Thomas was the only Bruin to sit out the team trip to the White House, and he made more headlines for his Facebook posts than acrobatic saves. When he announced his plans to take the entire 2012-13 season off, it was more than likely he played his last game between the pipes for the Bruins.
Boston dealt Thomas to the New York Islanders on Thursday, and on Friday his former teammates reflected on his eight-year run with the team. While the “other stuff” is the last memory they have of Thomas, they’ll never forget what he did for the “spoked-B” — especially during the magical Cup run during the summer of 2011.
“He was a great goaltender. I definitely appreciated what he did as a goalie for this club,” said forward Milan Lucic. “The solid five years he put together was probably better than any other goalie around the league from 2007-08 to last season. He was obviously a big part of us winning the cup.”
“It didn’t end the way we had all hoped, but it’s time to move on,” Lucic added. “You have to appreciate the effort he put forth for this hockey club, because he did give it his all.”
“You have to respect him as a player; hes a great goaltender and you have to wish him the best,” added forward Brad Marchand.
“I have a lot of respect for Tim Thomas,” said his former coach Claude Julien. “As a player — a two-time Vezina goalie, MVP of the playoffs, Stanley cup champion – he’s done a lot.”
Julien said he never had an issue with Thomas in the locker room, and despite his different views — ones he wasn’t afraid to share on Facebook — the team didn’t see him as a distraction.
“He’s a guy that has his own thoughts, his own ideas, and as a coach you run into that all the time,” said Julien. “That’s what you have to learn as a coach; you respect everybody for who they are.
“Tim wasn’t a bad person; he was a person that was strong in his own views at times. We never felt he was being a distraction, just a guy that saw things differently,” added the B’s coach. “A lot of times the guys would say ‘as long as he stops picks, we’re OK with it.’ That was the consensus of the guys in the dressing room.”
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While the Bruins won’t forget Thomas’ legacy on the ice, they do admit they have move on. That came as soon as Thomas said he was sitting out this season, and it was up to Tuukka Rask to take over the reigns. Rask has done more than enough in this lockout-shortened season, going 6-1-1 in his eight games in net and helping the Bruins to one of the best records in hockey.
“[Thomas] was unbelievable for us. I think his records and stats and the championship speak for themselves. He was a big reason why we won (in 2011) and he won’t be forgotten here,” said forward Shawn Thornton, who was quick to point out the team has moved on though. “But this year we’ve taken off, and we’re on to Tuukka time.”
“He’s gone; Tuuk is here and we’re happy hes doing well,” added forward David Krejci. “[Thomas] did a lot for this organization; he was a big part of that winning team but now he’s gone. We don’t miss him right now; we’ve got Tuuk and he’s doing great.”
The end of the Thomas era in Boston was less-than-ideal for the Bruins, and it’s good they’ve moved on. But every time they look up at that 2011 Stanley Cup banner, they need to remember Thomas, his quirks and all, was one of the main reasons it’s hanging in the TD Garden rafters.
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