With Tim Thomas’ name recently being in the news because of his soon to be induction into the US Hockey Hall of Fame it got me thinking about a couple of questions. Will he be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame? Will the Boston Bruins retire his number at some point?
To answer these questions, we have to look at his career in the NHL and the Boston Bruins. We will not go into his political views because frankly, they shouldn’t matter.
His career path wasn’t the most orthodox one and spent many years in different leagues before getting to the NHL in 2002-03. He was drafted by the Quebec Nordiques in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft in the ninth round 217 overall. In 2001 the Bruins signed Thomas, but he stayed in Europe that season and played for Providence in 2002-03. He was able to get four starts in the NHL that season as well with the Bruins at the ripe age of 28. Now the lockout happens in 2004 and Thomas once again goes back to play in Europe. In 2005 Thomas signed with the Bruins and stayed between the pipes with them until 2011-2012.
During his career with the Boston Bruins, he accumulated 193 regular-season wins in 374 games played with the club. He got 29 wins in the playoffs in 50 games played in four playoffs berths. He won the William M. Jennings Trophy in 2009, 2x Vezina Trophy winner (2009,2011), 2x First All-Star Team (2009, 2011), Conn Smythe Trophy Winner (2011) and Stanley Cup Champion in 2011.
His playoff run in 2011 is that of a legend around Boston and rightfully so. He set the record for most saves in a playoff run at 798. He also set the record for most saves in a Stanley Cup Final series with 238. He made several timely (and frankly, clutch) saves and then some and was the biggest reason the Boston Bruins became Stanley Cup Champions in 2011. The highlight saves he made during those playoffs are still something I watch on YouTube and remember watching on TV like it was yesterday.
Tim Thomas decides not to play in the 2012-13 NHL season for personal reason but does come back in the 2013-14 season and plays for the Florida Panthers. He plays his final season in the NHL the following season but only plays eight games for the Dallas Stars. It was apparent to most Bruins fans, including me, that he wasn’t the same goalie we all knew those last two season in the NHL.
He finishes his career in the NHL with 214 wins in 426 games. 2x Vezina, Conn Smythe winner, and Stanley Cup winner. His achievements while with the Bruins reflects accomplishments that any goalie would want in his career with a franchise. It was a short period with the Bruins though and only spanning eight seasons, give or take a couple in Europe.
While I was writing this, I did bounce my final thoughts on these questions to friends of mine. One friend, in particular, had a strong opinion about these questions. Come to think of it; he has a strong opinion about most things. Now we had different reasoning for our answers to both questions but did agree that unfortunately Tim Thomas will not be inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame. He did bring up a valid point that the only goalies in the modern era with more hardware than Thomas are Patrick Roy, Dominik Hasek, Martin Brodeur, and Tom Barrasso. I just didn’t think that would be enough to get him in based on his whole carrer. Thomas accumulated his hardware in a very short period of time.
I feel the biggest downfall for Thomas not getting in is the length of his carrer. He was an amazing goalie but not over the length of his carrer. Getting into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a goalie is the hardest by a long shot. Forwards and defensemen have a far easier path to get in than goalies. Only 38 goalies are in Hockey Hall of Fame with a total of 279 players including goalies. I do feel that if Thomas had started his NHL career at the age of as most golaies, he would be getting in. Thomas proved to me in those season with the Bruins that he was one of the best in the world at the time and I have no doubt he always had that in him.
Now when it comes to having his jersey retired by the Bruins, I also think this won’t happen. A players jersey being retired is sometimes harder than getting into the hall and usually goes hand in hand. The Bruins are different in the respect because they still as of yet retired Gerry Cheevers number 30. Cheevers is good enough to get into the hall, but for some reason, the Bruins haven’t retired his number. Cheevers spent 12 seasons with the Bruins and won two Stanley Cups with the team. If it wasn’t for the powerhouse which was the Montreal Canadians in the 70’s they might have won some more.
What I hope the Bruins do for Thomas is never let the fan base forget him. His picture should be more prominent around the arena with the images of former players. The Bruins should celebrate his career one night at the arena and have him there. In recent articles, Thomas has stated by the Boston media it has come out that he suffers from anxiety, and that is the reason he has been so quiet since his retirement. The Bruins very well could have already reached out to him to invite him to do such a night I suggested.
In the end, I think we can all agree it was an honor to watch him play for the Bruins. Him getting into the hall or having his jersey hanging from the rafters isn’t going to change the excitement and happiness he brought the fan base over his career.