Monday, June 4, 2012

Thomas to take year off

Over the weekend while Johan Santana was making a bit of history for the Mets, Boston goalie Tim Thomas announced on Facebook that he will take next year off. The two-time Vezina winner and Conn Smythe recipient after leading the Bruins to Lord Stanley last year confirmed the rumors that he won't play in 2012-13.

"At the age of 38, I believe it is time to put my time and energies into those areas and relationships that I have neglected. That is why at this time I feel the most important thing I can do in my life is to reconnect with the three F's," Thomas explained regarding his decision.

"Friends, Family, and Faith. This is what I plan on doing over the course of the next year."

A former Quebec Nordiques '94 ninth round pick has been a great story since the Bruins gave the little known journeyman a chance following the lockout. Thomas had never distinguished himself prior, only playing in four games for the Original Six club in '02-03.
It was during '04-05 when the former University Of Vermont product went overseas to play for Jokerit in the Finnish Elite League where he transformed himself into a quality goalie, posting 34 wins over 54 games, a 1.58 GAA, .946 save percentage along with 15 shutouts. Following a solid showing with AHL affiliate Providence, Boston recalled him. Though he only won 12 of the 38 games he appeared in, Thomas still posted a .917 save percentage.

He would take over the No.1 goalie duties in '06-07 by posting his first 30-win season. Doubling his career total (15). After getting into three games for Team USA at the World Championship, he improved dramatically during '07-08 with 28 wins, 2.44 GAA and .921 save percentage over 57 contests. His play helped the B's return to the postseason before they fell in seven games. The following season, at age 35 Thomas won his first Vezina by putting together a great year that included 36 wins in 57 games, 2.10 GAA, .933 save percentage along with five shutouts. He also was strong in the postseason, posting a 7-4 mark with a 1.85 save percentage and .935 save percentage.

It wasn't all gravy for him with a disappointing '09-10 costing him a chance at starting in the playoffs. After signing an extension, he won only 17 of 43 games with his GAA ballooning to 2.56. Meanwhile, rookie backup Tuukka Rask outperformed him, making many in Beantown believe the Finn would supplant Thomas between the pipes. But Thomas bounced back in '10-11 with a spectacular season that again saw him claim the Vezina handed out to the league's top netminder. In 57 games, he established new career bests in wins (38), GAA (2.00), save percentage (.938) and shutouts (9). The special season was topped off by an MVP performance with Tim leading the Bruins to its first Cup since '72. He went 16-9 including 5-0 when facing elimination. The B's cameback to defeat nemesis Montreal in the first round before avenging a stunning loss to Philadelphia (rallied from 0-3 down) by sweeping them. The Bruins then edged the Lightning by winning the final two games. Then for an encore, Thomas shutdown Vancouver the final two games to help his team climb out of an 0-2 deficit. He finished with a 1.98 GAA, .940 save percentage and posted four shutouts including a 4-0 Game Seven clincher in British Columbia.

This past season, Thomas made more headlines off the ice when he opted to skip a White House visit, drawing criticism. However, that was his choice. He still had a good year winning 35 games with a 2.36 GAA, .920 save percentage and five shutouts. Ultimately after helping the Bruins win the Northeast, he was outplayed by rookie Braden Holtby in a gut wrenching seven-game defeat with Joel Ward beating Thomas in overtime to oust the defending champs. He still did his part but it wasn't enough.

Following a strange season, now comes his announcement that he'll forego next season to spend time with family and friends. Thomas is due to make $5 million in the final year of his contract. Unless there's a work stoppage that costs the entire year, the Bruins are on the hook for the entire salary, hindering their cap. I have no problem with Thomas putting personal interests ahead of his team even if he's come under heat for the timing. To make it during the Stanley Cup Final is a bit like Alex Rodriguez opting out during the World Series. It's still his choice and if he feels he needs to spend more time with his family, then God bless him. We don't always realize the many sacrifices these athletes make. Is it really that different from Andy Pettite retiring and then coming back? Same as Michael Jordan.

Rask is a Group II. So, the Bruins will make sure they get him signed while searching for a backup. At least he let them know early so Peter Chiarelli could prepare. I'll miss Thomas' Hasek-like unorthodox style. Hopefully, he does return for one last run. But probably with a new team.

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