Jun 17, 2011, 7:41 PM EDT
On the eve of a Stanley Cup parade traveling down Causeway, we learned just how close Boston’s playoff hero came to wearing another jersey this season. Rewind to the beginning of the season and there were plenty of questions about Tim Thomas’ age, health, and spot on this Bruins team. The 2009 Vezina Trophy winner was coming off an injury plagued season that saw him lose his starting job to the promising Tuukka Rask. After Thomas’ historic season, it’s hard to remember the questionable circumstances in which the season started for the veteran. Luckily for the Bruins (and their fans), GM Peter Chiarelli had faith that Thomas would rebound this season.
In fact, opposing general managers were inquiring about his availability before the season—including two talented Eastern Conference rivals. Joe Haggerty from CSNNE.com spoke to Chiarelli and learned that the Flyers and Capitals both had preliminary interest in acquiring Thomas.
“Chiarelli admitted on Friday morning he’d taken phone calls about Tim Thomas, and sources indicated then to CSNNE.com that the most seriously interested parties were Washington and Philadelphia. The Bruins and Flyers had casually discussed a deal involving Thomas to the Flyers while the goalie was recovering from hip surgery after losing his playoff starting role to a younger goaltending model in Tuukka Rask.
But the two teams couldn’t agree on fair trade value for Thomas (the Bruins wanted Jeff Carter, and the Flyers were only willing to unload Simon Gagne), though Philadelphia was the place Thomas wanted to be if he was going to be moved.”
Needless to say, acquiring Thomas would have solved all of the Flyers goaltending problems this season. They wouldn’t be negotiating with the Ilya Bryzgalov this offseason and they wouldn’t have had to rush Sergei Bobrovsky into a starting role. Let’s face it—the Flyers with Tim Thomas would have been an absolute beast of a team and probably would have been on the other end of the 4-0 sweep against the Bruins in the playoffs.
The Capitals also could have used a veteran on their team—both between the pipes to help their trio of young goaltenders and also in their locker room. Bruins players have said over the course of the season that Thomas was a calming influence on the ice when the opponents were pressuring. That same calming influence was exactly what the Caps needed against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round. Instead, they went with their young goaltenders, had the best regular season record in the East again, and still have no more answers today than they did at the beginning of the season.
Peter Chiarelli spoke about trade offers from other teams and how close he was to moving the Conn Smythe Trophy winner before the season started:
“Not really (close). If you can recall at the time there was a kind of a mutual agreement between myself and Tim [Thomas] and Bill Zito to explore [a trade] on the premise that Tim does not want to leave Boston. That’s really where it ended. It’s really where it ended.
“There were some calls in that and they kept him in the loop at all times. He kept stressing he didn’t want to leave. And I said ‘I know… let’s just look at this very briefly.’ I know there are a lot of stories that flowed from it, but I can’t stress enough the fact that Tim never wanted to leave. I wouldn’t be doing my job if I at least didn’t look at some things, and I did. You go through those things on a number of fronts with a number of players. You just field stuff. You look at them and you talk to other teams. At the end of the day you make the decision ‘yay or nay’. And here it was ‘nay.’ It was an easy ‘nay.’
Glad to hear it was an easy decision for Chiarelli. The only numbers better than Tim Thomas’ stats during the regular season were his stats in the playoffs. In the regular season, Thomas posted a 35-11-9 record with a 2.00 goals against average and .938 save percentage. The numbers were good enough to earn him an invitation to Las Vegas as a Vezina finalist—and unless a meteor hits The Palms, he’ll walk away with his second trophy in the last three seasons. His major competitor this season wasn’t someone playing for another team, but someone playing in a different era. Even Dominik Hasek would have been impressed by Thomas’ regular season.
In the playoffs, Thomas did one better. En route to winning the Conn Smythe Trophy, he actually improved upon his regular season stats. The 1.98 goals against average and .940 save percentage will have people talking about his postseason for years to come.
Simply stated: he had one of the most dominant seasons the NHL has ever seen. Bruins fans are undoubtedly happy that he did it in Boston.
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