Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Jumping Off the Band Wagon

Do you hear that sound? That's the sound of the bandwagon jumpers jumping off, proudly led by flag bearers in the Boston media like Stephen Harris, and they want blood. But inexplicably the blood they want is not the blood of the Habs or the Canucks, but of Tim Thomas.

Today Harris wrote:
"But Turco’s performance in the final weeks could also be meaningful for next season. If the 36-year-old demonstrates he can still play effectively, it’s possible he could be re-signed to be part of a tandem with Tuukka Rask.That, of course, assumes that Thomas, whose no-movement clause expires this summer, would be dealt."
Why would anyone who wants to see the Bruins succeed be looking forward to Thomas being dealt? It boggles the mind. I like Tukka just fine, but I liked Andrew Raycroft too. Neither is in the same league as Thomas, without whom the Bruins could not have won the Cup.

If you look at this little blog of mine, you will see that I have been here for the long haul. Although I didn't start this blog right away, my dedication to the 2011/2012 Bruins didn't begin during the Cup Final last spring, like it did for so many New Englanders. It started seven years ago, at the end of the lockout in 2005. I have seen a lot over these years, both the ups and the downs. I remember Savvy's Rally Caps and a goaltender who came out of nowhere. I remember players like Wayne Premeau, Glen Metropolit, Marco Sturm and the coaching tenure of Dave Lewis. Starting in the 2005/2006 season I have watched almost every single game. That's well over 500 games. I vividly recall forcing myself to watch games even after the Bruins were eliminated from the playoffs. It was so tempting to fast forward, but I didn't. Fact is that so many other blogs have disappeared over the years that I finally gave up on updating the list of other blogs I read. But I'm still here.

More importantly I also remember what it was like before the lockout. I remember an owner who refused to play the game of paying top dollar for players. I recall seeing supposed future Bruins greats go on the trading block, even the team captain. I remember how Joe Thornton was thrust into a role that didn't suit him. But most of all, I remember a team that could not beg buy or steal consistently great goaltending, all the way back to the cup years in the early 70's. Even then, Cheevers and Johnston weren't exactly future goaltending legends. If they were, why don't their numbers hang from the rafters? Moog, Ranford, Lacher, Carey, Raycroft... they never seemed to pan out and when they did they didn't last. In fact, you have to go all the way back to the early years of the Bruins to find truly great goaltenders. In his first season in 1938 Frank Brimseck led the league in wins, shutouts, and GAA. He would help the team win the cup in 1941 and even though WWII intervened, he stayed with the B's until 1949. Going back even further, the Bruins had won the cup in 1929 with the premier goaltender of his time, Tiny Thompson. Here's the thing: I am utterly convinced that Tim Thomas is the greatest of these Bruins greats.

When I started this blog it was for one reason. I was tired of being laughed at when I posted about how good I thought Tim Thomas was on various forums or in blog comments. They said it over and over, "Tim Thomas is not a true No. 1 goaltender." But I knew better. Nobody seemed to be able to see what I saw in Thomas, and let's be clear: I saw the best Bruins goaltender of my lifetime. Not only did people not see how good he was, but some seemed to outright hate him, and to this day I don't understand why.

Our Bruins--my Bruins--won the cup last year. Tim Thomas won the Vezina and was the MVP of the playoffs. I say this because it seems some people have already forgotten. You would think that the Boston media would be behind Thomas. You would think that he would have earned some trust and respect. You would think he would be valued. But now that the Bruins are self destructing on the eve of the playoffs, its right back to the same old Thomas hate only now they have their ready excuse. Now that Timmy's politics are out in the open, writers like Stephen Harris of the Herald are free to hate him simply because they don't agree with his politics. And let's be clear on that--people have reached for all sorts of wild unsupported theories for how Timmy's politics have hurt the team, but that's all smoke. The reality is that some very narrow minded people just can't stand the idea that Thomas' politics are different from their own. There's a word for that; it's intolerance.

It's so easy to blame the goaltending when a team plays poorly. Anybody can play that game; you don't have to know anything about goaltending to play it. If the puck goes in the net, it's the goaltender's fault, right? But that's a loser's game to play. Fact is, if these Thomas haters finally get their way and run Timmy out of town on rails, mark my words, Rask will be next. No matter how good he is technically, Rask can't bring the same compete level that Thomas does. Truth is, nobody can. This will become painfully obvious the day after Thomas leaves the Bruins.

The Bruins have a great organization, from top to bottom, from the President and GM to the goaltenders. They have an amazing core group of players in Thomas, Chara, Bergeron, Seguin, and Lucic. They have great coaching. They have outstanding depth that has been built by leveraging the fact that players want to play in Boston. They have talent coming up in the system. Truth is, you can't ask for more. What they have not had this year is what they had in spades last season: desire and luck. Even if the Bruins exit in the first round, both of these will come around naturally in time because of all the other things they have going for them.

People who are bitterly disappointed when their teams don't win a championship every year are being unrealistic. Those who would dismantle a team that has proven itself to be great  because they have had a rough streak or perhaps don't win back to back championships are idiots.

No comments: