Tim Thomas has never been a favorite of the local media and I am beginning to wonder what is truly at the root of it. When he first came up to the Bruins he was underestimated for sure. Many in the media, for whom the only way they can tell if a goaltender is any good is by his stats or how famous his name is, immediately wrote Thomas off as a No. 2. When he succeeded they only accepted it grudgingly. Articles were still written about how the team needed to get a true number one, even after anyone else would have proven himself. The call to replace him became so strong that the GM actually did replace him with Fernandez. The predictable result was that Thomas won out the No. 1 anyhow, winning the Vezina trophy in the process. Yet every trade deadline until last year involved the media claiming Thomas could be traded. When the Bruins were knocked out of the playoffs in 2009 by the Canes the media blamed him personally. In the summer of 2010 the media was abuzz with news that Thomas would be traded to the leafs with a sickening sort of glee. Imagine if that rumored trade had gone through. Does anyone really believe that the Bruins would have won the cup anyhow? When Thomas had a bad season in 2009-2010 due to an injury, the media wrote of Tukka Rask as if he were the second coming. For some reason that I cannot fathom Rask has never been held up to the same scrutiny as Thomas. Never. He's always the golden boy, always above scrutiny. Now that Thomas has won the Vezina again, a Stanley Cup, and was the playoff MVP for God's sake, the media still won't give him a break. Why?
Is it because he doesn't look like an athlete? Are they that superficial? Thomas once told a story about how an old friend had contacted him after winning the Cup. His friend told him that he was surprised how well he'd played for someone who "wasn't that athletic." What an absurd statement. But this is what Thomas has had to put up with.
Is it because they resent being wrong about Thomas in the first place? Are they that pathetic, that they lay in wait for the time when they can kick him when he's down so they can feel they were right all along?
Has it always been because of his politics? We endured weeks of ugly complaints after Thomas decided to snub the President. Sure, it was not the smartest thing for Thomas to do. But the media clearly over reacted. Some in the media even suggested that it marked the end of Thomas with the Bruins. Others implied that his politics were hurting the team. In that irony that the media always pretends to be unaware of, it did become an issue with the team. But only because the media made such a big deal out of it and would not let it go.
Or is it something even more sinister? Is this really about old world thinking, about social class and knowing one's "place?" Do they not accept Thomas because he came from meager beginnings, was never anointed as the golden boy at any level, never supposed to succeed? Does it rub the elite New England media the wrong way merely because he defied their expectations? Does his success threaten their elitist world view?
Recently the Bruins played the Rangers in a tough fought game. One headline read, "Thomas was good when the Bruins needed him to be great." While not unfair in its assessment, one has to wonder why this was chosen as the primary story. Tough Loss on Tim Thomas, flat out blamed Thomas for single-handedly losing the game. Sure, maybe Thomas would have made that final save 99 times out of 100. But that does not excuse the hate! They give him no quarter, no benefit of the doubt. Why?
The fact is that Tukka Rask single-handedly lost several games in recent months. He went through a period where he was playing very well in close, but giving up surprising goals at important times from the face-off circles. He was even pulled from one game. Not one article or comment was made in the media about this. Not one. Nobody suggested that he might not be the Bruins "Goaltender of the Future." Nobody suggested that he should be traded. The media simply refused to make it a story. Why?
I'm going to make a prediction here and now about Rask. Although I think he will one day be a a very good goaltender it will be with another team. When that day finally comes when Thomas is no longer a Bruin we will be rudely reminded of just how important it is to have great goaltending. I remember what that's like all too well, and I am not looking forward to that day.
As far as I'm concerned this hate for Thomas from the media is nothing short of ridiculous, regardless of the reason. The good news is that this media hate can only make Thomas play better, assuming that he isn't fighting some sort of behind the scenes injury again. For those of us who's only agenda is good hockey and another cup, that will have to be enough.