Once upon a time, there was a great goaltender who played for the Boston Bruins. After a summer in which he was the center of any trade rumor ever, he started the season off notching win after win and shutout after shutout, leading his team to a division crown and all sort of individual accolades.
The individual accolades continued to pile up during the playoffs, where he set all-time records for save percentage that would stand for 12 long months. His team won their first Stanley Cup in 39 years, and his beard had already become the stuff of legend when he awkwardly accepted the Conn Smythe trophy from Gary Bettman, becoming just the second American-born player to earn the honor.
And then something awful happened.
This is it, right? We're not going to see Tim Thomas in a Bruins sweater again, and probably won't see him in a NHL jersey again either. So we can write the eulogies and the retrospectives now and save ourselves the ink in a year's time when he may or may not decide to return to the NHL.
Tim Thomas the man may not be dead, but Tim Thomas the star goaltender is gone, a victim of self-sabotage. Usually, goaltenders are remembered by what they do between the posts, but Tim Thomas will likely be remembered for the posts. /rimshot
Tim Thomas had a strong 2011-12 season. His .920 save percentage was tied for tenth in the league and his 2.36 GAA was 13th, and he was eighth in the NHL with 35 wins. The only problem was that he had a much, much better 2010-11 season and, like the rest of his teammates, that's the metric that he was held to. It'd be easy to write that his 2010-11 season was inhuman and unreal and could never be done again but, you know, Jon Quick.
But it was less Thomas' stellar end to the 2011-12 campaign - a season in which he was basically the only goaltender his team had for the last 5 weeks of the season - that we'll remember when we look back, it was the way he handled what came after it.
It's hard to question Thomas' loyalty to his family, but it's equally as hard not to question his loyalty to his teammates, which was on display from January on. You can evaluate a guy on his numbers, or you can evaluate him on the way that he plays the game or you can evaluate a guy on how he treats the guys who wear the same colors as he does.
Thomas stretched our ability to do any of those things independent of the other this year. But at least he won't be back to do it again.