Statistically speaking, Shawn Thornton’s 2011-12 season was a letdown for the previous year. But as we all know, Thornton brings much more to the Bruins than any combination of goals, assists or points will ever show. Thornton’s contribution to the team comes from his leadership both on and off the ice, which can be picking a fight to jump start the team or holding court with the media following a tough loss to deflect attention from the skill players.
Overall, there aren’t too many expectations placed on Thornton and the fourth line when it comes carrying the scoring burden for the team. Looking at the year through the prism of last year’s Stanley Cup-winning season, the 2011-12 campaign may look like a statistical decline, but it should rightly be viewed as a steady and solid contribution in an aspect of the game little will ever be expected of him.
While down from last season’s numbers, Thornton posted good overall numbers for a guy whose role is much more physical than finesse. The five goals and eight assists combined to create his second-most productive offensive season ever. Though Thornton’s overall plus/minus rating of -8 leaves something to be desired, it can partly be chalked up to being on the fourth line – a bad line change can mean a dog-tired fourth line against the opposing team’s relatively fresh first line.
Aside from the scoring and point contributions, Thornton led Boston for the third year in a row in fights (20), PIMs (150) and fantastic shorthanded penalty shot goals. Even with his propensity for physical play and hand-to-hand combat, Thornton proved to be one of Boston’s most dependable skaters by missing just a single game. In fact, Thornton has played in 313 out of a possible 328 games over the past four seasons.
Thornton knows what his role is and continues to execute that role on a nightly basis for the Bruins. With his new two year contract, we can expect to see more of the same from Thornton – a rugged, tough grinder who is more than willing to stand up for his teammates and will occasionally chip in a few goals throughout the season.