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Does Tim Thomas deserve to have his number retired?

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Some say it’s a slam dunk. Others aren’t so sure.

Boston Bruins v Detroit Red Wings Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images

With NESN recently airing of the Bruins’ 2011 Stanley Cup run and Tim Thomas’ return to the public eye via his induction into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame and last week’s Zoom call with the 2011 squad, arguments have cropped up over various social media channels about whether or not Thomas deserves to have his number retired by the Boston Bruins.

There are plenty of reasons to argue that his #30 should be hoisted to the banners of the TD Garden, but there are just as many convincing arguments that he’s not entitled to this honor.

Let’s take a look at the arguments for and against, and then we’ll go with a poll.

Arguments in favor of retiring Thomas’ number

His Stats

For goalies in Bruins history that played more than 100 regular season games, Thomas ranks 4th in GAA (2.47), 2nd in SV% (.921), 5th in wins (197), and 4th in shutouts (31).

In the playoffs, Thomas’ numbers are even better, as he sits 1st in GAA (2.07), 1st in SV% (.933), 5th in wins (29), and 3rd in shutouts (6) among B’s goalies who played 35 or more playoff games.

While these are all great career stats with the Bruins, Thomas’ 2010-2011 season was perhaps the greatest year any goalie has ever had as a Bruin.

Thomas posted an incredible 2.00 GAA to go along with a .938 SV% and 9 shutouts that season. He followed up his regular season with an even better playoffs: 1.99 GAA, .940 SV%, and 4 shutouts.

His Awards and Accolades

A four-time all-star, Tim Thomas is 1 of the 3 goalies in Bruins’ history to win multiple Vezina trophies (2008-2009 & 2010-11) as the NHL’s top goaltender. In addition, Thomas is the only goalie in B’s history that has won a Conn Smythe trophy for playoff MVP.

Some other impressive awards and accolades for Thomas are winning the William M. Jennings trophy with Manny Fernandez in 2009, being named an NHL First Team All-Star twice, winning an ESPY for Best NHL player in 2011, being inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame and holding records for most saves by a goalie in a playoff run and most saves by a goalie in a Stanley Cup Final.

2011 Stanley Cup Winner

Of course the most important trophy that Tim Thomas has his name on is the Stanley Cup.

Perhaps the biggest argument Thomas fans have for raising #30 to the rafters of the Garden is the role Tim Thomas played in FINALLY bringing back the Stanley Cup back to Boston. 39 years is a long friggin’ time, and that included year after year of heartbreak.

There is a very real possibility that without the Thomas heroics in the 2011 playoff run, Bruins fans would still be suffering. As the stats show, Thomas was out-of-this-world in 2010-2011, especially in the playoffs.

Doesn’t the guy who ended all of our misery deserve to be given the Bruins’ highest honor?

The Classic Underdog Story

The story of Tim Thomas could have easily have never been told if it wasn’t for Thomas’ drive and determination to play in the NHL. Drafted in 1994 by the Quebec Nordiques, Thomas wouldn’t play his first game in the NHL until the 2002-2003 season.

Before finally making it, Thomas would dress for 8 different teams in 6 different leagues in 4 different countries. During that time, Thomas had some great years where it looked like his dream may come true, while at other times when struggling mightily, he could have easily given up.

But he didn’t. Instead he put up his best years in the twilight of his career and helped the Bruins win their first cup in decades.

Happy stories don’t normally get your number retired, but in this case, it just adds to the mystique.

Arguments against retiring Thomas’ number

Retiring Goalie Numbers is Hard

The big issue here is a simple matter of how numbers are assigned in the sport: a vast majority of goalies usually choose a flat, even number like 10, 20, 30, 40 etc. Some might choose the number 1 or 2 as well.

As a result, only the truly best of the best of the best goalies get their numbers retired because of how prevalent these number choices are.

It’s a bizarre position to be in because at any point, a transcendent goalie could come out of nowhere and make the next guy look like a chump. Compare Thomas’ numbers to those of Gerry Cheevers, and Cheevers obviously looks like the inferior player.

However, they also played almost 30 years apart, and the position went through about three or four major breakthroughs! For that reason, typically teams hold off on touching those numbers as a measure of future proofing, or unless one player just REALLY defines the position in their era.

Thomas’ Tenure in Boston

While Thomas has forever forged his imprint in Bruins’ history, he really only played 7 seasons with the B’s, and in 2 of those years he only played about half of the team’s games.

If you look at the numbers the Bruins have retired, or even elsewhere around the league with other players who have shared the same honor, they typically spent 10 or more years with the team.

Thomas, who was actually in the Bruins’ system for about a decade, perhaps didn’t play in enough games to deserve to have his number retired.

The Gerry Cheevers Factor

There’s no question that Thomas had a great career in Boston, but so did many other players before him.

One of those players also wore the #30: the great Gerry Cheevers.

While his regular season numbers aren’t as great as the ones Thomas has, he still holds the record for playoff wins by a Bruins goalie, and, more importantly, he back-stopped the B’s to two Stanley Cups (1970 & 1972).

He Isn’t in the HHOF

Most (but not all!) of the players honored by the Bruins so far have been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Thomas is eligible, but has yet to receive such an honor.

You Probably Can’t Retire #30 and #40

Speaking of deserving players, there are many Bruins fans who believe that Tuukka Rask should have his jersey number hanging from the rafters after he retires — and for good reason, as Rask’s numbers not only rank up there with the best Bruins goalies, but with the best goalies who have ever played in the NHL.

Currently Rask is tied for #1 in best SV% at .922 with Dominik Hasek, 11th best in GAA at 2.26.

As far as Bruins stats go, he’s 1st in wins, 2nd in GAA (for goalies who played more than 100 games), 1st in SV%, and 2nd in Shutouts. Plus, Rask isn’t done yet — prior to the suspension of play, Rask was having one of his best NHL seasons and was among the favorites to win the Vezina trophy (which would he his second).

If the Bruins decide to retire Rask’s #40, its very hard to see them retiring another goalie from the same era.

The Off-Ice Stuff

While there no real off-ice issues with Thomas during much of his Bruins tenure, things started cropping up toward the end.

Thomas’ decision not to visit the White House following the Bruins’ Stanley Cup victory was one in a string of controversial off-ice moves made by the goaltender.

Other things that came up, like the decision to openly support the Chick-Fil-A president’s strong opposition to same-sex marriages and a rumor that he didn’t believe in global warming, also contributed to growing controversy in Boston.

Finally, his disappearance from hockey following the team’s first-round exit in the 2011-2012 season had many Bruins fans wondering if he quit on his team, and his temporary return to the NHL having him go to Dallas and Florida only solidified those ugly feelings.

Some of the hard feelings regarding his Boston exit may have eased over time, but the questions remain. Though none of these things have to do with what Thomas did on the ice in a Bruins’ uniform, you wonder if they will ultimately play a role in how Thomas’ lasting legacy is handled.


There are certainly strong arguments both for and against retiring Thomas’ number, and while Bruins president Cam Neely has stated that it is “unlikely” Thomas receives this honor, time passed often changes our attitudes and decisions.

It’s possible that in 5, 10, or 20 years, Bruins fans and management look back on Thomas’ time and feel his number belongs in the rafters. However, it’s equally possible that time makes Thomas’ contributions to the Bruins fade away.

Poll

Do you think the Bruins should retire Tim Thomas’ number?

This poll is closed

  • 22%
    Absolutely, he’s earned it.
    (66 votes)
  • 39%
    No, his number should not be retired.
    (118 votes)
  • 38%
    Only if they retire Cheevers’ number as well.
    (114 votes)
298 votes total Vote Now