It would be nice to accept what Tim Thomas announced Sunday on Facebook as an admirable decision to step back from an all-consuming professional career and embrace his family and personal life.
But that plug for a training system and an equipment company in the middle of his big announcement took the gosh, golly, gee whiz out of the whole thing. Thomas’s statement went kind of like this: “I’ve been blessed ... sacrifice ... time to put my time and energies into those areas and relationships that I have neglected ... Friends, family, faith ... On top of this, I will continue to train using [insert plug here, including website].”
I’m pretty sure I hung in until the end of Nicklas Lidstrom’s gracious and eloquent retirement press conference last week. I could be wrong but I’m also pretty sure he didn’t end it by yelling, “I’m going to Disney World!”
So forgive me if I take the news the Boston Bruins goaltender is going to take next season off with a grain of salt the size of the chip on Thomas’s shoulder. The evidence screams otherwise.
On the face of it, it’s a ridiculous decision. Thomas did not make the NHL for good until he was 31. He has seven full seasons under his belt and now, at 38, thinks he can afford to take a year off?
Not only that, but he seems to think he can come back from a year off from the best hockey league in the world and play for the United States at the 2014 Winter Olympics. Presumably, that would be whether or not the NHL agrees to renew its participation in the Games.
As for the whole spending time with his family thing, if Thomas neglected anyone it’s his own fault. Players have many demands on their time, although Thomas does not appear to be unduly burdened by the endorsement life despite the commercial pitch in his announcement. But over the course of a year they have lots of time available for their families should they choose to use it.
From October through June, players have most of their afternoons and evenings free on days there are no home games. Workouts and practices are generally finished by early afternoon. Someone like Thomas, who plays for a team based in the U.S. northeast, rarely has a road trip longer than a week.
If your team has a good playoff run, the months of April and May admittedly do not leave much time for anything but hockey. But for most players, and that includes Thomas this spring, mid-April to mid-September are wide open.
No, this smells much more like a nasty play to force Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli to trade him to the team of his choosing.
Thomas is in the last year of a contract that pays an actual salary of $3-million (all currency U.S.) but carries a salary-cap hit of $5-million. Aside from it being nice of Thomas to pull this once he collected most of the money from the contract, it’s a nice kick in the slats for Chiarelli and the Bruins.
NHL rules say Chiarelli has to count the $5-million against his cap whether Thomas plays or not. Chiarelli said he can put centre Marc Savard (concussion) on the long-term injured reserve list and get $4-million of that cap space back, but maybe he wanted to do that for other personnel moves before Thomas decided to exile himself. If you consider the Bruins have a 25-year-old goalie in Tuukka Rask who’s already proved he is an excellent No. 1, then Thomas’s move makes sense. Especially when, considering the evidence, his controversial decision to boycott the Bruins’ appearance at the White House last winter, the fallout from it and his extreme political views drove a wedge between Thomas, his teammates and management.
Right now, Thomas managed to drive his trade value down to practically nothing. No NHL GM is going to offer much knowing Chiarelli is behind the eight-ball and not knowing Thomas’s true intentions.
But Thomas’s no-movement rights end July 1, which might give Chiarelli some room to bargain. Some teams might find Thomas appealing because the cash owed to the goalie is $2-million less than his cap hit. But Chiarelli`s problem, according to one of his peers, is that Thomas is not universally seen as a positive presence in the dressing room.
Still, add it up and there could be another Facebook announcement that our man has reconsidered.