Thursday, December 28, 2006

Tim Thomas: An answer that only invites more questions

Okay, okay, okay, I'll admit it. TreeBob was right. Tim Thomas *is* a better goalie than Hannu Toivonen.

Sure Hannu's been hurt but, let's face it, when healthy he hasn't exactly been lights out as any 4.22 GAA and .877 save % can attest. In his seven starts, he's never allowed fewer than two goals in any contest and has allowed four or more in the other five. Gerry Cheevers he ain't. Hell, he's not even Vincent Riendeau.

So as fantastic as Thomas' performance has been this season, it only leaves more questions for '06-'07 and beyond. I, like many others, hoped this would be the season that Toivonen took charge and became the #1 goalie for this team with Tim Thomas providing a steady backup role. This way we knew who the Bruins backstop was going to be for not only this year, but for another three or more seasons down the road.

But now the Bruins are faced with an uncomfortable scenario. Their best goaltender, and the one they're going to lean on to take them into the playoffs, is a former 9th round pick who came out of almost nowhere to succeed in the NHL at 31 years old. As good as he's been, each year going forward the question is going to be: How long can he maintain this? Is he going to continue to put up solid stats, or is he suddenly going to drift back into mediocrity like so many Bruins goalies have done in the last 15 years (I'm looking at you, Blaine Lacher).

This question mark will almost certainly guarantee him a Bruins roster spot for at least the next two years, which isn't necessarily a good thing. Thomas is not an elite goaltender and probably never will be. Don't get me wrong, it's nice to have Thomas performing as well as he is, but you have to wonder exactly how far he can carry this team in the playoffs, assuming they get there. This team needs an elite goalie, or at least a franchise-quality one, in order to be a true contender. Hannu has the potential (although it's hard to tell if he's going to reach it at this point). Ditto for Tuukka Rask. And for every minute of ice time that Thomas takes up this year is one less minute for Toivonen to prove himself. The same might be said next year for Rask.

Not only that, but Thomas is a commodity that would be difficult to trade. If you were another team, exactly how much would you give up to get a 33 year old goalie who's appears to be playing better than he should be? And if you're the Bruins, would you want to give him up and lay the franchise on the shoulders of a couple of unproven commodities?

Toivonen needs to step up and he needs to do it quickly. Otherwise, we're probably going to see this situation replay itself next year, but with Tuukka Rask instead of Toivonen.

And we can only hope that Tim Thomas will still be performing on the same level to bail them out.

14 Comments:

Blogger number4bobbyorr said...

Thomas *is* an elite goaltender in all the ways that count. You doubters really ought to stop worring about all those things that don't count: his age, his past, etc., and just watch the guy play! He's been great for all but a few games early this season, starting from last year. But some of you guys can't seem to stand the fact that he was never supposed to be an elite goaltender. So what? That's so frikin' shallow... Come on! I for one LOVE IT. And while I'm bitchin at ya, why have you given up on Toivanen? What's going to happen is Thomas is going to eventually have to miss a few key games, and you just watch: Hannu will rise to the challenge because then it will be more about not letting the team down than doing well for himself.

1:14 a.m., December 29, 2006  
Blogger Doobie said...

I can accept Thomas as the present, but I don't think I'll ever be sold on Thomas as the future of this franchise. I'll enjoy it while it lasts but, at age 33 (which he'll be in April), there will always be lingering skepticism as to whether or not he can continue to do what he's doing.

8:24 a.m., December 29, 2006  
Blogger neb said...

how old is hasek?

9:44 a.m., December 29, 2006  
Anonymous don't drink and drive said...

Any suggestion featuring Thomas as an elite goaltender without a full NHL season ( and the workload who comes it with it ) is far featched.

Giving up on Toivonen while he's 22 years old and played only 9 games this season might be a bit dangerous. I doubt that Toivonen could be classified in the same category as John Blue or Blaine Lacher. Goaltenders, like defensemans, takes time to reach their full potential.

11:17 a.m., December 29, 2006  
Blogger Doobie said...

Hasek is *also* not the goalie of the future of the Red Wings, but he is an elite one who has proven that he can take a team all the way.

Hasek is actually a pretty good comparison in reagards to late starts. Hasek was drafted in the 10th round and really didn't start seeing significant ice time until he was 27. But there's about a three year difference between when Hasek started becoming a force and when Tim Thomas started emerging. However, Hasek was still in 20s while Thomas was on the opposite side of 30.

I also hesitate to put Thomas in the same class as Hasek. Let's see him take this team to the playoffs first and see how he performs. Then let's see him repeat that performance for another couple of years. He needs to be consistently excellent over a period of years to be mentioned with Hasek, and that's going to be diffcult...but not impossible...to do in his 30s.

12:41 p.m., December 29, 2006  
Blogger neb said...

however doobie if i read your original post correctly you give no chance of thomas ever being a hasek and have already decided we are wasting our time with him..... so what now... ditch a guy who could be a late blooming allstar (i believe he was mentioned in that vain today in the herald) or cut the guy a little slack as he has been one of the best bruins on the ice so far this season.....

lets face it hannu is 22 rask is 19... most goalies do not prime until mid to late 20's and with thomas more than holding the fort why retard either youngsters growth while thomas more than earns the contract he was given. in a couple more years there will be more evidence as to weather hannu or rask are or are not the next thomas... but for now im am one that is hoping that thomas is the next hasek and not routing agaisnt him or doubting him..... just because he has not had this opportunity earlier in his life does not mean he will falter. stand by the tank!

3:08 p.m., December 29, 2006  
Blogger Doobie said...

I don't have confidence that Thomas will be another Hasek. Hasek's aren't exactly a dime a dozen and we may not see another one for some time.

The whole gist of my post was that Thomas may be the answer for this season, but he's not the long term solution. And as great as he's been playing, the downside is that he takes away ice time from the younger goalies. It's a catch-22.

But, hey, if he starts putting up Hasek like numbers for the next couple of years (GAA in the low 2.00s, and a .920+ sv%) and gets them far in the playoffs, I'm certainly not going to complain. It's just unlikely that he's going to do so.

Again, the onus needs to be placed on Toivonen to step up his game. The job isn't going to just be handed to him. He needs to start putting up some strong performances otherwise he may not be in the Bruins plans for 2007.

4:32 p.m., December 29, 2006  
Blogger number4bobbyorr said...

neb said: "however doobie if i read your original post correctly you give no chance of thomas ever being a hasek and have already decided we are wasting our time with him....."

Exactly. Two things that really piss me off about other fans: (1) when they won't give a player a fair chance, based on little more than what other people thought in the past, or one bad game or sometimes just one bad play in a single game, and (2) when they think they know better than the professionals who have spent their entire careers in Hockey (like claiming the coach isn't playing someone as much as he should be because said coach is a moron).

Hell, this is why I stopped reading that other blog...

Hey, it's one thing to say, "I'm not convinced Thomas can make it in the long haul, and quite another to *conclude* that he can't. And it's one thing to say, "I wish they'd play so and so more" and quite another to claim the coach (who knows far more about the players and the situation than any of us does) is an idiot because he doesn't.

Come on, doobie, let's not forget that any of these guys (maybe even the coaches) could likely skate circles around any one of us and make complete fools of us on the ice. Let's not make fools of ourselves by not giving them the respect they have earned.

A little grown-up humility--that's all I ask.

Geeze, why not sit back and enjoy it? For now the Tank rules! And I get a big happy grin everytime I see his smiling face on the ice.

4:46 p.m., December 29, 2006  
Blogger neb said...

i do not have "confidence" that tim is going to "do" anything either, but so far he has impressed more than not...and has shown signs of brilliance not seen here in a long time, so why doubt him? because he doesnt have a perfect pedigree?

thomas's lifetime numbers are 2.87 .913 in 71 games -
hannu's nubmers 3.05 .903 in 29 games - in two injury plague seasons.....


hannuis only a prospect so far (and rask now that we are talking about it) and entrusting him as the future of the franchise would be foolish, especially if you are force feeding them at a time that you have a guy who is winning you games... they are young and we have a guy now - why rush them?

tim is not taking anyones time... if anything pc should be looking for a real back up for thomas so that hannu and rask will not be rushed along and can get sometime in the pipes in providence. a real back up might also keep lewis from running thomas out there too many times and burning him out, which is my biggest fear about thomas right now...

4:56 p.m., December 29, 2006  
Blogger jimbuff said...

Thomas Rules!! Doodie, he is only 32. He has 5 - 6 excellent years left then another 1 or 2 good ones. 32 is not old for an athlete anymore nutrition,exercise,supplements are way above what they were before and athletes stay elite for longer).
The only thing I can see for "goalie of the future" is you want Boston to sign a young unknown to a 15 year contract like the Islanders did - No thanks from me I'll take Thomas for the next 6-7 years or even 4-5 years anyday!

5:07 p.m., December 29, 2006  
Blogger Doobie said...

Trust me, I *am* enjoying the ride. There's a difference between skepticism and pessimism. I'm just merely stating that Thomas isn't exactly a spring chicken and that he still has a lot to prove to make *me* think that he's going to be the goalie of the future. But I digress. As has been pointed out, I'm no coach or scout. All I know is that Thomas was never really considered a major prospect and that he probably wouldn't even be in this situation if it wasn't for injuries to Raycroft and Toivonen last year. He might even still be playing in Providence.

But stranger things have happened with supposedly "lesser" talent. Hell, who'd have thought a late 6th round pick like Tom Brady would become such a great QB? Or that an unknown QB like Kurt Warner would lead his team through a Cinderella season in 1999 that ended in a Super Bowl win? Highly touted prospect or not, Thomas still can take this team far.

As for ice time, yes, Thomas is taking ice time from Toivonen, but it's not like he doesn't deserve it. Simply put, he's been fantastic and Toivonen hasn't. Hannu needs to step up his game to even get this back to a time-share level like it was before. I'm certainly not saying that playing time should simply be *given* to Hannu...it's just a simple fact that coaches are going to ride the hot goalie and as long as Thomas is playing this well, there's no reason to play Toivonen with the exception of resting Thomas.

Trust me, I'll be *thrilled* if Thomas proves me wrong and takes this team deep into the playoffs over the next couple of years.

10:48 p.m., December 29, 2006  
Blogger TreeBob said...

Well I feel like I have missed the entire party. I live for Thomas talk but I've been away and little time to comment. Great discussion so far though guys. I think I will ignore others comments to start and then address some if need be.

"I, like many others, hoped this would be the season that Toivonen took charge and became the #1 goalie for this team with Tim Thomas providing a steady backup role." Not me, but I think I had made that known pretty well before the season began. I am a Thomas homer and think he rules.

I think it is safe to say that with every player over 30 there is always the question of how long they will play. Let's face the present facts though. He is still young and in shape. He is younger than all of us and I still play sports. Sure I can't run around non-stop like I was young but hey I am out of shape. Thomas is not. In fact he doesn't seem to have any problem with mobility and stamina. He is freakin nuts with his diving saves. I think most people who would try that shit on a nightly basis would come injured eventually. Thomas has been doing this his whole career.

Yes, he is a 9th round pick but so what. Goalies are typically late round picks. The guy was a wizard in college 81-44-15 2.70 .914, Finland 70-32-16 1.97 .934, AHL 59-47-11 2.55 .919. Ripping it this year and last too. Sure Blaine Lacher dissapeared but he didn't have the career that Thomas had behind him.

I think Thomas could easily be traded. Who wouldn't want him. Even
if they didn't need him as their starter he would be an amazing back-up! That said why would you trade him? He is not that expensive. Rask and Toivonen may or may not work out but they are both young and we have time to wait until they prove they can be our future in nets. Until that time Thomas IS the number one goalie and deserves to be the number one goalie. He is among the best goalies in the league and this year the rest of the NHL knows it as well.

Gotta go take care of my sick kids now. Vacation is great ;)
Great comments number4, neb and jim and welcome to the site don't drink and drive.

10:51 a.m., December 30, 2006  
Blogger Heather said...

I'm late to the party, but here goes:

Off the ice, I think Tim Thomas is a great guy. He's affable and very fan-friendly. Regardless of what people might say, I think this is an important facet of a player's personality. Not as important as their level of play, of course, but important just the same.

On the ice, I'm still wary. Is he playing very well? Absolutely; I do not dispute that. Do I wish for it to continue? Absolutely. However, based on past precedent, I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak. Maybe it won't, but that doesn't stop me from being hesitant.

Hannu Toivonen is in an inbetween place. He's excelled at the AHL level, and putting him back down in Providence would only rob other prospects of already-rare playing minutes. Hannu is in need of time spent facing a skill set more mature then what the AHL and their five-veterans-per-team rule allows. Unfortunately, he's only going to get that at the expense of (currently) Boston's time.

To say to trade him and bring Finley back up is also a little crazy in my opinion. Everyone is quick to point out Hannu's injury-plagued seasons (04-05, knee, 05-06 ankle, 06-07 other ankle) but Brian Finley, god love him, has all kinds of groin issues. He spent most of November and December recuperating from a groin strain (an issue he has had surgery on previously), and in his first game back with the pBruins this past Friday, re-aggravated the injury.

Boston is 36 games into their schedule as I type this, and Hannu has played in only 10 games, for a total of just under 473 minutes. In my opinion, that's woefully low. In comparison, Tim has gotten 30 games and a total of just over 1,623 minutes this season. I suck at math, but my calculator says that Hannu's seen about 30% of the playing time that Tim has. To play so little must eventually wreck some kind of havoc on one's mental game.

Hannu is still a prospect, and he's an excellent prospect at that. To already throw in the towel where he's concerned is premature.

10:55 a.m., December 31, 2006  
Anonymous Hahahaha said...

Thomas *is* an elite goaltender in all the ways that count.

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahhahahhahhahahahahahahhahahahahhahhahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahah. Funny statement.

9:23 a.m., January 04, 2007  

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