Shawn Thornton will no longer be part of the Boston Bruins, as general manager Peter Chiarelli announced the team will not bring back the fan-favorite on Monday.
Since the news broke, it seems as though most people have put Thornton into the Bruins Hall of Fame — if not hockey’s ultimate Graceland in Toronto. Sure, he protected his teammates, fought the other team’s tough guys, and when his line was on the ice, its purpose was to inject some energy into the team. A lot of times it did just that.
But a lot of other times, it did not. A lot of times that fourth line was a detriment to the team, and unfortunately, that was pretty obvious in the opening minutes of Game 7 against the Montreal Canadiens in this year’s Eastern Conference Semifinal series. The “Merlot” line turned the puck over at center, couldn’t get it out the Bruins zone, and 2:18 into that game, the Habs scored and school was out.
Now before you start sending me death threats, I know no one would spend seven seasons with the Boston Bruins and get the love and adulation from the fans like Thornton did without doing some really good things — both on and off the ice. Nor do you have a 10-year NHL career, win two Stanley Cups with different teams, and donate your time, money, and energy to charity without being the kind of player, teammate and person that Shawn Thornton is.
But when the season was over, anyone who knows hockey knew that it was almost a foregone conclusion that Thornton, an unrestricted free agent, had played his last game with the Spoked-B on his chest. Thornton admitted he wasn’t surprised by the news shortly after it broke, and he still hopes to catch on and play for another team next season, feeling that he still can contribute. That may or may not happen for the 36-year-old Thornton.
But let’s all remember, Thornton was just an average player. Sure, he is someone that any team would like to have, but he is not a MUST HAVE player; not someone who, when your team is struggling in one form or another, you would go out and say, ‘who can we trade to get Shawn Thornton?’
Remember, everyone is replaceable, and no matter what kind of guy he was in the Bruins’ locker room, the object of any sport is to win.
Does Thornton put you in a position to win your last game of the season? No. And at times this past season, he actually hurt the club.
No one, including me, who has ever talked or interviewed Thornton would have anything bad to say about him. He’s a stand-up guy who bled black-and-gold for seven years, and did even more for the city off the ice.
But to say Thornton is a “special player,” or to put him on the same pedestal as other Bruin greats like Orr, Bourque or Neely (which some have done), in any way, shape or fashion, would be entirely improper, wrong and stupid