March 5, 2011
Hart-felt plea for Thomas
By MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency
We interrupt all this chatter of Steven Stamkos, Daniel Sedin, Jonathan Toews, Corey Perry, Nik Lidstrom, Jarome Iginla or Eric Staal for the Hart Trophy to make the following legitimate point.
Where is the love for Tim Thomas?
Since 1962, only two goaltenders have won the National Hockey League’s most coveted piece of hardware as league MVP — Dominik Hasek (1996-97 and ’97-98) and Jose Theodore (2001-02). It says here that Thomas should get strong consideration to be the third.
While it’s difficult to argue with the aforementioned list of standout players, Thomas has pieced together some eye-popping numbers for the Boston Bruins. As one Eastern Conference scout said: “If this guy gives up two goals in a game, his average goes up.”
Heading into play on Saturday, Thomas’ league-leading goals-against average of 1.95 was 13 points better than the second-best mark of 2.08 owned by the Nashville Predators’ Pekka Rinne. Surely that’s impressive enough to warrant some Hart votes.
Of course, there still remains an old-school line of thinking that says goalies should not win the Hart. Such thinking follows the logic of former Blue Jays skipper Cito Gaston, who used to insist pitchers should not be eligible for the MVP trophy because they have their own award — the Cy Young.
For his part, Thomas doesn’t buy the argument that goalies should be excluded from the Hart race.
“By definition, the most valuable player should be anyone on the team,” Thomas said in a phone interview. “So what if goalies have their own trophy in the Vezina? The skaters get the Norris and the Selke, don’t they? We’re not eligible for those.”
Having said that, Thomas refuses to think about winning the award.
“My wife (Melissa) tells me people have talked about it,” Thomas said. “But that’s not really my goal. Playoff success is.”
After winning the Vezina two years ago, Thomas slumped to a 17-18-8 record and 2.56 average last season, one in which he found himself playing second fiddle to young Finnish goalie Tuukka Rask. With many observers figuring that was the beginning of the end for the thirtysomething goaltender, Thomas had other ideas and came to training camp intending to prove a point.
“First off, I wanted to show that the Vezina was not a fluke,” Thomas, 36, said. “Secondly, I wanted to show I wasn’t too old like some people suggested.
“To be honest, I think I’m playing a bit better than I did two years ago.”
Thomas isn’t boasting. You aren’t bragging when the numbers back you up.
In this case, they do. During his Vezina season, he went 36-11-7 with a 2.10 average and a .933 save percentage. In 2010-11, the Bruins star entered play on Saturday at 29-8-6, 1.95 and .940.
For most of the season, Stamkos has been the choice of yours truly. But, entering the final five weeks of the regular season, Thomas is making a strong case to change that choice.
Some of the other award frontrunners as team’s hit the stretch drive toward the playoffs:
- NORRIS TROPHY (Top defenceman): Nicklas Lidstrom, Red Wings.
Duncan Keith, Keith Yandle and Kris Letang are having great seasons, sure. But Lidstrom was playing pro hockey when some of these guys were in diapers and he’s still one of the best. Shouldn’t that count for something?
- CALDER TROPHY (Top rookie): Jeff Skinner, Hurricanes.
Logan Couture is a scoring machine, Taylor Hall has been electric, and young goalie James Reimer has made a late charge. But you can’t argue with the performance of Skinner, the little guy with the big heart.
- VEZINA TROPHY (Top Goalie): Tim Thomas, Bruins.
Just look at the numbers. Case closed.