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Future Hall Of Famer Tim Thomas Is Now Considered Retired

Whenever a player who I consider a future Hall of Famer retires, I like to write a career retrospective for him.  This can be problematic when sometimes a player never officially announces retirement when he quits playing hockey.  Announcing retirement is not mandatory.  In Tim Thomas's case it is clear that he is retired as he didn't play in the NHL last year and is making no effort to play this year.

Thomas was born on April 15, 1974 in Flint, Michigan.  He was first noticed by hockey scouts while playing high school hockey at Davison High School in Michigan.  From there, he moved onto the University of Vermont.  He was a star in college he made the ECAC All Rookie Team in his first year.  After that season he was drafted in the ninth round of the NHL Entry Draft by the Quebec Nordiques 217th overall.  He never signed with the Nords.  In the NCAA, he followed that up with a berth on the ECAC First All Star team and the NCAA East Second All American Team.  His third year saw him make both the ECAC First All Star team and the NCAA East First All American Team.  Though his numbers fell off a bit in his senior year, he left the University of Vermont as their all time leader in games played for a goalie, wins and saves.

After college hockey, Thomas tried to make it in minor pro hockey.  He played six games with the Birmingham Bulls in the ECHL and one game with the Huston Aeros in the IHL before heading to Finland to play with HIFK in the Finnish Elite League.  He had a strong season in Finland where he was named the best goaltender in the league and led his team to the league championship.  That got Thomas signed by the Edmonton Oilers.  He returned to North America and played with the Hamilton Bulldogs in the AHL (the Oiler farm team).  After fifteen games played, he returned to Finland and played a partial season.  In 1999/2000, he returned to North America and played with the Detroit Vipers in the IHL, and independent minor pro team. 

Thomas headed back to Europe the next season.  This time he played in Sweden with AIK.  After one season, he went to Finland and played with Karpat.  He played well enough that he was signed by the Boston Bruins in the NHL.

In 2002/03, he returned to North America and played with the Providence Bruins in the AHL (Boston's farm team).  He played his first four NHL games that season.  Thomas returned to Providence for the entire next season.  During the 2004/05 lockout season, Thomas returned to Finland to play with Jokerit.  Thomas has a strong year where he was named the MVP of the Finnish Elite League.  He was the first non-European ever to win that award.  He was also named MVP in a vote by the players.  Thomas signed to remain in Finland but he had an out in his contract if an NHL team signed him.  Just before the start of the 2005/06 season, Thomas left as the Boston Bruins offered to re-sign him.

Thomas began the season with Providence in the AHL but finished the year in the NHL.  He won the Bruins number one goaltender job.  He played well enough to be named to the US team in the World Championships.  His 06/07 season was a full year as the Bruins number one goalie.  In 07/08, Thomas made his first appearance in the NHL All Star Game.  2009 was an even bigger year.  Thomas won the Vezina Trophy as the top goalie in the NHL.  He made the NHL First All Star Team and won the Jennings Trophy as the goaltender on the team with the best goals against average (which he shared with Manny Fernandez).  In 2010, he was the backup goalie on the silver medal winning US Olympic Team in Vancouver.  2011 was a historic year for Tim Thomas.  He set an NHL record for the highest saves percentage ever recorded.  He won his second Vezina Trophy and made the First Team All Star for a second time.  In the playoffs, he led the Bruins to the Stanley Cup and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP.  Thomas set records for most saves during the playoffs and most saves during the Stanley Cup finals.  Thomas was given awards by ESPN as well.  He won the ESPY award for best NHL player and best championship performance.  

Although Thomas made his fourth All Star Game in 2012, his relationship with teammates was soured when he refused to go to the white House to meet with President Barack Obama with his Stanley Cup champion Bruins squad.  Thomas opted to take the next season off.  The Bruins traded Thomas (and his contract) to the New York Islanders for a conditional second round draft pick.  The Isles let his contract expire without Thomas playing for them.

Thomas accepted a tryout with the Florida Panthers in 2013/14 and played with them for most of that season.  He was traded at trade deadline time to the Dallas Stars for Dan Ellis. 

Tim Thomas has made no further attempts to play in the NHL, though he has not officially retired either.  Thomas was the best player in the game for a short time.  He had a very successful but short NHL career with an improbable trip to the NHL with time spent in Europe and several minor pro leagues.  

With Thomas's retirement, this leaves a list of 13 active players that I consider future Hall of Famers.  Here they are:

 

Zdeno Chara
Sidney Crosby
Pavel Datsyuk
Sergei Gonchar
Marian Hossa
Jarome Iginla
Jaromir Jagr
Duncan Keith
Ilya Kovalchuk
Roberto Luongo
Evgeni Malkin
Alexander Ovechkin
Joe Thornton

It is possible that Sergei Gonchar will retire soon since he failed to make the Pittsburgh Penguins.  As hockey is played this season, I expect some additions to this list as well.

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Comments

Hootinani's avatar

A player who had maybe 5 good years of NHL hockey, and very little international tourney experience, is a Hall of Famer?  If thats the standard, the HOF is going to need a major expansion.

Posted by Hootinani from the parade following Babs out of town on 10/08/15 at 06:16 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

It depends how good those good years were.  In Thomas’s case he was a 2 time Vezina Trophy winner, a Conn Smythe winner and for a time the best player in hockey.  If you can do that well in your “5 good years” then you should make the Hall of Fame.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 10/08/15 at 06:21 PM ET

sam_hell's avatar

If you can do that well in your “5 good years” then you should make the Hall of Fame.

Maybe for the NHL hall of fame, even then I’m not sure. Lot’s of clutch performers miss the cut in other sports

Posted by sam_hell on 10/08/15 at 06:35 PM ET

Chet's avatar

what’s your take on lindros, then? most dominant forward in the league for a bit, some hardware, no Cup. IIRC.

Posted by Chet from twitter: thegansen on 10/08/15 at 08:29 PM ET

Hootinani's avatar

If you are asking me, Im not sure how you count Lindros as the most dominant forward in an era that included Gretzky, Yzerman and Lemieux.

Having said that, I would say he definitely should be in based on his elite play over many years.  Everyone talks about his short career, but he played 12 or 13 seasons.  They were injury plagued, but even then he was well over a point per game player.

He also represented Canada several times and won Olympic gold.  I’m not sure what his personal awards were, but Id be willing to bet he won a league MVP at least once, and maybe even a scoring title.

Id guess his toxic personality may have something to do with him not making it in by now.

Posted by Hootinani from the parade following Babs out of town on 10/08/15 at 09:44 PM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.

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