It’s one thing when a player gets traded and fans don’t know what to do with their old jerseys. It’s a completely different ballgame when a team is planning a bobblehead night for one of its marquee players and then decides to trade said player before the night actually happens. What do you do with those 7,500 bobbleheads?
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By Nick Stoico
Tim Thomas has always been a bit quirky. Consider his unorthodox style of play, his choice of representation, and his way of leaving Boston. His most recent return to the city as a member of the Florida Panthers did nothing to change that perception.
The 39-year-old netminder took to the ice sporting a blue helmet-and-cage combo that looked similar to what a youth skater in a house league might wear. It also had a classic dangling white neck guard that brought some nostalgia with it. For fans in Boston, Thomas’ choice of headwear was reminiscent of some of his more interesting facial protection through the years.
Sometimes it’s just plain awful to be a fan.
We’re not talking about the occasional emotional bump and bruise, the kind fans get from a devastating last-second loss or a disastrous season-ending injury — or even when they watch their favorite team bow out in the conference finals, one round shy of a shot at the Stanley Cup. We mean years of suffering at the hands of a club that almost seems to delight in tormenting those who freely give to it their hearts, minds, time and money.
This is the fifth in our series on the 10 NHL franchises that take an ongoing toll on their fans, the teams that suggest that their devoted followers are either bottomless wells of hope or certified masochists–or perhaps just a touch crazy. Today we look at the Florida Panthers, who reached the 1996 Stanley Cup Final in their third year of existence but have since secured squatter’s rights on Futility Boulevard while creating a rather lonely experience for those who have the intestinal fortitude to attend their games.
You knew it was only a matter of time before Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon took measures to right his listing hockey team. This morning, he did.
After suffering a seventh consecutive loss Thursday night in Boston, and just days after saying that his coach’s gig was safe, Tallon fired Kevin Dineen along with assistants Gord Murphy and Craig Ramsay Friday. Peter Horacheck was named as Dineen’s replacement on an interim basis.
“After 16 games it was clear that our team needed a change in philosophy and direction,” Tallon said in a press release. “We have not met the expectations that we set forth at training camp and it is my responsibility to make the necessary changes to ensure that our club performs at its maximum potential. We thank Kevin, Gord and Craig for their hard work and dedication to our organization and the professionalism that they displayed throughout their tenure.”
Horacheck was serving as head coach of Florida’s top farm team in San Antonio. “He’s a no-nonsense guy, a good communicator,” Tallon said. “We’ll give him a chance to show his wares.”
As Batman once said, “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”
Depending on whom you ask, and what day of the week you do it on, Tim Thomas is either a hero or villain to Boston fans. The undersized goalie was often times stellar for the Bruins, backstopping the franchise to it’s first Stanley Cup in 40 years in 2011, adding the Conn Smythe Trophy as postseason MVP to go with his Vezina Trophy as the league’s top netminder.
By Allan Muir
Florida Panthers goalie Tim Thomas has left tonight’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers with an apparent leg injury.
Thomas came out to cut the angle down on a long blast by Philadelphia’s Sean Couturier. As he pushed off his left leg, it crumpled under him, sending him to the ice and leaving an open net for Braydon Coburn to bury the rebound.
Ideally, Tim Thomas would have skated off the American Airlines Center ice with a clean slate to go along with the win in his debut appearance for the Panthers.
“I try to stop every puck,” he said after leading Florida — it’s going to take a while to get used to that reality — to a 4-2 opening night victory over the Dallas Stars. “I don’t look at it as keeping my team in it. My job is to stop them all.”
That’s always been one of the elements that defined Thomas’s greatness during the past decade. Every game, a potential shutout. Every goal against, a personal affront.
Other than Thomas, though, no one was expecting him to be at his Vezina-Conn Smythe-Stanley Cup-winning best. Not yet anyway. A year off from the game, at age 39 no less, was bound to dull the edges a bit.
And dull they were. The truth is, Thomas looked very beatable last night. There were hints of the confidence that made his style-less style so effective in Boston, but the impact of his sabbatical was obvious.
By Allan Muir
By all accounts, Tim Thomas looked pretty good today for a guy making his return to the ice after 15 months of self-imposed exile from the game. His reflexes were sharp, his positioning was solid and the old competitive fire was back in his eyes.
One observer said it’ll probably take him longer to get used to seeing Thomas wearing red than it’ll take the 39-year-old to return to top form with his new team, the Florida Panthers.
Thomas still has to sign a new deal — he’s only in camp on a professional tryout — but after today’s successful debut it’s a good bet that the former Vezina Trophy winner will be in the net when the Panthers open the season in Dallas on October 3.
After the workout, Thomas, looking fit and fresh, spent a few minutes with the local media. Here are some of the highlights.
By Allan Muir
Tim Thomas finally did the math.
With training camps open, spending around the league pushing up against the ceiling and no teams in desperate need of his services, the veteran netminder finally decided to walk down the one path that was open to him. Thomas has agreed to join the Florida Panthers on a professional tryout basis.
Panthers GM Dale Tallon says Thomas will practice with the team on Tuesday with an eye on grabbing the starting job.
“We need somebody to help us get to where we need to go,” Tallon told AP. “Right now, it’s Tim Thomas. … The more competition you have for spots internally, the better off your team will be. It’s a wide-open competition. Let the best man win.”
It’s an interesting development for the career of the 39-year-old netminder with two Vezina trophies, a Conn Smythe and a unique ability for creating controversy that he developed late in life.
If Thomas expected to pick from a roomful of suitors when he announced his intention to return to hockey from his self-imposed exile, he had to be stunned by the silence. Though plenty of teams could use a keeper with his resume, Thomas was regarded as too much of a wild card after the way things ended with the Boston Bruins.
And so while he waited for offers, teams signed goalies like Dan Ellis, Reto Berra and Richard Bachman instead.
By Allan Muir
Sometimes things work out exactly the way they should.
That’s probably not an opinion held right now by the Florida Panthers, who lost tonight’s NHL Draft Lottery to the Colorado Avalanche and now have to settle for the second pick despite posting a league-worst 15-27-6 mark.
But come on, you have to like the thought of a kid who picked up the sport in Denver with the help of Joe Sakic ending up with the Avs, right?
There’s no guarantee that Colorado takes top-rated prospect Seth Jones with that first overall pick. As Bob McKenzie said while listing the results of his own scouts’ poll, one of the 10 had Halifax winger Jonathan Drouin ranked first overall. For all we know, that team could be the Avs.
But probably not.