Bruins respectfully move on from Tim Thomas era

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Bruins respectfully move on from Tim Thomas era

Its safe to say the Bruins players had turned the page Bob Segar-style long before Thursdays deal that sent Tim Thomas to the New York Islanders.

Its a paper transaction as far as Im concerned, said Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton matter-of-factly of the deal that sent the former Bruins goaltender to the Isles in exchange for a second round pick in either the 2014 or 2015 NHL draft if Thomas ever reports to New York for goaltending duty.

Certainly there was still an appreciation for a Bruins goalie who made four All-Star appearances during his career in Boston, captured a pair of Vezina Trophies and led the Bs to an unforgettable Stanley Cup title in Conn Smythe style. No matter what Thomas believed politically or what he might have deigned to post on Facebook, his teammates supported him as long as the best goaltender on the planet was his closing act.

He was a great goaltender and I definitely appreciated what he did for this hockey club. You look at the solid five years that he put together was probably better than any other goalie in the league from 2007-08 to last season, said Milan Lucic. Obviously he was a big part of the team winning a Stanley Cup here and things didnt end off the way everybody had hoped. Its time for everybody to move on. But youve got to appreciate the effort he put forth for this hockey club because he did give it his all . . . hes got two Vezinas and a Conn Smythe to show for it.

Most teammates echoed Lucics sentiments about respect for Thomas contributions and perhaps a slight tinge of lament at the way things ended for him in Boston. Bruins coach Claude Julien stressed the respect word when speaking about Thomas, and the way he performed during the coachs five years managing the goaltender with the eccentric personality.

I have a lot of respect for Tim Thomas for what hes accomplished, said Julien. As a player: a two-Vezina Trophy winner, a Stanley Cup champion and an MVP of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Hes done a lot. Even for those that view him differently as a person, I never had an issue with Tim. He had his own thoughts and ideas as a player and you run into that all the time as a coach.

There are different personalities in that dressing room that you deal with, and you learn as a coach that you have to respect them for who they are. It doesnt mean there arent times where you talked about the differences, but you always worked it out.

Tim wasnt a bad person and Ive been very clear on that. Hes a person that was pretty strong in his own views at times, but was never a bad person. Thats why we never viewed his as a distraction at times. He was a guy that thought differently. Guys said all the time that as long as he stops pucks then were okay with it.

The trade to the Isles became necessary when Thomas decided he no longer wanted to stop pucks for the Bruins, and instead opted to focus on faith, friends and family while putting Boston in a bind. The Bruins, in essence, were just happy to have the 5 million cap liability lifted from their books.

A year ago a Tim Thomas trade would have yielded much more than a conditional second round pick for the Bruins organization, but his value plummeted once he announced his NHL sabbatical.

But thats now the challenge for Islanders GM Garth Snow and the Isles players should Thomas ever show up at Nassau Coliseum with his goaltending gear ready to continue his NHL career.

The window has closed on his time in Boston, and everyone at TD Garden has respectfully moved on with their hockey lives.

Bergeron and Marchand convinced Backes to join Bruins

Bergeron and Marchand convinced Backes to join Bruins

JAMAICA PLAIN -- For those excited about the idea of an intense, hard-hitting David Backes in a Bruins uniform for the next five years, you have Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand to partially thank.

Backes, 32, didn’t know either of them all that well prior to this summer, aside from his experiences on ice against them. But Bergeron and Marchand called Backes multiple times while recruiting him to Boston, and it was a major factor in the former Blues captain signing a five-year, $30 million deal with the B's.

“Being an outsider, we need to have a little bit of confession here that Marchand is the kind of guy that gets under everybody’s skin. I was no different,” said the 6-foot-3, 221-pound Backes, who has 206 goals and 460 points in 727 career NHL games, all with St. Louis. “But then talking to him a little bit in the interview process prior to July 1, I hung up the phone and had to take a deep breath and say to myself, ‘That little disturber, he’s actually a pretty good guy.’ Those guys end up being the best teammates.

“A guy like Bergeron, when you play against him [he's] always in the right spot, and is never making mistakes. Those types of guys, again, are guys you want on your team, and guys you want to go to war with. They’re All-World players, Bergeron is an All-World player. But he’s also a down-to-earth guy that puts his work boots on, takes his lunch pail and plays his butt off. He’s nice to the young kids, and he’s nurturing in helping them come along. I think you’ve seen in the NHL that you need a few guys on entry-level deals, or a few guys to outperform their contracts, in order to have success in the salary-cap era. That nurturing and mentorship can really foster those kinds of performances.”

While Backes went on to mention Zdeno Chara as another highly respected, formidable opponent with whom he’ll now share a dressing room, it was interesting to note that players who currently have letters on their sweaters, like Chara and David Krejci, didn’t play a part in the recruiting process. Instead it was the next captain of the team (Bergeron) and a player (Marchand) currently in the middle of negotiations entering the last year of his contract.

“I talked to both Bergeron and Marchand twice before July 1," said Backes. "Just the way that they spoke about their team mentality, and teaming up together and sharing the load of hard minutes that need to be played, and also sharing the load of the offensive necessities that a team has . . . those things just rang true to my beliefs of a team.

“You’re all equals whether you’re the top-paid guy, or the top-minute guy, or the low-minute guy, or the guy that’s playing every other game because you’re the healthy scratch in the other games.

“We all needed to be treated equal, and do whatever we can to support the next guy. When the next guy has success, we have to be just as happy as if we scored the goal. That’s the type of thing where, when you get that from the full 20 guys on the ice, it’s so tough to be beat. Those are the teams that win championships.”

It will be interesting to see just how much involvement Backes has with the Bergeron and Marchand combination. He could very easily be a right-wing fit with those two dynamic forwards next season, or he could be a third-line center behind Bergeron and Krejci and give the Bruins elite depth down the middle of the ice.

True to his team-oriented nature, Backes said he’ll be happy to play at either position and do whatever Claude Julien feels is best.

Backes introduces Bruins fans to his 'Athletes for Animals' charity

Backes introduces Bruins fans to his 'Athletes for Animals' charity

JAMAICA PLAIN -- David Backes probably could have opted to have his introductory press conference inside the Bruins dressing room at TD Garden, or maybe even in some finished part of the team's new practice facility in Brighton, which is set to open a couple of months from now.

Instead, the new Bruins forward met face-to-face with the media for the first time while taking a tour of the MSPCA and, in the process, introducing Bruins fans to his “Athletes for Animals” charity, a foundation that promotes rescuing -- and protecting the welfare of -- homeless pets nationwide.

Backes took pictures with a pit bull named Greta that’s been at the MSPCA Adoption Center for the last seven months looking for a “forever home”.

And as he spoke, it became abundantly clear that this is what the 32-year-old former St. Louis Blues captain is all about.

“[Taking a tour of the facility] gives you a warm feeling inside, and makes you feel like you’re already a part of the city while helping give some attention to the great work that they’re doing,” said Backes, the owner of four dogs (Maverick, Rosey, Marty, Bebe) and two cats (Sunny, Poly), who is house-hunting in Boston this week with his wife and 13-month-old daughter.

“Hopefully this will be just the beginning of our connecting with the community, and helping serve the people that are great fans of the Bruins and that will be watching us every night. [Hopefully] they’re watching us go on deep playoff runs year after year.”

Backes’ efforts with rescue animals gained national notoriety when he took time to help with the stray dog situation in Sochi, Russia during the last Winter Olympics. But the roots of his “Athletes for Animals” charity goes back to his college days at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

“The full story is that in college we wanted an animal or two, but it just wasn’t responsible because we were renting and the landlords didn’t approve," he said "We just didn’t really have the time or resources to support them, so we volunteered at the local shelter for the three years I was in school.

“When my wife [Kelly] and I moved to St. Louis, we wanted to connect with the community, be a part and use our voice to influence social change to do our part making the world a little bit of a better place. So we said ‘Why not connect with the animal welfare rescue community?’

“We absolutely love doing it: Walking dogs, scooping litter boxes and cleaning kennels. Let’s use our voice to kick this off and see what we can do, and it really just snowballed from that to then trying to tie other guys into it. It’s not limited to the animal stuff, but the animals that don’t have a voice, and the kids that don’t have a voice, really tug at our heart strings. We want to help them with this blessing of a great voice we’ve been given as professional athletes, and to really use that to give them some help.”

For these reasons alone, Backes is a great fit in Boston. The Bruins donate heavily to the MSPCA and were one of the first NHL organizations to come up with the Pucks ‘N Pups calendar, which each year features Bruins players and their dogs, or strays from the MSPCA, to raise money for the animal welfare organization.

To learn more about Backes’ organization, “Athletes for Animals,” visit http://athletesforanimals.org .