LAS VEGAS, NV Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron represent the bedrock of the leadership group with the Bruins dressing room. Theyre assisted by sage veterans like Chris Kelly and Andrew Ference, but its always been Chara and Bergeron addressing any issues within the Bruins dressing room head on.
So with both Chara and Bergeron at the Wynn Resort and Casino for the NHL Awards, it was finally time for the team conscience to weigh in on their All-Star goaltender walking away from the team.
Both said they were surprised that Tim Thomas has ostensibly decided that he doesnt want to play for the Bruins in the 2012-13 season, and that perhaps both parties were better off now.
I was surprised . . . I think I was surprised like everybody else, said Chara, while chatting with the media as a finalist attempting to win his second career Norris Trophy. Obviously he never mentioned anything to me, or maybe us as a team. But thats his decision. He probably has to deal with it.
Though Thomas never officially closed the door on playing next season during his infamous Facebook post about leaving hockey for friends, family and faith, it sounds like his Bruins teammates have already moved on.
Hes a mature person. If he says something then Im assuming he means it, said Chara. If he changes his mind then he changes his mind. But we have to be ready without him, and its as simple as that.
Chara said he hasnt been in contact with the 38-year-old goaltender after playing for Team Slovakia in the World Championships, and then taking his family to Florida to decompress for a few weeks after hockey season was over.
I was in the middle of spending some time with my family and really trying to stay away from hockey for a little bit, said Chara.
Bergeron was similarly surprised upon hearing the Thomas news, but has full faith that Tuukka Rask is ready for a starting job at 25 years old.
I was obviously surprised. Nobody was expecting it, said Bergeron. But at the same time its his decision. He said that it was to spend more time with his family and youve got to respect that.
Theres nothing I can say or judge that could make a difference. Im not one to judge. I know that Im fully confident in Tuukka that hes going to do the job. Hes obviously really young and hes got a lot of years ahead of him. Its a chance for him to seize the opportunity . . . I think hes ready to do that. For us its about doing the same thing weve been doing for the last couple of years and do the job.
The pathway is now clear for both Rask and 26-year-old Anton Khudobin to carve their own niches into the goaltending fraternity with Thomas out of the picture. Thomas was brilliant in winning two Vezina Trophies, a Stanley Cup and becoming a perennial All-Star goaltender.
But it also sounds like the Bruins decision-makers are ready for the dawn of a new era between the pipes in Boston.