Tim Thomas: Back in the Act

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Tim Thomas: Back in the Act

Theres no way to discuss what happened with Tim Thomas without pissing a few people off. In fact, there are probably a handful of people reading this who are already mad. (If youre one of them, I hereby challenge you to a Facebook debate. Today at high noon. Caps lock only)

Yeah, stuff like this always breeds craziness. On both sides. A lightning rod like Thomas unleashes some sort of virtual bomb and like clockwork, everyone freaks out. A few minutes later, were arguing back and forth about things that may or may not have happened 5,000 years ago (and will never be resolved). A few minutes later, total chaos.

Of course, thats what Tim Thomas wants.

Is there any other explanation? Regardless of whether you agree with what he said, theres no doubt that he intended to make a scene. He knew hed be back in the news. He knew people would write these columns. Its obvious that he just wants some attention.

(Thats one major drawback to sports in the Internet age. Its way too easy for needy athletes to get noticed. Thirty years ago, Thomas would have had to send out 50,000 Stand With Chik-fil-A post cards. By the time they arrived, everyone would have forgotten that the story ever happened.)

Im not saying that attention is his only motivation, though. Its entirely possible that Thomas Facebook post is a genuine act of faith. That he truly believes that the legalization of gay marriage will be the cause of our societys eternity in hell, and that its his duty to spread the truth and save the world.

If so, thats fine. Even if you dont agree with what he said, you have to believe in his right to say it.

Lastly, I havent ruled out the possibility that Thomas is just screwing with all of us right now. Its still so hard to believe that a guy who grew up in the same town as Michael Moore and went to college at UVM turned into such a staunch conservative. I think its just as likely that he and one of his old stoner buddies from Burlington are shacked up in Colorado and pulling the strings on a massive social experiment. Like Casey Affleck and Joaquin Phoenix.

But maybe thats a little unrealistic.

Either way, from a sports perspective, the underlying theme in all this is that Tim Thomas has lost a ton of fans this year. There are also a lot of people who are now even bigger fans. But they're not the story. The story is that this guy, who was once universally considered a hero a living legend is now the most polarizing, and in many ways, (with apologies to Josh Beckett) the most hated athlete in recent Boston sports history. And Thomas doesnt seem to care. At this point, hed rather be known for his beliefs than for his ability to play hockey.

In a way, thats refreshing. Its nice to see a guy seek a higher calling, and realize that some things are more important than sports.

I just wish he wasnt so selective.

Its like, if youre going to use your celebrityFacebook page to sound off against injustice and the casualties of the world, thats fine. If you really want to stand against gay marriage? I don't get it, but thats totally up to you. But my question is: Where have you been for the last month? Why not use your platform to take a stand against child rape? Why not stand with the families of the 12 people who were gunned down at a movie theater in your new home state of Colorado? You're worried about hell? What about the people whose lives have been transformed into a living hell?

Of course, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter. Does anything that Tim Thomas says whether it's "Down with Sandusky!"or "I stand with Chik-fil-A!" really matter? He doesn't play in Boston anymore. He doesn't even play hockey anymore. Every time he signs on Facebook it becomes less likely that he'll ever play hockey again. He's just a guy with an opinion. Nothing more, nothing less. And maybe it's time we just start treating him like that.

If you disagree, you know where to find me.

FACEBOOK. HIGH NOON. BRING YOUR EXCLAMATION POINTS.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Haggerty: It's time for Pastrnak to take a step forward

Haggerty: It's time for Pastrnak to take a step forward

BRIGHTON -- The third season is usually a pivotal one when it comes to an NHL player's development and trying to forecast exactly how high their ceiling will be.

So it is for David Pastrnak, who is expected to take a major leap forward in his third year after showing flashes of great promise in each of his first two seasons.

“The [World Cup] is done, so now all of my focus is on being as ready as I can for this upcoming season,” said Pastrnak, 20, who threw probably the biggest hit of his career on unsuspecting teammate Patrice Bergeron when the Czechs played Team Canada in the preliminary rounds. “I feel way bigger, very comfortable on the ice, and I obviously feel really good right now.”

Pastrnak has had moments of dazzling brilliance in Boston so far while riding the usual learning curve that every young player travels in Claude Julien’s system. In addition, injuries last season sidetracked his development process.

Pastrnak put up 21 goals and 55 points between Boston and Providence as the youngest player in either league as an 18-year-old rookie two years ago. Last season he had 15 goals and 26 points in 51 games for the Bruins while also missing significant time because of a fractured foot. The injury not only sidelined him for a few months but also made it difficult for him to jump onto the moving train of the NHL regular season once he was ready to return.

Just as the former first-round pick was really catching fire at the end of the year, time ran out on a Bruins team that had a few too many older veterans with empty gas tanks after being ridden hard throughout the season. Pastrnak scored goals in each of the final couple of games, and showed off the game-breaking ability that should be on full display if he's healthy and placed in a position to succeed.

His World Cup stint ended on a high note, as he played his best game of the tourney against Team USA, though he didn’t make a major impact in the elite international competition. He put on five pounds of muscle during the offseason and clearly looking bigger and stronger at 189 pounds after ending last season closer to 180.

Part of that is the natural physical maturation process for somebody Pastrnak’s age as he gain’s “man strength”, and some of it was a dedicated effort. He worked out in Boston with the B’s training staff for much of the summer for the first time in his career.

The expectation is that Pastrnak is going to be running on the right wing with David Krejci on Boston’s second line, and the search in training camp is for a left wing who can bring added playmaking ability and maybe a little size and strength to the mix. In a perfect world Krejci and Pastrnak will develop into the same dynamic, two-way combination of Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

Pastrnak and Krejci could be a lethal offensive duo to be sure, but they’ll also have to pay attention to the little details if they want to stay together playing for Julien. Perhaps with that in mind, Julien was looking to temper expectations for Pastrnak

“I don't know if [the World Cup experience] accelerates expectations. But it's certainly encouraging to see that a guy that's got that experience to go and play at that level, and made himself better,” said Julien. “We know he's skilled and we know he's fast, and he's also gotten stronger. He's taking steps in the right direction here. We can look at those guys that are first overall picks and say, wow, some guys are exceptional.

“Some of the guys, you've got to give them time to grow and develop. That's what we need to do with David Pastrnak. I think we've got to stop putting expectations too high for him, and allow him to grow properly. He's going to have some growing pains and there are still some things he's going to want to get better at. There are still some things that he's going to want to learn that we're going to want to teach him. Let's give him that opportunity to grow properly without the extra pressure and extra expectations that maybe are not realistic.”

One would argue Pastrnak put those expectations on himself when he posted the 21 goals and 55 points as an 18-year-old, but that’s neither here nor there. Instead, the Pastrnak development project can, and should, be one of the things considered when we evaluate Julien’s current ability to get the most out of his young prospect-type players.

The bottom line with Pastrnak and the Bruins is this: It’s his contract year and motivation should be sky high. The Czech youngster is one of the few people who can step up and help fill the offensive void left by the free-agent departure of Loui Eriksson. Expectations are much higher for an experienced, talented 20-year-old than they are for a wide-eyed 18-year-old, and Pastrnak needs to make a big stride forward. Now is the time for Pastrnak to show all he’s learned, and completely unleash the array of offensive skills that caught everybody’s eye in the first place.

The Bruins need Pastrnak, and young players, to step up and start taking ownership of the hockey team.

Beleskey, Spooner and McQuaid highlight Bruins lineup vs. Red Wings

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Beleskey, Spooner and McQuaid highlight Bruins lineup vs. Red Wings

The Bruins announced their lineup for the second preseason game on Wednesday night at home against the Detroit Red Wings, and it was slightly more veteran-laden than the youthful Boston group tapped for Monday night’s opening loss to the Blue Jackets.

Matt Beleskey, Ryan Spooner, Adam McQuaid and Dominic Moore lead the grizzled group of Bruins players readying for the exhibition tilt against their Atlantic Division rivals, and 19-year-old Zachary Senyshyn will make his preseason debut after getting fully medically cleared from appendectomy surgery a couple of weeks ago.

The 2015 first round pick has had a bit of a rough summer after bouts with mononucleosis and appendicitis forced him to miss Bruins rookie camp, but Senyshyn has quickly regained his strength and the blazing speed that's his biggest asset as a player. 

Austin Czarnik, Peter Mueller and Sean Kuraly are the only players from the opening night roster that will be in again to show their stuff against the Winged Wheels, and undoubtedly to get another long look from the Bruins coaching staff. Here is the full Black and Gold lineup for Wednesday night’s home date against the Red Wings with the untelevised exhibition game to be streamed on bruins.com

 

FORWARDS: Noel Acciari, Matt Beleskey, Anton Blidh, Austin Czarnik, Brian Ferlin, Jesse Gabrielle, Justin Hickman, Sean Kuraly, Dominic Moore, Peter Mueller, Zach Senyshyn, Ryan Spooner.

DEFENSEMEN: Linus Arnesson, Chris Casto, Matt Grzelcyk, Jeremy Lauzon, Adam McQuaid, Colin Miller.

GOALIES: Malcolm Subban, Daniel Vladar.