Haggerty: Thomas not out to be a trade pawn

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Haggerty: Thomas not out to be a trade pawn

People can make jokes about the bunker and conspiracy theories, and some of them are tin-foil hat funny when it comes to Tim Thomas.

One can almost picture him living on cans of Spaghettios on his Colorado property when the end of days arrives, and opining about the collapse of the global economy.

Some can attempt to finger the Bruins media as the culprits behind the 38-year-old goaltender walking away from 3 million in salary that could have provided nicely for his family, friends and faith.

The Bruins wags didnt blow enough smoke up his pads, or Timmy would have stayed, some Bruins fanatics will chime in.

Some can look at a growing schism between Thomas and the Bruins that developed after he skipped out on the White House, and deduce the two-time Vezina Trophy winner wasnt coming back to Boston.

Some can look at two hard back-to-back seasons for Thomas in his late 30s, and point to an entirely believable burnout factor with the game of hockey.

Some might even think this all about serious family issues that have pulled Thomas away from the game of hockey when he was still seemingly in his prime a scenario he hinted at on his Facebook account:

"At the age of 38, I believe it is time to put my time and energies into those areas and relationships that I have neglected. That is why at this time I feel the most important thing I can do in my life is to reconnect with the three F's. Friends, Family, and Faith. This is what I plan on doing over the course of the next year."

There is a morsel of truth to all of these things, of course.

But the truth might just be that Thomas has lost that loving feeling in Boston, and is trying to control what happens to him next.

The veteran goaltender went into this season knowing the Bruins could deal him once his no-movement clause expires on July 1, and perhaps he formulated a plan to put into place if he saw the writing on the wall.

It started with the very unorthodox move of relocating his family from Boston to Colorado back in December during the middle of the regular season. It continued during the second half of the year when he really struggled between the pipes, and he seemed to have lapses in concentration with uncharacteristic bad goals.

He had a 2.69 goals against average and a .903 save percentage in the 26 games after skipping the photo op with President Obama.

The Bruins had always intended on keeping the option open to trade Thomas in the final year of his four-year contract. Once the White House situation dropped in late January, though, things got pretty strained between the team and player.

The possibility hed be traded after July 1 got a lot stronger, and so did the possibility that Thomas would walk away.

It became a near certainty when the Bs bowed out in the first round, and neither Thomas nor his teammates could recreate the kind of magic that was sprinkled all over them during their run to the Stanley Cup.

Tuukka Rask is ready to go from goaltender of the future to goaltender of the present, and it appeared his teammates were ready to move on after the Bruins were eliminated from the playoffs by the Caps.

Too many times they had to answer questions about Thomas when he refused to address them himself, and too many times his eccentricities caused other players to be overshadowed. That Daniel Paille's conference call was hijacked by a 30-minute streak of Tim Thomas questions for Peter Chiarelli last week was the most recent example of this, but there were others.

So perhaps Thomas threatened to walk away from the team, sit out his last contracted season with the Bruins and essentially stick them with a 5 million cap hit.

Whether he retired, played in the KHL, hosted a season of the reality show Doomsday Preppers or simply trained all year for the 2014 Olympics in Russia, the Bruins are stuck with the cap hit unless they can trade him.

The one caveat: A new CBA this summer might include provisions giving teams relief from the onerous 35 cap rules or amnesty for bad contracts. Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs draws plenty of water around the league and could suggest a rule change.

The questions about Thomas' unwillingness to play will kill any trade value that Thomas might have held for the Bruins. It's a tough predicament for Chiarelli: The Bruins either a) get very little in exchange for a four-time All-Star goaltender, or b) cant afford a top-shelf player because theyre wasting 5 million of cap space on a player who will not play.

Thomas was stung by the lack of loyalty and the trade rumors that leaked out from the Bruins two years ago, and he wasnt going to allow himself to become the teams trade pawn once again.

Thats the theory anyway.

Perhaps this is all about a moment of clarity for Thomas, who wants to spend more time cherishing the family, friends and faith that have taken a backseat throughout his hockey career.

But the straight-talking Thomas is going to look a little hypocritical if he ends up playing elsewhere in a different uniform this season after trumpeting the "three Fs" on Facebook.

Of course those words were followed by a ham-fisted advertisement for the workout paraphernalia hell be utilizing to train with for the next year.

That might have taken some of the heartfelt emotion out of the message for some.

Thomas is a borderline Hall-of-Fame talent on the ice and was the single-biggest driving force behind Bostons first Stanley Cup in 39 years. Nobody can argue that, and nobody should want to.

But hes also a man facing a lot of questions about his increasingly bizarre behavior since winning the Cup. And he's provided no answers -- not even a forwarding address to his Colorado bunker -- for the Bruins fans he left far behind.

Morning Skate: Not a dry eye as Canucks draftee gets the call

Morning Skate: Not a dry eye as Canucks draftee gets the call

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while getting ready to check out GLOW on Netflix.

*This video of a Vancouver Canucks draft pick tearing up while watching the video of his brother celebrating him getting picked is all that is right with the NHL Draft.  

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Adrian Dater has Avs first-round pick Cale Makar talking about his hockey background, and why it doesn’t matter.

*The Calgary Flames are excited about their prospects and the pieces they were able to acquire last weekend.

*The Washington Capitals have re-signed Brett Connolly for a couple of years at short money and he appears to have found a home in DC.

*The Chicago Blackhawks are still in talks with Marian Hossa about how to resolve his contract and the allergic skin condition that might have prematurely ended his hockey career.

*Will the Tampa Bay sports go through a dry spell when it comes to Hall of Fame athletes now that former Lighting forward Dave Andreychuk has been called to the Hockey Hall?

*It looks like young Pierre Luc Dubois will be put in a position to contribute with the Columbus Blue Jackets this season.

*Alex Prewitt has a preview of the NHL free agency period and the stress levels that many players go through in it.

*For something completely different: This video of Drake and Will Ferrell hoop handshakes was pretty solid, and funny.

 

Haggerty: Jacobs may not be beloved, but he's Hall of Fame-worthy

Haggerty: Jacobs may not be beloved, but he's Hall of Fame-worthy

If it was based solely on his 42 years as owner of the Boston Bruins, it might be debatable as to whether Jeremy Jacobs would have been selected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The Bruins have won one championship and been to a handful of Stanley Cup Finals during Jacobs' long stewardship, of course. They also enjoyed the longest running playoff streak (29 years) in NHL history, though it began before he purchased the franchise. Altogether, the B's have won one Cup, four conference championships, two Presidents' trophies, 15 division championships, and 35 Stanley Cup playoff berths during the Jacobs Era.

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But Jacobs didn't make the Hall of Fame solely on his accomplishments with the Bruins organization. He's being inducted in the "builder” category, which is defined as "coaching, managerial or executive ability, or ability in another significant off-ice role, sportsmanship, character and contributions to his or her organization or organizations and to the game of hockey in general.”  In addition to overseeing the Bruins over the last four-plus decades, he has been a power broker at the league level for just as long.

"I am flattered to be included in with this great group of 2017 inductees, and I am humbled to be included with the legends of hockey that went before me,” said Jacobs. "Owning the Boston Bruins for 42 years has been one of the most rewarding honors of my life. I am indebted to our team's leaders and players, but most of all, to our fans, for giving me a broad and deeply appreciative perspective of the game."

The 2011 Stanley Cup victory was the overriding on-ice moment in his stewardship of the team, and the Jacobs family has had a major, altruistic impact in Boston. No one should overlook the Boston Bruins Foundation, which has touched so many lives with the $28 million that's been awarded to those in need since its inception in 1993.

Unfortunately, Jacobs will always have a reputation with a large portion of the Bruins fan base that his ownership wasn't willing to spend enough for truly competitive teams. At times he was viewed as an absentee owner living in Buffalo, overseeing the team from afar while Harry Sinden ran the operation. Those fans hold that grudge even today, despite the Bruins consistently spending to the salary cap ceiling while fielding competitive teams. They view Monday's Hall of Fame announcement as something akin to Montgomery Burns being inducted into the Springfield Hall of Fame.

Cam Neely disagrees.

"As a player, I knew of Mr. Jacobs' passion for the Bruins,” said Neely, who has served as Bruins president for nearly a decade after a Hall of Fame playing career highlighted by his years in Boston. "Over the past decade while in the front office, I have seen firsthand his dedication to winning, by consistently providing the Bruins the resources that we need to compete for Stanley Cup Championships and also his unmatched commitment to growing the game of hockey."

That commitment to hockey is a key factor in Jacobs' Hall of Fame selection.

Jacobs was unanimously voted in as chairman of the NHL Board of Governors in 2007, and he's been a major driving force in each of the last couple of oft-contentious CBA negotiations. While Jacobs clearly had a hand in the cancellation of the entire 2004-05 season due to a labor dispute, and in the lockout-shortened season of 2013, those CBA negotiations ultimately led to the imposition of a salary cap and a pathway for small-market NHL teams to survive as the cost of doing hockey business continues to go up.

Without Jacobs as an often hawkish, hard-line owner, there's a chance that a team like the Western Conference champion Nashville Predators might not have been able to survive in the NHL, and it's highly doubtful they'd be able to be as competitive as they are now if teams like Toronto, New York and Chicago could outspend everybody else. So there's no denying the seismic impact that Jacobs made at the league-wide level with his leadership and commitment to growing the game, and that the NHL is better off for the battles waged in collective bargaining while he's been in a position of power.

If you polled every single Bruins fan on the street, it's unlikely he'd be a populist choice for the Hall of Fame. The lean budgetary years durinhg the playing days of Neely, Ray Bourque and others will always be part of the Spoked B history. Some will hold those grudges forever, which is part of makes us who we are as a fan base.

But faithful, rabid fans continue to stream into TD Garden, continue to spend money to support their favorite hockey team, and continue to provide the kind of support that's led to a 338-game home sellout streak. It's a sign Jacobs and Bruins ownership continue to do things very right, even if we shouldn't be scheduling any popularity contests anytime soon.