Shawn Thornton's time is done in Boston, but he won't soon be forgotten
For seven long years in Boston, Shawn Thornton did what he needed to do to help his team.
Serve his role as the enforcer and drop the gloves to avenge a questionable hit on a teammate? Always ready and willing. Finding a dance partner to throw down in means of giving his lifeless team a spark? Ready for that, too. Hitting the ice to bull-rush the opponent, land body check after body check and stem the tide when the B's are under forechecking duress? Arguably what #22 was best at. Giving coach Claude Julien no gripes when his ice-time is reduced to under seven, six or five minutes? You never heard him complain once.
On his way out: Shawn Thornton gave everything for the Bruins, and fans won't soon forget it (via bleacherreport.com)
No matter what the situation was, no matter who they were playing and no matter the score, Thornton was always prepared to do whatever the Bruins asked of him, and he did it by the book. Energy. Passion. Toughness. Heart. Determination. Thornton exemplified those qualities as a Bruin.
For seven years, Thornton perfected his role as a leader both on the ice and off through his selfless play and constant drive to do what was best for the Black and Gold. He was the engine to the revitalization of the Big Bad Bruins in 2007, as well as being the fuel to Boston's comeback from an 0-2 deficit in the 2011 Cup Final versus the Vancouver Canucks and winning his second Stanley Cup in his career.
At his best, Thornton would maximize the ice time he was awarded. He skated with grit, landed crushing hits and sprinkled in just a pinch of an offensive punch to warrant his play on the bottom line for the B's. When he was joined by winger Daniel Paille and center Greg Campbell, the trio formed one of best fourth lines in the NHL the past three seasons.
But this past season was both rocky and uncharacteristic for Thornton, one that we weren't accustomed to seeing from the 11-year NHL veteran. He was suspended for 15-games back in December after he attacked Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik and knocked him out while he lay on the ice defenseless. Thornton surrendered over $84,000 in salary and cast a black eye upon the Bruins and the league with the incident, as one moment of losing his head caused a maelstrom of negativity around the team.
Where his first moment was brutish, his second was childish. Versus the Canadiens in the playoffs, he squirted P.K. Subban with water during the run of play, leading to a max fine of $2.8K and his second moment of inserting himself into the game by means of unprofessional practices. The Bruins would go on to lose the series in seven, with the Canadiens citing repeatedly the continued disrespect thrown their way as a fuel used to best the B's.
Thornton had a disappointing season by his standards, totaling only 74 total PIMs and recording just 10 fighting majors, his lowest ever total in his 11 seasons as a pro (when discounting the lockout-shortened season a year ago). He lost his cool in two different situations that damaged his image of playing by the "code," as well as making the Bruins look bad in the public eye around the league.
With the Bruins up against the cap number and facing difficult decisions on who to keep and who to let go, Shawn Thornton is the first causality to deal with before the draft and free agency arrives. The Bruins are aiming to get younger and faster on the bottom line, and Thornton's diminished skills have resulted in general manger Peter Chiarelli feeling that the Bruins can upgrade the roster in his place.
Thornton feels he still has something left in the tank, but that something will be spent with another team that is looking to add a veteran presence to their lineup that can give them a good deal of toughness and grit as well as a player that knows how to win.
All of us here at Bruins Life wish Shawn Thornton the best of luck in the future. What he gave to the B's was nothing short of his best work as a pro, something that helped redefine what it meant to play for the Boston Bruins in this generation.