Shawn Thornton left Boston this summer as one of the many cap casualties the Boston Bruins have suffered and will continue to suffer as they try to keep their championship-caliber roster intact through the prime years of their best players. Thornton was nowhere close to being the team’s best player, but that doesn’t mean his teammates miss him any less.
“With Shawn here, he had that intimidation factor where you knew you could get away with certain things because he was on the ice,” Daniel Paille told Joe Haggerty at CSNNE. “This season it’s going to be different, and guys are going to have to fight because of it. I don’t think that’s a big deal.”
That might be the most telling article in the piece, which is full of quotes from teammates, as Paille was a linemate of Thornton’s and may be a cap casualty a year from now when his contract runs up after the season. Even Paille admits that ultimately it won’t be a big deal to lose Thornton. Haggerty writes at length to defend Thornton’s role on the Bruins with such gems as this:
He played with a toughness and swagger that raised the confidence level of players around him, and made Boston’s skill players feel like they were protected from the league’s predators. It didn’t make the B’s bullet proof, obviously, as evidenced by the hard head shots that guys like Marc Savard, Nathan Horton, Loui Eriksson and Patrice Bergeron have taken over the years.
But it could have been worse if No. 22 wasn’t glowering at the cheap shot artists from the end of the bench.
Oh no, not the glower! And from the end of the bench no less, where all the ten-minute-a-game guys sit, no less. So were Thornton’s teammates actually protected by presence? This is a murky issue in the NHL and one that doesn’t seem to side with Haggerty’s thinking. Thornton is undoubtedly a nice guy and a good teammate, but his willingness to play hard never was nor never will be a deterrent to hard, occasionally dirty play.
The Bruins players will miss Thornton the same way anyone misses a friend who gets a new job in a different region. Guys like Paille and goaltender Tuukka Rask (a good friend of Thornton’s) will be reduced to phone calls and texts with Thornton, but that doesn’t mean the Bruins are any worse of a team.
Expect the Bruins to see little to no drop off next season when they take the ice and once again challenge for the Eastern Conference crown and another shot at the Stanley Cup.