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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

An Appreciation Of Shawn Thornton

It is extremely rare for a fourth line winger to become one of the most popular players on a successful NHL team, even more unheard of for said guy to last seven years on the same club. Today, the Bruins informed Shawn Thornton that he wouldn't be re-signed for next season. At age 36 and coming off by far his most turbulent season with the B's, this wasn't a surprise. Still, it is painful for Bruins fans who had understandably grown uncommonly close to one of Boston's most accessible pro athletes.

He played short snippets of three seasons with Chicago (who knew?) and won a Cup in his one season in Anaheim but no matter where Thornton ends up after this (and he will be somewhere else come this fall, guaranteed), there is no doubt that the Bruins portion of his career will be the main highlight. Since 2007-08 (his first season in Boston), he put up 34 goals, 42 assists and 748 penalty minutes in the regular season. In the playoffs with the B's, he had a goal, six assists and 81 penalty minutes.

Obviously, his impact on the team and the city by extension goes so far beyond his stats. He was a leader and one of the most respected players on the team with a great sense of humor. The job of enforcer in the NHL is quickly disappearing but he took pride in it, especially since he's not the biggest guy and he was often fighting goons much bigger than him. Hockey is different than the other pro sports in the fact that we appreciate the role players more and they carve out a bigger role.

Thornton won his second Cup in 2011 as the Bruins beat the Canucks in seven games. One of the main things that people remember about the series and particularly Game 7 is that Boston's fourth line of Thornton, Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille were outstanding on every shift. Those latter two guys are still in Boston (for now at least) so it'll be interesting to see who they plug into Thornton's spot. Granted, it is highly unlikely that they could find someone that blends his skills and professionalism.

Perhaps sensing that his career in Boston was ending soon, Thornton had said this past season that Charlestown would always be home to him. I doubt that was lip service so you can bet that you'll see him around the city during the summer regardless of what NHL club currently employs him. Thanks for the memories Shawn!

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