Monday, October 6, 2008

Why all the haters?

Here's something that has been baffling me for a long time. Now, it's aggravating me. Why all the "hating" on Tim Thomas? If you talk to enough Bruins fans, you're sure to find more than a few that completely disrespect Timmy. Online, it's even worse. I'm constantly amazed at how many B's fans are STILL looking for Thomas to be dethroned as the #1. Worse, Most of the talk centers around Manny Fernandez. Excuse me, but...are you @!#$% kidding me!? Thomas has been this team's MVP for three years now. He was an ALL-Star last year. He finished the season with a .921 save %, he got a "bad" team to the playoffs. That .921 save% ranked him 4th in the NHL, and he played more games (57) than all but JS Giguere (58) among those in the top 4. Dan Ellis, at .924 led the league, but played in only 44 games. Ty Conklin was 2nd at .923, but he only played in 33 games. Marc-Andre Fleury tied Thomas in save %, but only appeared in 35 games. Conklin & Fleury played for the Penguins....a team that dominates in puck possesion. So generally speaking, they face fewer quality shots than a team like Boston. Same with Giggy, and to a lesser extent, same deal in Nashville (although the Preds had a young group of D, so Ellis was called upon to carry them for stretches.
All stats aside, the one thing the Timmy haters keep coming back to is: style. They don't think he "looks" like a #1 NHL goalie. Funny, when Hasek was winning Vezina's, nobody really complained that he was flopping all over the place. When he did it, Thomas critics will say, it was because he was relying on his incredible instincts and athletecism. If Thomas does it, they'll counter, it clearly means he was out of position and was just lucky to make the stop. I don't get it. Funny thing is, these are BRUINS fans, not some blind Canadien fan that thinks everyone NOT in the CH is an abomination. Manny backers talk about how he just looks so in control out there. He has better technique (and they all talk like Bob Essensa should be looking over his shoulder, as clearly they're more qualified to tell you who is "better"). I don't claim to know the ins & outs of being an NHL goalie. Couldn't even begin to break it down in any kind of detail. But I also know how to judge a good goalie. It's a very complicated formula, so I need you all to bear with me here for a minute. OK, here it is...... does he keep the damn puck out of his net? I don't care if he comes out in a monkey outfit juggling 3 pucks while riding a uni-cycle. If he keeps the puck out of his net, I'm happy. Why do so many people care what Thomas "looks like" out there? He GETS THE JOB DONE. And he does it back-stopping a team that has tons of trouble scoring goals. So he plays under pressure all the time, knowing if he gives up 3, he probably won't get the win. The other thing about Timmy is, his teammates LOVE the guy. No way to quantify it, but his teammates just seem to feed off of his "battling" style of play. And they play that same way in front of him. His OBVIOUS effort out there is contagious. Hard to slack off when you see your goalie busting his arse to keep you in it.
But enough about hating Thomas. Why the love-fest for Fernandez? I don't "hate" the guy, but why do people want to see him take over as the number 1? Based on what? Certainly can't be based on the tiny sample size we have of him in Boston. That would be crazy. In those limited appearances, he's looked awful. Oh, but he was hurt last year you say. Exactly. He was hurt the year before that too (don't get me started on giving a big money deal to damaged goods). Fernandez came into camp eager to get as much ice time as possible, to shake off the rust. Then promptly injures his thumb in warm-ups. Not a big deal, but is it a sign that this is just one of those unfortunate "injury prone" guys? I think so. So fine, we won't look at his time in Boston as our barometer. Time was, he was a quality NHL goalie playing in Minnesota. Wait, where was that again? Minny? As in, the biggest defensive minded, trapping team the league has ever seen? OK, so lets look at his time there. His closest comparable season to Thomas last year would be the '05-'06 season. He played 58 games and had a .919 save%. Pretty close to Timmy's numbers LAST YEAR. Now, call me crazy, but I believe it would be "easier" to put up save% numbers on a full blown, experienced trapping team. Thomas did the same basically (slightly better, but why quibble?) behind a team that had yet another new coach/system, tons of young players and a defense that most B's fans spent the year throwing remotes through their TV over. And Thomas comes into the year healthy, and convinced of it. Manny may or may not be 100% physically ready. But there has to be some doubt in his mind.
I'm sorry, but given the stats, the intangibles, the health and the over all play of both players, I'm going with Thomas all day long, until he proves to me he can't do it. Thomas makes about a quarter of what Fernandez does, and it has to piss him off to know that, and to know that he's out-played him yet again in camp, but nobody has named him the starter yet. If Manny didn't have that huge contract, there wouldn't even be a debate. He'd be gone. traded, waived, demoted....whatever. But when you carry a $4.85 M cap hit, you get the benefit of the doubt. Sadly, it comes at the detriment of Thomas, and Tukka Rask (who also would make more than Thomas by the way). The bottom line for me is, I don't want to see either of these guys fail. I want to see every player wearing the Spoked B to have incredible seasons. That only helps us get to where we want to be. So hey, maybe a few months from now I'll be proven wrong, and Manny will be a Vezina candidate. I'd love to see it. I just won't be holding my breath if that's ok with you.
Go B's - Kynch

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