LOWELL, Mass. – Don’t freak out because Tim Thomas didn’t participate in Milan Lucic’s Rock and Jock Softball game Friday night at LeLacheur Park, the home of the Lowell Spinners.
Thomas is feeling well some 11 weeks removed from hip surgery, but didn’t want to take a chance in competing even in a lighthearted event before his 12 weeks of recovery are completely up.
“Just being super cautious,” the Bruins veteran goaltender explained while taking a break from signing autographs during the game.
Surgery was able to repair his hip problem this offseason, but nothing was able to stop constant speculation that Thomas was headed out of Boston via trade from the time of the draft right up until it became apparent there weren’t any teams willing to spend the money and/or devote the cap space to the 36-year-old who’s due $5 million per season through 2013.
An affable sort who has always been willing to face the media, win or lose, Thomas seems to have soured on the fourth estate after what’s been written this summer – most of which he says has been inaccurate.
“There’s so many little pieces of misinformation that I’m not even going to waste my time setting the record straight,” he said. “I’m just not going to discuss it anymore. As far as how hard this summer was, every summer I’m replaced as the No. 1 goalie. So it’s pretty much standard course.”
While he wouldn’t get into specifics, he said one of the things that was inaccurately reported was that general manager Peter Chiarelli gave Thomas’ agent Bill Zito permission to seek a new home for his client.
One thing Thomas wanted to make clear is that not only does he expect to be with the Bruins when training camp opens in a little more than a month, he wants to be in black and gold.
“Of course [I want to be here],” he said. “The fans have never turned their backs on me. And that’s who you play for is the fans, and the fans of Boston have always been great for me.”
And what about the organization?
“They’re my employers, they’ve paid my paycheck, so they’ve been doing what they’re supposed to do,” he said.
When pressed about being offended by the trade rumors, he reiterated that most of those have been inaccurate, thus he can’t be upset about them.
Just like the trade talks, Thomas doesn’t want to speculate about how his hip injury might’ve been bothering him last season when is numbers didn’t stack up to his Vezina-winning totals of 2008-09. He finished with a .915 save percentage and 2.56 goals-against average, enough to make many netminders jealous.
All he knows for sure is that last spring he was ready to contribute to the Bruins’ cause if he had been called on.
“I was actually in great shape at the end of the season. I had to rehab my hip so hard just to be able to finish the season and to be able to put myself in a position where I could play in the playoffs, that I was actually in really great shape at the end of the season,” he said. “Obviously, that’s where I want to be at the beginning of this season.”
He should be right where he wants to be physically when camp starts. However, there’s no telling if he’ll be where he wants to be when the season opens. Obviously, Tuukka Rask made the most of his opportunity to be the No. 1 goaltender, as he led Boston to the second round before the team-wide historic collapse against Philadelphia. Thomas is confident he’ll get a fair shake this fall from head coach Claude Julien.
“I was told by Claude at the end of the year that there’s no sense of entitlement,” he said. “That’s what he was going to tell Tuukka and so it’s going to be a fair battle when we get to camp, so that’s what I expect.”
Should he lose the camp battle, Thomas might find himself playing as little as he did in last year’s second half. That might be a tough situation, but he’s not ready to think about that just yet.
“It was tough at the end of the year. But I don’t intend on backing anybody up. I never do,” he said. “And then as situations roll along, you just roll with the way situations go. I’ve been saying it for years.”
Thomas has been “rolling” with situations for more than a decade over two continents and in a handful of countries and leagues. He can’t be counted out, or written off.