If I’m the agent for Bruins winger Shawn Thornton, I’m plotting an NFL-style holdout for more money.
That two-year contract the veteran signed last summer for just an average of $812,000 per season does not do the 6-foot-2, 217-pound forward justice.
With his game-winning goal in the Bruins’ 6-4 comeback win at Pittsburgh, Thornton has now scored three times this season – twice in the last two games.
He has tripled his goal total from all of last season in just 11 games, and now has lit the lamp more times than players known more for offense, including Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin and Mark Recchi. Although few expect him to continue on a 20-goal pace, 10 or even 15 goals might not be out of the question. The New York Rangers are paying Derek Boogaard $1.625 million, and Philadelphia is forking over $1.1 million for Jody Shelley.
Did somebody say renegotiate?
Of course, there’ll be no such squabbling over money, and not just because the current CBA forbids such haggling. Thornton, named after a John Wayne character in the movie “The Quiet Man,” is anything but on or off the ice – except when it the line of questioning turns to his play.
Thornton’s humbleness causes him to always credit his linemates, in particular his center, for any success he enjoys, especially at the offensive end of the rink. The 33-year-old doesn’t brag when he holds his own in a bout with Eric Goddard, who has 2 inches and a few pounds on him, like he did tonight when the Bruins needed a spark in the first period. And he’ll deflect credit for scoring the go-ahead goal, even if it was the second time he kept the puck and buried it on an odd-man rush in the last week.
“Marchy did a good job of driving the net, pulling the goalie a little bit that way, I saw top right, I shot it there and I went in,” Thornton said on NESN after the game.
An upgrade at center has definitely been a boost to Thornton in his fourth season with Boston. After scoring six goals alongside Stephane Yelle two years ago, Thornton dropped to just one goal with Steve Begin in the middle. At first, Begin seemed like the perfect fit, but team-wide injuries and overall struggles even took their toll on Boston’s grinding line. The addition of Gregory Campbell, the youngest and most skilled of Thornton’s three centers in three years, has opened things up for Thornton, who’s always among the Bruins’ leaders in shots per 60 minutes (even if most of those shots don’t find mesh).
You factor in the insertion of super-pest Brad Marchand – who also scored against the Penguins – with his speed, solid hands and youthful exuberance, suddenly you have a line that is the fourth line in depth-chart terms only. Head coach Claude Julien trusts Thornton and his linemates to skate against other team’s top units, and now he’s getting some unexpected offensive pop from that group as well.
Leading up to the game with the Penguins, the first for the Bruins in Pittsburgh since Matt Cooke’s concussion-causing hit on Marc Savard last March, Thornton declined to comment on any revenge the Bruins still wanted to exact on Cooke. Last spring, Thornton famously pounded Cooke’s lights out at TD Garden in the first Bruins-Penguins rematch, but some still wondered if there would be more carryover.
While Thornton still spoke with his fists against Godard when the Bruins needed him, there was no funny stuff involving Cooke, who was basically a non-factor in the game – physically or otherwise. Thornton did most of his talking with his play, as he scored that big goal with 7:20 left in the third, fired three shots on goal and, along with his linemates, rebounded from a minus-2 start to finish with an even rating.
If I’m Shawn Thornton, I’m regretting re-upping with Boston for two years before my offensive renaissance, even if I did get a raise of around $300,000 per year. But I’m not Shawn Thornton.
Indeed, money’s the farthest thing from the adopted Charlestown-ian’s mind. He worked for years in the minors to improve his skills and fight all comers and convince someone he could be an NHLer. Now he’s on his second multi-year NHL deal of his career.
So he’ll just continue to be Boston’s most unheralded offensive threat, and one of the Bruins and the league’s biggest bargains.