Thornton vs. Boulton/By S. Bradley

One of the most popular activities for Bruins fans every season is voting for the Seventh Player Award, which goes to the “player who performed beyond expectations.”

The award started as a promotional tool between the Bruins and a car dealership in the late 60s and has grown something of a cult following ever since. Fan voting will probably start soon, so keep your eyes and ears open as the season wears on.

Amazingly, when you look at the list of past winners, the fans more often than not have gotten the vote right (with a few exceptions).

Last year’s winner was rookie goaltender Tuukka Rask, who started the season expecting to be the back-up to defending Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas and wound up stealing the No. 1 job.

There are several candidates for this year’s award, including Thomas — who has already won the award twice (2006, 2007).

At first glance, you might think it preposterous that a goaltender who has won a Vezina and has been selected to his third All-Star Game would again be a candidate for an unsung hero-type award. But when you consider the specific wording of the award’s qualification — performed beyond expectations — you have to remember that when camp opened, Rask was The Man and Thomas was the guy many wanted to move out of town and off the Bruins’ salary cap.

Here we are, the fourth month of the regular season, and Thomas is putting up Dominik Hasek Hart Trophy-season numbers. He hasn’t just passed expectations, he has left them in the dust. If Thomas were to win, he’d be the first three-time winner in Bruins history.

Anyway, two forwards are probably going to challenge Thomas for the votes. Brad Marchand and Shawn Thornton were linemates for a large chunk of the first half of the season, but Marchand has since graduated to a higher line on the Bruins’ depth chart.

Still qualified as a rookie, Marchand has scored 10 goals and has used his peskiness for positives to draw many more penalties than he has taken this season. One of a number of forwards in the mix for one of the last roster spots during training camp, there conceivably weren’t any expectations on Marchand at the outset of the season.

Marchand/By S. Bradley

When the Bruins re-signed Thornton last summer, they knew they were retaining one of their vocal leaders, a guy who will fight anyone and one of only two Bruins players who has won the Stanley Cup. They probably didn’t know they were also bringing back a guy who was entering his goal-scoring prime. After scoring just one goal last season, Thornton has already surpassed his career high with seven this season. He hasn’t lost any of his edge and has engaged in some memorable fights, including the season-changing early-game bout with Eric Boulton Dec. 23.

On the back end, most of the Bruins’ defensemen have met expectations but not exceeded them. If Steve Kampfer gets to keep plying his trade in the NHL, however, he’ll be a candidate to get some votes. In 20 games, he has already posted eight points (4 goals) and been a revelation for Boston with his skating ability and vision on the ice.

Kampfer is up on emergency recall, so a healthy Bruins defense corps could force him back to the AHL. With the way he has played, you have to figure Boston is figuring on keeping Kampfer so he can continue his solid points pace.

With all these things considered, I ask the readers of

Who's the early favorite for the Seventh Player Award?

  • Brad Marchand (63%, 136 Votes)
  • Shawn Thornton (23%, 50 Votes)
  • Tim Thomas (9%, 19 Votes)
  • Steven Kampfer (5%, 10 Votes)

Total Voters: 215

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