MIDDLETON, Mass. – As the only returning member of the Stanley Cup champion Bruins who has experience dealing with the extremely short offseason that comes with winning the title, Shawn Thornton is ready to aid his teammates in any way they need this fall when training camp opens.
While Thornton wasn’t around to defend the 2007 Cup title with Anaheim because he bolted for Boston as a free agent, he both saw how his old teammates handled their year after and also felt some of the “hangover” as he tried to make a solid first impression with the Bruins.
“We’re probably in a little bit better position, on paper anyways,” said Thornton today, noting that unlike the stable Bruins’ lineup the Ducks had to deal with the semi-retirements of Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne, as well as the departure of Dustin Penner. “I know my first year here in Boston, I didn’t have the best start. Part of it was I was still in the Stanley Cup hangover. At least I’ve been through that before. It will help me personally and hopefully I can relate that to the other guys.”
Thornton was speaking prior to the start of his charity golf tournament – the 2nd annual Putts and Punches event at Ferncroft Country Club. The event benefits the Bruins Foundation and the American Parkinson Disease Association.
This year’s event, like last year’s, sold out. But this year spots among the 24 foursomes went a lot faster, as everyone from last year re-upped and many people wanted to get the chance to play golf with a Cup champion.
For Thornton, who said he’s only golfed a little more than a dozen times this offseason, the event was a chance to take a break from his rigorous offseason workout regimen, which he said he started again this week. The workouts, which include boxing at The Ring in Allston, started July 1 for a month before he took last week off. Last week’s relaxation included Thornton’s day with the Cup in his hometown of Oshawa.
Even though he’s back into workout mode, Thornton knows he has to be careful not to overdo it and he has to look at the big picture beyond the summer.
“It’s a tough balance getting enough rest you need to let your body heal and being able to get back into shape,” he said. “I don’t know for sure, but I’m assuming the start of camp it won’t be as important to be at  percent instead of being ready for October 6, when the first game is. … I’m a little OCD when it comes to training. So it’s hard to tell yourself that you don’t need to be ready for September. It’s more October, I guess. I know in June, I wanted to be doing things I’m normally doing in June. You just can’t because we just finished.”
As it stands now, the Bruins will be returning mostly the same team from last year, minus Mark Recchi, Michael Ryder and Tomas Kaberle. Only Benoit Pouliot and Joe Corvo have been added from other teams. The front office’s plan jives well with Thornton.
“I think management’s done a good job of putting themselves in a position to be able to keep everybody. Obviously we’re going to miss Recchi’s leadership. We’re going to miss ‘Rides’ and ‘Kabby.’ … We definitely set ourselves up to be successful again if everybody’s on the same page.”
One way to replace Recchi’s leadership would be to empower someone else with the future Hall of Famer’s alternate captains’ ‘A.’ Thornton has been mentioned by many among the group of players that might be deserving of the honor. While he’d welcome the opportunity to wear it, Thornton’s not going to campaign for it. Nor is the team’s decision to give it to him or another player going to change the fact that he’s one of the club’s most important dressing room cogs.
“It’s tough to talk about because I don’t get talked to about that stuff. If it happened to be me, the recognition or even the consideration for that is an honor in itself,” he said. “I haven’t had one in the NHL ever, so it doesn’t stop you from doing your job though, you know. Would I like to have it? I guess everybody would. It’s an honor. Do I need it? No, probably not. Whatever the decision is will be best for the team. There’s a lot of leaders on our team.”
When the Bruins start their Cup defense, Thornton’s leadership will be even more important than before. Letter or none, he’ll be there to guide his teammates through what might be the toughest season of their lives.