My Tampa Bay Lighting friends have much to celebrate so far. New owner Jeff Vinik, new GM Stevie Y and new coach Guy Boucher seem to have breathed new life into a team that has seen enough turmoil in the past few seasons to turn into a Hollywood blockbuster (which, looking at the team's old owners, wouldn't be so far-fetched). The Lightning ended the month of October sitting atop the Eastern Conference with a 7-2-1 record and saw young star Steven Stamkos picking up right where he left off last season, with 19 points (9 goals, 10 assists) in 10 games and earning the NHL's #1 Star for the month. Bravo, Lightning. Bravo! I'm happy for my friends who have ridden the stormy seas of uncertainty and loss with the team.
HOWEVER. I disagree with the NHL's choice of #1 Star for the month of October.
It's not that I think Stamkos isn't talented, because he is. Very talented. It's not that I think Stamkos isn't playing well, because he is. Very well. It's not that I think his accomplishments for the month of October aren't worthy of recognition. Because they are. Very worthy.
BUT... I believe someone was even more impressive in October.
I'm not really much of a Boston Bruins fan. I don't like many of their players, except for Zach Hamill, who played juniors here with the Everett Silvertips. And as Zach hasn't played many games with Boston, I can safely say that I'm not much of a fan yet. I do like Tuukka Rask because, well, who doesn't? He's entertaining and you want to watch when he plays to see if he launches into any weird rants (or throws milk crates over the glass onto the ice).
No, my belief that Tim Thomas deserves to be the #1 Star for the month of October stems from his 6-0-0 start for the season his NHL-leading 0.50 GAA, his .984 save percentage and his 3 shutouts. But what amazes me even more about his accomplishments is that this man is 36 YEARS OLD and struggled with a nagging hip injury last season, which he worked hard to rehab during the off season.
Tim Thomas has been playing pro hockey for nearly as long as Steven Stamkos has been on this earth. He began his pro career when little Stevie was just 7 years old and probably hadn't even lost his first tooth in a hockey game. Timmy started college (1993) when Stevie was 3 years old and barely potty trained.
In hockey years, Tim Thomas is like a grandpa. Okay, maybe not like a grandpa yet. I'll reserve that status for guys like Chris Chelios and Mark Recchi, who seem to keep chugging on (or who might have paintings hiding in the attic, a la Dorian Gray). So, Timmy is more like an uncle. Make that an eccentric uncle - you know - the one who blurts out family secrets during a highly charged Thanksgiving dinner. Because we all know that goalies are nothing if not eccentric (and maybe a little "touched" - to spend their lives trying to keep flying frozen rubber disks from smashing them in the face).
I couldn't even tell you who the NHL's #3 Star for the month of October is, and frankly, I don't care. No offense to the player or fans of the team for which he's shining right now. I think the NHL did a great disservice to Tim Thomas by making him their #2 star and not #1, because let's face it: people EXPECT Steven Stamkos to be a scoring machine. That's why he was drafted. That's what you expect 20 year old phenoms to do. You don't expect a 36 year old goalie with hip problems to go out and blow the competition away, game after game.
And whatever happens from this moment on, you've gotta take your hat off to Tim Thomas; a guy who has spent more years playing pro in leagues that DON'T begin with an "N"; a guy who should have hung up his skates (and gloves) after the Providence Bruins gave up on him and the only place he could play was in Finland; a guy who somehow fought his way back - first to the P-Bruins, then to Boston, where he won the Vezina in 2009. This is a man who does not seem to give up, even when you think the curtain has come down and the fat lady has sung several times.
Whatever happens from this moment on, I have found a new meaning for the word "perseverance." It is Tim Thomas.