Especially in sports, all good things must come to an end. After seven successful seasons in Boston the Shawn Thornton era has come to an end.
Monday afternoon Peter Chiarelli announced via video that he had met with Shawn Thornton and notified the veteran that the team would not be bringing him back for the 2014-15 season. Thornton is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st.
“Today I met with Shawn and we had a good meeting and I informed him that we wouldn’t be re-signing him. It was good in the sense that we talked about the time Shawn has spent here” said Chiarelli. “He came here, we’re talking about seven years, so he was here from almost the beginning and I told him that he was one of the most significant acquisitions we made because he was one for the role that he played, two for the person that he is, and it was nice to rehash his time. It was sad to tell him that he wasn’t coming back but I wished him well and Shawn was real up front about it. So I wished him luck and I’m sure he’ll have success with his next team.”
After missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season in 2007, the struggling Bruins needed an identity change. The Bruins brought Thornton in for the 2007-08 season and changing the identity is exactly what he helped do. Thornton helped resurrect the “Big Bad Bruins.” The Bruins managed to qualify for the playoffs in each of Thornton’s seven seasons in Boston.
In 2011 Thornton captured the second Stanley Cup of his career. Thornton appeared in 480 regular season games for the Bruins, scoring 34 times while adding 42 assists. Playing the role as enforcer as well as anyone else in the league, Thornton racked up 748 penalty minutes in Boston.
Thornton was a staple on the Bruins “Merlot Line,” which was arguably one of the best fourth lines in hockey at times during his tenure in Boston. Head coach Claude Julien had tremendous faith in his fourth line and that certainly showed in 2011 where Thornton and his linemates were key members of a Bruins team who ended a 39-year Stanley Cup drought. The rest of the league took notice at what the Bruins and their fourth line were able to accomplish.
While coaching in the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in his career, New York Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said he learned a lot from coaching against the Bruins and their fourth line during the ’11 Stanley Cup Final.
“From personal experience, I know when we (the Canucks) lost the Cup to Boston, Boston was a four-line team” said Vigneault a few weeks ago as his Rangers battled the Kings in the Stanley Cup Final. “Probably the best fourth line, I felt, in the league.”
This past season was one Thornton may want to forget. From the incident with Brooks Orpik and the Penguins to the squirting of water on P.K. Subban, Thornton was often in the headlines for the wrong reason.
It’s no doubt a difficult decision for Chiarelli and company as Thornton was a leader on and off the ice for the Bruins. To say Thornton loved Boston and Boston loved him back is an understatement. Thornton was a well respected guy inside the Bruins’ dressing room. He didn’t have a “C” or an “A” on his chest, but he had the same type of leadership as the guys that did. Despite all the good things Thornton brought to the Table, the game is ultimately a business and letting Thornton walk was the right decision, especially with the Bruins in salary cap trouble.
Thornton will be remembered for many things in Boston, some better than others. No one will forget this:
After the Bruins season unexpectedly ended early, the Bruins met with the media one final time. Unsure of his status at the time and knowing it was possible he wouldn’t be back Thornton talked about how important Boston is to him.
“I am hoping I am back. I don’t know. I haven’t had my meetings yet, but if not I am still going to be in the community. I am still going to be here” said Thornton. “This is where we live now. This is home. That stuff will not change. I’ll be here, trying to get back when I can. I love it here.”
It’s not surprising the Bruins made the decision to let Thornton go. The Bruins are looking to become a faster, more skilled team and Thornton’s spot on the roster was needed for someone with more speed. As the Bruins looked to move away from the enforcer type role, Thornton’s days in Boston were numbered.
The call to let Thornton go was just one of many difficult decisions the Bruins will face this summer.