When the Bruins take the ice in a few months, Shawn Thornton will not be with them. The Bruins have announced that the free agent winger will not be re-signed. To call Thornton a fan favorite would be the biggest understatement of the year. Bruins fans loved him for his strong fists on the ice, his veteran leadership on the bench, and his charitable heart away from the arena.
My Shawn Thornton t-shirt is one of my favorites in my closet and I wear it happily all year long, even in the harsh heat of summer, despite the fact that it’s black. And while I’ll continue to wear that shirt until it disintegrates into tattered rags, the Bruins deciding to not give Thornton one of their sweaters next season is the smart decision to make.
He’s 36, and will turn 37 in July. He averaged 8:48 of ice time last year. He scored 5 goals, had 3 assists, and was +4. In the playoffs he had an assist and was -2. He’s not a productive player. There’s more to his game than points and time on ice. Much more. But the lack of offensive production is part of the Shawn Thornton package. The Bruins need more forwards who can score, who can create chances. Thornton doesn’t do that.
He’s an enforcer. He’s a leader. He’s played in 101 playoff games, has won the Stanley Cup twice. Players look up to him. Opponents fear him. However, the Bruins need to find leadership from their top 2 lines, not the 4th line.
This team has relied too much on Shawn Thornton’s enforcing, too much on him to be the motivating voice on the bench. Guys like Milan Lucic, David Krejci, and Brad Marchand (if he’s still on the team) need to step up and become leaders. They’ve been around the League long enough. They’ve won, they’ve lost. For too long they’ve leaned on Thornton as a leader.
Why does this team need an “energy line” to get the top lines motivated? That motivation needs to come from within those players. And if they can’t find it, they don’t belong here.
Look at teams like LA and Chicago. Do they depend on guys like Shawn Thornton to lead them? Guys who play 9 minutes a game, and who are sometimes healthy scratched in playoff games? Do they get their leadership from guys who play less than 10 minutes, or do they get it from guys who play 18+ minutes?
I love Thornton. I love what he did here, what he did for the Bruins, how much he embraced the City of Boston. I’ll miss him. The fact is, however, the Bruins need production and Thornton isn’t a productive player. Also, the best players on the Bruins need to grow up and become leaders, and stop relying on someone else to lead them. What Thornton gave the Bruins is something the top forwards need to generate on their own.