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The NHL released the 2009 All-Star Ballot yesterday, and as is the case with any all-star format in professional sports, there were a few players worthy of consideration who were left off the ballot. There was one snub in particular which raised quite a few eye brows among Bruins fans, however: B’s goaltender Tim Thomas. He was left off the ballot for reasons mysterious to me.
Coming into the 2008-2009 season, the Bruins’ situation in goal was up in the air, as Manny Fernandez and his $4 million cap hit would be returning from injury, ready in time for the start of the season. Thomas, last year’s No. 1 goalie, was also returning. Neither netminder performed spectacularly in the pre-season, and Bruins coach Claude Julien made it clear that the two backstops would battle for the starting job.
Based on this information alone, it is understandable that the NHL would decide to put other names on the list ahead of either Boston netminder. I’m sure the brass at NHL headquarters wanted sure-things on the ballot, not potential backups. Upon further examination of the situation, it becomes apparent how short-sighted and foolish that decision really was.
Perhaps the most obvious reason why Thomas deserves to have his name on the ballot this season is the fact that Thomas was an All-Star in 2007-2008. How you can snub a player who was one of just three representatives from his league the year prior? It doesn’t make sense. Further, Thomas actually earned the win for the Eastern Conference last year in Atlanta. He’s been there before, shouldn’t that be reason enough?
That’s not to say Thomas’s credentials from last season should vault him into the game alone, of course. On the contrary, one look at the NHL’s goaltending statistical leaders should be enough to prove the argument. Thomas sits alone at the top of the save percentage category, sporting a sterling .944 SV%. He’s not far behind in the other categories either, sitting second in both goals against average (1.83) and in shutouts (2), which Thomas posted in back-to-back games in Western Canada last week. These stats are impressive on their own, and the fact that scoring is up league-wide this season puts them near other-worldly.
Perhaps the most compelling argument that can be made in Thomas’s favor is found when looking at the ballot itself. All-Star mainstays Henrik Lundqvist and Ryan Miller are listed, along with rising star Carey Price. I have no qualms with any of those selections. It’s the other names, most notably Martin Biron (3-4-1, .874 SV%, 3.79 GAA) and Kari Lehtonen (2-5-2, .903 SV%, 3.44 GAA) I have an issue with. Biron has been an up-and-down talent his entire NHL career, and Lehtonen has done nothing thus far to justify his high draft status (2nd overall, 2002) or hype. Even the injured Martin Brodeur finds his name on the ballot, and he’s reportedly out for the next 3-4 months.
Every year in every sport, a deserving athlete is snubbed from an all-star game, so this is nothing new. Nevertheless, Tim Thomas continues to prove his doubters wrong; I have no doubt the friendly backstop from the University of Vermont by way of Michigan will only use this fuel as motivation. He’s been snubbed his entire career, and yet he continues to excel at the highest level of his sport.
Something tells me Thomas would much rather find himself celebrating a Stanley Cup Playoff win than hearing boos from the Hab-friendly crowd at the Bell Centre at the All-Star Game, anyways.