It is hard to imagine the Boston Bruins taking the ice next season without the services of veteran winger Shawn Thornton.
Unfortunately, that will actually come to fruition.
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli announced on Monday afternoon that the team would not re-sign Thornton, thus making him an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Thornton averaged just 5.1 goals and 7.0 assists per season since coming to Boston from the Anaheim Ducks in 2007, but he became one of the B’s most popular players for his physical play and leadership skills. What often goes unnoticed is a certain player’s hard work, dedication, and loyalty to the community. Here, Thornton was actively involved all around the Boston area, servicing several organizations to make the children of the community excited to call themselves “Boston Strong.”
He played in 64 regular-season games and all 12 of Boston’s playoff games this season, totaling five goals, four assists and 78 penalty minutes. However, this season will leave a stain on his reputation when he assaulted and sucker punched Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik. The incident led him to being suspended for 15 games. There is no way to assume that factored into the decision not to bring Thornton back, but it is difficult to envision that played a huge role in the organization’s mind.
His leadership, toughness, and captain-esque qualities will be missed in the locker room. Assuming the Bruins go younger for that fourth-line winger role, Justin Florek, Craig Cunningham, Jordan Caron, and Matt Lindblad would be solid internal candidates. Florek flourished towards the end of last year, recording two points in four regular-season games and one goal in six postseason games. His size and speed could make him the logical front-runner for the job.
As for the veterans, someone will have to step in and become a presence for the Black and Gold, both on and off the ice. We wish Thornton the best in his future endeavors. He will remain a Bruin at heart.