James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Great American Waste

Friday, February 08, 2013

When Michael Jordan took his weird baseball-fueled hiatus from NBA dominance, Phil Jackson allegedly pleaded with the superstar in ways that transcended basketball. He told the sporting and advertising icon that he possessed a genius for the sport and owed it to people to share that gift until it faded away.

Tim Thomas is not the Michael Jordan of hockey, but by the same token, I think he’s depriving both himself and onlookers the opportunity to prove how special he might be. (We can go round and round about who the MJ of hockey really might be, but the easiest answer is obviously Wayne Gretzky. It’s not really a necessary argument for the Daily Dose.)

Anyway, I couldn’t help but think of that abstract angle when I heard that the New York Islanders traded for Thomas - or really, his $5 million cap hit - in exchange for a conditional second round draft pick.

What’s that condition, you ask? It’s if Thomas ends his weirdo siesta, unearths from his friends, family and faith bunker and decides to do the thing that earned him that little stronghold in the first place. (In other words, the Boston Bruins receive a second-rounder if he actually plays hockey.)

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It’s not my place to chide Thomas for not playing … certainly not any more than I have in the previous paragraphs.


That being said, it’s frustrating to see a true shooting star of a goaltending talent throw away what could have been another year in an unusual Hall of Fame argument because his feelings* were hurt. (Or whatever it is that drove him to stay away from the rink.)

I compared Viktor Fasth to Thomas in a very loose way on Thursday, but deep down, we should all know that we really might not ever see a netminder this unique again. Thomas was an impressionistic painting in goalie pads, but his absence raises more eyebrows than starting your true NHL career at age 31.

By all accounts, he won’t be of any use to you fantasy-wise this season. The New York Islanders have the right to “toll” his contract into 2013-14, essentially allowing his fake $5 million to reach the salary cap floor without any big worries. It sounds like he’ll be nothing more than an empty bit of cap space, at least for this season.

* - Or feewings, if you want to be mean.


Like many other seemingly inexplicable moments in sports, I find myself circling back to the core issue: why doesn’t Thomas just suck it up and play?

He’s 38 right now and with a few months of service, he could reap the rewards of the prorated $3 million salary he’s owed this season. Depending on his production (and probably his disposition), he might just get another million or two for another team. Who knows how many sweet guard gates, moats and war robots** could be built with that extra money?

If not, the Islanders can use him to exploit still-existing CBA loopholes for however long they feel like it or the NHL allows it. That’s fine and dandy, but it leaves the more contemplative among us to wonder: “What if Thomas just got over himself and played hockey?”


Regardless, I wouldn’t go within a sniper rifle’s reach of Thomas on the waiver wire until I heard a peep that he might do the reasonable thing and suit up for the Isles. I understand why you might be excited to make the gamble, but it seems about as wise as picking the Michael Jordan-owned Charlotte Bobcats to win the NBA championship.

** - I’m putting forth a serious effort to entice Thomas to play this season. Do you think robots or moats might do it? Seems worth a try …

After the jump: players and stories fairly sure to make a bigger impact than Thomas in 2013.

continue story »
James O'Brien is the Hockey Daily Dose's author and has been a contributor to NBC's Pro Hockey Talk for more than four years. Follow him on Twitter.
Email :James O'Brien

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