You’re not supposed to be able to take a year or more off in professional sports. Especially when you’re on the “wrong side” of 30. Especially when, for many of your critics, the difference between failing and being brilliant can come down to a few percentage points.
Still, there have been some special athletes who have done it before.
Mario Lemieux is the most memorable example for the NHL.
He retired from the game in 1996-97, still in his early thirties, seemingly making a 50-goal, 122-point season his cruel curtain call. That wasn't to be, however, as he returned four years later to stun the hockey/sports world by scoring 76 points in 43 games in the clutch-and-grab era. Great moments followed that return season - the 2002 gold medal in particular - although health issues brought Lemieux down one last time.
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In the NBA, Michael Jordan is another example … and he’s a guy who gave the world two comebacks.
Whether it was to chase baseball or for other oft-rumored reasons, MJ skipped the 1993-94 season and much of 1994-95 and came back around age 31. He won three more championships, seemingly sealing his legacy with the indelible image of that shot against the Utah Jazz.
Instead, he came back around age 38, and made many wish he didn’t.
Those legends bucked the trend before, but Father Time is the most unstoppable defenseman, shooter, tactician and thinker. And while those situations worked out, plenty went down with a whimper many will forget (see: Barber, Tiki).
This is all a long way of saying that Tim Thomas faces some tough odds to make this return work.
There are plenty of bright sides, though.
For one, it’s not like he was gone for that long, and even the season he missed was a 48-game abbreviated mess. If you were to pick a time to take a step back and recharge your batteries, 2012-13 (only called 2012-2013 and not just 2013 to avoid confusion) would be it.
It’s almost a cliche of sorts at this point, but it’s also undeniable that Thomas has defied logic for most of his NHL career. After all, how many two-time Vezina winners didn’t really get their first true chance at regular reps until they were at least 30?
If anyone can pull this off, it’s Thomas.
A GOOD START
It’s just one game, but Thomas nailed his first game back. That actually seems like a convenient segue to kick off some game notes, starting with Thomas’ debut with Florida.
FLORIDA 4, DALLAS 2
Thomas looked pretty sharp, stopping 25 out of 27 shots. One goal came on the Dallas power play - actually, the Stars' only shot on the man advantage - and the other at even strength.
One extra thing working in Thomas’ favor, more big picture-wise than in fantasy, is that the team will want Jacob Markstrom to get reps. Thomas hasn’t carried a big workload very often, so you wouldn’t want him to start now.
In case it isn’t obvious, yes, Thomas is absolutely worth having, even as your third goalie.
Speaking of reclamation projects, Scott Gomez scored one of Florida’s goals. I wouldn’t add him, but the abuse got a little excessive toward the Alaskan pivot after a while …
On paper, Tyler Seguin + Jamie Benn = glory, but the first night wasn't spellbinding. They were held off the scoresheet with a -1 each. Specifically regarding Seguin: 20:35 minutes of ice time, 2:52 of PP, which isn't bad since Dallas only drew three penalties.
Aleksander Barkov scored in his NHL debut. He also managed a hearty four shots on goal, which isn't bad at all considering he only logged 15:34 of ice time and 2:15 on the PP.
Of the Panthers other PTO/late additions, Tom Gilbert is the one to watch. He had an assist, three SOG, 4:41 of PP TOI and an impressive 24:41 TOI overall. It's not at Brian Campbell's level (28:21!), but still.
Brenden Dillon was involved in both Stars goals (one tally, one assist) and received more ice time (20:18) than Stephane Robidas. The biggest surprise is that Alex Goligoski topped all Stars with 22:01 of ice time.
After the jump: the rest of the game notes, injuries and more.