Hoping for a Nomar Redux

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(Bye, Joe. Thanks for all the jersey sales.)

Let’s let The Rick say it:

“Seems Jeremy Jacobs just isn’t interested in bringing a competitive team here to Boston. And Mike O’Connell has got to go. Mike Sullivan ought to go as well because it’s obvious he isn’t a winner. Want to start a website? Should have stuck with Pat Burns.”

So, clearly, this is all Joe Thornton’s fault. I mean, obviously.

Look, I know Thornton was overhyped by the Bruins PR machine, little sputtery thing run by two anemic hampsters on wheels that it is. But I don’t think the current state of the Bruins was all due to Joe Thornton. He was just the easiest guy to get rid of.

Here’s what I think. I think the powers that be took a good, long look at the state of the team and the standings and the fact that they have nothing even resembling an NHL-caliber defense and they went, “Holy shit, we suck. Whatshouldwedowhatshouldwedowhatshouldwedo?!? I know! Let’s trade Nomar, er, Thornton! Worked for the Red Sox!”

But hockey is not baseball. And I don’t see the name “Dave Roberts” listed anywhere in the trade. Nothing against Marco Sturm, Wayne Primeau or Brad Stuart but Joe freakin’ Thornton is a good goddamn hockey player. And it’s tough to replace a guy like that.

Here’s the thing: I’ve been going back and forth with this all year as I’ve been to a few games and have watched most of the rest of them on TV. I wasn’t quite sure how to describe it but Kevin Paul Dupont sums it up pretty nicely in his column in today’s Globe.

“But, at close inspection, to the trained hockey eye, there was just no there there this season with Thornton.”

Exactly. Something was missing. You wouldn’t know it from his stats. He was still up there with the top 10 scorers in the game. And he could still hit as hard as anyone, but there was something else. As if the burden of being a 26-year-old captain finally became too much for him. As if he couldn’t handle following in the footsteps of Ray Bourque any longer, the constant comparisons – especially considering Bourque’s deity status in Boston and high profile position with the team – finally got to him. We’ll never know, I guess, but something about this feels wrong.

True, if the Nomar trade taught us anything, it’s that sometimes a shake-up is the right thing. The Red Sox weren’t going to win a World Series with Nomar at shortstop and shoddy defense on the field. And it’s likely that the Bruins weren’t going to be hoisting a Stanley Cup with their own defense shot full of holes. But it seems like simple math to me. If your defense sucks, you need to score more goals. So it makes little sense to me to ship one of the best goal scorers in the game out of town. I’m sure the new guys can score goals too but, well, let’s hear what goalie Andrew Raycroft has to say:

“I have no idea if they’re good or not, to be honest with you.”

Great. Just what we need. More uncertainty.

This trade smacks of desperation to me. It feels like the front office is trying to pull a fast one. As if they’re imagining that trading the captain and biggest offensive player will distract the fans from the fact that the GM and owner have no idea how to run a successful hockey franchise. Because otherwise, they’d be held accountable. Explain to me why we didn’t push harder for Peter Forsberg. Explain to me why we’re so loath to upgrade the defense and get rid of Hal Gill. Explain to me why Raycroft has no protection. Explain to me why this is a good idea.

Look, I could be wrong. It’s been known to happen. And I sincerely hope I am. But scapegoating your franchise player because you can’t get your head out of your ass long enough to attempt to build a competitive team doesn’t set well with me. And the sad part is that Boston could be a great hockey town. People would come. People would care. But when the front office sends the message that they’re giving up, what do they expect the fans to do? All of a sudden our captain is dealing with the dual horrors of wearing teal and playing on the West Coast and he’s left behind some mighty big shoes to fill. Who knows how it’ll all work out. But if things continue to go downhill, I’m pointing the finger at ownership and the front office. Not for trading Thornton. But for neglecting to give this town the hockey team it deserves.

I’ll be there tonight amidst a sea of now vintage #19 jerseys. Should be an interesting scene.

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