Tim Thomas has always been full of surprises. After the two-time Vezina winner, Stanley Cup champion and Conn Smythe Trophy winner sat out a year at the mature age of 38, the likelihood of a return was near remote, but it was Thomas' plan all along to return to the NHL and also to take another shot at the US Olympic team.
After humbling himself with a professional tryout (PTO) at Florida's camp he was rewarded with a one-year no-movement deal, chock full of bonus clauses.
The season started a little shaky and he endured two groin injuries but he eventually straightened out and has kept the Panthers at least on the periphery of the battle for a playoff spot.
During the Olympic break TFR's Alan Greenberg spoke with the always candid Thomas about his season and about the very real possibility of him being sought after by a contender at the trade deadline. For the record, Florida g.m. Dale Tallon said that the only way he will deal Thomas is if Thomas requested the trade.
EVALUATION OF HIS PLAY VS. EXPECTATIONS:
I went from the Boston Bruins, a very good team, to here. They're in the process of trying to turn it around and get better. I'm reminded of a quote I read the other day from the owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning. He talked about wanting to come in and build an organization. When he got into the process, he realized it was much harder and it would take more time than he thought. That's kind of how it's been for me coming in here. I was hoping to be able to help turn the team around right away and be closer to the playoffs at this point in the season.
PLAYING FOR A REBUILDING TEAM:
Difficult, but I don't want to focus on it. My point is, I'm happy with the way I've played but at the same time I was hoping I could personally make a bigger difference. It's a team game and I've learned that it's more of a process than I thought.
TRAINING CAMP TRYOUT:
I was very confident at the time so it didn't bother me at all. I knew I felt good after the year off so I didn't focus on that (PTO) too much. I was just happy to be getting the opportunity to be back, or at least in camp, with a big league club.
POSSIBLE TRADE TO CONTENDER:
I would need to discuss that with the team but the way I'm looking at it is that I want to be part of the Florida Panthers organization and I want to be a part of the turnaround that's coming. They're trying to build a world class organization here and turn this team around to become a winning team and at this point I'm thinking more of being a part of that process than I am about anything else.
I really wanted to be in Sochi. That was one of the goals I set for myself this year. Seeing that I'm not, this Olympic break has been really nice. I haven't had an in-season break in years. If you look back to the years that I played, I played every all-star game and I played the Olympics in 2010. I was playing hockey when others had breaks, even if they were smaller than the Olympic break. This break has been really nice, especially being able to spend the time in South Florida with good weather.
Thomas has been a pleasant spot in another frustrating season in South Florida. Thomas has publicly stated he would like to return next year. With the Panthers' playoff hopes again slipping away and Thomas set to become a UFA the business side of hockey has to take over.
Tallon has to think about getting some value for an asset and the 39-year-old Thomas, despite the denials, would have to welcome what might be a final shot at another Cup.