Tim Thomas didn’t play in the NHL until he was 28 years old. You’d think that late start alone would be enough to keep him out of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Know this though. The great Johnny Bower was a few weeks shy of his 28th birthday before he donned an NHL sweater and he’s a Hall of Famer and recognized as one of the top 25 goalies of all-time. (Bower was ranked 87th in the 1998 book The Top 100 NHL Players of All-time.)
So can Thomas make the Hall based on parts of only one terrific decade of hockey?
It’s a long shot, but this is what he has working in his favor.
Thomas has won two Vezinas trophies (2009 and 2011) and one Conn Smythe Trophy (2011) and Stanley Cup win during his time with the Boston Bruins. He also was a shared winner of the William Jennings Trophy (2009) as well as a runner-up the following season. And he was a first-team NHL all-star twice.
Working against Thomas is a lack of a sustained period of excellence and the fact he’ll surely never have jaw-dropping career numbers by the time he’s done. Thomas was a truly special goalie for just a few seasons with the Bruins and very good for a few more. That’s not enough to make the Hall of Fame grade.
His 210 career wins with Boston and currently Florida Panthers is nowhere close to top 50 all-time among goalies. On the cusp of his 40th birthday, Thomas would need another trio of 30-win seasons to reach 300 wins and the top 30 goalies of all-time. And even at that, it’s a stretch. Of the 22 goalies with 300 regular season wins and eligible for the Hall of Fame, only 12 are in. Curtis Joseph is the non-Hall of Fame leader with a staggering 454 wins (fourth all-time).
Coming full circle on the comparison with Bower, the Toronto Maple Leaf great kept playing until the age of 44. Perhaps Thomas can keep it going.
As for whether or not Thomas has Hall of Fame credentials, he’ll need at least one more exceptional accomplishment to be considered a strong bet on the ballot. He’s probably out of time to win another Vezina, but perhaps a second Conn Smythe Trophy after a trade to a team such as St. Louis or Minnesota would be enough.
And that could be more likely than you think.
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This is the sixth in a series of Hall Monitor blogs. Others have been on:
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior editor and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Brian Costello on Twitter at @BCostelloTHN