Tim Thomas is the NHL's leader in save percentage and goals-against average. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
When The Hockey News editorial staff sat down for a roundtable discussion on this year’s major award winners, the first to tackle was the Vezina Trophy. While there was certainly back-and-forth debate to make absolutely sure we were picking the right guy, it’s nearly impossible to deny this year’s wire-to-wire winner.
The votes are in and tallied: Boston’s Tim Thomas is our pick for the Vezina.
What more can be said about a guy who has been atop our Vezina Trophy Watch all season, aside from our earliest entry on Oct. 18 when the Bruins keeper sat third behind the hot starts of Jonathan Quick and Tomas Vokoun?
We’ve dished about the underdog side of Thomas that makes it hard to cheer against him; we’ve questioned whether he’d be able to sustain his success through the season; and we’ve even pondered if his body of work was more impressive than Dominik Hasek’s in 1997-98 when the Sabres netminder won the Vezina and Hart Trophies.
In the April 4 issue of The Hockey News magazine Ken Campbell writes of Thomas’ determination and drive, the difficulties he’s faced with injury and how he dealt with being relegated to the backup role a year after winning the 2009 Vezina. At this point last season questions were swirling if Thomas’ short NHL career was over and if he’d even be a member of the Bruins beyond the summer of 2010.
Now, not only are we prepared to name him our Vezina winner – an honor you cannot deny someone with a GAA below 2.00, a record-setting save percentage (.939) that is 10 points better than his closest competitor and who plays on a team that surrenders the second-most shots against per game – but Thomas is in the Hart Trophy debate as well.
Say what you will about his lack of games played (54), Thomas has clearly been the best goalie in the NHL all season. To deny Thomas would be to reject him based on any nit-picking shortfalls that are magnified to find a fault. Like a highly touted prospect who holds the No. 1 ranking in his draft class for a year or more, when decision day comes it’s human nature to look deep for reasons why to pick the other guy.
That is meant as no slight against our other two finalists, Pekka Rinne and Henrik Lundqvist, who have carried Nashville and the Rangers through to the playoff race. Both have their own cases to make, as do Carey Price, Ilya Bryzgalov, Cam Ward, Marc-Andre Fleury and Roberto Luongo. In an era considered all about offense and one where goalies have been deemed replaceable and unworthy of long-term, high-salary contracts, the big boys sure came through with stellar performances.
But Thomas undeniably put together a season future winners of this award and this year’s runners-up would love to emulate. The only question now is if it was good enough to take home the Hart, too.
This week, we will release our picks for the Vezina, Norris, Adams, Calder and Hart Trophies. Stay tuned to find out if Thomas can manage another nod.
THN's TOP THREE CANDIDATES
Was in the Vezina conversation from wire-to-wire and posted mind-numbing numbers.
Second to Thomas in SP and GAA; in any other year this would be Rinne’s trophy to lose.
Eleven shutouts: are you kidding me? King Henrik is the New York Rangers and if he doesn’t win this award one day it would be a crime.
THN PUCK PANEL: VEZINA TROPHY TALK
Producer: Ted Cooper
THN.com's Vezina Trophy Watch will appear monthly throughout the season. And don't miss out as we'll also track the Hart, Norris and Jack Adams, in THN's Trophy Watch.