The first time Shawn Thornton
met Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli, their conversation provided an eerie foreshadow as the enforcer prepared to don the Spoked-B for the first time.
“I mean, I remember when I first signed here. I came in to meet Peter [Chiarelli] and he was like, ‘How is your conditioning,’ or whatever, I said, ‘It’s probably not as good as it would be had we not went into mid June,’” Thornton said.
“But he says, ‘Well, if we have that problem here one day, that’ll be a good problem,’ and I agreed.”
The forward was coming off a Stanley Cup win with Anaheim, and entered Bruins training camp after a shorter-than-usual offseason. And now Thornton’s facing the same issue: a return to hockey after less off time than usual, thanks to a run deep into the season that ended with him lifting the Cup.
It’s not a problem he’s complaining about.
“It’s been busy, really busy because I’m around Boston,” Thornton said, “and there’s a lot of things going on with this thing but it’s a great problem to have. “
Thornton's “problem” is a result of an exceptional season, one the forward says ranks among his best years in his hockey career. The Bruins Stanley Cup victory wouldn’t have been possible without the gritty forward, who was an integral piece of the championship puzzle.
A member of Boston’s scrappy fourth “Merlot” line (along with Gregory Campbell
and Daniel Paille
), Thornton finished the regular season with 10-10-20 totals. The B’s enforcer also slammed opponents with 141 hits and had the most penalty minutes on the team (122). In the postseason, the forward continued his physical presence- despite playing in just 18 of the B’s 25 playoff matches, he registered 44 hits and added an assist along the way. It all added up to a stellar record of play for the Bruin.
“Numbers-wise obviously, yes,” Thornton said. “You can’t really talk about numbers but I felt like things went well this year and hopefully we can repeat it next year.
“I mean every year you win you’re going to think it’s your best year ever, right?”
But now, Thornton and his teammates are focused on preparing for next season, determined to avoid a “Cup hangover” and repeat their impressive on-ice performances. Still, some have departed from the team, and Thorty says their absence from the locker room will be felt, particularly the veteran presence of Mark Recchi, who retired following the Cup victory.
“We’re going to have to step up a little bit in the leadership department, losing Mark Recchi. I know it gets talked about a lot, but I don’t think it’s talked about enough, how huge he was off the ice,” Thornton said. “He was a huge part of our room.”
For the most part, though, the faces bearing Black & Gold will be familiar. And with the taste of a Cup victory fresh in their memories, they’ll be itching to take the ice as a team.
“We’re going to have a good group for years to come,” Thorton said. “Everyone’s young and still locked up so it should be fun.” ---Elizabeth Traynor