He was a part-time fourth-line forward and the team has yet to play a game without him being an option. He had his fans, filled his role and brought it every game, but by no means was he an irreplaceable cog.
No I wouldn't go that far. He isn't going to put the puck in the net the way Neil can.
Thornton is a good fourth liner because he is not a liability like some enforcers. He does not get lost out there and knows how to get back on defense. He also can fight with the best of them. He has a win vs Laraque and a draw vs Boogaard (in the preseason) on his resume.