The Boston Bruins are stacked on offense in my opinion. Their top-6 is already penciled with Milan Lucic, David Krejci, Jarome Iginla, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Loui Eriksson all expected to make up the Bruins top two lines. That is quite the combination of size, speed and skill.
Skip down to the bottom-6 and you see the Bruins have one of the better 4th lines in the entire NHL. Gregory Campbell, Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton form that line and they bring nothing but energy, intensity and a blue-collar work ethic to every game.
Now, this is something we’ve talked about at length before and after having a rather lengthy discussion on Facebook this morning, I wanted to revaluate the situation. The Bruins 3rd line is where they appear to have their only weakness upfront at the moment and it was a problem all last year as the 3rd line never really got going.
Chris Kelly and Carl Soderberg are talented two-way players who work hard and can contribute points. Soderberg especially should be ready for a breakout year after getting his first taste of NHL hockey last season. He is big, a smooth skater, has a wicked shot and is a pretty underrated playmaker. He will be well-served playing on a line with a veteran like Kelly who can win faceoffs, play responsibly in all three zones and crash the net with a purpose. Those two are ready to go and should contribute to the Bruins success but the question remains, who will play on the other wing with these two?
Right now, there’s a handful of guys competing for that spot and we’re going to take a look at who they are and who has the best shot of claiming the spot and helping the 3rd line get back to be an integral part of the Bruins success.
Jordan Caron (22-years old) – 6’2″, 200lbs: My least favorite of the bunch but one of the favorites out of the gate, Caron has managed to somehow hang around the Bruins organization for the past three seasons. A 1st round pick of the Bruins in 2009, Caron has size and a good shot. He was supposed to be a 3rd line power forward for the Bruins who could score and play well along the boards, but he’s never reached that potential and at times just seems to not have the necessary leg speed or hands to compete at the NHL level. Even with that said, the Bruins signed Caron this past offseason to a 1-year, $640,000 deal that will likely be his last shot with this organization. Its preform or go home time for Caron and I’m hoping he doesn’t preform because I’m tired of watching him struggle.
Daniel Paille (29-years old) – 6’0″, 200lbs: Paille is a player who accepts his role and excels in it. He has great speed, works extremely hard and is one of the best penalty killers in the NHL. He showed a little more of his offensive last season and had a very solid year making him worthy of a promotion to the 3rd line. However its tough to take Paille off his current spot on the 4th line with Campbell and Thornton as the three as so highly effective as a unit.
Matt Fraser (23-years old) – 6’2″, 190lbs: Acquired this past offseason in the Seguin-Eriksson deal, Fraser is another big-bodied winger with a wicked shot. He’s a more physical player than Caron and I feel just a better all-around player. Fraser exploded onto the scene last year in the AHL, tallying 37 goals and 55 points in 72 games with the Dallas Stars. He may not start the season on the Bruins but he will find his way their eventually.
Ryan Spooner (23-years old) – 5’10”, 175lbs: The most skilled of the bunch, Spooner is a natural center who is a slick, puck-possession player who can find the back of the net and create for his teammates. Spooner needs to get stronger and work on his two-way game if he hopes to make the Bruins this season and unfortunately for him there’s a bit of a logjam at center. So, unless the Bruins want to move Kelly to wing or there’s an injury we won’t see much of Spooner on the big club this season. With that said, Spooner has NHL-level talent and it’s only a matter of time before he breaks the Bruins roster.
Anthony Camara (20-years old) – 6’0″, 190lbs: Camara is basically Fraser but with a lot more bite. An enforcer who appears to have more talent than most thought, Camara is the most intriguing of the bunch, but he just may not be ready for the big-time yet. He’s a longshot to make the Bruins roster and would most likely be better served getting some AHL seasoning. However, if and when he makes his Bruins debut he will instantly be a fan-favorite for his hard playing style and willingness to drop the gloves. I think he can eventually be a 20-goal, power forward in the NHL, but for now he has a lot of work ahead of him.
Jared Knight (21-years old) – 5’11”, 185lbs: The only American in the group, Knight automatically has a soft-spot in my heart. A fearless winger who goes full-speed on every shift on any night, Knight is a natural leader who will do whatever is asked of him and whatever it takes to win. Knight has plenty of skill to go with his heart, but can’t really create for himself and just tries to outwork and out-muscle everyone. I’ve always had a dream to see him and Spooner as linemates and if the Bruins suffer some injuries this season it could very well happen, Spooner’s creativity with Knight’s bullish game just seems like the perfect fit. Knight could very well beat out Caron and Fraser to start the season as that 3rd line winger and make some noise in the process.
Well there you have it, and I have to say I feel much better about the Bruins 3rd line headed into this offseason than I did at the beginning of last year when the Bruins were trying to convince us and themselves that Chris Bourque was an NHL player.
I can’t say enough about Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli and the work he has done since coming on board. The Bruins are always competitive, have plenty of roster options, solid organizational depth and the ability to make a move or two if they feel they don’t have the answer already in the franchise.
Whoever wins the job to become the 3rd line winger will have beat out some pretty hefty competition, I can’t wait to see who it is. Just please God, let it be anyone but Caron.