Since the middle of last season, I have been advocating hard to see Daniel Paille get promoted to the third line. Last season, Paille found himself occasionally on the third line and even briefly on the second as the Boston Bruins muddled through their injuries to get their team into the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. There, Paille found himself skating constantly into third and fourth gear outrunning their opponents. “Paille on a breakaway!” became a rather common statement blurted out in excitement or exasperation by the announcers wherever they went. So, with an open slot needing to be filled, one could assume that Dan Paille would be allowed to compete for it?
Not just yet.
For the first few days of training camp, Coach Claude Julien has decided to keep the best fourth line in hockey together. Dan Paille has incredible speed, Shawn Thornton is….well Shawn Thornton (whose leadership on and off the ice should warrant him the second ‘A’ this season), and Gregory Campbell offers a significant level of both of those traits. While it irks me that a deserving player isn’t getting his chance, I’m not the Bruins head coach, and Julien’s record of success and impromptu line change wizardry means he should be trusted with this decision.
“They actually did look pretty good,” Julien said about the Merlot Men. “They’ve been together for so long. I know the question is probably a reflection on whether Dan Paille could be moved up. I haven’t written that option off. There’s no doubt it would affect our other line, our fourth line. As you saw last year when we lost Gregory Campbell, it wasn’t the same. So we have to balance out what it is going to mean. At the end of the day, Dan’s going to want to help us the best way he can.”
No insult intended to Dougie Hamilton, but Daniel Paille earned the Seventh Player Award last year. (Perhaps if we had a moratorium on voting on NESN.com that restricted voting to actual hockey fans and not fourteen year olds with a juvenile crush this problem can be corrected in the future.) Paille sincerely does want to help his team in any way he can, and his presence has been a boon since we got the former first round draft pick from Buffalo back in 2009.
In the end Coach Julien is not opposed to give Paille the promotion. He’s even open to the idea. At the moment, I just think he’s looking for a ‘comfort line’. (The Merlot Men are the only forward line that hasn’t had to endure a major overhaul going into the oncoming season.)
“If it doesn’t affect his ice time, then there is no issue.” offered Julien. “I think as a player, if he is going to play “x” number of minutes on that line and he would get the same on the other line, it really doesn’t matter. Players want to play with people they are successful with, and Dan has been with that line. But at the same time he does bring some speed, he does bring a real good fore check and that might be a solution to our third line. Maybe somebody else is going to have to step into his spot on the fourth line and give us that. One thing I don’t want to be is narrow-minded and just have one thing in mind, and say ‘this is what it is going to be.’ I think I’m going to keep those options open.”