Of all the predictions I’ve made for all the forwards, defenseman, and goaltenders, this was the hardest one for me to write about. It forces me to accept a few ugly truths about the Merlot Men and in hockey in general. It’s true that the NHL keeps trying to remove fighting from the game. While they acknowledge it still occurs, they understand it is becoming more of a fringe element than something that happens in the league. That being said, it just feels like the Boston Bruins and Shawn Thornton will part waves this season.
Professionally, I completely understand why the Bruins organization would do that. The Providence Bruins have several young bucks like Matt Fraser, Ryan Spooner, and Alexander Khokhlachev who could easily bring an element of speed and finesse to the fourth line. The NHL in general is all but ostracizing players like Shawn Thornton (and hockey gods help me for comparing these two in a sentence EVER) and John Scott in favor of a faster, more technical game. (I’m sure the pending lawsuits have nothing to do with that either.) The league wants faster play, and more goals scored. The last thing they want to have is a player like Thornton giving the business to a player on another league because they think hockey has outgrown them.
I acknowledge Shawn Thornton’s minutes have diminished. I know he’s getting up there in years, and a lot of people don’t want to see fights in hockey any more (What is wrong with you?!). The man brings an honest, blue collar work ethic to hockey. To be frank, the NHL needs to not be like other professional sports leagues. The last thing we need is the NHLPA to turn into another one of those organizations that cater to pampered millionaires and shun the honest people who worked obscenely hard to earn a spot on a team’s roster. That being said, I will be pleasantly surprised if Thornton is still playing in Boston in October.
While Shawn Thornton’s future may not be solid, the other members of the ‘Merlot Men’ should be secure. Gregory Campbell is loathe to sign any pictures that have him doubled over in pain trying to play with a broken leg. (Frankly, I don’t blame him.) Campbell has earned his place in Bruins immortality with that heroic effort back in the 2013 playoffs. The Bruins won’t trade him because of his determination. He still plays solid two-way hockey, and can contribute on special teams. He’s also a solid center and will do a great job teaching the likely P-Bruin player to end up on the wing the ropes of being part of the best fourth line in the NHL.
Daniel Paille‘s job is also pretty safe. Paille brings a speed element that other teams continued to ignore through the regular season and playoffs. He may be a fourth liner, but that guy has booster rockets on his skates. He also plays solid two way hockey, and he’s rather devastating on the penalty kill. Paille is a great technical skater, and he can befuddle a lot of other players with his maneuverability on the ice.
The fourth line may have to become the ‘Maroon line’ again, but the players that made it ‘Merlot’ have done right by this organization. We’ll see what happens as the off season and training camp commence.