Every team in the National Hockey League has some sort of enforcer working on their squad. Some of those hockey players are pure grinders whose only job was to give their teams’ top lines a breather during games. Other enforcers reveled in pure physicality, generating very few points but racking up an obscene amount of penalty minutes. The Boston Bruins have their own enforcer, and thankfully he’s neither of these things.
Shawn Thornton currently fills that role for Boston. He’s been a member of the team since the 2007-08 season. In his career in Boston, he’s earned a Stanley Cup and a solid following among the fan base. While he has had good years and better years, this year wasn’t the best one for Thornton. In his sixty-four games with the Black and Gold, he put in eight points(five goals), A plus/minus of +3, and seventy four penalty minutes. Sadly, Thornton’s most memorable moment this year was leaping on and knocking out Pittsburgh Penguins’ Brooks Orpik.
Squirting P.K. Subban (while humorous) didn’t do his reputation any favors either.
There are a lot of young and up-and-comers heading into Boston at the beginning of next season. There will be some rather intense competition for those thirteen available positions at forward. While I am an unabashedly biased fan of Shawn Thornton, I have serious doubts that he’ll still be in the uniform next season with the Bruins. Let’s look at the numbers. Shawn Thornton will be thirty-seven in July. Sure, he’s still in excellent shape, but he’ll be going up against people half his age. Thornton will likely get a shot to compete in next season’s training camp. Thornton may impress enough to keep his job.
If we lose Thornton, it will be a regrettable end of an era. For the last few seasons, the Merlot Line has brought energy, skill, and an entertaining level of aggression. Daniel Paille brought speed, Gregory Campbell brought grit and determination, and Thornton brought his humor, tenacity, and the occasional use of his mitts. This year the Merlot Line was plagued with injuries and suspensions and they just didn’t have the fire they usually had.
I’m not completely giving out hope though. There is a chance he could stay in Boston. The Bruins front office might not think players like Ryan Spooner, Alexander Khokhlachev, and Justin Florek will be ready to wear the spoked ‘B’. Also, Shawn Thornton is the kind of man who would take a ‘hometown discount’ to remain in a Bruins jersey. With the Bruins being a cap-conscious team, they might appreciate that kind of gesture from him.
Thornton’s one of those players that is a monster on the ice, a friend to his community, and a fantastic person among the fan base. We’ll see how it plays out in the next few months.