When the Boston Bruins chose not to re-sign Shawn Thornton to a contract, they were sending a message to their fans and to the league. The Bruins acknowledged that they needed to step away from having an in-house enforcer. While Boston’s loss is certainly the Florida Panthers’ gain, the Black and Gold are not at a loss when it comes to players who can (and often will) drop the gloves during a hockey game.
The Boston Bruins are often derided by fans of other teams (especially a fan base that has the urge to dial 9-1-1 when one of their players gets hurt) for playing a very physical game. It’s a part of the Claude Julien system. If you’re going to play to a defensive minded system, that means there will occasionally be a forward or two acting as a third blueliner during a match. Those tough battles in the dirty areas would lead to frayed tempers, and the gloves will end up on the ice.
Last season, Shawn Thornton led all Bruins with ten fighting majors. While Shawn Thornton was the most known pugilist on the squad, ten other Bruins dropped the gloves in thirty six separate occasions.
Milan Lucic and Adam McQuaid were tied for second in Boston with seven fights apiece. McQuaid engages with a fearless tenacity. Milan Lucic is regarded as one of the most dangerous fighters in the league. Gregory Campbell was tied with Jarome Iginla by ringing the bell five times last season. Campbell is just as fearless as McQuaid is. While the loss of Thornton and Iginla is hurtful (especially to the fans), the Bruins will not be deficient in the physical category.
Kevan Miller will be on the squad next year, and like Iginla earned a place in the fans heart by his skill set. When the skills weren’t enough Miller was able to throw down and prove his place on the squad. Miller threw down four times in his season. Jordan Caron, Zdeno Chara, and Matt Fraser engaged twice, and Johnny Boychuk (who is dangerous without fighting) fought once.
There was also that night were Patrice Bergeron dropped the gloves, but we just have to assume that ‘polite Patrice’ was having an off night and ‘Paddy Cleary’ had to get something off his chest.
The Bruins lost a certain something when they let Shawn Thornton go. While the Black and Gold are diminished by his loss, the heart and soul of the Bruins game will still be there next season. The Big, Bad Bruins will be there in October to lay day their old time system of on-ice justice next season.