Boston Bruins: Gregory Campbell, Daniel Paille not returning


Some would call these dark times on Causeway Street after the Boston Bruins were officially eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs Saturday, with a 3-2 SO loss handed to them by the No. 3 Eastern Conference ranked Tampa Bay Lighting. Coach Claude Julien faced a rude awakening Monday when his two fourth liners were informed they would not be returning for the 2015-16 season.

The day of reckoning arrived for both Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille Monday afternoon, as they will now test free-agency this summer, per general manager Peter Chiarelli. Julien revered fourth line grinders such as Campbell. Coach Julien, with his defense-first mentality, often allowed scrappy fourth liners such as Campbell to post 15 minutes of TOI during a lackluster season with Boston. He was implemented onto Boston’s fourth line for the start of the 2010-11 Stanley Cup winning season, where he played a decisive role on a vital line with the likes of Paille and now Florida Panther Shawn Thornton.

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Since his inaugural season with the Bruins, Julien has beheld great trust in the grinder. More recently, Campbell – one of the worst puck possession players in the NHL per Corsi stats – took command of defensive zone faceoffs for the Ryan Spooner line, as Julien felt it was the more applicable solution compared to relying on his younger players, such as Spooner, in important phases of a game.

Both Campbell and Paille were healthy scratches for their final game with the organization, indicative of their poor performances through the final stretch of the season. For Paille, the winger grew accustom to the press box, where he sat for the final nine games of his Bruins career. Campbell, who has struggled regularly since the 2011-12 season, was scratched for only the first time in his Bruins career this season on April 4 against Toronto. It was a move long overdue.

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  • Campbell, who finished the season with 6 goals and 6 assists in 70 games, had his second worst season with the Bruins aside from his injury-riddled 2012-13 season, where he played only 48 games (4 goals, 9 assists). His TOI this season ranged from 7:30 to 17:26, big minutes for a fourth line grinder. Julien and his system call for players like Campbell to attain these minutes. For the first time in his tenure with Boston, though, Julien struggled to roll four lines to his liking. Yet grinders like Campbell still registered 15 minutes of ice time on several occasions in his final five games.

    Paille experienced the ups and downs from the fourth line this season, as Julien cycled through various line pairings throughout the year. He was meshed with combinations on the third line several times, yet Paille ultimately was placed on the fourth line. The winger scored only six goals this season, three less than his season total of last season with 9. Both Paille and Campbell fit the bill for a typical fourth line in the NHL several seasons ago. Yet as a the league changes from grinders to skilled, speedy forwards, players of their nature only fit a select few needs on teams, and Boston has suggested their services are no longer needed.

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    Julien’s track record suggests he would indorse the re-signing of both Paille and Campbell, which means team President Cam Neely could have initiated the decision. With the futures of both Chiarelli and Julien in Boston ambiguous at the moment, Neely might have already begun making changes to this team by first opting to not re-sign Julien’s final Merlot line members. Neely has voiced his opinion, and a new-looked, speedy fourth line could be in the mix.

    In the case of Campbell, specifically, the decision to part ways has been foreseen. As his production began to decrease, the only statistic that appeared to increase was Campbell’s ice time. As a fourth line grinder, in a league that is evolving from the likes, Campbell was indeed muddling on the fourth line night in and night out for Julien as the coach bestowed the 31-year-old with defensive zone faceoff assignments on lines he was not apart of, and granted him too many shifts for a player of his caliber.

    The Bruins were known as a team to roll four lines in past years. This year was a different story. They had no identity. Julien’s team was, overall, disengaged all year long. He never had the luxury of rolling a typical Julien-like fourth line out every night, jam-packed with grinders. Yet scrappy forwards like Campbell still managed to make headlines for the wrong reasons with his excessive TOI figures.

    With the departure of Campbell and Paille, more could be on the way. Only this the next departure may not be a player, but quite possibly Julien or Chiarelli. One thing is for sure: Bruins fans will no longer see Gregory Campbell or Daniel Paille on the fourth forward line.

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