The general consensus is Chris Kelly will be the left winger while the center position, left vacant with the trading of Rich Peverley to Dallas, will see Carl Soderberg filling that role.
The team has posted a job opening the line’s right side and it has begun to accept applications.
Names have been bandied about since Boston dealt Peverley to Dallas with Tyler Seguin. Peverley was a third line fixture for most of his three years in a black and gold jersey and used his speed and aggressive forechecking style to set up timely goals. His best season was 2010-2011 when he compiled 11 goals and 31 assists totaling 42 points in 57 games. Peverley would add four lamplighters and eight helpers for another 12 points during the postseason in which they won the Stanley Cup.
Bruins coach Claude Julien is looking for that same type of player to fill out this season’s trio.
“Your third line should be able to give you some secondary scoring and then your third line should also be able to give you some secondary grit that the fourth line gives you. So they're kind of, to me, caught in the middle where they give you a little bit of both and that is what we are looking for from that line. We need more than just two lines to score. We know our fourth line has given us that but our third line needs to give us that as well and at the same time, defensively and on the gritty side of the game they’ve got to be able to give us that too.”
Jordan Caron appeared to have the inside track on the position at the start of training camp. This will be the winger’s fourth season with the organization. He has split his time between Boston and its American Hockey League affiliate in Providence. In 88 NHL games, the former first round draft pick (25th overall, 2009 Entry Draft) has found the back of the net just 11 times. Caron has assisted on 14 goals for a less than impressive 25 points. The 22 year old forward has the size (6-foot-3) to be a physical presence but has yet to show it and if Julien is looking for a speedy player to force opposing defensemen to commit turnovers or win races for loose pucks then Caron is not his guy. He may be a serviceable AHL forward but he has been a disappointment in Boston and will, most likely, never be the player management thought they were getting when they drafted him.
Along with Caron, the short list of players who are in consideration for the job are Reilly Smith and Jared Knight. Both are natural right wingers and while Smith is impressing the brass, he does not appear to play the physical style the coach is looking for in a third liner.
Other names include Ryan Spooner, Matt Lindblad, Anthony Camara and Matt Fraser.
All have very limited, or no, NHL experience and although they may be ready for a job in The Show, none are natural right wingers and that will make it difficult for any of them to make the adjustment from minor league (Spooner, Smith, Fraser) or, in some cases, junior/college hockey (Camara, Knight, Lindblad) to the NHL.
The only solution to the Bruins third line problem is Daniel Paille.
Paille was selected in the first round (20th overall) by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft after putting together an outstanding junior career with the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League. In four seasons with the Storm, Paille accounted for 247 points in 239 games.
Buffalo projected the Welland, Ontario native to be a top six forward but Paille disappointed and after five seasons was traded to Boston for a third round draft pick on October 20, 2010.
Since the trade, Paille has primarily seen fourth line duty with center Gregory Campbell and winger Shawn Thornton. The three have become the ultimate grinding unit that have become known throughout hockey for their speed, exceptional forechecking and hard hitting action. Known as the Merlot Line because they wear maroon colored jerseys in practice, the trio has become a fan favorite in Boston.
However, as the adage says, “nothing lasts forever” and due to injuries hitting the lineup last Spring in the Stanley Cup playoffs, Paille saw himself skating on the club’s third line where he excelled by continuing to use his speed to create scoring chances for himself and his linemates. By being placed on that unit, he was able to play a more creative game, which resulted in his scoring the game winning goals in games two and three of the Stanley Cup Final against Chicago. The gritty forward continued to also concentrate on his solid defensive play, which is what Julien is looking for again this season.
The 29-year-old Paille enjoyed his new role and would not be adverse to continuing in that capacity.
“I’m going in (training camp) thinking that I’ll play with Soupy (Campbell) and Thorty (Thornton),” Paille said. “If I happen to play (on the) third line then I’m definitely all for that but I’ll be just as happy playing with those guys. For me it’s about opportunity and if the opportunity comes then I’m definitely more than willing to embrace it.”
It is time for the Bruins decision makers to embrace it also.
Campbell appears to be getting stronger each day but there have been instances during training camp where it is clear he is still experiencing discomfort from the leg that was fractured in the Eastern Conference Final versus Pittsburgh and that may delay his return to the lineup.
Under that circumstance, this is, in Paille’s words, an opportunity to take advantage of the speedy winger’s skills by employing him on the squad’s third line, especially since it looks as if he would be playing along side the large body and aggressive nature of Carl Soderberg and the defensive minded Chris Kelly. Paille is a combination of the two. Not to mention, Paille’s confidence level is perhaps higher than it has ever been, at least that is the feeling one gets when speaking with him.
Ultimately, Daniel Paille would give the Bruins that secondary grit and scoring of which his coach speaks and is the perfect answer to the question that has plagued the city of Boston throughout the summer.
Shawn Hutcheon is the Boston Correspondent for The Fourth Period.