Looking back and ahead: Daniel Paille
|05.17.12 at 12:32 am ET|
With the Bruins’ season in the books, WEEI.com will take a look at each player on the roster one-by-one to provide some perspective on what went wrong this season and what the future holds for the 2011 champions.
2011-12 stats: 69 games played, 9 goals, 6 assists, 15 points, minus-5
Contract status: Unrestricted free agent ($1.075 million cap hit in 2011-12)
Looking back: While the retirement of Mark Recchi and the free agent defection of Michael Ryder left some uncertainty as to how Boston’s top three lines would look entering the season, it seemed a certainty entering camp that Claude Julien would not touch the fourth line of Paille, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton. That was indeed the case, and Julien kept the “Merlot Line,” as Thornton has long called it for the maroon practice sweaters of fourth-line players, intact.
Though the line (at least the incarnation with Paille rather than Brad Marchand) did not see its offensive success of the previous season, the trio of Paille, Campbell and Thornton continued to bring what’s required of it: energy and prolonged stays in the offensive zone.
For the most part, the former Sabres first-round pick had horrible luck this season. He was hit in the face by a Steve Staios slapshot to the face on Nov. 7. He also suffered a mild concussion on Dec. 8 and dealt with an arm injury in early March. He also found himself as the odd man out when Jordan Caron‘s torrid play down the stretch left him in the press box for four games in late March. Despite the numerous injuries and healthy scratches, Paille missed only 13 games over the course of the regular season.
It wasn’t his best statistical campaign (he still hasn’t repeated his 19-goal performance of 2007-08 with the Sabres), but it was a season in which Paille proved to be a bit of an iron man for Boston due to his ability to get back into the lineup quickly after injuries. If such goofy statistics were kept, it wouldn’t be surprising if Paille led the league in shorthanded scoring opportunities. As has long been the case with Paille, his finishing skills often let him down, but his ability to do everything but score makes him perfectly suitable as a fourth-liner and penalty killer.
Paille actually did not take a penalty in the first half of the season. In fact, his first trip to the box of the season was a fighting major that came on Jan. 16 against Ed Jovanovski, the second second fighting major of the 28-year-old’s career. He finished the regular season with 15 penalty minutes.
Looking ahead: When it comes to the Bruins’ priorities with their free agents this summer, Paille is certainly no Chris Kelly, but he’s still someone who has carved out a niche in Boston and would be a good guy to have back.
Paille is one of five Bruins forwards who are free agents (the others are Kelly, Campbell, Brian Rolston and the restricted Benoit Pouliot), so Boston’s offense could look pretty different next season. If Paille isn’t brought back, it could open up a full-time job for Caron or provide an opportunity for a youngster like Jared Knight. If Rolston retires (which he has yet to decide), a spot for Caron might be there anyway.
The 28-year-old Paille is also a great character guy who is a good presence in the Bruins’ dressing room. After spending the previous season seeing significant time as a healthy scratch, it seemed he had earned himself a full-time job in the Boston lineup this season, but he didn’t feel entitled or pout when Julien had to scratch him in favor of Caron late in the regular season. Of course, if Paille does re-sign with the Bruins, he’ll probably do so in hopes of being in the lineup every night.
Paille might never end up justifying his first-round selection (20th overall back in 2002), but he serves his role as a fourth-liner very well in Boston. Perhaps there there will be opportunities in free agency for the Ontario native to play more and on a higher line, but the Bruins would be smart to do what they can to retain his services.