WILMINGTON — A former first-round pick with just one goal through 23 games this season is an easy target for criticism, but Jordan Caron — given his role — hasn’t been as disappointing as it might seem.
Caron hasn’t done anything offensively this season and that is undoubtedly his Achilles’ heel. Four partial seasons into his NHL  career, he seems to be a bottom-six player rather than a top-six guy for that reason.
Yet for as offensively invisible as he’s been, the defensively responsible Caron has been sound in his own zone and has been a useful penalty killer when called upon. Often times, young players see offensive results — a goal here, an assist there — quicker than they can be trusted on the PK, but Caron is the opposite. The Bruins don’t need to worry about him on the ice — something that’s been the case for young players over the years — but they shouldn’t expect him to light up the score sheet.
As such, it’s been a very unglamorous season for Caron (one goal and no assists) but he hasn’t been a liability or the awful player impatient fans might make him out to be.
“Obviously I’d like to produce more offensively, but [I’ve been] doing a good job on the PK and stuff like that,” Caron said Monday. “I’m just trying to be good defensively and working hard. The offensive part’s going to come.”
When or where the offensive part comes remains to be seen. The healthier Bruins lineup means that he’s back to 13th forward duties, and if the Bruins reach the point at which they would want to send Caron down, he would need to be placed on waivers first. In such a scenario, Caron could be claimed by another team and the Bruins would lose their 2010 first-rounder.
“I mean, if it happens, it happens,” Caron said with a shrug Monday. “I’m not too worried about it.”
Caron has been dealing with a bad back for about a month, and it forced him to miss at least three games recently, with him also missing Saturday’s game with the returns of Loui Eriksson and Shawn Thornton . Caron still isn’t 100 percent, but the team is unlikely to need to need him unless another forward gets injured.
“Of course you never want to be the one sitting out, so it’s always the same story,” Caron said. “We have a lot of depth on our team, and it’s always a tough lineup to crack, and with my little injury, it didn’t really help. I’ve just got to stay positive and make sure I’m ready.”
Always the same story is right. Over the past four seasons, Caron has had little consistency regarding his role. He began the 2010-11 season as a healthy scratch, but soon became a second-line player for the Bruins. From there, he’s been up and down between Boston and Providence numerous times and has moved around the lineup filling in for different players.
You can call that a chicken-egg situation and say that Caron would have more of a defined role if he played better, but it’s hard to define a role when in as uncertain situations as the ones Caron has faced. Despite playing in only 23 of the Bruins’ 45 games, Jordan Caron has had eight linemates, which is second only to Carl Soderberg for most on the Bruins this season.
“I’ve said it before: This is a guy who’s been bounced around from line to line, from right to left, from left to right,” Claude Julien  said. “At [some] point you have compassion for a guy like that who never gets to be on a steady line and build chemistry with his teammates. It’s pretty easy from the outside to want to criticize him, but I think you need guys like that on your roster to go wherever you tell him to go.
“He hasn’t a guy who has generated a ton offensively, but he’s done his job along the walls, he’s been pretty reliable and he’s done exactly what needs to be done as far as that’s concerned. If you look at his stats, not impressive, but at the same time you have to understand what he has to go through.”