When the Beatles broke up, it wasn’t Paul McCartney or John Lennon who went on to make the best album outside the group (in my opinion), but rather George Harrison. Paul and John were obviously the bigger names throughout the Fab Four’s tenure, but Harrison, who had come an extremely long way as a guitarist and songwriter over the years, was primed for success.
Think of the breakup of the Merlot Line as being similar. Shawn Thornton is the biggest name (he’s in the movies, you know) and Gregory Campbell is known across the continent for killing a penalty on a broken leg, but Daniel Paille seems destined to have the strongest post-Merlot career.
Why? Because the opportunity is now there. If the Bruins embrace the trend of speedier and more skilled fourth line, Paille can handle it. If they want to move him up to the third line, he should be able to hang with the increased competition.
Paille, a former first-round pick of the Sabres who found his nitch in the NHL as a fourth-liner and penalty killer with the Bruins, possesses the speed that would allow him to fit on a quicker fourth line. Though there’s probably a shorthanded breakaway on which he didn’t score for every goal he’s scored in his career, Paille might remain a solid fit on the fourth line as it moves away from grit to skill. Ryan Spooner could take over as the line’s center, as the team is entertaining the idea of moving Campbell to the wing.
“The game is changing where there is a lot of skill on fourth lines,” Paille said this week. “Guys that used to be top-two line guys end up being fourth line when you look at [Brad] Richards and [Daniel] Briere. It’s becoming more of a challenge to play against. In my role, being fourth line typically, I have to be that much better.”
Of course, that’s not the only path Paille might take this season. With Loui Eriksson set to move up from the third line to the first line, Paille, who played left wing on the Merlot Line with Campbell and Thornton, is one of the candidates who figure to compete for the vacant third line right wing spot.
Paille figures to compete with a group of young wingers for that job. With the exception of Craig Cunningham and 2014 first-round pick David Pastrnak, all of those players – Matt Fraser, Spooner, Alexander Khokhlachev, Justin Florek ‘ are left shots.
Should he be moved up to play on Carl Soderberg’s line, Paille is confident he’d be able to handle more minutes and tougher competition.
“I know my role here on the team, and I have no complaints playing on the fourth line,” Paille said. “If I get to play that third line role, no complaints there either. I’m going to try to live up to the challenge if I’m able to do that, but if not, I’m going to keep working the way I need to and be prepared for the team.”