|Why December 23 is a meaningful day for the Bruins||12.23.14 at 1:02 pm ET|
It’s been a while since the Bruins approached the Christmas break as a fringe playoff team. The last time it happened, however, they won the Stanley Cup.
Dec. 23, 2010 was a critical day in that ultimately successful season. The Bruins, coming off a postseason collapse against the Flyers the previous spring, were struggling.
Offseason acquisition Nathan Horton, who was in the midst of what would be a nine-game slump with no goals and one assist, was looking like a very talented non-factor who appeared to be bringing Milan Lucic down with him.
The team was going through the motions and it was taking them nowhere. It led to the Bruins losing four of five games, punctuated by a troubling no-show in a 3-0 shutout loss to the Ducks on Garden ice. Claude Julien, who historically is a set-it-and-forget-it guy with his lines, pulled Horton off the top line and replaced him with Blake Wheeler in that game.
After that 3-0 loss, the eighth-place Bruins had two days off before they would host the Thrashers in their final game before the holiday break. Those two days were the height of “Fire Claude Mania.”
In his weekly interview with CBS radio, President Cam Neely was asked if they were going to fire the coach. Neely said the Bruins weren’t, but did say, “I can understand why the fans are frustrated and may be calling for a coaching change.”
Dennis Seidenberg doesn’t remember too many specifics about the mood of the team at that point, only saying Tuesday that “it was really dead.”
Then, on Dec. 23, the Bruins came out and absolutely ran over the Thrashers. Shawn Thornton fought Eric Boulton off the faceoff and spent the next five minutes in the penalty box devising a plan to score two goals in the game. Patrice Bergeron had a shorty. Michael Ryder had a power play goal. Lucic sucker-punched Freddy Meyer and somehow didn’t get suspended.
Ference fought. Horton fought. Marc freaking Savard fought. The game was an explosion of emotions and every bit the coming out party that the team had forgotten to have earlier in the season.
“I think that was definitely a defining game for us,” Brad Marchand said Tuesday. “We turned it on and really didn’t look back.”
|Shawn Thornton: ‘To get a standing ovation in a visiting arena is pretty special’||11.05.14 at 12:32 am ET|
If ever Shawn Thornton wanted a reminder of what he meant to Bruins fans over the last seven years, he got it in a 45-second tribute in the first period Tuesday night at TD Garden.
As they did with the return of Johnny Boychuk two weeks earlier, the Bruins gave a video tribute on the large monitors above center ice midway through the first period. It featured him holding up the Stanley Cup in 2011, scoring a goal and naturally some of his better fisticuffs over his time in black and gold.
He showed his appreciation by waving his stick in the air.
“It’s pretty touching you know,” Thornton said. “Very, very kind, very gentle. Gentle? That’s not the word I was looking for. To get a standing ovation in a visiting arena is pretty special and I appreciate it. The fans have always been great to me here and again tonight. It’s pretty nice.”
Thornton, who signed a two-year, $2.4 million deal on July 1, played 17 shifts and spent 14 minutes on the ice as coach Gerard Gallant used his whole bench. He finished with one shot, one takeaway and four hits, but no fights.
“Well, Turk rolls four lines so I think he has had confidence in our line all year,” Thornton said. “Again tonight was another case of that. I think it’s nice to have two guys in Mack [Derek MacKenzie] and Kopy [Tomas Kopecky] that I’m playing with, it makes life a little easier for me. It’s nice to have the trust in us to put us out there.”
|Daniel Paille suited for whatever role awaits him with Bruins||08.12.14 at 10:40 pm ET|
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.”
|Shawn Thornton embracing next chapter with Panthers||08.11.14 at 6:15 pm ET|
MIDDLETON — Everyone knows Shawn Thornton wanted to remain a Bruin. Now that he’s had a couple months to accept that he won’t be, the veteran fighter is embracing his status as a Florida Panther.
“It’s exciting. It is,” Thornton said Monday at his annual Putts and Punches for Parkinson’s golf tournament. “I’m probably past the point of being down a little bit about not coming back. I can’t wait to get down there and get settled and start the next chapter.”
Thornton said it’s been a busy summer of going back and forth between his home in Charlestown and Florida, where he’s been house-hunting and slowly getting settled in. His show of support Monday from current Bruins Tuukka Rask, Loui Eriksson, Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille shows that he certainly hasn’t been forgotten up here, and that he’ll keep his Boston friendships as he becomes a divisional opponent.
“Tuukka didn’t buy me out of my half of [our] boat, so I think we’re still friends,” Thornton joked.
Thornton made the playoffs in each of his seven seasons with the Bruins. That’s hardly a guarantee for him with the Panthers, who have reached the playoffs just once over the last 13 seasons (2011-12).
Amongst other moves this summer, general manager Dale Tallon (who knew Thornton from their Chicago days) brought in Thornton on a two-year, $2.4 million contract, which is the richest of the 37-year-old fighter’s career. The Panthers also shored up their goaltending last season by trading for Roberto Luongo. On the first day of free agency, Tallon brought in a group of veteran forwards that included Thornton, Dave Bolland and Jussi Jokinen.
How those signings help a young Panthers team remains to be seen, but Thornton hopes that between the veterans brought in and the young group already there (Erik Gudbranson, Aleksander Barkov and 2014 first overall pick Aaron Ekblad among them) the team will be able to get back to the postseason.
“I know they’re expecting big things from talking to them,” Thornton said of his new team. “Hopefully we deliver. I’d like to make the playoffs. Obviously I’m not a big fan of losing. I think they brought in some really good character guys. I think with their youth, they’re going in the right direction and I think they’re definitely improving. I’m hoping I can be a part of that.”
As for mentoring that young group of players in Florida, Thornton noted that Father Time has made that role pretty apparent.
“I’m going into my 17th or 18th year [Editor’s note: 18th],” Thornton said with a smirk. “I don’t think anyone really needs to tell me to be an older guy in the room. I am whether I want to be or not.”
Thornton’s first game back in Boston will be on Nov. 4. Interestingly enough, it will be Thornton’s first time playing in Boston as an opponent despite having parts of four NHL seasons under his belt out west before coming to the Bruins.
“It will be weird,” he admitted. “I never played a game in the Garden until I had the Bruins jersey, so every game I’ve played in there [I’ve had] the spoked B, so it will be different. It will be weird. Maybe I’ll pull a groin or something.”
|Shawn Thornton signs with Panthers||07.01.14 at 1:26 pm ET|
Shawn Thornton has signed with the Panthers after spending the last seven seasons in Boston. According to Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada, the contract is for two years and is worth $2.4 million.
Thornton, now 36, served as a fourth-line fixture for the Bruins after signing with them in 2007. He posted career highs with 10 goals and 10 assists for 22 points in the Bruins’ Stanley Cup-winning 2010-11 season.
Last season proved to be a tough one for Thornton, as his line struggled and he was given a 15-game suspension for an on-ice incident with then-Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik. Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli informed Thornton last month that the team would not be re-signing him.
Thornton, who hails from Oshawa, Ontario, has long said he will continue to live in Boston, where he has become known for his multiple charitable efforts.
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|Shawn Thornton on D&C: ‘I’m very, very fortunate that I got to be here for 7 years’||06.17.14 at 11:44 am ET|
Thornton, who will hit free agency this offseason, was informed by Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli Monday that the team will not pursue re-signing him after seven seasons in Boston.
“I’ve been around a long time. I assumed it would’ve been [Chiarelli] talking to my agent Monday afternoon instead of me walking in there,” Thornton said. “There’s always a chance of me walking in there to see if I’d be a good soldier, be the extra guy for the next year or two. But I pretty much knew it was coming.
“I talked about it on Sunday with some friends and family. I got the text on Saturday saying he wanted to meet Monday. I kind of put my head around it.”
Thornton wouldn’t cite specific reasons given by Chiarelli for his decision, but the enforcer was grateful for the opportunities given to him over the years.
“It’s just the business. I said it yesterday, I did a few interviews, I’m very, very fortunate that I got to be here for seven years,” Thornton said. “It doesn’t happen anymore. Guys don’t stay around in one market, being a fourth-line guy and being a tough guy. I think you get moved around a lot more than that nowadays. So to do it in this city for seven years, I’m really fortunate.
“I think there are guys in Providence who are just ready to play, and you got to see a few of them do it last year. They’ve got to make some room for these guys. I could understand that.
“But [Chiarelli] didn’t have to tell me early. He didn’t have to tell me face to face. Everything about this organization from Day 1 until yesterday was first class, and I appreciate it.”
|Shawn Thornton sad to leave, grateful for time with Bruins||06.16.14 at 7:27 pm ET|
Shawn Thornton is holding no grudges after Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli told him Monday that the team would not be offering him a contract for next season.
Reflecting on his seven-year tenure with the Bruins, Thornton was more proud than anything else as he began to look ahead to the next and perhaps final stop of his NHL career.
“I was very lucky and very fortunate to be part of this city and organization for the last seven years,” Thornton said. “My first thought is I’m very appreciative of them keeping me around for seven years and [letting me] have the role that I’ve played here.
“They’ve been first-class from Day 1, when Cam [Neely] called me convincing me that this would be a good fit for me, to even today, Peter giving me a face-to-face meeting and a heads up before free agency that I wasn’t coming back. Everything in between was amazing. I’m very lucky and very thankful that I got treated so well when I was here.”
Thornton said he estimated his chances of being brought back as a ‘coin flip’ when Chiarelli told him at breakup day last month that he needed time to determine the team’s plan. The 36-year-old (he’ll be 37 next month) wants to play at least another season, and he’ll meet with teams to determine the best fit going forward.
Physically, Thornton said he feels better now than he did going into the season, as he dealt with some injuries that hindered his workouts last offseason.
As for the notion that the league is trending away from players like him, Thornton acknowledged that the Bruins have young forwards who are NHL-ready, but also said that fighting is far from extinct in the NHL.
“Obviously the league is trending away from it. You can tell. There’s no secret,” Thornton said. “It started when they put visors in and it’s just continuing on, but I think we’re all in agreement that the puck’s not going to drop next year on Oct. 7 and everyone’s going to be skating around with their gloves on all the time.
“I think it’ll probably start to be phased out eventually, but it’s around for the next couple of years at least. I see the point that’s being made, but I think it will still be here. On the other side, I think that one of the reasons I’ve had success and have been able to stick around as long as I have is that I bring more to the table than just the fighting. I think I can actually play hockey, too.”
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