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BOSTON (CBS) — While a certain goaltender is garnering a lot of media attention for what he might not do in 2012-13, what Peter Chiarelli did do Friday shouldn’t be overlooked.
By re-signing Daniel Paille for three years and getting Chris Bourque’s name on a contract for two years (including convincing Bourque to sign a two-way deal for the first year), the Bruins’ general manager has taken the first small steps toward fortifying his championship-caliber team for the next several seasons.
Even the most casual observer of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs has had to notice the importance of bottom-six forwards and fourth lines. After all, with the top defense pairs logging tons of minutes to check the most-skilled players on every club, someone has to do the scoring. It took the Los Angeles Kings’ fourth line just 9:56 of action in Game 1 of the Cup Final on Wednesday to announce its presence in the series with a Colin Fraser goal assisted by a Jordan Nolan big hit on the forecheck and feed to the slot area.
You’ll remember the amazing first period of dominance Boston’s fourth line of Paille, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton turned in during Game 7 of the 2011 Final in Vancouver. And on the other side, after another solid regular season as a trio, Boston’s “energy line” was outplayed and out-gritted by a couple of different combinations of Washington bottom-six forwards in this year’s first round of the playoffs. Joel Ward, infamous for his series-clinching overtime goal, spent a portion of the series and the season skating on the Capitals’ fourth line.
Some teams change over their role players season to season, but continuity can be as important as the caliber of the player in some instances. In Paille, the Bruins know they have a player who’s able to use both his speed and an always-improving physical game. That Paille has maybe crossed the line on a couple hits the last two seasons shows that he’s still learning how to be a fourth-liner.
It has taken time for Paille, a one-time 19-goal scorer in his days with Buffalo, to adjust to his bit part. Over his stay with Boston, he’s settled into the role and gotten better every season. And he popped in nine goals in 69 games last season. One of the leaders of Boston’s perennially stingy penalty kill, Paille fits the Bruins’ game plan in several situations. He also, almost as importantly, has shown the ability to get in the lineup and produce after being out for a bit.
Bourque represents some fresh blood that could help the Bruins’ fourth line down the road. An undersized winger, his physicality has improved with experience and he has enough skill that he put up 93 points in the AHL last season. He’ll provide competition for the Bruins’ established forwards and also make it so that the Providence farm team has a better chance to win some games (a rarity in recent seasons), which will benefit Bourque and the Bruins’ top prospects.
Signing Paille and Bourque is miles away from the sexy move many Bruins backers are hoping for from the team this offseason. But depth players sometimes shine like stars at the most important teams, so these signings are still vital to the Bruins’ lofty aspirations.