BOSTON (CBS) — To outside observers it appears that Bruins center Gregory Campbell has struggled this season.
Campbell, who has three goals in 29 games, doesn’t disagree. He knows his contribution to the team hasn’t been big enough. Nonetheless, he chooses to look on the positive side of the season.READ MORE: Stimulus Check Update: Is A Fourth Relief Payment Coming?
“Production-wise I’ve always been a guy that’s wanted more and that’s wanted to contribute,” he said after practice at TD Garden on Monday. “You know, I’ve been a fourth-line guy on this team and I’ve tried to take pride in that role every night and bring my best and do whatever I have to do for the team. And now that’s important to me. It’s definitely a job that I take pride in. And I think I’ve done a pretty good job for five years at it. I look back at the last four years and I had three goals at Christmas too. Would I like to have more? Absolutely. Would I like to set up more? Absolutely. But I believe in myself and the one thing about me is that I’ll never stop working. So I don’t really care what people say. I care what my teammates think about me and the respect that I’ve earned from them. And I obviously care what my coaches think and the organization.”
Campbell actually had two goals prior to Christmas last season and finished with eight. He had three the prior two full NHL seasons and finished with eight and 13 goals, respectively, those two seasons. To be fair to Campbell, he’s not expected to score much. If the Bruins who are cast in those scoring roles lived up to their billing this season, Campbell’s lack of production wouldn’t be such a sore spot. It would also help Campbell if his linemate Daniel Paille, who remarkably once scored 19 goals in an NHL season, can do more than score one goal in 34 games like he has so far in 2014-15.
It has been an odd season for Campbell, who missed all of training camp and the first five games of the regular season because of a core injury. Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli wanted to revamp the Bruins’ fourth line, and that started with the release of Shawn Thornton. But Campbell won the fourth-line center job without playing in camp because of the failures of Boston’s younger candidates. Unfortunately for Campbell, he continues to be the default holder of the job rather than someone that’s earned the place both based on traditional stats and the advanced metrics.
Campbell is last among Bruins regulars in Corsi For Relative at minus-10.4 and Corsi For Percentage at 43.5. The CF relative would be his second-worst of his Bruins career if it doesn’t improve by the end of the season, and his CF percentage would be his worst since he joined the Bruins. Those advanced stats don’t bode well for him matching his production in the traditional numbers, especially since Paille is next-to-last among regulars in those same measurements.
An astute, well-spoken player who tries to keep up on trends on and off the ice, Campbell isn’t ignorant of the new metrics. He just doesn’t think they tell the whole story.
“I don’t look at possession numbers, but I’m aware of it. I’m aware of the emphasis people are putting on it now,” he said. “But you know for sure you’ve got to play with the puck. When you play with the puck you create things and you create momentum when you’re playing with the puck. So that’s not just our line, that’s the entire lineup is based on playing with the puck. And usually the teams that play with the puck more win the game. Having said that, there’s a lot more than possession numbers that go into hockey. So people can sit there and take all the numbers they want. Like I said, it’s definitely a good stat and it helps out a lot. But there’s a lot more that goes into the game than just possession stats. So it’s something we have to be aware of as players and try to be better at, but also know that hockey’s a game of a lot of things.”READ MORE: US Job Openings Reached Record Levels To Start April; Northeast Had Nearly 1.5 Million
At least there’s one way Campbell is driving possession in the Bruins’ favor: faceoffs. After succeeding on just 47.8 percent of his draws last season and not winning more than half his draws since the 2011-12 season Campbell has won 55.2 percent of his faceoffs this season. That’s allowed the Bruins to gain a little more possession and given coach Claude Julien an important extra option for key faceoffs.
“Well it’s certainly a focus, yeah,” Campbell said. “[Assistant coach] Doug Jarvis works with us a lot and I try to work on it a lot after practice. After pregame skate, I don’t even go and do the shooting; I always just stay and take faceoffs. It’s a huge emphasis on this team. I’ve got some great guys that I’m playing behind, so it pushes me to be better. And I know that area is an area that’s a big part of the game. It’s a small part but it turns into a big part. So I wanted to be better. It was a focal point of mine.”
Julien has had a tough time coming up with effective lines all season, and that’s affected Campbell and Paille, especially since Simon Gagne took a personal leave of absence. But Campbell and Paille more than the other forwards don’t really need anyone special to be their third. History has shown any player plugged in that’s willing to work hard and play a straight-line game can succeed if Campbell and Paille are pulling their weight.
Campbell’s precipitous fall couldn’t have come at a worse time, as he’s scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent this summer. With the Bruins’ tight situation under the NHL salary cap ceiling, it’s unlikely Boston would be able to retain Campbell even at a fraction of his $1.6 million cap charge. At some point the Bruins are going to have to get younger, and cheaper, on their fourth line.
But barring a trade, Campbell still has four months or more to make a statement to the Bruins about his abilities. He estimated that he and Paille could each have five goals already had they made their offensive chances count. It’s futile to argue with Campbell because he’s a true believer when it comes to the positive impact he believes he and his line can contribute for the Bruins in the season’s second half.
“I truly believe that it’s shown in the last four years that we have won games for the team and I think that’s the most frustrating part is that I don’t honestly, I know it sounds cliché, I don’t care about my contract year, I don’t care about anything, I care about [winning],” he said. “It’s been a great ride here for four years and we’ve had some success. And that’s what I’m used to here and that’s what the city’s used to. So that’s my focal point right now and I’m going to keep working hard and Piesy and I are going to keep working hard, whoever we’re with, and we’re going to pull through.”
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.MORE NEWS: Massachusetts Surpasses 3 Million People Fully Vaccinated Against COVID
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