For many NHL teams, losing an enforcer of Shawn Thornton’s caliber would significantly affect the team’s overall toughness, but that’s not the case for the Boston Bruins.
Thornton played his role well and provided important leadership in seven seasons with the B’s, but his free-agent departure doesn’t leave Boston without enforcers or players willing to play the team’s “Big and Bad” style of hockey.
“I believe it’s already there, I do,” Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said Sunday at development camp when asked about his team’s toughness. “Also, we have a couple of candidates that played in Providence that surely could fit in if we need them. I really think it’s already there, I do. And you’re going to see Adam (McQuaid) back, whoever’s playing D, we’ve got some tough guys there that can hold up their own. So I believe it’s already there.”
Providence’s Bobby Robins probably is among the candidates Chiarelli mentioned above. Robins has proven in his minor league career that he’s willing to drop the gloves when necessary as an AHL heavyweight.
A quick look at the Bruins roster shows this team won’t lack truculence in 2014-15. Milan Lucic and Gregory Campbell are among the forwards capable of fighting, with defensemen Zdeno Chara, Johnny Boychuk, Dennis Seidenberg, Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller willing to drop the gloves, too. In fact, Miller — a rookie in 2013-14 — quickly built a reputation last season as one of the NHL’s toughest players, and he might not be challenged very often next year as a result.
Overall, the Bruins are expected to play a slightly more skill-based game in 2014-15, one that is built on more speed and quickness. The Los Angeles Kings have proven that a physical style still results in successful playoff results, but Thornton’s departure likely will open up a spot for a younger, faster player like Ryan Spooner, Matt Fraser or Justin Florek to upgrade the fourth line.
The Bruins remain the toughest team in the league going into next season, but their current roster offers head coach Claude Julien a bit more flexibility in that he can adapt to an opponent that plays a faster, more skilled game and still put his team into a great position for success.