Editor's Note: NESN.com Bruins beat writer Douglas Flynn will be taking an in-depth look at one Bruins player each day, analyzing that player's performance last season and outlook heading into the 2011-12 campaign.
Daniel Paille doesn't do a lot of things to capture the attention of the casual observer, but his contributions don't escape the notice of his teammates and coaches. Paille is a former first-round pick (20th overall in 2002), but he's reinvented himself in Boston and resurrected his career as a valuable role player. He adds an element of speed to the fourth line and penalty kill that has helped make both of those units very effective.
2010-11 stats: 43 games, 6-7-13, plus-3, 28 PIMs
Playoffs: 25 games, 3-3-6, plus-2, 4 PIMs
Contract status: Signed through 2011-12, $1.075-million cap hit
Preseason expectations: Last summer was a strange offseason for Paille. After establishing himself as a valuable role player in Boston, he was not tendered a qualifying offer and was allowed to become an unrestricted free agent, only to be re-signed by the Bruins to a two-year deal on the first day of free agency. Paille was expected to provide speed and energy on the fourth line, fill in on higher lines if needed and continue to be a mainstay on the penalty kill.
Regular-season evaluation: It was a tough start to the season for Paille, who frequently found himself the odd man out in Boston's deep forward corps. He was a healthy scratch 35 times in the regular season, sitting out 10 of the first 11 games and 18 of the first 27. With playing time limited, he struggled to get into a rhythm when he did play, leading to more time in the press box. He finally got things going in the second half of the season though, scoring all six of his goals in his final 20 games to go along with three assists and a plus-5 in that span. That came despite having to sit our four games in February after being suspended for a blind-side hit on Dallas forward Raymond Sawada.
Paille's first goal didn't come until Feb. 1, as he was just 0-4-4 and a minus-2 in his first 23 games spread over the first four months of the season. He did continue to contribute on the penalty kill when he did play, and eventually became a mainstay on the fourth line with Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton after Brad Marchand moved up to the second line in January. Paille came on strong at the end of the regular season. He played in eight straight games to end the year, putting up 3-2-5 totals and a plus-4 in that stretch, and he was able to carry that momentum into the postseason.
Playoff evaluation: After playing just over half of the games in the regular season, Paille dressed for all 25 games in the playoffs. He chipped in a few points (3-3-6 totals), but his main contributions came on the penalty kill and with the energy he supplied on the fourth line. He made better use of his speed in that role and was the most physical he's been in his stint in Boston and likely in his career.
After managing just 24 hits in 43 games in the regular season, he had 30 hits in 25 playoff games. A number of those were highlight-reel collisions, most notably his steamrolling of Philadelphia's Kris Versteeg in the second round. Paille chipped in a shorthanded goal and an assist in Boston's first win in the Final in Game 3, and he was a part of the fourth line's strong effort in Game 7 that helped set the tone in Boston's decisive victory in Vancouver.
2011-12 outlook: Like most of Boston's bottom-six forwards, Paille will be playing for a contract this season as he enters the final year of his current deal. Paille's role isn't likely to change and the Bruins will be happy if he remains as effective in it as he was down the stretch and in the playoffs this past year. With the chemistry he's developed playing with Campbell and Thornton, there's no reason to expect a major dropoff, and Paille should get back closer to the 10-10-20 line he put up in 2009-10 if he remains a fixture in the lineup from the start of the season.
Coming Thursday, July 28: Tyler Seguin