WILMINGTON -- It was far from a certainty that Jordan Caron was going to crack the Bruins roster to start the NHL season.
It’s been a pleasant surprise to see the 22-year-old step into an opportunity created when Carl Soderberg sprained his ankle, opening a third-line opportunity in which he has flourished. Caron scored a goal Saturday night against the Detroit Red Wings, and had a second goal taken off the board opening night against Tampa Bay when the refs mistakenly blew a play dead with a live puck sitting in the crease.
For a player in a pivotal fourth year with the Bruins where it’s essentially “put up or shut up” time to establish himself as an NHL player. If he is placed on waivers to be sent to the AHL, he could be scooped up by any of the NHL's other 29 teams, meaning would likely trade him if at some point they deem he's not fit for their lineup.
Essentially Caron will be on Boston’s roster this season looking to carve out an NHL gig, or he’ll be looking for an opportunity with a new organization.
This season’s opening games have been his best stretch of hockey since he was Boston’s best forward down the stretch of the 2011-12 NHL season when injuries created openings for him.
Last year was a weird year filled with injuries and bad timing created by the NHL lockout, and Caron needed to prove himself all over again this season.
“Last year? Yeah, I’ve had some playoff action in the NHL. I hate talking about last year. I think that was a tough season for me,” said Caron. “But this summer I really wanted to turn the page and just work hard, and forget about the injuries and everything that happened last year. I was just looking forward to a good season.
“I talked to Don Sweeny at the end of last year and he told me to take the positive out of it even though it was a tough season. I went in to the summer with positive thinking, and just worked on little things. I made sure I got in to camp in good shape. Right now, I think my skating is really good. I feel pretty good out there and that’s a good thing.”
Caron had a rough beginning to the preseason with the home loss to Detroit as his low point. But his training camp improved as the preseason games progressed while allowing him to secure a spot on the NHL roster, and now he’s making things difficult for the Bruins coaching staff.
Claude Julien and his staff are left to wonder who will play left wing on the third line when Soderberg is deemed healthy, and presumably ready to compete head-to-head with Caron for a spot in the lineup.
“I don’t think he looks like a [more confident player]. I think he is one," Julien said. "You can tell by how he’s playing out there, even in practice. He’s moving around well and making plays, and doing those things you can only do if you have some confidence. He came here this year knowing he had to make the team without knowing what he’d get out of it. He didn’t know whether he’d be playing much, or what his role would be.
“But right now he’s got an opportunity to play on a regular line that’s going extremely well. He’s building on that. He’s making our job [as coaches] fun, but he’s also making it difficult when it comes time to make decisions. We have a guy right now [in Soderberg] that’s pretty good, and we’ll have some decisions to make when the time comes.”
The Bruins are at least another game or two away from being forced to make a decision between Soderberg and Caron. When the time comes it will be a good problem for Julien to have.