Looking at potential Thornton replacements for B's

Looking at potential Thornton replacements for B's
June 17, 2014, 3:15 pm
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After a day to digest the news, reality has set in that Shawn Thornton won’t be returning to the Bruins.

The B’s will be looking in a younger, faster and more affordable direction for fourth line recruits, and that was the reason for a move away from an aging enforcer that will be 37 years old next season. It had nothing to do with spraying a few drops of water at P.K. Subban or the regrettable incident with Brooks Orpik that got him suspended, and Peter Chiarelli told him as much during their face-to-face meeting on Monday.

“It would probably be a better question for Peter, but from what I understand they’ve got some guys down there [in Providence] that are knocking on the door, and are ready to play in the NHL,” said Thornton. “They were going in a different direction, and giving those young players an opportunity. It’s great for them, and I hope they have all the success in the world because [the Bruins] have been unbelievable to me.

“I spent a lot of time with Peter during the suspension hearings, and I think everybody knows [the Orpik incident] was just unfortunate. I can’t really speak for [Chiarelli], I guess, but I don’t think that anything to do with [his departure].”

Here are the candidates to replace Thornton’s spot with the player likely to be an in-house name given that Boston wants to scale back from the $1.1 cap hit attached to him for the last two seasons:

Jordan Caron – The former first round has exactly two goals in his last 52 regular season games, and was one of Boston’s weakest puck possession players last season with a 48.7 Corsi percentage that was among the worst on the team. Part of the argument for Thornton moving on was that he was blocking the 23-year-old’s development, and Caron was limited to 35 sporadic games played last season. He may get first crack at a fourth line spot if he’s re-signed to a bargain contract as a restricted free agent, but this humble hockey writer doesn’t see him as the answer.

Justin Florek – The 6-foot-4 winger had 19 goals and 38 points for the P-Bruins last season, and impressed with a goal and an assist in four games as a bottom-six winger with Boston at the end of the season. He’s rugged and physically strong enough to play on the fourth line, got a few looks on the penalty kill at the end of the season and has the offensive potential for double-digit scoring. He was eventually supplanted by Matt Fraser in the B’s lineup as they looked for more offense vs. the Canadiens, but Florek looked and played like a guy ready to claim a role on Boston’s NHL roster next season.

Craig Cunningham/Matthew Lindblad – Both players got quick cups of coffee with the Bruins last season to get their feet wet at the NHL level, and Cunningham had 25 goals and 47 points for the Providence Bruins. He moved from center to wing over the last couple of seasons, and projects to be a bottom six forward with some offensive pop for a team like the Bruins. The 23-year-old Lindblad is more of an option as a bottom line center with high hockey IQ and meager offensive stats, but is a player the Bruins development have been high on for some time. Both are less physical players than Florek or Caron, but bring a little more speed to the fourth line.

Bobby Robins – the AHL enforcer will undoubtedly get a look from the Bruins next season when they’re in the market for some extra snarl, and has paid his dues at the minor league level just like Thornton. A less experienced player like Robins would perhaps be more of an ideal role for a situational enforcer that would only play when the Bruins have need for a little more muscle. It’s expected the Bruins will be using a more versatile forward for the right wing on the fourth line, and spot a player like Robins in certain matchups. But it would seem Claude Julien and Peter Chiarelli have moved on from playing an enforcer each and every night in the Bruins lineup.

Anthony Camara – the 21-year-old might be a long range answer on the fourth line after a rookie AHL season that saw him put up nine goals, 22 points and drop the gloves for six fights, but he also appears to need a bit more development at the AHL level before he’s ready for the varsity. He was described as a “Shawn Thornton-type” when he was selected in the third round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Camara busted out with 36 goals and 60 points in his final OHL season, and definitely has more offensive wiggle than your average enforcer.