WILMINGTON – It sounds very much like the Bruins will start next season without a classic “enforcer” among their group. The Bruins watched fourth line fighter Shawn Thornton walk away via free agency at the beginning of July, and Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli referenced the NHL trending away from fisticuffs in the days following Boston’s playoff loss to the Montreal Canadiens.
There is some sentiment for 32-year-old Providence Bruins enforcer Bobby Robins getting a shot to step in for Thornton at the NHL level, and getting a chance to show he can fit that bill. Certainly Robins is in the mold of a fourth line winger that can drop the gloves as attested by his PIM totals in the minors, but is also a hockey player that can play regular fourth line minutes.
There certainly may come moments next season when Boston needs the extra toughness provided by Robins. But Chiarelli also said on Sunday that he doesn’t feel like another enforcer is something the Bruins need to find for their team.
“I believe [the team toughness] is already there, I do. We have a couple of candidates that played in Providence that surely could fit in if we need them. But I really think it’s already there, I do,” said Chiarelli. “You’re going to see Adam [McQuaid] back, whoever’s playing D, so we’ve got some tough guys there that can hold up their own. So I believe it’s already there.”
On any given night the Bruins will feature multiple players capable of dropping the gloves if the team needs an emotional spark, or if there’s an opponent taking liberties with members of the Black and Gold tribe. Clearly Milan Lucic would be the most intimidating name at the top of that list, but defensemen Kevan Miller and Adam McQuaid are no slouches in that category either.
Likewise Gregory Campbell is no stranger to fighting in the name of changing a game’s momentum, and Zdeno Chara is always lurking in the background should things get too far out of hand in any particular game. So there are a handful of B’s players ready, willing and able to pick up any fighting slack left behind with Thornton off to Florida, but one gets the sense that the fight game might not be quite as prevalent for the B’s this upcoming season.
That's pretty much stating the obvious when a classic "enforcer" is subtracted from the lineup, and the same job description isn't filled on the roster in the following season.