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  • Position battle outlook: Merlot line

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    Position battle outlook: Merlot line

    Tim Rosenthal September 24, 2014

    Throughout the week, we’ll be looking at the Bruins’ top position battles for the 2014-15 season. Today, in part three, we’ll look at the open spots on the Merlot line. Stay tuned tomorrow as we examine the open spots on the B’s blue-line.

    There’s no denying that for a few years the trio of Shawn Thornton, Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille formed one of the formidable fourth lines in the National Hockey League. The Merlot line, as they were referred to, provided the Black and Gold with high energy and momentum boosts when called upon. They weren’t the most formidable scorers by any means, but they did their job.

    As time drew on, the success of the unit dwindled. The nail in the coffin took place in their second round loss to the hated Montreal Canadiens where the Merlot Line was simply outmatched and outplayed by the Habs’ bottom two lines.

    With Thornton departing for Florida, Campbell’s injury at training camp and Paille expected to jump to the third line, the Merlot line is going to look different.

    Will the change come with positive results? That remains to be seen, but for now let’s take a look at the candidates for the new look Merlot line.

    Ryan Spooner: If the Bruins want to add more speed to their bottom six, then Spooner would be a good fit. There’s no denying that he has some good potential with the Black and Gold and should get some more playing time this season – even if he found himself on the Merlot Line. The 2010 second round pick led the Providence Bruins in scoring during the Calder Cup Playoffs with 15 points (6 goals, 9 assists) and is looking to capitalize on that with a promotion.

    Spooner has some kinks he still needs to work on, including his shot, his net front presence and his defense. But if there’s ever a chance for Spooner to capitalize on an opportunity, it would be now.

    Alex Khoklachev: Like Spooner, many pundits expect Khoklachev to make the jump into the NHL at some point during the 2014-15 season. The Russian forward led the P-Bruins in scoring last season with 57 points (21 goals, 36 assists) in 65 games.

    Khoklachev is a center, but given the Bruins’ surplus at the position, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Koko moved to wing. Either way, he’ll likely get time on the bottom six if or when he makes it to the big club.

    Chris Kelly Some fans have grown wary of Kelly as a member of the Black and Gold, and with good reason. In the two years after an impressive 2011-12 season – where he tallied a career high 20 goals – the former Ottawa Senator has been plagued by injuries and inconsistency. Because of his $3 million cap hit, the interest for Kelly is thin from other teams and the Bruins are pretty much stuck with him for the final year of his contract.

    All of the concerns can be put aside if Kelly can stay consistent and healthy. He was a key cog on the third line for the Bruins’ Cup run in 2011. As long as he stays in the bottom six, Kelly should be okay. Question is, does he move down to the Merlot Line or stay on line three?

    Gregory Campbell As part of the trade with the Panthers in 2010 that also included Nathan Horton, Campbell’s acquisition gave the Bruins a gritty and physical fourth line center. Little did they know that in his first year he’d also chip in on the score sheet scoring 13 goals and adding 16 assists.

    Since his first season, Campbell’s production has dropped off a little bit. His contributions were limited in the second round series against the Habs last year. His injury (mid-core) was not the start he envisioned for at training camp. Given the competition, Campbell might want to get back on the ice sooner, rather than later. Otherwise, he could be the odd man out.

    Jordan Caron Bruins fans will need more than two hands to count how many second chances that Caron has had over his first four seasons with the team.

    While he’s showed flashes of solid play, including last year’s first round series with the Red Wings, the 2009 first round pick has not lived up to potential. Instead of fighting for a spot on the second or third line, which was projected by some pundits at this point of his career, Caron’s inconsistencies have gotten the best of him.

    Now, Caron is fighting for a spot on the Merlot Line and it may be his best bet. Otherwise, he’ll be spending more time on Level 9 and may not get another qualifying offer come the off-season.

    Bobby Robins At age 33, Robbins is still a bit of a long shot to make the roster. But if the Bruins ever get in a situation where they need an enforcer, then Robins is the guy.

    During his last two seasons in Providence, Robins compiled a whopping 537 penalty minutes, including a minor league career high 316 during the 2012-13 season. While not the most prolific goal scorer, he’s serviceable offensively and would be a good fit to fill Thornton’s void if the B’s need him.

    Other candidates: Daniel Paille, Simon Gagne, Villie Leino, Seth Griffith, Jared Knight

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    Tim Rosenthal

    Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.


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