April 11, 2012

Bruins Report Card: Final grades for forwards

By Jesse Connolly

After covering all d-men and goalies, the coach and GM yesterday, here's Part II of the Bruins' report card with final grades for all forwards.

Patrice Bergeron (A+)

Forever cherished by B’s fans, last year’s playoff run and this year’s sensational season finally earned Bergeron some well-deserved attention outside of the Hub of Hockey. In addition to finishing second on the club with 64 points, the 26-year-old center’s 59.3 faceoff percentage and plus-36 rating led the league, yielding plenty of long-awaited Selke buzz for No. 37.

Greg Campbell (C)

After being largely responsible for the widespread adoration the fourth line received last season, Campbell didn’t have as big of an impact as he did in his first year with the Black and Gold. Sure, the willingness to drop the gloves was still there, but the pivot dipped from 29 points to 16, went from plus-11 to minus-3 and wasn’t nearly as – to put it simply – noticeable as he was in 2010-11.

Jordan Caron (C)

From March 4-13, Caron played like a man possessed. The 6-foot-3 winger tallied four times and added four assists in a sensational six-game stretch, giving Boston a big boost in the secondary-scoring department. While Caron deserves a nice pat on the back for stepping up, there’s no denying he did very little outside of that hot streak. In the other 42 games he played in, the 21-year-old forward had a mere seven points.

Zach Hamill (D-)

Having never handed out an ‘F’ over the course of five seasons covering the B’s, I’ll spare Hamill the embarrassment of being the first to receive a failing grade. However, the player Boston chose eighth overall back in 2007 did fail when it comes to proving he’s NHL ready in his fourth – yes, fourth – full season as a pro. Things looked promising when Hamill picked up a couple helpers immediately following his call-up, but he proceeded to go 13-straight games without a point, looked lost on occasion and was often out-muscled before being returned back to Providence. With his entry-level contract expiring July 1, don’t bank on Hamill returning to the organization next season.

Nathan Horton (B)

Still visibly and admittedly slowed in the early stages of the season by the concussion he suffered in the Stanley Cup finals, Horton was finally on top of his game when the calendar turned to 2012. The former Panther had eight goals in 11 contests in January but suffered what turned out to be a season-ending concussion on Jan. 22 in Philadelphia. He finished the year with 17-15-32 totals in 46 tilts and will undoubtedly be missed throughout the postseason.

Chris Kelly (A)

Everyone knew Chris Kelly would bring solid leadership and sound defense to the table, but no one ever foresaw the veteran center hitting the 20-goal mark. While he may not have won the popularity contest that is the 7th Player Award, Kelly was undoubtedly Boston’s unsung hero this season and clobbered the expectations many had of him heading into the campaign.

David Krejci (B)

No player alternated hot and cold streaks more than Krejci in 2011-12. The center – who, in case you missed it, will never live down saying the regular season bores him – looked disinterested on many a night throughout the season. The career-high 23 goals are nice, and certainly an improvement on the 13 he had last year, but the fact that Krejci finished minus-5 after sporting an average rating of plus-22 in the previous three seasons is mildly disturbing, especially considering the Bruins LED THE LEAGUE (sorry, caps necessary) in goal differential (+67).

Milan Lucic (A-)

Lucic also suffered through his share of quiet stretches, but the hulking winger was leaps and bounds more consistent in both the production and effort department than his center, Krejci. In doing so, Lucic followed up his 30-goal campaign with an equally impressive 26-goal season. He dished out a team-leading 201 hits (34 more than last year) and also managed to improve upon an already impressive shooting percentage, tallying on 17.5 percent of his shots this season.

Brad Marchand (A-)

Being a super-pest has long been Marchand’s bread and butter, but the undersized winger crossed the line or came dangerously close to it on multiple occasions this season, drawing not only the attention but the ire of league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan. But other than getting himself in a little hot water with the NHL, Marchand had a superb season in his second full year with the club. He established new career highs in goals (28), assists (27), points (55) and plus-minus (+31). Alongside Bergeron and Tyler Seguin, the 5-foot-9 forward helped form Boston’s most consistent – and potent -- line throughout the season.

Dan Paille (C-)

At one point in the season, Paille was on pace for a 15-goal campaign. Add that onto his strong defensive play and that would’ve made for one helluva year for a fourth-line winger. Unfortunately, the fleet-footed forward slowed down dramatically. In his final 25 games, Paille had just 1-1-2 totals and was minus-11, leading to a few nights up in the press box as the regular season came to a close.

Rich Peverley (B+)

Inked to a three-year extension during the season, Peverley’s MCL injury in February was a crushing blow for Boston – as the B’s were already without Horton. Peverley was putting together a pretty dang solid season before going down. While his goal-scoring output wasn’t spectacular, he and linemates Chris Kelly and Benoit Pouliot were in a nice groove, and Peverley was piling up helpers. The speedy forward wasn't totally on his game after coming back (four points in eight games), but the B’s should remain optimistic he’ll round back into form shortly.

Benoit Pouliot (B)

After beginning the season colder than the iceberg that sunk the Titanic, Pouliot still had his stretches of streakiness, but the former Canadien put together a pretty solid season when all was said and done. The former fifth overall pick finished the year with 16 goals and 16 assists, giving GM Peter Chiarelli more than his money’s worth, as Pouliot only hit the cap for $1.1 million.

Brian Rolston (B+)

When Rolston came over from Long Island, the 39-year-old winger, well, looked like a 39-year-old winger. But after getting back up to speed after seeing inconsistent ice time with the Isles, the former-turned-current Bruin caught fire, racking up 12 points during a seven-game point streak. Considering Chiarelli plucked him from the bargain bin, Rolston may very well have been the best acquisition on deadline day, as he collected 15 points in 21 contests for the Black and Gold.

Tyler Seguin (A-)

After a 22-point rookie year, Seguin made an immense jump in his second pro campaign, leading Boston with 67 points. Such a grade may seem like a tough one for the exciting young forward, but there were still plenty of tilts when No. 19 was ghost-like. One can only imagine just how good the budding superstar will be when he can find a way to bring everything he has to offer on a nightly basis.

Shawn Thornton (B-)

Though admittedly tempted to lump Thornton in with his fellow Merlot linemates and give him a so-so grade, No. 22 certainly deserves a reprieve after finishing tied for the league lead in fighting majors. The dip from 10 goals to five wasn’t a huge letdown, but Thornton did drop from 141 hits to just 91 in 2011-12. Nevertheless, the veteran forward certainly did his job this year for the B’s – a big reason why he’ll be sticking around for two more seasons.

Incomplete: Carter Camper, Josh Hennessy, Lane MacDermid, Max Sauve, Trent Whitfield