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Bruins Player Report Card 2010-2011: Nathan Horton

Grade: A-

"No heartbeat" – Anonymous Bruin in 2010

It’s been a little over a year since this quote was reported in the Boston Globe a few weeks before Horton was acquired from the Florida Panthers along with Gregory Campbell for Dennis Wideman. It’s safe to that, in the year since the "no heartbeat" quote was uttered, very few people would say the same thing about Horton now.

The report cards have looked at the full season body of work from each player – rightfully so as the contributions throughout the season brought home the Cup – but for Hornton, a look at his season must start in the playoffs and work backwards. Would Horton have helped the team in games 3-7 of the Cup finals? Of course he would have, but it can’t be said for certain whether the Bruins would still have won the Cup with Horton in the lineup.

Either way, Horton’s season of shedding the "no hearbeat" tag was capped off by the tremendous momentum change following the Aaron Rome hit. Had that thought still lingered in the locker room, there's no telling if the team would not have come together the way they did following the injury. Also, the Bruins would have never been in a position to play for the Cup without Horton and his Ortiz-esque playoff heroics. Coming through in the clutch against both the Canadiens and Lightning served as a great end to a season where Horton came into his own as a Bruin.

Horton had a great year, posting career highs or near-highs in a number of categories, including plus/minus, games played, fights and overall PIMs. The chance to play with great talent on one of the league’s top teams certainly helped Horton, as witnessed by his dramatic plus/minus improvement from a -1 last season with Florida to a +29 this season with Boston, good for third of the team behind Chara (+33) and the "mullet" McQuaid (+30). Also, staying on the ice after two years filled by freak injuries (multiple injuries in Florida as a result of flying skates) certainly helped Horton as well, giving him nearly a full season to acclimate to the Bruins and develop the chemistry with his teammates that was evident in the playoffs.

In addition to keeping the team in the black and staying on the ice, Horton established himself as a very solid power forward in the league. Finishing just two spots behind linemate and bromancer Milan Lucic, Horton ranked third according to TSN’s most productive fighters metric. Tied for fourth on the team (again with Lucic), Horton notched seven fights while putting in 26 goals and 53 total points.

Overall, it was a season of growth for Horton, and should he be able to return symptom-free from his concussion, a season that hopefully will serve as a great building block going forward. At only 26 years old, Horton finally looks to be realizing his potential and well on his way to becoming a cornerstone of the top line with Lucic and David Krejci for at least the next two years, and hopefully beyond.