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The Price of Merlot

When Gregory Campbell deflected Shawn Thornton's shot from beyond the circles past Jhonas Enroth last night, it was the first time in 12 games that the Bruins fabled Merlot line accounted for a Bruins goal. Thornton had assisted Daniel Paille in Boston's SO win over Nashville prior to the start of that drought, and the goal against the Predators ended a 6 game stretch in which that line went pointless. That would make 1 goal accounted for in a 19 game period (very nearly one quarter of the season). The longest pointless drought last year for the line was 8 games between 2/18-3/8.

It's well known that all 3 members of this line are Unrestricted Free Agents at the end of this season, and GM Peter Chiarelli is on record as saying that all 3 have been offered contracts by the Bruins. As of the writing of this article, none of the players have accepted those offers, which is a decent indication that all 3 are headed to free agency. Which presents an interesting dilemma for the Bruins. The Merlot Line was seen as a crucial piece of a championship puzzle, and each player plays the gritty style that endears players to Bruins fans. On the other hand, it's very possible that Paille and Campbell see themselves as 3rd liners, not 4th liners, and will want to be compensated as such. Thornton is the rare fighter that can skate and handle the puck somewhat effectively. If teams around the league are going to begin to emulate the Bruins success, he might be the type of player who will reap the benefits, although he also would appear on the surface to be the most likely of the 3 to take a hometown discount of sorts.

Another thing for the Bruins to take into consideration is the fact that coach Claude Julien plays his 4th line more than the normal 4th line minutes, but "energy" lines tend be just that, energetic, physical players. Is the possibility there that playing 100+ games of grueling minutes well into June, and then coming back and doing the same this season on a team that thrives on physical hockey has taken it's toll on the Merlot Line and as a result, the recent lack of (relative) production? What Bruins fans will be hoping for in the time being is that the 4th line returns to it's usual effective play, making things much more difficult on Chiarelli this Summer.