"Gregory Campbell is an over-rated hockey player."
There are probably certain sections of Bruins fandom, and even hockey media, already salivating in rage, spitting blood and racing toward their comments sections in order to throw out all the old clichés about "warriors", "heart" and "grit". They'll already be looking back misty-eyed at that one time when Greg finished a shift on a broken leg, ignoring all the possible health damage it could have caused and issues it raises over players being expected to risk their own health by hockey culture in favour of praising his COMMITMENT TO THE TEAM. Which is apparently an excuse for all manner of sins in the hockey world.
So far, so normal. However-are we now at the point where even Claude Julien is letting vague notions of "heart" and "grit" dictate his situational coaching, and are the Bruins organisation letting a mythical narrative created by mainstream media and casual fans of what they think SHOULD be best for the team dictate their decisions at the cost of what...well, actually is?
Greg Campbell is an average NHL player. He is, at best, a career bottom-six forward who has only ever been expected to bound around, block shots, and get the odd goal. His numbers appear to back that up....he's scored an average of 8 goals a season in Boston (an average inflated by a record-equalling year of 13 goals) in his first season at the Garden...he's scoring consistently at around 21 points and between 4 and 8 goals a year.
In short, he's not a game-changer. He's a hard-working grunt of the kind to be found all over the AHL and NHL.
And yet, in Boston he appears to enjoy some sort of mythical hero status. Regularly he's being placed on the ice in offensive situations when the Bruins need a goal, despite having all the offensive status of a neutered tank.
The question then has to be asked...what do the Bruins organisation still see in Campbell and his ilk? Yes, hard work and commitment are virtues, but is it time for the Bruins to be considering new talent-and if so, are the likes of Greg Campbell holding down a place in the team actually harming the development/rise of better players?
Consider Seth Griffith. In half the amount of games Campbell's played in Boston this season, he has one less point. One-and the same number of goals. Granted, he's a different type of player to Campbell-but in terms of making an argument for a place on the NHL roster, he's pretty close to getting one.
But, I hear you say, Campbell is a key part of his line!
Let's compare the HERO charts...(as always, courtesy of the excellent ownthepuck.ca) to see if that's the case. Currently Campbell is spending time with Max Talbot and Danny Paille...Talbot is a relatively recent addition after his acquisition at the deadline, so his numbers should be taken with something of a pinch of salt, but if Campbell is leading the line as many say, then it's acceptable to think his 5 v 5 numbers should be somewhat similar to or better than his linemate, right?
Here's Campbell's work, represented graphically:
Ouch. He's performing below the average of a fourth liner in many categories, or just about the level for most. But given his TOI is also that of a fourth liner and he's an important part of his line, we'd assume his linemates are performing similarly, right? Let's look at Danny Paille:
Oh. Oh. That's...quite a difference. If anything, the argument goes that Paille has been carrying Campbell. So let's have a look at his winger on the other side, Max Talbot. Just to see how his other current linemate has performed in a similar role the past few years:
Pictorial proof there that Greg Campbell, despite being a player lauded by many in Boston media and in organisation as the template of player the Bruins need, is being consistently outperformed by linemates to an embarrassing extent.
So the question is then...how long can the Bruins brass and media continue deluding themselves that it's not time for a change in Boston? There are young players in Providence chomping at the bit to play Campbell's role with far more skill and offensive upside-Khoklachev & Griffith to name but two. Ryan Spooner is a player who had to fight for icetime with Campbell earlier in the season and was actually dropped in favour of GC...since he's come back up and been given a chance he's consistently showing that this was the wrong decision, now becoming a key contributor in the top six. Seth Griffith, who we mentioned earlier, has scored at double the rate Campbell has in the NHL and would likely add some offensive punch down in the bottom six too.
But they're being held back for Campbell to continue to be an anchor on the bottom six, playing in situations that mystify fans and some sections of the media alike to satisfy some sort of old-school myth about hard-work and commitment.
It would appear that Greg Campbell's time is passing. It's time for the Bruins to embrace the new breed and let go of the myths of the past few years.