Whether he likes the moniker or not, Shawn Thornton is a fourth-liner for the Boston Bruins. That’s actually a positive because it means that in an NHL where every contending team can roll out at least three scoring lines, the Bruins are adequately deep and can lean on Thornton and other players of his ilk to do the dirty work in 10- or 12-minute stints.
Everyone knows, however, that to win in this league a club needs the things that Thornton does. And off the ice, the winger — whose been skating in informal practices since last week in Wilmington, Mass. — is just as vital for his vocal abilities and his lengthy list of career experiences, which includes a Stanley Cup victory. The Bruins subtracted a number of veteran, battle-tested voices over the winter, so the leadership corps — which includes Thornton — has been dwindled, and those players will be asked to do even more motivating.
Offseason tidbit: Thornton now spends the bulk of his summer in Boston and he could be seen at a number of team events. He also took a trip up to Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Position battle: On paper Thornton should be the only member of the fourth line guaranteed a job because the Bruins don’t have a lot of players that can do what he does with his physicality and fists in addition to his ability to put shots on net and forecheck. But with Steve Begin around and the likes of Brad Marchand and Vladimir Sobotka getting closer to NHL ready, as always Thornton will have to work hard 100 percent of the time to cling onto his lineup spot.
Projection: There’s no reason to believe that Thornton will do anything but play in every game he’s healthy for and give an all-out effort while putting up offensive numbers similar to last season, especially if he can jell with Begin the way he did Stephane Yelle last season.