Shawn Thornton

Shawn Thornton

Last offseason, Tuukka Rask let it slip during the annual NESN/WEEI Jimmy Fund radio-telethon, but then again, it didn’t seem to be a much of a secret: The 2015-16 season would be Shawn Thornton’s last in the NHL.

The news didn’t come as a surprise to anyone, as Thornton was entering the final year of his contract with the Panthers and, given that the league was moving away from his style of player, the likelihood that a team would pay him for his age 39 season seemed slim.

Calling himself a “realist,” Thornton had told his friends that his career was in its final months. In fact, the former Bruin had booked a retirement golf trip consisting of nine days in Ireland and a week in Scotland for this summer.

Then again, Thornton was playing for the Panthers. As Jaromir Jagr can attest, they like old guys down there. In February, the Panthers offered him a deal for the 2016-17 season.

“When they offered another year, I sprained my finger signing the thing before they changed their minds,” Thornton said Monday at his Putts and Punches for Parkinson’s golf tournament.

Thornton still made the Ireland trip (“It probably took years off my life,” he quipped) but canceled the Scotland portion. After all, he’s now got to prepare for the last season of his career, and this time it figures to actually stick.

It’s the aftermath of that season where things get interesting. After years of putting in his time on Comcast SportsNet New England and working as a guest analyst for NBC Sports during the 2015 playoffs, Thornton had intended to work in the media after his playing days ended. However, a good relationship with Panthers management has inspired him to reverse course, and instead he expects to take a job with the Panthers on the business side upon retiring from playing.

“As we know, things change year-to-year — this would have been a different conversation last year — but as of right now I think I’m probably leaning more towards the business side of hockey,” he said. “Once the season’s over, I’ll probably move into that role in Florida.”

Added Thornton: “Media, I did a lot and that’s exactly where I thought I was going to end up going, but if the opportunity is still there to get into learning something new in the business side of sports, I just see a ton of upside to that for longer in life.”

Thornton, who has a home in Charlestown, had said after the team opted not to sign him in 2014 that he would remain a resident of Charlestown regardless of where he played. Now, he admitted, an office job in Florida would force him to “re-evaluate things.”

The real shame of it is that it doesn’t seem he’ll pursue his acting career.

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean
Adam McQuaid

Adam McQuaid

Last summer, the Bruins signed Adam McQuaid to a four-year extension and seemingly left the writing on the wall for Kevan Miller. Both right-shot third-pairing defensemen with similar strengths (read: toughness) and less than a year apart in age, it seemed unlikely both players would get new contracts.

Then the Bruins signed Miller to a four-year deal a year later. The move reflected how desperate the Bruins were to stop the bleeding on defense, even if it meant having something of a positional redundancy signed up for a combined $5.25 million against the cap.

Of course, the signing could have meant that they didn’t intend on keeping both players, so when the Bruins signed the 28-year-old Miller in May, it was natural to wonder if perhaps McQuaid would be on the move. Though he skated in 64 games last season (his most since the 2011-12 season), McQuaid wouldn’t figure to fetch much in a trade because of his cap hit ($2.75 million), but the team could have opted to move his money and spend it elsewhere. Speaking at Shawn Thornton’s golf tournament Monday, McQuaid said he didn’t take the Miller signing as an indication he might be moved.

“Those are the questions that everyone asks and people are wondering about, but at the same time, I think there’s a chance for both of us to continue to improve our game and hopefully be more well-rounded and grab the opportunity to play bigger minutes against tougher opposition and stuff,” McQuaid said.

As for his reaction to the contract itself, McQuaid seemingly felt differently than the many who assumed the Bruins might have let Miller walk in free agency.

“I’m not really surprised by anything,” McQuaid said. “You’re not sure how things will play out in different ways, but I wasn’t surprised. I think in my opinion, Millsy’s underrated in a lot of ways. [He’s] a guy that continues to improve and a guy that you appreciate having on your team.”

Though McQuaid has two inches on Miller, both weigh around 210 pounds and rely on physicality as stay-at-home defensemen. Injuries to one or the other has limited the time the Bruins have had to build their six-man D group relying on both being in, but last season saw both players both dress in at least three quarters of the season’s games (Miller played in 71).

As the following usage chart from Corsica Hockey indicates, the Bruins gave Miller and McQuaid similar assignments regarding their quality of competition and zone starts, though Miller fared better in terms of puck possession.

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Both players spent most of their even-strength minutes with Torey Krug and had Zdeno Chara as their second-most common partners. Miller had better possession metrics with both Krug and Chara than McQuaid did, though the Bruins did better in terms of goals for per 60 when Chara was paired with McQuaid rather than Miller.

Of course, the goal should not be to have either player paired with Chara. Given the Bruins’ current roster, it would appear that either McQuaid, Miller or Colin Miller will be heading into the season. None of those situations are ideal, as the Bruins need a budding top defenseman to pair with Chara as Boston’s captain continues to regress. Right now they don’t have that. What they do have is a lot of OK right-shot defensemen.

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean

The Bruins announced Thursday that former Providence Bruins Jay Leach and Trent Whitfield have been added to Providence’s coaching staff as assistant coaches. Leach and Whitfield will work under Kevin Dean, who was named the team’s head coach late last month.

The 36-year-old Leach coached under former Bruins assistant coach Geoff Ward for Adler Mannheim of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga in 2014-15 before returning to the states as an assistant coach for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins last season. He played in 70 NHL games between New Jersey, San Jose, Montreal, Tampa and Boston.

Like Leach, Whitfield is a former captain of the Providence Bruins, where he played from 2009-13. Whitfield played in 194 NHL games, scoring 11 goals and 18 assists for 29 points. His most time in Boston came during the 2009-10 season, when he played 16 regular-season games and four playoff games.

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean

The Oilers announced Tuesday that they have hired Bruins director of amateur scouting Keith Gretzky as an assistant general manager. Gretzky joins his former boss in Peter Chiarelli by making such a jump.

According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the Oilers will hire Bruins director of amateur scouting Keith Gretzky as an assistant general manager. Gretzky would join his former boss in Peter Chiarelli by making such a jump.

Gretzky oversaw the Bruins’ last three drafts after being given the position in August of 2013. He had replaced Wayne Smith, whom Chiarelli fired after years of unproductive drafting outside of sure-things Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton.

While the Bruins drafted extremely poorly with Smith, they’ve fared better since. Gretzky’s first draft saw them select David Pastrnak late in the first round, and though two of the team’s first-round choices were criticized in the 2015 draft, the trio Boston landed in the second round (Brandon Carlo, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson and Jeremy Lauzon) represent a strong group of prospects.

The Oilers have not announced the move yet, and it is not clear who will replace him. Scott Fitzgerald currently serves as the team’s assistant director of amateur scouting.

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean

David Backes was a Selke finalist when Patrice Bergeron won it in 2011-12.</p>
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The Bruins named Kevin Dean head coach of the Providence Bruins Monday, a move that had seemed a strong possibility since the promotion of Bruce Cassidy to Boston.

The Bruins named Kevin Dean head coach of the Providence Bruins Monday, a move that had seemed a strong possibility since the promotion of Bruce Cassidy to Boston.

A former defenseman who played 347 games in the NHL after four years at the University of New Hampshire, Dean served as an assistant coach on Cassidy’s staff for the last five seasons. This is the first AHL head coaching job for the 47-year-old, who spent one season as head coach of the Trenton Devils of the ECHL and four seasons as an assistant coach for the Lowell Devils of the AHL.

Cassidy and Jay Pandolfo were both promoted to Boston in May as assistant coaches on Claude Julien’s staff. Pandolfo had spent last season as the team’s director of player development.

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean

Brandon Carlo is set to make the jump to the AHL from the WHL. (Mark L.</p>
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WILMINGTON — Following the Bruins’ July 1 signings, general manager Don Sweeney said he would take a bit for the organization to catch its breath before proceeding on another key front: signing Brad Marchand to a contract extension.