Trevor Linden praises the ‘Boston model’, thinks Shawn Thornton is ‘an important player’

During the first intermission  of Saturday’s loss to the Edmonton Oilers, Ron MacLean conducted a quick but informative interview with Trevor Linden about his new job as President of Hockey Operations with the Vancouver Canucks. While Linden still sounded like someone coming to grips with his role and hedged his bets on several answers, MacLean managed to get some interesting responses out of Linden.

Unfortunately, one of the most interesting responses was also one of the most concerning. When Linden started talking about having a “well-rounded group of forwards” — particularly in regards to the third and fourth lines — he referenced the “Boston model” and immediately praised Shawn Thornton as “such an important player” for his team.

On the encouraging side, I appreciated his repeated emphasis on getting more information (or, as he put it, “download all the data”) before making crucial decisions and I hope that includes researching exactly what the “Boston model” is.

The “Boston model” is not size for the sake of size or the use of enforcers with a modicum of skill. It’s a strong puck possession game — one of the best in the league — that rests on the foundation of Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron. The Bruins have a lot of skill in their lineup and their big players, like Zdeno Chara, Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron, and now Jarome Iginla, combine their size and power with high-end skill.

I would love to see the Canucks follow the “Boston model” and acquire the best two-way forward in hockey, along with a freak of nature like Chara, but unless Ryan Kesler can step up his game next season or Bo Horvat defies all odds to match Bergeron once he develops, it’s not going to happen. The Canucks will likely never get someone like Chara, because there will likely never be someone like Chara in the NHL ever again.

Unfortunately, when people talk about following the “Boston model,” they don’t generally think of Bergeron; they think of Lucic or, worse, they think of Thornton.

To Linden’s credit, he’s talking about a very specific thing when he references the “Boston model,” specifically how the team puts together their bottom-six forwards. Even then, Thornton is not the key.

I see this as evidence of how far removed Linden was from the game since his retirement. From a distance, watching the Stanley Cup Final and hearing the media extol Thornton’s virtues, it’s not a surprise he would come away with the impression that Thornton plays a much larger role in Boston than he actually does.

Thornton has averaged 8:41 in ice time per game this season, the lowest total of any Bruin to play more than one game. The Bruins’ success in rolling their lines has more to do with being able to ice a third line composed of Daniel Paille, Carl Soderberg, and Loui Eriksson.

27 comments

  1. Brent
    April 13, 2014

    Ya that little exchange scared me to. And I wonder if it is parroted from the owners. That would explain the signing of Sestito to a 2 year one-way contract.

    Lets hope Trevor’s “data” collection includes a healthy does of fancy stats which he uses to evaluate players like Thorton and Sestito. I really don’t want the Canucks going any more backwards on the fancy stats front.

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    • Popple
      April 14, 2014

      “sestito is a veteran guy on this team” – torts

      thinking about these words coming out of torts mouth always makes me chuckle

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  2. Gary
    April 13, 2014

    At the most basic level, if he’d said “if I’m carrying a fighter, they have to be able to skate at least competently” would you have felt better? Surely Thornton > Sestito?

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  3. Paul Bishop
    April 13, 2014

    The thing you fail to mention is Thornton also make everyone in the line up play 3″ taller and 25 lbs heavier

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  4. Matt
    April 13, 2014

    To be fair to Linden, I think he was saying this in the context of wanting a fourth line that can play more than four minutes of ice team, to take a bit of the burden off the top two lines. Shawn Thornton’s not a great hockey player, but he hurts Boston a lot less in 9 minutes of ice time than Tom Sestito does the Canucks in 4.

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  5. weasel16
    April 13, 2014

    Third line is actually Carl Soderberg, Loui Eriksson and Chris Kelley. Paille was only on the 3rd line yesterday because Kelley was out.

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  6. Doug
    April 13, 2014

    In context, his comments make sense. Tim Hunter was a 3rd or 4th line plugger who had zero goals and zero assists during the ’94 run. But he was an important part of the team. He is not dismissing Paille, Soderberg or Eriksson, he is saying that even the guys in the bottom six are vital. The fact that to this day, the fact that anyone remembers names like Brian Glynn and Nathan Lafayette is precisely because the team was so balanced. The hard part for Linden will be getting players good enough that they can be the “Tim Hunter’s” or “Shawn Thornton’s” that we need.

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  7. peanutflower
    April 13, 2014

    oh man…

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  8. JS Topher
    April 13, 2014

    Shoot. It happened. I hope it never would but, it has. PiTB wrote an article containing something with which I disagree. I actually think Shawn Thornton IS a valuable member of the Boston Bruins and a decent contributor to their success. As are the rest of their fourth line. Imperative to success? No. but, valuable and contributing, then yes. An average of 8 1/2 minutes of play time for a 4th line player is considerable. It implies that for 15% of the game (give or take – since it’s an average) they can be depended on to give the rest of the players (the producing and defending players) rest when they need it without being a major hindrance to the flow of play.

    How do the ice times of other fourth lines compare?
    I know that ours doesn’t. Not this year.
    And not since 2010-11, really.
    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a fan of Thornton and I certainly wouldn’t want him on our team but, if everything was the same this year, except for the idea that we could get some fourth liners that could handle themselves out there and a coach to trust them for 8+ minutes, then I’d bet we would all be a little happier with our overall results right now.

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  9. Dan
    April 13, 2014

    From all the info out there about the team it’s clear the “Boston model” is what ownership has wanted for awhile, so when I heard Linden say that last night my heart sunk and I thought “oh no, they got to you too.” Is he just stating the party line or does he honestly believe our team should be changed that way? Are we going to gut our personnel so that we’ll never go back to the uptempo forwards and puck moving defensemen highlight that was 2011?

    Honestly, I never wanted Trevor to be put in this position, and I’m feeling quite bad about this.

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  10. Naturalmystic
    April 13, 2014

    Boston model + Thornton reference = The ownership is putting words in Lord Linden’s mouth. Lord Linden is a figurehead/puppet who was hired to shore up the season ticket base and buy the team some breathing room until they stink the joint out midway through next season. I think Lord Linden will quit before his reputation and legacy is destroyed by the ownership and their choice of a yes man general manager and coach.

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  11. Wetcoaster
    April 13, 2014

    Strictly speaking, it would also be correct to say that Hansen and Higgins are important players. They’re just not *the most* important players like the Sedins or Kesler or Burrows.

    When Hansen and Higgins have a bad stretch, it’s unfortunate. When Burrows and Daniel have a bad stretch, it’s complete disaster (Exhibit A: THIS SEASON).

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  12. Mt
    April 13, 2014

    I just pray he hires a good GM cause that makes me profoundly uncomfortable. After that it seems unlikely that ownership isn’t, as speculated, chasing the mythical Boston Model. When a new hire happens the way this did, it’s safe to assume that conversations about philosophical enlightenment and vision are key to the hiring and hearing this come up right after that process doesn’t prove anything but it seems to me that it is highly probable that the speculation is correct.

    Hiring Torts in the first place was fitting with the so called Boston Model, not in the sense of style of play (that is ignored by those who laud this supposed model) but in general sensibility. The narrative behind the Boston Model is that toughness beat skill and scoring and the canucks need intangibles such as grit, toughness, attitude, aggression, bombasticness, etc. Torts fits this in that he’s projects bombastic attitude–he’s a blow-hard. I personally don’t trust blow-hards, they tend to not think with nuance, and then to talk (or yell) more than they think or observe, but that’s just me. Anyway, the perception was that the canucks were lacking in such qualities so a new coach should add that. In my opinion, Torts may be suited to Edmonton or a team of kids (his cup winning team) but not a mature group who doesn’t need that motivation. That’s just deflating.

    I just desperately hope that we don’t get more of that in a GM’s vision and that it isn’t already a requirement for the job (I suspect it likely is). It’ll be interesting to see who gets let go from elsewhere (especially Nashville with both Poile and Trotz). Fingers crossed.

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  13. clutch-fan
    April 13, 2014

    We just need to remember his job is more sales than management. Probably just praising Boston as a part of making a case to get Benning as GM or something.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      April 13, 2014

      There’s something to be said for that argument. If Benning is one of his targets to hire as GM, there’s no harm in praising what Boston has done, both to sell Benning on the Canucks’ interest and selling fans on Benning himself.

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  14. shoes
    April 13, 2014

    Nobody else will state this out of political correctness, but the model has thrived on having a very strong 4th line player and it is not Shawn Thornton. Unless the new boss of all officials, discipline, review is named Mr. Thornton and knows how to email???? The perfect storm happened for Boston, where they had enough skill to win, as did the Canucks, but the difference came in how the officials ruled on many separate instances in the various games. It would have been a much better series had there not been so many diving penalties assessed to the Canucks while applauding the Bruins for “drawing” penalties. Amazing how one sounds better than the other. Way better.

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    • mb13
      April 14, 2014

      That argument might hold some weight if the Canucks didn’t lose each of the games in the SCF by at least 3 goals. When you lose by 3, you don’t blame bounces, you admit you lost… unless your shoes.

      But I see you’re still wearing a tin-foil hat.

      Hey shoes – how’d that LA game work out for you this year? I thought it was supposed to be the turning point of the season.

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  15. Phileo99
    April 13, 2014

    The 2011 edition of the Canucks did have an identity and a model: puck possession, mobile defence, and top 3 PP/PK. It was a sight to behold. The Boston Model (size, toughness & grit) did not defeat the Canucks, it was the key injuries (loss of Malholtra == no shutdown line, Kesler’s hip injury == no secondary scoring, and Hamhuis injury) and Luongo’s meltdowns.
    To really follow the Boston Model would mean blowing up the core and rebuilding from draft picks and prospects. That would be a risky proposition, just ask the Oilers.
    The Boston Model is not the only model that works, the BlackHawks and Red Wings have proven that.
    I hope Overlord Linden is smart enough to realize that and make decisions that make sense for the current team independent of influencing shadows of the Acquilinis.

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    • popple
      April 14, 2014

      EXACTLY! I don’t know why Gillis didn’t think to just improve the Canucks brand that brought them within 60 minutes of the cup instead of try to change it to the brand that beat them & adding in a goalie controversy or two for good measure. In the time he tried to make moves to become them (lol more like mediocre) he could have reinvigorated the team & would probably have a job right now.

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  16. BBoone
    April 14, 2014

    Linden must learn to say what he means in a way that eaves no doubt while still being diplomatic. Personally I hope he learns to speak in complete cliches as pleasantly as possible to short circuit the media in Vancouver that constantly parses comments for controversy.
    Clearly Linden was sharing his view about the importance of meaningful roles for the bottom six forwards . On a related front it is sad that no one in the Vancouver media and that inured you PITB had the courage to call out the Global reporter for inviting Linden to an interview re his fitness business then leading off with a direct question re a position with the Canucks that they knew he could not answer truthfully. That is just plain bad manners . Moreover that interviewer missed the opportunity to ask him his view of the new pro sports management model of iconic franchise player as president with final say on all the sport decisions , an experienced GM and a coach . The Elway model in Denver Jackson with the Knicks and Neely with the Bruins. That would have been the professional approach and good manners in the bargain . For an editor to call Linden out for lying rather than chastise the interviewer is a sad commentary on the hockey media in general .

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  17. Tony
    April 14, 2014

    does anyone else find it super weird how much liden is blinking?

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  18. popple
    April 14, 2014

    If Canucks won in 2011 would people be trying to copy the “Canuck model” now instead? Would Boston be the team trying to change their direction? Eeesh. Who knew not winning a cup could do so much to damage a great team? ok, maybe the ’94 Canucks?

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  19. Marty
    April 15, 2014

    What a terrible article and the comments about the officiating in the Cup final are laughable.Thornton plays on the best 4th line in hockey and creates a lot of room for other players.This team needs to be blown up, at least Torts had the balls to say it was stale, its beyond stale, its moldy, and getting older.2011 was three years ago, sorry guys.

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  20. PD
    April 15, 2014

    Did Trevor always blink so much, and so fast?

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  21. cory d
    April 15, 2014

    Paille is on the “Merlot” or 4th line with Thornton and Soupy.

    Thornton carries a leadership role and is a grinder. He knows his role as does the rest of the 4th line. Without this line, the B’s success would not be as good as it is. This is the reason they can roll 4 lines and be a threat both offensively and physically.

    Great to hear a respected NHLer respect the B’s model. The last 4 seasons shows that it is generally working. Everybody plays their part, they respect their coach because he respects them, and their farm system is identical so transition is easier.

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  22. CoolerHeads
    April 15, 2014

    I agree with some of the comments…I think Linden was simply referencing the idea that players like Thornton balance out the entire line-up. I can’t remember the last time the Canucks got 8 “impactful” minutes from a fourth line.

    That being said, the Canucks still need to a top 3 forward that can take over games.

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  23. Smokey
    April 26, 2014

    How about this bottom six made up entirely of players who the Canucks traded or let go under Gillis:

    Torres-Lapierre-Roussel
    Glass-Malhotra-Weise
    Volpatti

    All contributing in the playoffs right now with at least a goal apiece, except for Malhotra and Volpatti.

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