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.