By Eric Converse
As Jarome Iginla takes his talents to the mile high city, some fans are in panic mode seeing their team take a significant offensive downgrade. Meanwhile, Bruins management appear content in their current situation. Bruins general manager, Peter Chiarelli, announced to the media that he is “really comfortable” with Loui Eriksson moving up from the 3rd line to 1st line wing.
As of now, this is the most likely solution going in to opening night. However, separating Carl Soderberg from Eriksson on the third line will eliminate a pairing that had growing chemistry in the playoffs last spring and will create an opening for Providence Bruins forwards to get promoted to the big club. Providence Bruins 1st line center, Ryan Spooner, is poised to take this spot.
Spooner, the Bruins 2010 2nd round draft pick, has plied his trade in Providence for the last two seasons. His offensive vision, soft hands, skating speed, and tricky footwork while carrying the puck are his greatest assets. His ability to find teammates with his slick passing makes him a regular offensive threat every night.
Right now, Spooner’s shot is not quite as consistent or dangerous as his passing, as he tends to rely on finding the open space to dangle on defense and goalies to score. Defensively, Spooner is prone to lapses in coverage. Due to his size, he can be out-muscled to the puck, especially in the corners.
As many remember, Spooner already has had some time with Boston in the pre-season and regular season. He had a very impressive stretch of games already, registering 11 assists with the big club, only a preview of his true potential.
In the Bruins current position, Spooner is the ideal candidate for a full-time promotion at the start of the regular season. By this point in his career, it will be a disappointment if he is assigned to Providence by the end of training camp. If he plays at his best, he’ll earn a spot in Boston.
Although he is a natural center, Spooner could benefit from being placed on the 3rd line as a winger, along side Carl Soderberg and Chris Kelly. On the wing his defensive coverage and face-off weaknesses will be far less exposed. He could ease into center duties and further sharpen his face-off skills by learning from the best.
There are some rumors that Gregory Campbell will be traded in a package deal by the end of the summer, which could also open up the 4th line center spot to Spooner. With that kind of trade, it would be in Chiarelli’s best interest to slide Daniel Paille up to the 3rd line, as he would be the only remaining “Merlot Line” player. Spooner could center an entirely new 4th line that includes other young talent such as Alexander Khokhlachev, Justin Florek, Matt Fraser, and possibly even David Pastrnak, to name a few.
Regardless, if Spooner can make the team this fall at any forward position, he will add much needed speed and offensive creativity to the forward core. He can add depth to the Bruins power play, with his puck-moving abilities. Now is the time for Spooner to prove himself that he is NHL ready on a full-time basis.
This line up keeps the 4th line as more of a traditional physical grinding energy line.
This line up converts the 4th line in to more of an offensively oriented line, which, would negate the loss of Iginla’s contributions to the line up if they are successful.
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