I have said this in the past, fourth line players in the NHL are going to need to be able to fight and actually play the game of hockey. Gone are the days of the two fights, and three shift players. One dimensional goons like John Scotts aren’t going to have a job much longer because they’re a waste of a roster spot.
Amalie Benjamin, Boston Globe – The real question, perhaps, is whether the concept of the fourth line is shifting toward more skill, as the Bruins saw in the second round of the postseason, when the Canadiens got production from their fourth line (Brandon Prust, Daniel Briere, Dale Weise) and the Bruins did not.
That was the role the Bruins’ Merlot line played in the past, notably in the Stanley Cup Final against Vancouver, when they helped turn around Game 7. It was a line emulated throughout hockey, as teams realized they needed to roll four lines, as the Bruins did, to be successful.
With that in mind, it will be telling to see what happens to the large number of free agent enforcers this summer, with quite a few set to be unrestricted, a quirk of enforcers mostly getting short-term contracts. In addition to Thornton, George Parros, Paul Bissonnette, Kevin Westgarth and John Scott, among others, are without deals.
“I think if you look across the league, you look at more and more teams rolling four lines and getting some production out of the fourth line, like we’ve had for a number of years,” Neely said.