Boston Bruins winger Jordan Caron has gone in and out of his first two professional seasons like a hungry, fledgling cub and generated mixed results, the better contents primarily comprised of smaller victories.
Ready or not, here comes his calling to step up, flex his seasoning and start translating his appetite to more consistent, tangible contributions. No more glancing over his shoulder for yet another assignment to Providence and no more testing the waters of the NHL.
Nope. With the Bruins roster as it is currently comprised, all signs point to Caron being leaned on for nearly the full 82-game ride of 2012-13.
Even if Boston can shed more cap space and spring for another veteran, Caron has no reason to be anything less than the organization’s 13th NHL forward.
Take it for what it’s worth, seeing as he was only down for 17 games in the AHL last year, but Caron’s scoring rate of 0.76 points per game was the highest among the P-Bruins, who last had his services on Feb. 3.
Meanwhile, he virtually doubled his number of NHL ventures from his rookie campaign and maintained roughly the same production pace. Going from 23 games played in 2010-11 to 48 last year, his point-per-game went from 0.30 to 0.31.
Were he to keep that pace while dressing for at least an extra 30 games, Caron would be looking at a final stat line hovering around 25 points in 2012-13. Much more than that will surely be asked of him, but that need not be an unreasonable request.
So far, Caron has yet to make an impression that matches his three-goal October when he made the team out of training camp in the autumn of 2010. When the calendar morphed to November, he proceeded to sprinkle four assists over another 13 NHL ventures before spending the majority of the season in Providence.
After making what was implicitly his last trip back up north, Caron ultimately mustered nothing more than two assists over the final 12 games of the 2011-12 regular season. He had started the season in Boston with seven pointless outings, five nights in the press box and one single-day conditioning assignment in Providence.
The coming campaign, though, should more or less mirror the start of Caron’s freshman year given that the opening is more conspicuous. Furthermore, he is coming off his longest stretch of consistently appearing in the Boston lineup, plus a milestone that saw him put in his postseason debut.
Caron was, to say the least, eased into the mutant NHL animal that is the Stanley Cup playoffs, garnering less than five minutes played in his debut in Game 6 versus Washington and only 8:25 in Game 7.
But the rest of the trends on his game log point to an end to his days of single-digit minutes, and most likely healthy scratches as well.
Caron played 9:17 in a March 1 tilt with New Jersey, then suited up for all but one of the 20 games in the homestretch, seeing no fewer than 10 minutes and 42 seconds. His only missed outing in that span was an illness that kept him out of an April 3 visit from the Penguins.
To date, Caron’s busiest night in a Boston uniform was a March 22 visit to San Jose, where he saw 18 minutes and 47 seconds of ice time. During that final full month of the regular season, he took a career-high 22 shifts in four different games.
Working as a full-time NHL third-liner, Caron need not be expected to swell up his stats to Tyler Seguin or even Brad Marchand proportions any time soon. But the courses his fellow youngsters have paved en route to 2011-12 sophomore breakouts while flanking Patrice Bergeron ought to give him conviction and motivation in his role.
Furthermore, working with the likes of Chris Kelly as his center and, presumably, a playmaking fellow winger in Rich Peverley will lend him decent tactical assistance.
The 40-point range for his presumptive linemates and a final output in the upper 30s for Caron should be attainable in his first full NHL odyssey.