February 8, 2011

Hard work, versatility help Caron get back to NHL

Bruins winger Jordan Caron. (Getty)

The old adage that hard work pays off has come to fruition for Boston Bruins winger Jordan Caron.

The team recalled the prospect from Providence of the AHL Monday just after the announcement that center Marc Savard’s season was over and he was being placed on Long Term Injured Reserve. For Caron, Boston’s first choice in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, it’s a return to the big club after he spent the first quarter of the season at the highest level.

"I think it helped me a lot playing in the best league in the world," Caron told hockeyjournal.com recently, before his latest recall to Boston. "I was playing with Patrice Bergeron and (Mark) Recchi and learned a lot from them, just being around the team and seeing how professional they are."

Caron is a power winger who showed flashes of his potential, scoring three goals and seven points with the Bruins in 20 games during his first NHL stint, but also proved he could play any role the club required of him whether skating on a scoring or checking line.

"Jordan is a big body who has some real offensive skill," said Providence coach Rob Murray earlier this season. "He takes the puck to the net and brings a solid work ethic and willingness to do what it takes to the help the team."

Caron was sent down to Providence not because he failed to perform, but in order for the team to keep him playing a lot of minutes. When Savard came back from the concussion symptoms he experienced over the summer after the infamous Matt Cooke cheapshot last March, Caron was a healthy scratch for several games as the odd man out in Boston.

"It was a numbers game for Jordan," Murray said. "He wasn’t sent down because of anything he did or didn’t do. When you’re a 20-year-old, you need to be playing (not sitting in the press box) every night, so it was strictly a decision to get him that playing time."

In 27 AHL games with Providence, Caron had six goals and 17 points, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story for the youngster, who got off to a rough start at that level after looking so promising with Boston.

"In the first four or five games I thought I did pretty good," said Caron. "But there was a five-10 game stretch where I lost my confidence a bit. I started thinking too much and that’s what happens when you don’t score goals."

Caron caught a break, however. With everything going wrong for him and pressure mounting, Christmas came along and he was able to get home for a brief respite.

"I took some time off from hockey and that really helped me," he said. "When I got back, my numbers took off and I felt a lot better about my game."

In January, Caron tied Zach Hamill, also recalled to Boston recently, as the team’s top scorer, netting 6 goals and 13 points, underscoring the newfound confidence and drawing from the positive experience of beginning the year in the NHL.

Caron credited Bergeron with being a major positive influence on him during his time in Boston. It should not come as a surprise, given that the two were the only Quebec natives on the roster, and that Bergeron was merely paying forward what Martin Lapointe once did for him seven years ago when the B’s leading scorer was an 18-year-old rookie.

"Jordan’s a good kid; he’s very mature," Bergeron said during Caron’s first stint with the team. "He came to camp with a good attitude, and for me, it was just a chance to help him out a little bit. I’ll never forget what Marty (Lapointe) did for me, so it’s my job as a veteran on this team to help out wherever I can."

Caron acknowledged that Bergeron was a huge help to him in making what can be a daunting transition in a new city where seemingly minor distractions can detract from a player’s focus.

"The first day he came up to me and gave me his phone number," Caron said. "He said if I needed anything, he was there for me. He helped me get a car and find an apartment. Playing on the same line with such a good guy and good player- I couldn’t ask for a better situation."

Caron put in the work down on the farm and has been rewarded for it. Although he’s not happy that the opportunity had to come at the expense of Savard, he’s ready for the next challenge in his young career.

"They wanted me to keep improving in my offensive aspects," he said the Bruins told him when he was sent down. "They wanted me to go down in Providence and get a lot of power play time, ice time and don’t be afraid to try new things."

The Bruins are counting on the fact that he took those lessons to heart and is ready to contribute to the team’s stretch drive.