Paille’s production and possession numbers slipped last season, and he ultimately fell out of Bruins coach Claude Julien’s favor. Paille was benched the final nine games of the regular season, and it didn't come as a shock when the Bruins didn’t extend him another contract in the offseason.
“Toward the end of the season, I could kind of see that there was like a different direction that we were going, and unfortunately it didn't end as well as I'd like there,” Paille said Tuesday. “So, it wasn't a surprise when it came to that decision. But at the same time, I enjoyed the experience in Boston. I played six years there and to play that role that long on a team like that is fairly rare, so I was grateful for that experience.”
Now, Paille is just as grateful for a chance with the Chicago Blackhawks on a professional tryout agreement. Paille would have certainly preferred to sign somewhere on an NHL contract earlier in the summer, but he came into training camp optimistic he could earn a spot with the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Paille, 31, has made a career out of being a versatile, hard-working, bottom-six forward, and he's out to prove he can still carve out a role.
"I think you try not to approach it differently,” Paille said of training camp. “Obviously a contract gives you a little bit more comfort, but you still try to give that work ethic every day, and for me, I think I haven't really changed my approach going into the camp. I think the only difference is I don't have a contract. But I feel that I give my best every day and I hope that someone recognizes it. Hopefully, Chicago does.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is closely watching. The Blackhawks don’t have a whole lot of positions to fill in camp, but there is an opening or two on the bottom two lines.
What Paille has to his advantage is his versatility. He has some speed and skill that allows him to contribute offensively, and he’s been reliable defensively for much of his career. He started primarily in the defensive zone for the Bruins, and his Corsi percentage was near 50 percent. He also has penalty-kill experience.
“I like his quickness. I like his speed," Quenneville said Tuesday. "He gives us some experience. I think there’s roles in different places, whether there’s skill to add to our lineup, whether there’s speed to add in a defensive role, a penalty-killing role. I think there’s so many opportunities in different spots that if someone wants to jump, [they] will definitely get some consideration. Being versatile is probably a great asset to have coming in when we have to make maybe the final decisions.”
Paille will get his first real chance to impress Quenneville in the Blackhawks’ first preseason game Tuesday against the Detroit Red Wings. Paille’s first game will also mean being on the other side of the United Center experience in Chicago. Paille can still remember taking that in as a visitor during the Stanley Cup finals in 2013.
“When they called and talked to me to come over here to try out, I definitely thought about the time in the finals here and how much of a blast it was and just the atmosphere of the fan base,” Paille said. “I think just being part of the group is definitely something I've been looking forward to getting here since I've found out. I think the intensity's here every night and that's something I enjoy bringing to a game, and I want to be a part of that.”