Such is life, when you’re the 13th forward.
Last year, Caron accepted his role with grace and enthusiasm. He was willing to do anything and everything he could in order to help Boston succeed, and much of the time, that meant playing a supporting role. Often, it meant he did not dress for games, but on the games he did get into, he was always sure to give 100 percent effort.
Caron was constantly lauded — by his teammates, by his coaches, by management — for his ability to adapt to his role as the 13th man, which wasn’t easy, mentally or physically. Mentally, it meant accepting that playing time was going to be sporadic. Physically, it meant that he had to keep himself in game shape at all times, in case he was called upon, despite the fact that he was watching from press level more often than not.
It should come as no surprise, then — given the way he triumphed over uncertainty last season — that Caron has been able to do the same thing this summer, when he has been plagued by trade rumors.
“I know there was a lot of rumors, you know, from my meetings from last year,” Caron said, speaking for the first time after an informal skate at Ristuccia Arena on Wednesday. “You know, I kind of knew there were maybe going to be some trades, but I’m pretty happy to be back and I’m excited for training camp, and I don’t know what’s going to happen this year. So just taking it one day at a time, and we’ll see what’s going to happen.”
Caron, a restricted free agent, signed a one-year, $600,000 deal with the club in mid-July. The contract came on the heels of his first full season with the big Bruins, during which he registered a goal and two assists in 35 games. He also played in seven postseason games, notching a big goal during a first-round road game at Detroit.
He has done his job, when called upon. In fact, he has probably exceeded expectations. It isn’t easy to play once every couple of weeks and keep up with guys who are used to playing every night, but somehow, Caron managed to do just that.
Of course, Caron would like to play more. But he also wants to play here, in Boston, with the team that drafted him back in 2009. Even if leaving for another team would ensure more playing time, Caron would not necessarily prefer that situation over the one he is in now.
Ideally, he would like to earn more playing time -- here.
“Obviously, I love being here and everything,” Caron said. “So I just want to earn a spot on this team and keep getting better, and like I said, earn a spot on this team.”
A big part of earning a spot on this team is maintaining his confidence. Caron admitted that, in the past, confidence has gotten away from him, and it has negatively impacted his performance. Conversely, when he has worked hard, maintained faith in his own skills and avoided overthinking, he has seen it pay off.
Therefore, his goal at present is simple: Play his game. That’s it.
“[I want to] just keep playing my game, and maybe try to be a bit better offensively,” he said. “Try to create more and not being scared of making mistakes and being confident. I think when I’ve done that the last few seasons, it paid off. So I just need to do it even more, I guess, game in and game out. So if I do that I think I’ll be a better hockey player.”
Caron isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel. He kept himself in good shape all throughout last year, so his goal going into this summer was to do the same and put himself in prime position to succeed at the start of camp.
“Kind of same old — you know, keep trying to get faster and stronger,” he said. “Everyone works really hard right now, so you just want to come to camp in great shape and make sure you’re not injured and stuff like that, and be ready to go.”