"Well, for me, personally, I’ve seen him play a lot...and I always thought he was a really good player, but to be honest with you, to me he’s an even better player than I had seen," said Julien. "When you see him everyday, and you see what he brings night after night, you learn to appreciate him even more."
Perhaps once seen by some as a useful addendum to the deal that sent Dennis Wideman to Florida last June 22, Campbell, the son of former NHL player, coach and current NHL Senior Executive Vice President and Director of Operations Colin Campbell, is now seen as one of the key ingredients in the current Boston Bruins recipe.
"Obviously, my story is pretty well known, with my dad being who he is. And the career that he’s had in hockey," said Campbell during a recent Bruins road trip to Toronto. "They way I look at it that it’s only natural for someone who grows up in it to want to be in it themselves.
When you see him everyday, and you see what he brings night after night, you learn to appreciate him even more. - Claude Julien
"And that’s kind of my story.
"I spent so many hours and days at the rink when I was growing up, I feel in love with the game at an early age and that’s pretty much all I can remember," explained Campbell. "I had a lot of experiences that not a lot of kids...have at the age that I was.
"So I took that with me and kind of took everything in.
"I had dreams of playing in the NHL, but more so I just took it year-by-year, step-by-step and kept enjoying the process and kept enjoying playing and was never forced to play. It’s just something I love to do," he said.
Prior to being dealt to Boston, Campbell skated in 363 games for Florida with 29-56-85 totals and 312 penalty minutes. The 6’0, 199-pound native of London, Ontario was originally drafted by the Panthers in the third round (67th overall) of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.
But Campbell, who embodies the work ethic and tenacity that so many people love during the Stanley Cup Playoffs hasn't ever seen NHL playoff ice.
As such, Campbell, 27, is enjoying a winter and spring full of intense playoff-like hockey.
"Absolutely, this is hockey to me," said Campbell. "This is where I want to play and this is where I want to be at this time of year.
"Going into the playoffs, and knowing that we are going to the playoffs and we have as good a chance as anybody. Really that’s why you play. When you come into this league it’s more about playing in the NHL and that’s exciting, but as you go further into your career, it’s about winning and the chances get slimmer and slimmer and I think you have to embrace the chances when they’re there."
Going into the final stretch of the regular season, Campbell's teammates lined up to talk about their teammate.
...it’s an opportunity that I’m really looking forward to and hopefully I can contribute the way I expect myself to and the way [Boston's fans] expect me to." - Campbell on the NHL Playoffs
"He’s a guy you need to be on your team, you want to be on your team, and you want to play with him," said Horton, who came with Campbell to Boston last June.
"He works hard off the ice, but on the ice he wants to win and will do anything to win."
Like Campbell, Horton is on record about his wish to see playoff ice with Boston and said that Campbell's desire to win was evident even while the two players missed the playoffs with the Panthers.
"Yeah, it’s obviously tough for him," said Horton. "He liked the playoffs, he played in juniors and he works so hard, you don’t want it to stop obviously."
During Campbell's final season in juniors with Kitchener, Gregory led the Rangers to the Memorial Cup Championship, with 21 games played, 15-4-19 line and 34 penalty minutes during the playoffs.
Fast-forwarding to Boston, Horton said, "He’s been great. A great teammate. A great guy.
"It’s been a lot of fun playing with him for this many years."
The Bruins now agree -- particularly those who have been centered by Campbell on the now famous "Merlot" line.
"He’s a complete player, he does it all," said Brad Marchand
. "He’s very physical, he’s great defensively. I think he’s very underrated with his offensive skill. He keeps it pretty safe, but he can make a lot of great plays out there.
"When I played with him, it was very easy. He was always right there for you and he works so hard. I think he gives us a lot of momentum every time he steps onto the ice. He’s doing everything right and he brings so much energy. He’s such a valuable player to our team.
"We’re lucky to have him," he said.Daniel Paille
said, "He’s definitely a smart player out there. He reads guys very well, he's got speed and he’s got strength.
"He protects the puck very well in the corners and he’s very easy to read on the ice. He has his head up and knows when he goes for the puck, where to look for guys."
"We chat every now and then here on the bench," added Thornton. "He’s not afraid to say something, what to do if we need to get some work done out there, and vice versa.
"So he’s an easy teammate to talk to."Shawn Thornton
took the discussion one step further when he spoke of his friend.
|Campbell scraps with the Penguins' Craig Adams |
"Since the beginning of the season we’ve gotten along really well, on and off the ice. He’s been at my house sometimes for dinner. He’s a really good guy, he’s easy to play with," said Thornton. "I think he’s very underrated as a player still. He’s starting to get a little more recognition, but still think he’s underrated.
"He’s been fun for me to play with, I think for the majority of the games, we’ve been together. So it’s a little easier when you’ve played with somebody for 70 some-odd games to know where they’re going to be on the ice and to be able to read off each other."
The oft soft-spoken Campbell may not say much about himself, but is a go-to player for media looking to hear weighty words about the state of the B's. But when asked to describe himself as a player, Campbell gave plenty of insight as to why the former Floridian has been so embraced by New England.
"Well I think I’m a two-way player, a responsible player...someone that can contribute offensively and that’s what I expect of myself," he said. "I think I’m pretty hard on myself when it comes to that area of the game, that I expect myself to contribute.
"A lot of times it’s not always about that for me, but that’s not always what I’m expected to do, but I want to be the best that I can be. I always prided myself in being in great shape off the ice and working hard, mostly just kind of even overachieving.
"I always want to give the most of myself all the time. When I look back I don’t want to say that I could have done anything different," added Campbell. "[I] haven’t played in the playoffs in seven years, but I think that the playoffs are kind of my style of game and I was fortunate to win in junior and I helped contribute there.
"So I think for me as a role player, that’s an area where I really want to excel," he said.
And of the fans of the Boston Bruins have embraced that attitude and Campbell has embraced the entire experience and clearly expects the intensity to continue.
"This year we have a really good chance of doing something special," said Campbell. "So, it’s an opportunity that I’m really looking forward to and hopefully I can contribute the way I expect myself to and the way [Boston's fans] expect me to."