On the surface splitting up Bruins alternate captain Patrice Bergeron and his longtime co-star on the Boston Bruins top line Brad Marchand is a little crazy. But it might just be time.

With the team going fully into rebuild mode right now, and the likely departure of Zdeno Chara before we see another Cup hoisted, the team needs to do a couple of really important things, really fast. First and foremost is they need to sheppard the careers of players who have already shown NHL level talent. Second they need to mentor and help ripen the players who have yet so shine at the NHL level. Third they have to keep the team reasonably balanced so that players always have a core member of the team on the ice and on the bench. That’s no easy task.

Another factor that might lead to 37 & 63 shifting lines is simply the need to ignite some of the players who may need to be traded. The front office completed the destruction of the Seguin and Hamilton trades, and should look to rebuild their treasure trove of future draft picks. David Backes still has something left to give, and is a good soldier, but I don’t know if this should be where he finishes out his career. Matt Beleskey is another player who might end up elsewhere before his contract expires. Ryan Spooner is the third of the forwards likely to see at least one more home locker room before his career is over. I don’t see the three igniting each other.

One possible combination of the top three lines is:

Vatrano – Bergeron – Bjork

Beleskey – Krejci – Pastrnak

Marchand – Spooner – Backes

I know, the first thing that comes to mind is why isn’t a line with Pastrnak or Marchand listed first? Simple: I order them by centers.

Some would argue that Marchand is being punished by playing with Spooner and Backes. I think in someways this is an opportunity for Marchand to unleash his full offensive potential. Backes is a guy who not very long ago was worthy of being a Selkie nominee at least, and he still retains his defensive prowess, if at a slightly lower pace. While Bergeron is hardly slow, Spooner is fast. And playing full time with a guy who should cross the 40 goal mark this season, he’ll have the perfect opportunity to show exactly what he’s worth for his next contract when he’s playing with not one but two All Star veterans.

The physicality of Belesekey and the pure speed and goal scoring ability of Pastrnak make this a slightly more fleet footed version of lines that featured Lucic with Seguin and Kessel in the past. Krejci hasn’t lost any of his passing ability, and he and Pastrnak have great chemistry.

Bergeron has proven he can help develop any player who actually is NHL  level talent. Vatrano didn’t have a great year last year, but at almost 3 shots per game in his young career, with an unusually low 8.6% shooting last year, it’s almost certain he gets back to the 11-12% range this year, particularly with a top center, and a gifted wing on the other side. Bjork showed all season long at Notre Dame, and for years in international play he’s capable of playing at a high, high level. This would be the opportunity to prove it.

Another possible combination, this assuming Spooner is moved before the season begins:

Pastrnak – Bergeron – Senyshyn

Marchand – Krejci – Bjork

Beleskey – Kurlay – Backes

This would give the team a certified checking line for the first time in a few years, but also a third line that should still pot close to sixty goals, and a checking line with Beleskey and Backes is going to leave other teams battered and bruised. Over the last two seasons the two have averaged about 3 (counted) his per game despite limited ice time, and availability. Backes is tied for 8th among NHL forwards in hits per game in that period, Beleskey is a few slots down tied for 12th.

These are just two permutations of the numerous viable, if not high likelihood possibilities for allowing two veterans to bolster two lines with their two hundred foot game, every shift work ethic, and pure craftiness on the ice. When you work in other players who might well make the team out of camp or get early call ups due to injury. Jacob Forsbacka Karlsson, is a player likely to make the team, Riley Nash was played up and down the roster last year, Noel Acciari is quite the useful young player who has been pushed into the lineup whenever there’s a need.

Danton Heinen and Peter Cehlarik who saw action last year, certainly know what it takes to make it to the big show.  Ryan Fitzgerald has to have a better idea how to be an NHL player than many young men. Jesse Gabriel has all the tools to be an impact player, last year in the WHL he was over a point per game player with 35 goals. And it can’t be overlooked that David Pastrnak is still unsigned, and that the contract dispute could drag into the season, allowing one or more youngsters a shot at ice time that might not ordinarily be available.

Checkout this weeks Two Man ForeCheck and give it a listen while writing your hate mail.

Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers finally signed his contract. His $8.5 million a year will make him the highest paid player on the team this year. In his career, he’s put up a solid .717 points per game in his 191 regular season games. Drafted in 2014, he’s a very, very good comparable to the Boston Bruins David Pastrnak who was also taken in the first round, has played 172 regular season games.

Pastrnak, despite coming into his first professional year after a serious shoulder injury, and being suspended two games, has produced .715 points per game, and more goals, and goals per game than Draisaitl. On the surface you could give them identical contracts and call it a day, the Boston Bruins have the cap space, they certainly should aim to keep him, and keep him happy. The problem isn’t this year’s cap space. Next year is where it get’s dicey.

Chara will be out of contract July 1, and if he plays this season as well as he did last, he’ll deserve another, and he’s not the biggest worry as he can likely be resigned at the same rate. Assuming the cap remains the same, the team would have 15 players signed for July 1, 2018, and have just over $12.6 million to fill the minutes of the unsigned players which will include a backup goalie, Chara, Vatrano, Spooner and a few others, the year after that McAvoy, Carlo, JFK, and McQuaid are all due new deals.

If they sign Pastrnak to the $8.5 a year Draisaitl got, or even a little more if they avoid the three years of no movement clause and no trade clause at the backend of the Oiler’s center’s deal, they need to lose one of the big contracts. A lot of people will point immediately at Backes, or Beleskey, and they are short sighted. You need to consider who will want them, and give you any thing at all for them. Realistically, they need to either work a deal with one of the eight teams Tuukka Rask can moved to this year, or 15 next year. David Krejci is unmoveable without serious persuasion.

There are several key questions the Boston Bruins front office has to ask before they take whatever their next step is:

  • What is the value of David Pastrnak to the Boston Bruins now, three years from now, and five years from now?
  • What will the deal we offer to him mean to other players in the system moving forward?
  • What impact will deals like this have on our own salary cap?
  • How will it affect the process when the CBA is up for renewal or replacement after five more seasons?

For me, I think Draisaitl is overpaid on a small sample size. Yes he’s been very good, and downright impressive in his one playoff appearance, but I think the contract is probably about $1.5 million high, as of his current production. When you get to second  (or later) contracts you’re either fearcasting or dreamcasting what the player will be over the course of the contract. For Pasta who had an all star, year one can hope very high, maybe even a fifty goal season in the next four or five. But you can also look at how effectively he was smothered in the week or two after he hit the 30 goal mark, and of course that draft year injury and worry about the low end of the number.

Based on current market trends, he’s likely to sign for somewhere within $250,000-$400,000 of Draisaitl depending on what he end up with for NMC’s or NTCs. If they force him into a lesser contract, I think it would be a very bad precedent for their relationship with him, and any other young talent that breaks out during their entry level deal.

Listen to next week’s Two Man ForeCheck as I’m sure myself and @TheOffWing will get into more on this topic.

The 2010 Draft had people talking about it’s top talent for almost a year before the young men ever arrived in the arena. Well before their names were called, and long before those two hundred young men had any idea if they would be ranked by the major scouting services, much less where, we were already hearing two names. Those names were on the lips and fingertips of everyone with a thought on hockey, and were eventually taken in the anticipated order.

While the Tyler vs Taylor debate will probably run at least another decade or two, as of right now if you want to define it by personal achievement, the winner is Taylor Hall. The difference in their points per game is small, but how they achieved they’re points is pretty clear. Tyler Seguin rode the coat tails of at least three future hall of fame players (Recchi, Bergeron, Chara)  to a Stanley Cup. He then got exiled to Dallas where he done not very much, and shown a complete lack of defensive acumen. Taylor Hall on the other hand has played with aggressively mediocre players for nearly all his career in Edmonton, and was far and away the best skater in New Jersey last year. Right now, Hall is putting up more points per game with less help, and while the difference may be just .001 per game, it is there.

The 2010 draft is also unusual for having two defensemen among it’s top ten for scoring. The more famous of the pair is Anaheim’s Cam Fowler, taken at twelve was most recently seen in the Western Conference finals putting up four points in six games against what is likely the only defense better than his own. Justin Faulk is less well known, and has spent his career toiling in the Carolina Hurricanes system. Don’t look now, but of the two, the one who has never played a layoff game is the one with the better career points per game. Faulk .4788 vs, Fowler .4392.

No goalie taken after the 187th pick of the 2010 draft has played a single NHL game. That’s not particularly surprising as there was only one netminder taken after Frederik Andersen. What is surprising is that the goalie to play the most games isn’t the well known Detroit Red Wings Petr Mrazek taken in the 4th round, or Jack Campbell taken 11th overall, nor is Calvin Pickard taken by the Avalanche, and no part of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights. It is Mister 187 himself. Frederik Andersen of the Toronto Maple Leafs has appeared in 191 games, and captured the win 110 times in the regular season.

Take a listen to this week’s Two Man ForeCheck.

Each player leaves a season behind in the form of another building block in their legacy. Last season was not a great year to be a Boston Bruin. Between management and players they cost a top tier NHL coach his job, and their showing in the playoffs was hardly encouraging. Among those players there are a handful with more to prove than most.

#5 Charlie McAvoy

His goal this year, in the NHL or the American Hockey League should be to prove that he does belong in the pros, and that he can be a consistent net positive contributor. In limited time in the NHL, with no one having the opportunity to scout him he failed to register a goal, was shutout in three games, including the final two, was a minus player in four of six games, and failed to even register a shot in three games.

#4 David Backes

While Backes contributes a great many hits, and a respectable total of blocked shots, his downward spiral is pretty sharp. In the 2014-15 season the former captain of the Saint Louis Blues tallied up 58 regular season points. In his first year as a Boston Bruin, he put found just 38 points to add to his career total. While it’s true he did suffer an injury that cost him eight games, and played for three coaches in two conferences, in twelve months, the fact remains he didn’t live up to expectations.

#3 Ryan Spooner

Spooner was drafted in the top half of the first round back in two thousand and ten. Since then he’s done a great deal of not very much. He has yet to play a full 82 games. He’s yet to crack the 50 much less the 70 point mark. He’s never crossed the twenty goal mark. His career faceoff win percentage is the lowest of any Bruins center to play 150 games since his draft year. In the playoffs he was hipchecked from the lineup by Sean Kuraly in the playoffs, and Kuraly, unlike Spooner managed to score in the post season. And, as part of a staredown on the way to arbitration he picked up a contract for one year that’s over what many thinks he deserves.

#2 Zdeno Chara

At 40 its not surprising that the Boston Bruins Captain had a dip in his offensive numbers. Given that he was tasked with even more of the defensive heavy lifting with the buyout of Dennis Seidenberg, one can account for some of the dip. That said, his twenty-nine point total last year was his second lowest full season total as a Bruin. This is also a contract year for him. While I can’t see him demanding or getting six or seven million as he has in the past, with that point total even with his continued remarkable defensive acumen, leadership, and the frankly staggering ability to average more than twenty-three minutes a night at an advanced age he’s going to struggle to get the four million he’s due this year in the future.

#1 David Krejci

This and one more season remain before Krejci’s no movement clause expire. Last year Krejci put up one of the lowest regular season points totals of his career. In addition to slowing down physically, he failed to connect on a higher percentage of passes than I’ve ever seen from him. Worse, he never managed to have one of those incredibly hot streaks that have typified his career.  In his 94th, 95th, and 96th playoff games he registered not a single point, just three shots, and had a faceoff percentage under 42. In many years Krejci has been free money in the playoffs, this year he was the worst we have have seen in total form October to April.

Don’t forget you can now find the Two Man ForeCheck podcast on it’s own site and Facebook page.

Last June, despite having the best defense in the NHL, and the best goaltender, the Nashville Predators lost the Stanley Cup. Subban, Josi, and Ellis and Ekholm lost the Stanley Cup to a group of defensemen that would not crack the top four on any of the top six or seven defenses in the NHL.

Mostly, it wasn’t their fault.  They lacked the forwards to win. They also lacked the experience to win. With one trade, they can fix the first, and use what the learned last year to make up for the latter.

Early in the summer they signed Nick Bonino. He’s a perfect third center. In Ryan Johansen they have their number one center. As currently constituted they do not have the right number two. They do have the pieces to get him.

Right now, the Predators have all their picks in the first two rounds for each of the next three years. They also have solid, NHL worthy prospects who won’t make the roster in the next two years. If they put together a package with two or even three of Dante Fabbro, Vladislav Kamenev, Tyler Moy, Frederic Allard, and Pontus Aberg and some picks, they can land the center they need.

The Matt Duchene drama is in desperate need of an ending. The Predator’s may not be the ideal trade partner, but the Avalanche have spent over a year rejecting good and fair trades from all over the NHL. This is lending speed to the sinking of Joe Sakic’s creditability as an NHL general manager.

If they line up Johansen, Duchene, and Bonino as their top three centers they become the best team at center in the west. With the addition of Duchene’s speed and passing ability, they are quite likely to cover all of the loss of James Neal’s offense. Maybe, just maybe a little more.

If Alexei Emelin can stop their third pairing from being a sieve, and they add Matt Duchene, they Nashville Predators become not just deeper, better, more balanced team from first line to third. They become the best team in the National Hockey League, and he has this and another season under contract.

Check out this week’s Two Man ForeCheck.

One of the biggest faults with all sports that have a review system system is how long it takes. Its bad enough in games as slow as baseball where there really isn’t a game clock and momentum is entirely mythical. In football it’s a great time, along with the sixty or seventy commercials per game to get another drink, or possibly wake up, or check your fantasy team.

In the NHL it’s gotten to the point where reviews can take as long as a major penalty. That’s huge. That’s unsupportable. That’s soul sucking to experience. That’s actually an easy fix.

As a certain Detroit native once put it “You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow.” The issue isn’t that the evidence isn’t there. The issue isn’t that the evidence is hard to decipher. It isn’t even that the technology is getting in the way. The problem is the standard of review is more exacting than real game action.

The review process suffers from what some call analysis paralysis, others would term getting stuck in the hall of mirrors. Ultimately what you call it is irrelevant once you realize it is unneeded and fixable.

So what is the ultimate solution to the biggest fixable problem? As Eight Mile Road’s most famous denizen put it, you only get one shot. Give officials one view of each camera angle. And most of all no slow motion. None. Not Even Once.  With modern videography 15, 30, and 60 to one compression replay make review an exponentially longer, and entirely unreal interpretations of reality.

Worse, its boring, boring, boring. The NHL bills itself as the fastest game on ice. Given the speed at which they review I can only assume they mean the intermission events.

Implementation should be pretty easy, and it should cut the length of time needed for each review by about 80%.

The summer is half over. We’re closer to the start of the new season, they we are to the end of the last regular season. In most ways that is fantastic. Unless your team is one of those fiddling around with their talent. Here are the restricted free agents who are pivotal to their team.

Calvin De Haan

With the departure of Travis Hamonic, someone needs to take up the slack. It’s a given that De Haan will pick up more of the vacated ice time than the elderly Seidenberg or the aging Boychuk. What remains to be seen is how soon, if at all the Islanders decide to pay him.

Nate Schmidt

While it is unlikely the former Washington Capital will see 24 minutes a night, if the Knights plan to move him rather than sign him, they may well have already have passed their use by date on movement of the freshly 26 year old alum of the Fargo Force and University of Minnesota.

Bo Hovart

Hovart is likely in for some of the longest years of his life as the Vancouver Canucks go into the post Sedin rebuild. Being unsigned this long makes me wonder if he wishes to be in British Columbia when the team comes out of that long dark tunnel. The more likely explanation is that the team is trying to explain to him that just because he was their biggest points producer last year he shouldn’t expect to be paid like one.

Leon Draisaitl

He and team mate Connor McDavid may be the catalysts for the next lockout and salary rollback. For the 2018-19 season the Edmonton Oilers have twelve players currently under contract with just $22 million to sign the rest of the roster. If Draisaitl signs for the $8-10m some expect the cap crunch begins immediately. Even at $6-7m their will be a roster purge and without the cap jumping fifteen to eighteen million, there is no way the Oilers can be competitive.  This is a very talented player, but is the General Manager able to keep things together?

Sam Bennett

Bennett had a visible sophomore slump last year, which is not unexpected. He partially redeemed himself with two goals in the four playoff games the Calgary Flames played last year. It’s reasonably save to predict him as a 50-60 point guy, but don’t be surprised by a bridge contract that pays a little closer to what he’s produced so far.

David Pastrnak

One of the more dynamic wingers in the NHL last year his rise from good to league leader can’t be understated. In the early part of the season when none of the Boston Bruins centers were performing at an even average level he was near the top of the leaderboard. Not signing Pastrnak to similar deal to Marchand’s or a little less would be the worst, and possibly final mistake of Don Sweeney’s tenure as Boston General Manager.

Mikael Granlund

On a team whose best known players are all 32 or older, they need to retain not just the youngest, but the middle years players like Mikael Granlund who made and earned his $3m last year in what counts as a career year for the 25 year old native of Finland. No one is under the illusion Granlund is The Guy in Minnesota, but he’s a guy they can’t replace from the current free agent market.

The internet is almost certainly the most fascinating tool mankind has ever invented. On it I’ve learned more about genetics, hockey, medicine, politics, history and other topics than I could ever have imagined knowing. Today I learned something new. Seth Jones is depth defenseman. I’m pretty sure it’s been a long time since Seth Jones was dismissed as being the fourth or fifth most interesting player on a blueline. It wasn’t last year, it likely wasn’t the year before, and even when he played in that scary, scary Nashville Predator’s defensive unit he still got lots of talk.

Sure it’s possible to undervalue Jones, I mean the Avalanche, Panthers, and Lightning all passed him over in 2013. The Avalanche are searching for defense still, the Panthers over spent two years ago on free agents, and the Lightning had hold out issues with, and finally traded Jonathan Drouin who they took over Jones, for a defenseman.

Among his draft year only Sean Monahan has played more games to date, and that’s just by four.

But Jones is a depth defenseman if one writers it to be believed, I mean I heard it on the internet so it must be true. You’re not allowed to lie online.

So let’s look at the proof Seth Jones is a depth defensemen.

In the most recent season 200 defensemen skated in thirty five or more games.

Jones ranked:

  • 36th for total minutes (75 games played) that’s top 18%
  • 26th for time on ice per game, that’s top 13%
  • 77th for shorthanded time on ice, that’s 38th percentile with 2:07 per game
  • 65th for powerplay TOI for top 32%

Fancy Stats:

  • of the 68 defensemen to skate in 35 games and cross 1301 minutes he was .01 behind Victor Hedman and .04 behind Erik Karlsson in goals against per 60
  • in goals for per 60 he was about a third of a goal better than Shea Weber, Drew Doughty, or Keith Yandle in that same high minute 68 defensemen
  • Jones was 5th among defensemen to play 35 games or more in even strength points, with every player above him having played more games
  • in points per game among those same defensemen, he was 19th, good for top 10%

So with the help of NHL.com and Puckalytics.com I now completely understand how someone could believe Seth Jones is a depth defenseman. 

And as much as I like the Blue Jackets defense, I’m not sure they’re even in the top 5 in the NHL right now. The Ducks, Predators, and Minnesota would easily be above them, and one can make strong cases for other teams including the Carolina Hurricanes.

This is a series I’ve run in the past and decided to bring back/ The premise is simple: increasing NHL scoring without making drastic changes to the game, or crippling defense and goaltending at the expense of goals.

This week post is built around an idea that is already in place in some non-manpower penalties. When a team is accessed an unmatched penalty, they do not get a chance to change personnel until the next whistle or they manage to do so during the course of play.

With this rule in place officials would already know who has on the ice and not need to engage in time wasting, ineffective replay, nor would it be a “judgment call”. Time, and the flow of the game would be saved. The team moving to the man advantage would be allowed a brief period to change, and could get their desired staff on the ice. The penalized team might be stuck without a center or a defenseman, and that’s okay. If the goal of penalties is to discourage players from plays that risk injury to other players and goals being given up, this is yet another way to underscore discipline. I suspect this would move powerplay scoring up two to three percent on average across the NHL.