As a life long Boston Bruins watcher it’s hard to believe I’m about to write this column. I’ve tweeted about their biggest need before. I’ve posted to Facebook too, and anyone who’s heard me talk about the makeup of the Boston Bruins team in particular and the organization as a whole has probably heard me expound at least once.

The biggest need of the Boston Bruins isn’t a talent. It isn’t a position. Instead, they desperately need an attitude. Or maybe personality is a better term for it.

When you look up and down the roster who is the fireeater? Who is the guy you know will be angry enough after a bad game or getting porked by the officials that police and Garden security flinch away when he leaves the ice? On bad days when teammates are a two zeros and six miles 100% which of these dudes is going to drop f-bombs like he’s auditioning for a Tarantino film?

I don’t see that guy. Marchand is probably the snarliest guy day in and day out. You can probably put Krug into your top five most belligerent players too, but it doesn’t matter. The two of them are a cinder blocks short of 5’10. They are also wildly underappreciated for their very real, very formidable skill sets. 

The fire started to wane when Mark Stuart was traded. Tim Thomas retiring Andy Ference being let go, even Johnny Boychuk had some visible heat. We’ll skip entirely the Mellott Line, and merely lament the back injuries that laid low Nathan Horton. Milan Lucic was evicted from the Hub.

Who has replaced even a fraction of that passion? Who is the surly son of a Bruin that tips the shop the right way when the rest of the crew is asleep on the bench? 

No one

That needs to be fixed.

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As a life long Boston Bruins watcher it’s hard to believe I’m about to write this column. I’ve tweeted about their biggest need before. I’ve posted to Facebook too, and anyone who’s heard me talk about the makeup of the Boston Bruins team in particular and the organization as a whole has probably heard me expound at least once.

The biggest need of the Boston Bruins isn’t a talent. It isn’t a position. Instead, they desperately need an attitude. Or maybe personality is a better term for it.

When you look up and down the roster who is the fireeater? Who is the guy you know will be angry enough after a bad game or getting porked by the officials that police and Garden security flinch away when he leaves the ice? On bad days when teammates are a two zeros and six miles 100% which of these dudes is going to drop f-bombs like he’s auditioning for a Tarantino film?

I don’t see that guy. Marchand is probably the snarliest guy day in and day out. You can probably put Krug into your top five most belligerent players too, but it doesn’t matter. The two of them are a cinder blocks short of 5’10. They are

This post will be updated throughout the night. 

1st: Set

Avalanche: Calvin Pickard: Goaltender

Canucks: Luca Sbisa defense  1 year left on his deal

Coyotes: Teemu Pulllinen Forward

Devils: Jon Merrill Defense, 1 year left

Sabres: William Carrier. Left Wing, and also a 2017 6th round pick

Stars: Cody Eakin, Forward

Red Wings: Tomas Nosek, Forward,

Panthers: Jonathan Marchessault, Forward, and bet Reilly Smith and 2018 4th round draft pick.

Kings: Brayden McNabb, Defense

3 Defensemen 1 goaltender, 5 forwards. Gotta like this group over all, Between Carrier and McNabb you’re getting a lot of physicality.

2nd phase

Hurricanes: Connor Brickley, Forward 2017 5th round pick

Jets: Chris Thorburn, forward and a 1st round draft pick

Flyers: Pierre Edouard Bellemare, forward Alternate Captain of the Flyers

Lightning: Jason Garrison, defenseman, Nikita Guseve, 2017 2nd 2018 4th

Islanders: J.F. Berube, Goaltender, trade Mikhail Grabovski F, Jake Bischoff D, 1st 2017, 2019 2nd

Predators: James Neal

Flames: Deryk Engelland, UFA D signed, Vegas Resident, for Las Vegas ECHL player

In this round it was clearly ll about stocking the cupboard, 5 draft picks, a 25 year old goalie, two young prospects.

3rd Round

Senators: Marc Methot, defenseman who will be glad to get away from Sidney Crosby while he has all of his fingers.

Canadiens: Alexie Emelin, defenseman, a very, very physical defenseman with some offense.

Oilers: Griffin Reinhart, defenseman high end pick.

Rangers: Oscar Lindberg, center, bottom six guy on most teams.

Blues: David Perron, forward, flashy

Sharks: David Schlemko, defensemen

Bruins: Colin Miller, defenseman

Maple Leafs: Brendan Leipsic, forward, 23.

4th Set

Duck: Clayton Stoner, defense and Shea Theodore Defense

Wild: Erik Haula, forward speedy, get Alex Tuch for 3rd round pick TBD.

Blue Jackets: William Karlsson, center, Sweden David Clarkson, F 2017 1st and 2019 2nd, trade the pick to Winnipeg for their first

Blackhawks: Trever Van Riemsdyk, defenseman,

Penguins: Marc Andre Fleury, Goaltender, 2020 2nd round pick

Capitals: Nate Schmidt, defenseman, missed some time this year, interesting pick.

 

This is a pretty interesting set of players. You have speed, youth, name recognition, not a single player under age 21, and enough defensemen that I fully expect at least two will be traded sometime before the season starts. There will almost certainly be some over agers signed from the CHL and USHL, as well as one or two players signed from European leagues like the SHL and KHL. Expect them to go after two to three key forwards.

The draft picks and true prospects are the real story of the night. As it stands only Reilly Smith is signed for two years past in the team’s first. Fifteen of the players currently the property of the Vegas Golden Knights are signed for only one season, seven more are unsigned UFA’s or RFAs. For me, this would make jersey buying a perilous and uncertain affair.

A look at the best and worst picks soon.

It’s a foregone conclusion that Marc-Andre Fleury will be the Golden Knights first starting goaltender. But how can they get more assets? Two words: One is side and the other is deals. The Vegas Golden Knights have the right, and some might say the responsibility to take some of the players they pick this Wednesday night and turn them over to invest in the future.

The other night I quickly through together a roster based on the idea that they would keep most of the players they took. I hypothesized Jonathan Marshessault might be the way to go, but the Calgary Flames are pretty firmly in need of a winger to play on Sean Monahan’s right, and they picked Reilly Smith and flipped him for young Dillon Dube and a 2nd round pick in 2018?

Maybe they still take Ryan Strome. But instead of getting his jersey number preference they send him to the Vancouver Canucks to vie for the roster spot Henrik Sedin? Strome has turned in a couple solid season playing way, way being Tavares for the Islanders. But he was picked fifth overall. He won’t be arbistration eligible until next summer. He’s likely still worth a first, maybe two seconds.

Maybe they work a double deal with the San Jose Sharks? One part not to take Boedker, and one deal to help them fill a roster spot being vacated by Joe Thornton and or Patrick Marleau. Guys like Nick DeSimone and Manuel Weiderer, and a second round pick for a guy like Jori Lehtera could be a win-win deal for both sides.

While Sami Vatenen is likely the most valuable skater on available given his age and ability, this might be the very, very rare case where trading away a high end, young defensemen is the right move. The Detroit Red Wings for example have been linked to every potential free agent defensemen who plays in the top four over the last five years. The best they’ve landed is an aging Mike Green. Two first round picks and a second round pick might well be worth it to the Red Wings who have all their own picks* over the next three seasons, and seven additional picks.

I’ll freely admit it’s a long shot, and I you can make a case either way for keeping or flipping Fleury, but given teams like the New York Islanders, and oh Philadelphia Flyers who have been searching for goaltenders since about the time they were the expansion teams, maybe, just maybe they can be tempted to overpay for two or more years of stability in net.

I tagged Rob Scuderi from the Los Angeles Kings. He’s a UFA, and well past his prime. He’s also universally well regarded, a Stanley Cup champion, and unlikely to ever play another NHL game. If McPhee were talked into taking Dustin Brown, who is a former captain, a cup winner, plays the game the right way, and is getting more and more disliked in the city of angels because he’s a little bit overpayed. Maybe to take him, and his contract they acquire a second round pick this year, and a third round pick in 2019 and 2020?

While the team has to draft 14 forwards, it shouldn’t be forgotten they have already signed three players, have free agency to fill needs, and much of europe to plunder to fill their NHL and AHL rosters. Don’t be surprised if they have as few as eight or ten additional players actually under contract after the dust from both drafts settles.

Don’t forget the latest Two Man ForeCheck is up and you can hear it on iTunes TuneIn or   Chris Canadas .

 

* The are short one third round pick this year, but they have four belonging to other teams.

The Atlantic Division and all other NHL teams released their protected lists today, and it’s time to dive into the best and worst moves.

Boston Bruins

The Boston Bruins bafflingly failed to protect Adam McQuaid who had the best on ice save percentage differential last year. He was hands down higher than anyone else over the teams even strength save percentage. Instead the protect Kevan Miller who is at least as injury prone, and less offensively productive in the playoffs. Colin Miller is exposed as well. Also protected are Riley Nash who is an interchangeable bottom six forward, and to my mild surprise the mercurial Ryan Spooner, Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes were exposed, not that there’s any chance the latter is taken.

Buffalo Sabres

The Buffalo Sabres have exposed some pretty interesting names. Zach Bogosian as a former high end pick is possibly the most notable, he was also traded to Buffalo for a top end defensive draft pick who has been protected. Matt Moulson, Brian Gionta, Josh Georges, and Cody Franson represent a huge amount of the leadership and a reasonable amount of talent. As much as I like Tyler Ennis, I am a little surprised that he was protected and not some of the more obvious leaders.

Detroit Red Wings

The Red Wings are clearly going for a youth movement. You don’t need to look any further than who is unprotected to realize this. Kronwall on the outside looking in is damn near staggering, Jonathan Ericsson is another name Wings fans have been familiar with for a while. I’m a little surprised, verging on bafflement that Jimmy Howard is protected, he’s frequently injured, inconsistent, and at 33 no longer a young guy. Jared Coreau makes way more sense to protect since they are finally moving into their long, long overdue rebuild.

Florida Panthers

The two elder statesmen in Florida are unprojected. Luongo, and Jagr are both free for the picking. Neither is a long term part of the Panthers plan, but both are almost critically important right now. Jonathan Marchessault is a bit of a shocker. Yes last season’s offensive onslaught was a career year, and in the absence of several players further up the depth chart, but he’s a pretty heady name to leave dangling. Jussi Jokinen, and Reilly Smith make a modest amount of success to expose, but its hard to imagine other teams not asking for three way deals in the next couple days. Kindl and Demers being on the outside is no surprise since neither is very good. Pysyk would be a head scratcher if it weren’t for Kindl and Demers.

Montreal Canadiens

The Habs have some mighty interesting names on the outside. Tom Plekanec is a name that leaps off the page. The rest of the list is sorta like the being one of the younger Kardashians, they’re notable for being notable and who they are near too. Dalton Thrower was a well regarded prospect not long ago, Stanley Cup winner Dwight King was brought in mid season to thicken up the bottom six, Radulov and Emelin as Russians have to be considered higher likelihood losses than they would if anyone other than McPhee were drafting, and beyond that I’m more baffled at who they did pick.

Paul Byron is worthy of being protected? Really? In what universe? Philip Danault and Jeff Petry? If you missed my piece yesterday, stop and read the first bit at least, the rest of this article will still be here.

Ottawa Senators

Bobby Ryan not being protected after the playoff run he had makes sense if you have no memory of the three years previous. Alex Andre Burrows is on the outside as well. I think with his decline of late, age, and new contract he’s likely safe. I can see the arguments for and against exposing both Methot and Borowiecki, particularly given the latter’s season ending injury, it might be some cagey work in Canada’s capital to leave them both on the outside, especially since given their composition, and last year’s success I can’t fault the Senators protected lists even a bit.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Having moved Jonathan Drouin out, there are zero point zero surprises on the protected list. Of the guys exposed it’s really hard to say who they are most likely to lose. Carter Ashton might be the happiest man in the Tampa organization after the Drouin trade, and he’s unprotected. Jake Dotchin and Andrej Suster are worth looking at, Jason Garrison two years ago might have been the gimmie pick, but he’s even older now. Slater Koekkoek is another name it might be worth exploring, but after a hard look at the team, I might pick up JT Brown if I decide to grab a forward from Tampa Bay.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Two and three years ago Nazem Kadri and Tyler Bozak were pilloried daily in the press. Today they make the protected list for a team that curbstomped all expectations last year. There are some names who were certainly contributors last year on the outside, but no one who if lost is going to cause the team to stagger back into a top five pick next year. This isn’t a surprise given how much of the teams success was carried by rookies and second year players. The biggest thing this list does is tell us who the front office thinks is at least a part of the short and medium term plans for the Maple Leafs.

There was a nice quiet day of trades in the NHL heading into the Expansion Draft that will allow the Vegas Golden Knights to plump up their organization.

4: In Division Trade

When you make a trade within your division, you’re almost certainly always saying that someone involved is irrelevant. When the Jonathan Drouin for Mikhail Sergachev went down we learned something. We already knew the Canadiens make goofy trades for frequently non-hockey reasons. So we either learned that Yzerman doesn’t in anyway value the player he spent a year refusing to trade even when Drouin failed to report to the AHL, or that he’s revealed the depth of his respect for the Montreal organization.

It’s almost certainly the latter. Given the lack of skilled, speedy offensive centers who can keep up with Jonathan Drouin in Montreal, and who the head coach is, the math isn’t hard. Yzerman expects Drouin to be less impactful in Montreal than he was in Montreal. Clearing five point five million from his cap didn’t hurt, but sticking a player on a team who you can expect to produce at about seventy five cents on the dollar doesn’t happen often, when it’s a division rival its cheap at twice the price.

3: Commitment?

For years the Arizona Coyotes were wed in holy matrimony to Mike Smith, the Calgary Flames on the other hand had a soured soiree with Chad Johnson. Smith had Vezina quality seasons in a Coyotes uniform, and was also awful With nearly 500 regular season starts, the veteran has seen a lot, but its likely the 35 year still has a few good seasons on the clock.

Johnson has played only about a quarter as many games and is one of the better gents in a backup roll in the NHL. In a starting role he’s untested.

The question is are the Coyotes unwilling to keep their commitment for the final two years of Smith’s contract, or was the newest Calgary Flame wanting out of town due to the uncertainty that seems to be as thick in the wind as the sand?

 

2:  Franchise or Franc-choice?

Nathan Beaulieu was talked up in two languages as the best thing to happen to Montreal’s blueline in a long time just a couple years ago. In the Montreal tradition, like McDonagh, Subban, Weber, and half a dozen others expected to be NHL contributors, he’s moved along, and again to a division rival. The Buffalo Sabres who just added their general manager, add a defensemen picked 17th for a third round pick. Is Beaulieu going to achieve what McDonagh or Subban have? Probably not, but Yannick Webber was let go for nothing by the Montreal Canadiens, and like his fellow recovering Hab P.K. Subban, he just ran to the Cup finals.

With just over 200 games played in the NHL, we’re starting to see who he really is. Was it not speaking French? A lack of faith in him from Julien, or just another Habs blunder.

1: Two Little is Not Enough

The Coyotes did make a move. They should have made more. With teams like the Matt Dumba, and Hampus Lindholm or even Codi Ceci potentially available, the most vulnerable team to losing anyone did themselves a great disservice by not making a second notable move to enhance the defense. Even if they decided not to keep Dumba or another player after a trade, its certain the value he holds would allow them to pick up another piece or two to help them move in the right direction.

The Stanley Cup Finals are over. The hockey season is over. And worse, the NHL Front Office and Pittsburgh Penguins have won.

A team that had numerous favorable calls made for them, and at least as many calls not made against them most notably the debacle of Sidney Crosby slamming P.K. Subban’s head into the ice. Not just for the non call, not just for the non suspension, not just for the racial overtones, not for completely ignoring the concussion protocol, but because it showed explicitly what everyone who has any ability to decipher an NHL game already knows: The front office care more about which market, and player, wins the Cup than it does about what is actually best for the game, the players, or the fans.

As if further proof were needed, the Conn-Smyth went to about the fourth or even fifth most influential player on the Penguins winning the Cup. Matt Murray was stellar behind a banged up defense. Geno Malkin was unarguably better, Jake Guentzal played in hall of fame territory. Brian Doumalin was quietly the best of the Penguins defense from their 83rd game of the season right until the end. Justin Schultz did a great deal to fill the Letang void. Then there was Crosby.

In a season when Crosby should rightly have been suspended for nearly removing the finger of Marc Methot, a playoff suspension, as a repeat offender after Crosby attempted to injure Subban would have taken him out at least two games. But using the marking plan that has been in place since 2005 is far, far more important than doing what is right.

 

The time is now. No one knows how this series will end. History and statistics are on the side of the Pittsburgh Penguins who are up two to nothing. If it gets to three nothing, the team with that lead wins almost all the time. But games aren’t decided by historical statistics, they are decided by the men on the ice.

If Pekka Rinne remembers not the last couple games, but the last couple months and plays the way he did against Chicago, and Anaheim, and Saint Louis, he’ll be a completely different player. If James Neal can recall that he’s capable of thirty and forty goal seasons, and focuses on the game he might, might just score a goal for the first time in seven games. Similarly Victor Arvidsson who ran the board in the regular season hasn’t scored since April, in the first series, against the Chicago Blackhawks. Whatever jitters he has need to die as thorough a death as the notion Nashville isn’t a hockey town.

Arvidsson, Neal, and Rinne aren’t alone on the ice and aren’t even the only problems. The number of penalties the team has taken needs to be addressed. While I’m all for physicality, and on ice leadership and will never complain about two willing combatants going after it, Subban is a huge part of the team’s success both offensively and defensively. He’s not the first guy to punch Malkin in the face, he won’t be the last, but even on a defense as stacked as Nashville’s Subban is not a player you can lose when your back is against the wall, you’re already down your best center and you’re in the fight of your life with no one stepping up.

This team is better than the part time effort they are putting in. They haven’t played a sixty minuted game since maybe game six in Anaheim, and they won’t be winning their last game of the season if they play 37 to 40 minutes a night until the series is over.

Who is Anders Bjork? One of the newest official members of the Bruins organization. As a college player he is probably a little more likely to start the season in the spoked-P than on Causeway. Even for a player who goes into the college post season there is not the density of games a WHL prospect or even a skater in the USHL would play. Because of that conditioning will be a question in everyone’s mind even if he hits training camp in September and destroys every facet of the physicals. The NHL regular season is twice as long as the most regular season games he’s ever played.

At 5 foot eleven and a hundred and eighty three pounds the Wisconsin born forward is about the same size as longtime Bruins center David Krejci. One of the many products of the United States National Development program. Internationally he’s collected a U18 Gold medal, and a U20 Bronze. The Bruins picked up the man with a very well filled out hockey pedigree at 146 in 2014. Only two players taken after him have played in the NHL to date.

What’s to like about him?

Hands and feet. He can skate, he’s got a more than respectable shot, and he passes well. He has also increased his output every single season to date.

What should you worry about?

I wanted about a dozen Notre Dame games over the last two years, and that is not a team that has a strongly structured style of play. The team was typified in my viewings with strong play by individuals. While Cassidy isn’t Julien, to play in Boston he’s going to have to adapt to the system pretty quickly.

What won’t you see?

Lots of penalties, he’s not a particularly physical player, and while he doesn’t initiate a lot of hitting or extras, he also doesn’t let it draw him into stupid retaliatory penalties.

Projection:

Middle six production. Somewhere between 18 and 26 goals a season, and from 55 to 70 points is a pretty reasonable expectation if he sticks in the NHL.