The seeming inevitability of Ben Bishop being evicted from Tampa Bay is about as inevitable as Joe Sackic ending up reassigned to a new duties for the Colorado Avalanche sometime soon.

At age thirty, Ben Bishop has at least five to seven years of NHL quality goaltending left in him. The Tampa Bay Lightning have just about zero chance of keeping him. He could be lost to the expansion draft, he’ll likely be lost to free agency. Now is the time to move him. So off he should go.

The list of teams that have cap space and need for a top shelf goaltender isn’t very long. While the Colorado Avalanche have an ignoble goals against average, they have Varlemov for two more years at almost six million, and more importantly its apparent that the biggest issue with the team is the their defense is no more than theoretical, especially with Johnson shelved. Yes, this would be a homecoming for the Denver native, but it would require a good amount of movement. It is hard to imagine the Coyotes getting out from under Mike Smith’s contract, assuming they want too. Both being western conference teams, it would have to ease the mind of Steve Yzerman to hip check the departing goalie out of the path to the eastern conference.

But the best, most logical teams for him to land on are not in the west. They are in the east. One of them is the New York Islanders. This is a team that has had a very up and down relationship with the guys in the crease. The most recent exemplar of this is Jaroslav Halak; in the 2014-15 playoffs he put up a staggering .926 sv% in a seven game series the team lost against the scoring machine known as the Washington Capitals, and he faced more than 30 shots, with a high of 39 (a win), in four of those games. This year he was waived.  Rick Dipietro; need I say more?

But for all the Islanders would dearly love to stop thinking about who their number one goaltender is for the next five to eight years, they don’t have quite as many assets as one of their divisional rivals.

No one is surprised that the Philadelphia Flyers need a goaltender. What might surprise people is that not only do the Flyers have every single one of their own draft picks over the next three drafts, they have three additional picks for the 2017 draft that once belonged to the Boston Bruins, New York Islanders, and New Jersey Devils. What they also have is a wide open crease as of right now. Both Steve Mason, and Michal Neuvirth will be UFA’s as of July 1. The other key factor that would make Bishop king in the City of Brotherly love is that the Flyers have a strong core with only one of those central players unsigned, and given that Shayne Gostisbehere is just wrapping up his entry level contract, big disruptions aren’t in-store unless there is a change in the front office.

Bishop landing in Philadelphia would give them a goalie who has two very strong playoff tours in his back pocket, lots of years ahead of him, and who is well respected and young enough to play at least as long as current captain Claude Giroux, and maybe a bit longer. If I were Hextall I wouldn’t wait any longer than three games after Bishops return, not just to steal a march on the competition, but because the Flyers could use the adrenaline shot of having tier one goalie added to the mix.

I’ll be the first to say I was surprised to see him make the opening night lineup. I’m even more surprised he’s still getting top pairing ice time. With all the young defensemen who were theoretically available earlier in the year; Trouba heading the list, one has to wonder if the original plan wasn’t to groom him, fluff his numbers and get him gone for a true heir to Zdeno Chara. If that is the plan, it has to be working pretty well. He’s not putting up gaudy numbers, except in ice time and goal differential.

It doesn’t matter if you think no one ever had a thought of moving Brandon Carlo or not. It doesn’t even matter if that is still the plan. There are two enormous reasons to ask the question. The first is Dougie Hamilton. He went from playing a lot of time with Zdeno Chara, to playing third pairing time for the Calgary Flames. That’s a huge swing, and you can’t ignore what that says.

The other half of this inquiry is the Boston Bruins captain himself. The big guy has had a notable resurgence. It isn’t just that he’s skating better than he has in two seasons. He’s clearly handling the puck better. When you look at him, he looks healthier. At a guess, he spent a good deal of last season in pain, and he looks to have eased or compensated for whatever caused that.

If Brandon Carlo is legitimately a top paring defenseman, you have to ask a couple important questions:

  • Do we have a compatible partner somewhere in the lineup if Chara moves on or retires after this contract?
  • Can he play about this well with a lesser partner?
  • Would the team be better with a more offensive player in his ice time?

The first one is probably unanswerable without experimentation, maybe Grzelcyk playing as either his partner or in his place provides more offense, and likely more speed. Grzelcyk is having a nice rookie professional season thus far in Providence. A bit further back in the pipleline are Jeremy Lauzon and  Jakub Zboril who are both enjoying solid seasons in the Q this year. Closer to home are Torey Krug who plays a good number of minutes and would bring more playmaking ability than many. Joe Morrow who entered the NHL as a very well regarded well rounded defenseman. He might just be a good long term match for Carlo, if he develop some consistency. Having the two of them as a pairing for the next decade the way the Blackhawks have had Seabrook and Keith would be a boon to the franchise. Colin Miller

If you don’t think he’s legitimately a top pairing defenseman, you have to get rid of him quickly and for as much as possible. If someone is willing to take him and Spooner for a Trouba or Vlasic, I think you take it. If a Pietrangelo or Hedman is available, there isn’t much short of Bergeron and Marchand that I wouldn’t add to the package.

I don’t think we yet know if he is a legitimate top pairing defenseman or ever will be.

Time for the second round of exams on the Boston Bruins.  The biggest concern everyone had this off season was defense, so I’m going to start there. The brilliant minds behind Hockey Reference lay out the stat I look at first for defensemen like so:

  1. Rob O’Gara 1.00
  2. Brandon Carlo 94.2
  3. Zdeno Chara 93.9
  4. Torey Krug 90.7
  5. Joe Morrow 88.9
  6. John-Michael Liles 88.8
  7. Colin Miller 88.8
  8. Adam McQuaid 87.9

Those are the eight defensemen who have played for the Boston Bruins this season. Rob O’Gara playe just three games at the beginning of the season totally just 48:02 in ice time. What’s most interesting about O’Gara besides him not being in Boston for a couple weeks now is that he played over six minutes shorthanded in those games, when their penalty kill wasn’t great and is still unblemished on the year. Joe Morrow is likewise dealing with a small sample size, and no shorthanded or powerplay time. But both of them are still better than the pairing of Liles and Miller. McQuaid has come back from another injury this season, and was still warming to the task when other players were nearing mid season form. I suspect his number will trend upwards. Also of note is that of the regulars, only Chara, Carlo, and McQuaid are starting more than 50% of their shifts in the defensive zone

Of note among the forwards are Brad Marchand who despite leveling off is still a point per game player this year, David Patrnak who has 1/4th of the Bruins goals this season. Dominic Moore is a head scratcher to sit alone at third in goals scored by the Boston Bruins, and if they are going to maintain a top three slot in the division, that needs to change. Krejci, Backes, Spooner, Bergeron, Beleskey all need to do more, and if we’re going to go off pure salary so does Hayes.

In goal we’ve been treated to a surprisingly good year in the games Rask has made it into, and shown the rest of the maked men are not quite top shelf goalies right now.

What is probably most remarkable about this team right now today is the coaching. Claude Julien not only has almost a completely new coaching cadre, he’s making it work and work well. At sixteen games into the season I’m not over my suspicion this is not a playoff team, but if they make it there someone needs to be at worst shortlisted for a Jack Adams, which he’s got a good shot at as long as the Columbus Blue Jackets don’t also make the post season.

We are 10% into the season, and it is time to take a look at what is going on with the organization.

Heading into today’s games the Boston Bruins are:

  • 5th in the division
  • 3rd in the East’s wild card race
  • 16th in goals for
  • 15th in goals against
  • -5 in goal differential
  • 30th on the pp with 7.1% success rate
  • 10th on the PK with an 85.3% success rate
  • tied for 5th in faceoff win percentage at 51.7%st

They have used four different goalies, and 22 skaters.

By salary the top forwards without goals are:

  • David Krejci $7.25m
  • Matt Beleskey $3.8m
  • Jimmy Hayes $2.3m

The three together are a minus 18, $13.35m in salary, 56 shifts of hockey a game, and just 33 shots on goal through eight games each.

So what do we know now that we didn’t know September first? We know Brandon Carlo has shown himself to be a pretty solid NHL defenseman in this small sample. We know that Jimmy Hayes and Matt Beleskey on the same line still doesn’t work. We know that despite the extraordinary (for him) trust Julien has put in Carlo and earlier in O’Gara, he’s still not ready to shelve Liles for Morrow or one of the other youngsters in need of ice time. To date, Liles appears to have been the most culpable defenseman on the ice for a greater number of goals against than any other blueliner. Honestly, this is starting to remind me of Hnidy’s second tour through Boston. If Morrow, O’Gara, or Grzelcyk, can’t handle the time in what is clearly a bridge year, they’ll probably never handle it.

Liles plays third pairing minutes, and has averaged less time than Colin Miller this year. His powerplay time could easily be handed out among Krug, Chara, Morrow, or O’Gara who are all left handed shots as well. And as effective as the current powerplay isn’t you can make the argument putting a goalie out their in his place would be more effective. The most dispensable part of his game is his PK time, where the team is doing above average if not well, and even there in the time he was in Boston rookie Rob O’Gara averaged more shorthanded time. I don’t know how much say Julien has over who is on his roster and in the locker room, but for the long term good of the team developing a quality defenseman over allowing an aging veteran to playout their contract should win every time. That’s a call management should make, and should make firmly.

In summary:

Problems on defense that aren’t quite as bad as I feared coming into the season. Problems at forward that are worse than I feared, and a lack of health and experience in net. Not a compelling total, but this is just 10% of the season.

First round pick, younger brother of You-Know-Who, and young goalie of renown Malcolm Subban has now made two NHL starts, and finished neither game. The question is why?

Last year in his first NHL appearance Malcolm Subban was tossed to the blue-note clad wolves. More, he was thrown deep into their den, making his NHL debut against a strong offensive team, with the last change.

Against the Minnesota Wild, he did have the advantage of having the last change, and some practice time to acclimatize to the boards and lighting. But he’s not had a good season. He’s played in four games, given up twelve goals, lost three appearances, and no decision in the other. His stats? Well in the mid 80s they might have been acceptable, for a backup.

But why take someone who is having an iffy season, and put them in a position to fail? Even though Julien was elsewhere, both Cam, Don, and Charlie were in town as the Bruins ruined young goalie after young goalie. I can’t say I think this is a deliberate attempt to get Subban to retire, demand a trade, or play so poorly they simply don’t offer him a contract this summer. That would be a waste of millions of dollars in salary, scouting, hundreds of hours of play that could have gone to another prospect, not to mention a high draft pick that could have been used smarter.

So why, oh why was Malcolm Subban put into a game where there was only a faint hope, based on his play thus far this season, and his recent injury he’d even look ok? It just doesn’t make sense. There was a goalie who is playing better available. He was sitting on the bench for over thirty minutes of game time. He didn’t even enter the night slightly better, the numbers were as divergent as you can get especially playing for the same team.

Somebody tell me what’s going on? Is there some super prospect this year no one is talking about and the front office just wants to ensure they are well established in the lottery? Was Julien to blame? Does he just dislike redheads? Maybe McIntyre was late for practice and made the roster simply out of necessity?

providenebruinstats102516Some of these possibilities are a lot less likely than others, but what matters is how badly someone fanned on the puck. What matter is, will misuse of players continue?
 

The first three days of the NHL season are in the books and while I’m not prepared to hand out any major awards or declare the Stanley Cup a given to anyone, there’s been some fun stuff to watch.

The Los Angeles Kings are so thin at forward that even when Marion Gaborik gets back on the ice it is still quite likely that Dwight King and Trevor Lewis will see top six minutes. Good guys, honest players they are, the core of an offense they should not be.

Did someone hide Jonathan Toews’ prescription strength discipline? He’s had a couple iffy penalties, and fight just two games into the season. I’m not sure anyone knows what’s going on here, but this looks more like the rattled guy Seabrook felt the need to comfort in the penalty box back in 2013 than ice cold muscle and sinew of the franchise people depend on.

A Patrice Bergeron deficient Boston Bruins squad is nothing the Causeway faithful have had cause to look forward to int he last twelve seasons, but in their first game of the season, fans were exposed to just that. The play wasn’t just iffy in the first half of the game, it looked like a scramble of eight year olds in their own end. They did right the ship and win, but only because of the extraordinary efforts of Marchand, Backes, Pastrnak. A quick look will tell you six forwards were held to one shot or less, including David Krejci the highest paid player on the team.

Auston Matthews put on a very memorable show, there are a couple things worth keeping in mind. First, the only notable defensive defenseman on the Senators is Phanuef, and he was only on the ice for one goal against. And two, a lot of the players who have had very memorable debuts  have gone on to be not very much. Matthews has talent, drive, and passable size, but no one knows what the future will bring.

It’s clearly October, Edmonton is at the top of the standings, where they will likely stay for two or even three more games.

Pay no attention to the rumors that Joe Thornton’s beard has acquired it’s own agent, and is looking to be traded.

The NHL schedulers have conspired to keep the Vancouver Canucks out of the loss column for as long as possible, on this the fourth day of the season they will play their first game.

The Arizona Coyotes who are a team to watch this season have an exciting mix of young stars up front, and what may be the most under rated top four on their blueline in the NHL.

Even knowing that he’s spent the bulk of his career in markets with less assertive media than places like Toronto, Boston, New York or Chicogo, I don’t know how James Neal escapes a well earned reputation for being one of the dirtiest players in the NHL. Head shots, slew foots, and more are a routine part of his game. Sure players like Shaw and Marchand are annoying, but they are looking to keep people off their game not off the roster.

The announcement has been made and it has done no more than tell us what we already knew; The Bruins brass have further messed up the blueline. Don Sweeney, Cam Neely, and Charlie Jacobs failed to address a serious concern at the time Kevan Miller was resigned, and for months on both sides of that curious moment.

While no one can fault the heart, work ethic, commitment to the team, or pure bloody minded perseverance of Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller. You just can’t do that. We’ve seen both of them time, and time again come back from injuries earned putting themselves on the line for team and logo. You can’t question them for that, you just can’t do that.

What you can question is the need to keep both of them. They are just about the same guy. They are both physical, fit, imposing when they need to be, defensive first and second and a great example of “toughing it out” for the locker room. But on twenty NHL teams either of them is a bottom pairing guy, and any team that has both of them playing semi-regularly isn’t a playoff team. You can’t have two guys who will never top 8 goals and 30 points. You just can’t do that.

Today they took one of the most dynamic scorers in the AHL last year and threw him away. Seth Griffith is a smooth skater, a slick passer, and a bonafide goal scorer. They put him on waivers. You just can’t do that. You just can’t excuse that. They have been weak at right wing since the departure of Phil Kessel, they had one who two preseasons ago showed great chemistry with dynamic duo Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. They not only flushed talent, they flushed chemistry. You just can’t do that. Seriously, Reilly Smith has likely been the best fit at right wing for the team since Kessel left.

Over the summer, they look oodles of talent on defense get away. When goaltending and defense are what kept you out of the NHL playoffs; you just can’t do that. Tukka Rask isn’t going to get enough better to carry this team into the third week of April. David Backes is more a Boston Bruin before his first game in the jersey than hundreds of jamokes and jobbers who have wandered down Causeway and been forgotten by everyone except the people they got fired. I don’t think anyone can even complain about the contract except for that fact that they could have used that money and cap space to acquire an upgrade or two in their greatest weakness.

I respect the hell out of the player Don Sweeney was. He was hard working, he used his body and brain to the best of his ability to play a long time for a guy with a limited offensive toolkit, and a lack of championship pedigree. He was a great guy to watch play. But I’m not sure he is the right man in the right job now.

There are a lot of people who should be happy in the wake of the latest “best on best” tourney. The players, coaches, and fans of  Canada shouldn’t lead any well drawn list, especially as they were outplayed for both final games.

The Columbus Blue Jackets should be very happy to see Bobrovsky healthy and looking to be near his peak.

The New York Islanders should be thrilled to get Seidenberg at a good rate, who even if he never plays a shift will be a steadying impact in a locker room that saw a lot of turnover.

The Boston Bruins, most obviously for the performances of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, but also for their captain Zdeno Chara who while he didn’t look ten years younger, was still skating, passing, and shooting better than the first three months of last season. If that translates to just three additional wins over that same time they can make the post season.

Fans, coaches, players, and management of the Minnesota Wild, Colorado Avalanche, and Edmonton Oilers who saw their players; Nino Niederreiter, Tobias Rieder, and Leon Draisaitl go through a complete playoff like run with multiple Stanley Cup champion team mates like Anze Kopitar, Marian Hossa, Zdeno Chara and more and see how they prepare before a game and compose themselves through the good and the bad in game.

The Toronto Maple Leafs, because Milan Michalek had himself a great tournament turning in a point per game over the three games. If the young players are going to make the leap into the playoffs and winning once they get there they need veterans who know how its done.

It’s going to be very, very interesting to see how the various players respond to their World Cup performance. The American players will hopefully return to the ice upset, focused, and maybe a little bit ticked off. I don’t think we’ve ever seen a vexed Patrick Kane. Last season saw him rack up 46 goals if he comes in a bit hot under the collar can number 88 hit sixty goals? Can Dustin Byfugelin and hit 30 goals or turn himself into the juggernaut defensively he is offensively? Can newly minted captain Blake Wheeler pilot the Jets back to the post season?

What about those Finns? Teuvo Teravainen has had a double header of dejection, first he was exiled from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Carolina Blackhawks, and then they washout of the Cup. The Canes finished ten points out of the playoffs last year, and it can be argued the Red Wings and Flyers aren’t as good as they were last year, is Teravainen enough to raise the Carolina Hurricanes back to a real threat?

With the number of Minnesota Wild players at the World Cup, why aren’t they better?