It’s not a secret that the 2003 NHL entry draft is one of the strongest drafts in history. It is arguably the strongest. The first skater taken is just a fistful of games from his 1000th NHL game, the guy taken 205th is on track to play his 800th NHL game before the season expires. I’ve made the argument you could put together a team from this draft that would beat a team from any other draft class.

Goaltending is the only position you can say this class might have as a weakness. The goalies taken in 2003 to have played serious time in the NHL are; Brian Elliot, Jaroslav Halak, Corey Crawford, Jimmy Howard, and Marc-Andre Fluery. All of these guys have played at minimum in the high three hundreds for games, and all have a sv% for their career in the teens. While I think Halak is capable of tremendous play, Crawford and Fluery are the guys I’d pick.

Defense is where it starts to get tough. Running quickly through the names draft, I came up with twelve defensemen who have played some really good hockey in their careers. My top four should surprise no one: Shea Weber and Ryan Suter as the number one pair. Next over the boards would be Dustin Byfugelin and Dion Phanuef. The physicality, offensive, and defensive ability of this foursome makes it almost irrelevant who the other guys are.

Matt Carle, Tobias Enstrom, and Marc Methot could all be expected to play the 12-14 minutes left over from the top top pairings admirably, but didn’t make the cut. Mark Stuart who’s very good in his own zone if lacking offensively, is clearly, if sadly starting to break down after roughly a bajillion hits and blocked shots. Looking at the third pairing, or arguably the 1C pair, you have to ask what the players have the other guys don’t. One is a gimmie, and that’s championships which means Brent Seabrook. The other is a powerplay specialist, which brings us to Brent Burns. Seventh defenseman is a little tougher, but I can comfortably go with Kevin Klein and sleep well.

I honestly won’t even try and number the top three lines, there’s just no point. You have Jeff Carter, Patrice Bergeron, Eric Staal, Joe Pavelski who it can be argued could all be your number one center, and all of them are worth talking about. Ryan Kesler, David Backes, and Nate Thompson are three more guys you have to look at for penalty killing, three zone play. and unadulterated ability to get under people’s skin. There’s also some guy named Ryan Getzlaf, and that’s just guys who have played a largely top nine position in their careers. Brian Boyle is worth considering for a pure checking line or penalty kill line.

The first gimmie on right wing is Corey Perry, even if he is consistently erratic in his scoring. Dustin Brown would have to be ironed out in practice as to which side he’d play, but thanks to the versatility of the centers, one or more of them will slide to a wing to fill a void.

The left side gives us Zach Parise and Matt Moulson

L to R the lines could look something like this:

Moulson – Carter – Pavelski

Parise – Bergeron – Perry

Brown – Getzlaf – Kesler

Boyle – Staal – Eriksson

Extra: Backes

In a best of seven series, I can’t see any draft class matching this one.

I’ll open the dance by stating the obvious; unless Krejci or Bergeron is being moved out, Duchene is entirely the wrong guy for the Boston Bruins. Not for anything that he is, but for what he isn’t; and that’s better (when healthy) than Krejci or Bergeron. He probably will put up more points on a playoff quality team, but he’s not the topic of discussion.

I like Gabriel Landeskog. He’s a very solid player. He’s physical, he’s willing, he plays in all three zones at at least a passable level. He’s been pretty healthy over the course of his NHL. He’s put together three straight seasons with more than 20 goals. He’s even the captain, named so at a ludicrously young age.

Why is he probably not the best available winger? That’s easy, I can name one who has very similar physical attributes, is faster, meaner, and has something to prove.

Here’s the tale of the tape:

Career goals per game: Landeskog: 0.278 vs Winger X: 0.312

Hits per game (2011-present): Landeskog: 2.2 Winger X: 2.6

Goals by strength: Landeskog: 80 ES, 27PP 4SH 16 1stG 4OTG 16GWG Winger X: 94ES 16PPG 4SHG 22 1stG 3 OTG 19 GWG

Shot attempt %: Landeskog 49.71% vs Winger X 50.64%

Goals per 60: Landeskog 0.89 Winger X 1.05

Minor penalties drawn per 60: Landeskog 0.94 vs Winger X 1.21

SHTOI/G: Landeskog and Winger X 1:04

TOI/GP: Landeskog 18:47 vs Winger X 19:31

Cap hit next year: Winger X is $321,429 less expensive.

Why did I pick the stats I did? Partly because the biggest need from a winger would be goals, followed by physicality. And because any player that is going to survive in Boston will need to be able to contribute in all three zones.  In some people’s minds Winger X has a few marks against him. On his first team, in a city not very friendly to the melanin blessed, he had a reputation for trouble making which may have spilled over to his current team. On balance, none of the accusations in either city have ever been proved in court. And of course of the two, Winger X is the one who put together a 30 goal season at all, much less while under 21.

Evander Kane

Earlier today Matt Kalman tweeted a quote of Don Sweeney from his press conference after having fired the all time winningest coach in the history of one of the oldest franchisees in the NHL.

There’s numerous possible translations of this nearly coherent, almost cogent sting of words.

Option A:

Claude Julien wasn’t my guy. I decided to put someone I’m more likely to sit down and have a beer with in place.

Option B:

I went to Harvard. What’s happening now is irrelevant because I’m smart enough to see the path forward and because I went to Harvard, I’m completely capable of dragging this franchise in the direction I want it to go regardless of what everyone else who didn’t go to Harvard thinks.

Option C:

Julien refused to give into my wanting to help him make every decision from what color socks to where in the morning to who gets played each night and each shift, and the food on the plane. Cassidy on the other hand proved he’s a good lapdog when he was in Providence and I promised him then if he kept licking my hand just right I’d get him back to the NHL even though his previous stint in the big times was about Steve Kasper worthy.

Option D:

If Julien was half as good as he thinks he is, he’d be able to turn any collection of players into an NHL playoff appearance. Clearly his reputation is over blow, and since I played far more time in the NHL than he ever did, I know the game better than him and he’s not using the high quality assets I’ve assigned him to their fullest.

Less than twenty four hours after Sweeney spoke during game one of the Beanpot about committing to building the team the right way the dynamic duo announce they have relieved Claude Julien of his coaching duties.
In letting go of the Jack Adams award winner they flush the longest tenured coach in the NHL. By stropping the blade on Julien’s throat Sweeney and Neely clearly hope the cache they haven carried as players will allow them to escape blame (and unemployment) for a roster that is filled with underperformance and just plain bad hockey players.

Shuffling along at the front of the pack of underachieving players is David Krejci, who is slightly under last year’s points pace but has had a 16 point swing in goal differential. Tikka Rask who had an aggressively mediocre save percentage of. 915 last year has ebbed still lower to. 911 this year. Matt Beleskey has dried up and isn’t even a fraction of the barely league average player he was when he was signed. Jimmy Hayes is on pace to put up roughly one quarter of last year’s numbers.

Somehow the dynamic duo thought it would be a great idea to bring in Riley Nash a player of such stupendous and prodigious talent he had trouble staying on the roster of the woe begotten Carolina Hurricanes. He’s been such a stunning success his goal differential is worse than his career average. John Michael-Liles probably the least effective veteran to grace this team’s blue line since Joe Corvo. Joe Corvo. Joe Corvo. Instead of reupping with the adequate and reliable Gustavsson, they brought back injury plagued Khudobin. 

On top of the fiasco that is there off season roster moves they have likely alienated top players still on the roster. Patrice Bergeron came out in defense of his now former coach, as did Marchand, as did Chara. That’s the physical and emotional catalyst of this team.

Don Sweeney and Cam Neely not only made a foolish move to cover their own assets, it was likely unneeded as I know of no one with vision acute enough to cause then embarrassment.

Less than twenty four hours after Sweeney spoke during game one of the Beanpot about committing to building the team the right way the dynamic duo announce they have relieved Claude Julien of his coaching duties.
In letting go of the Jack Adams award winner they flush the longest tenured coach in the NHL. By stropping the blade on Julien’s throat Sweeney and Neely clearly hope the cache they haven carried as players will allow them to escape blame (and unemployment) for a roster that is filled with underperformance and just plain bad hockey players.

Shuffling along at the front of the pack of underachieving players is David Krejci, who is slightly under last year’s points pace but has had a 16 point swing in goal differential. Tikka Rask who had an aggressively mediocre save percentage of. 915 last year has ebbed still lower to. 911 this year. Matt Beleskey has dried up and isn’t even a fraction of the barely league average player he was when he was signed. Jimmy Hayes is on pace to put up roughly one quarter of last year’s numbers.

Somehow the dynamic duo thought it would be a great idea to bring in Riley Nash a player of such stupendous and prodigious talent he had trouble staying on the roster of the woe begotten Carolina Hurricanes. He’s been such a stunning success his goal differential is worse than his career average. John Michael-Liles probably the least effective veteran to grace this team’s blue line since Joe Corvo. Joe Corvo. Joe Corvo. Instead of reupping with the adequate and reliable Gustavsson, they brought back injury plagued Khudobin. 

On top of the fiasco that is there off season roster moves they have likely alienated top players still on the roster. Patrice Bergeron came out in defense of his now former coach, as did Marchand, as did Chara. That’s the physical and emotional catalyst of this team.

Don Sweeney and Cam Neely not only made a foolish move to cover their own assets, it was likely unneeded as I know of no one with vision acute enough to cause then embarrassment.

No team is perfect, even the cup winners. Some have more faults than highlights, and those teams end up drafting very high. That’s not quite the case with this year’s Boston Bruins. But they do have faults. Some of them are pretty obvious, some need a closer examination to uncover.

The Obvious Symptoms of their faults:

  • They have nothing like a viable backup.
  • They have issues scoring.
  • A powerplay that is wildly inconsistent
  • Incomplete top six
  • Poor offense from the backend
  • Lack of speed or physicality in some top 9 players

That’s the six problems. Some of this is covered up by some extraordinary strengths. The top six is graced by Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak who are speedy, and near the top of the NHL in scoring. That helps, but Patrice Bergeron is behind even the pace he set in the lockout shortened season, and is still thirteen points short of his 2008-09 season which was frankly dreadful by his standards.

David Krejci is scoring at a lower than expected, if still acceptable pace, but for just the second time in his nine full seasons on the Boston roster he’s got a negative goal differential. Part of this is his linemates, who have been varied and frequently very young. Part of it is that he’s never played the game at even average speed for the NHL, and he’s now on the down-slope to his 31st birthday. I’ve yet to see an NHL player who was faster at 31 than 21.

The defense is masked by Torey Krug who is 10th in scoring by defensemen. The next highest scoring defensemen are rookie Brandon Carlo who is currently at 89, and Zdeno Chara tied with the youngest player on the roster. The other guys are well over the event horizon. As a whole, they are quite good at limiting shot attempts, only two teams have allowed few shot attempts than the Bruins, and they are the Blues and Kings in the wretched western conference. They have also generated the most shot attempts meaning they are doing a reasonable job getting the puck out of their  own zone and keeping it in the offensive zone.

But their inability to score is undeniable. Only seven teams have scored less goals per game than the Bruins 2.52 per game.

  • The Buffalo Sabres
  • Detroit Red Wings
  • Florida Panthers
  • Vancouver Canucks
  • New Jersey Devils
  • Arizona Coyotes
  • Colorado Avalanche

You can’t win games that way, you just can’t. And as Tuukka Rasks non-contact groin injury proves, he’s not physically capable of playing so much of an NHL schedule. Despite the low number of shots per game, they all add up, and so does the time in the crease. Neither youngster has seized the backup role, and Khudobin is not the guy who was in Boston a couple years back.

So what do we know about the Bruins?

  1. They have an efficient, orderly defense that has performed its primary duty well, even though only one player (Krug) has played in all games.
  2. They aren’t getting scoring from anywhere not named Marchand or Pastrnak in enough weight to push them from “hurting themselves by making the playoffs” to “let’s show the youngsters the second round”.
  3. The coach must be being listened to or the defense would be worse and with the current offense it would have them well outside the playoffs.
  4. Backup goaltending is spotty at least this year with McIntyre still learning the progame, Subban rediscovering his balance in net after his throat injury, and Khudobin likely playing through an injury.
  5. They can probably spare a defenseman or two to help secure a good forward because scoring wise after Krug the difference between next and worst is minimal, and as a whole they play well, even through injuries and illnesses.

What are the biggest issues:

1: They need an offensive contributor in the top 6 who is a legitimate top line winger.

2: They need to find a way to compensate for the lack of speed of Krejci and Backes (or move on from one or both).

3: They need to get the powerplay settled so that it continues (as it has the last 5-10 games) to look like a top unit, and keep everyone’s head on straight.

3a: They need to get a backup who is going to get the team to play for him (and themselves) and who will in turn put in a respectable performance.

4: They need to remove guys from the roster/system who can either net a return to solve #1 or 3a (Budaj might be available soon).

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.