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.

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.

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 Warrior Ice Arena is a totally different place to watch the youngsters than the Ice Box in Wilmington.

My first impulse today was to wonder at the fitness level of the first group on the ice. Yes they were hamming it up for the cameras on the ice, but they were also clearly laboring. When guys like Bjork, Gabrielle, and Sherman look a bit slower than normal it i a pretty safe bet Whitesides and crew have been up to their tricks testing and building the fitness of the prospects.

Wiley Sherman continued to eat opposing players alive, in one on one drills they usually didn’t make it over the blueline. He looks to have an even higher percentage of lean mass this year, and he wasn’t exactly fluffy last time I saw him.

Ryan Donato is just polished. He is clearly one of the most talented players, not just one of the oldest.

Oskar Steen is clearly more physically mature than last year, and make four or five passes that drew notice.

Anders Bjork should be your favorite to take a roster spot in Boston this fall of all the players yet to play a professional game. Like Donato he’s fast, he’s agile, and he may have the best shot accuracy of all the forwards outside the NHL/AHL.

Daniel Bukac was their seventh round pick this year, I didn’t need to look up his stats to see him as a defensive minded defenseman. He didn’t seem out of his element playing against the older forwards.

Perhaps the most surprising guy was late invitee James Corcoran, the Walpole High goaltender. Smaller guy, but really, who cares? I liked his ability to hold the post while down, and still extend well forward and uses his stick. Snappy glove too.

Jack Becker might have been feeling the least wear from whatever was going on before practice. Only Senyshyn appeared faster in drills and rushes. Becker skated well, passed solidly.

During the scrimmage Jack Studnicka had a completely filthy, behind the back, through the defenders legs pass to Bjork pass that should rightly have sent everyone in the building to decontamination showers. (Bjork roofed it.)

A late add was Ori Abramson, a big defensive minded defenseman born in Ontario and attending University of Vermont. He’s a little older than most of the prospects but didn’t look out of place. Leans towards a close space and use stick type of defense.

Okay, playoffs are arguably better. But during the playoffs only half the teams in the NHL are involved at all, and only a few have any hope.

This is free agency. Everyone has hope of landing the big fish. Everyone has hope of being pushed over the top. And everyone desperately fears the big flop.

This year there are some mighty interesting names to go around. Joe Thornton still has an amazing set of hands and can pass a puck through three defenders, two officials and an airport scanner with his eyes closed. He’s also hockey-old, and on his way to hockey-elderly. But damn, those hands.

Unless one or more general managers blows a gasket over the next two or three weeks Jarome Iginla is likely going to do something he hasn’t done in more than a decade; try out. The Calgary Flames icon is on the backend of his playing journey, and looking for Lord Stanley. Maybe he’s a fit for Hossa’s spot in Chicago? Could he help provide some blue collar attitude to the New York Rangers? Maybe, like Jason Pominville he can go home again. Number 12 taking power plays with Monahan and Gaudreau might be just what the team needs. Adding his feisty nature to Matthew Tkachuk might be the secret ingredient in a very silver cup of soup.

Going a little bit younger Nail Yakopov is not yet 25, and already a UFA. It looks like a first round draft pick was wasted on him. But there has to be something salvageable about him, right? Maybe a tight-knit, disciplined, and demonstrably  hungry and successful team like the Nashville Predators or the Pittsburgh Penguins (who found room for Ryan Reaves) can rehab this once shiny, and still low mileage sport coupe.

Speaking of projects, Jared Cowen is the big, strong defensemen teams swear they’re looking for. The run on then at the draft is proof the desire is real. At just over the 200 games it takes to get defensemen acclimated to the NHL, he’s already played under several coaches. Maybe, just maybe the next coach and team catapult his development to a top four stalwart.

Jonathan Bernier is seemingly the best traveled goalie in the NHL of late. At this point it is hard to tell if everyone wants him, or if no one wants him for long. The veteran backstop carried just about half the load for a Ducks team that went to the Western conference finals. He is at present without a contract.

Karl Alzner is probably the most underrated player entering free agency. He’s a steady middle pairing defenseman who can come into a team, and allow other players to be slotted right where they need to be. He skates well, he’s got reasonable hands and he doesn’t take stupid penalties.  He’ll be almost completely ignored while his soon to be former team mate Kevin Shattenkirk signs a contract that is likely to become an anchor to some franchise for six or seven years. But hey, its free agency. Imagine if we add…  is the order of the day.

The Boston Bruins need to do something with their RFAs and the need to do it quickly. They failed to move a disgruntled and ill fitting Ryan Spooner either at the expansion draft, or the entry draft. They were however lucky enough that someone mistook Colin Miller for a viable option on defense.

In order:

  1. David Pastrnak
  2. Zane McIntyre
  3. Noel Accari
  4. Malcolm Subban
  5. Colton Hargrove

And after that it’s entirely irrelevant who or what order they sign in. Even there, Pasternak far outweighs all the rest. Even saying that, I think both goaltenders are still viable. Noel Accari is in any reasonable evaluator’s mind a solid bottom six forward. Colton Hargrove can do everything Tim Schaller did, and play both wings. He’s also likely to be a bit healthier

With just a couple days left until free agency starts they have 36 of 50 total contracts, and as many as five roster spots available for forwards, plus a seventh defenseman. Morrow might languish in the pressbox for another year after a very strong showing in the playoffs. He too is unsigned.

The Bruins need to clear some dead weight from the roster. Push Hayes and Spooner overboard. Get the younger, hungrier players who will drive harder to be better players every shift into the lineup. Maybe you have to sacrifice Kevan Miller in a trade for O’Gara and Grzelcyk to make a run at the NHL without looking over their shoulders. What they can’t continue to do is let good players stagnate while sewing guys who cut corners and have slapdash effort to the roster.

We are days from free agency when the NHL feeding frenzy will erupt and every GM with a roster spot and a dollar will turn into a shark in well chummed water. That means the time to solve their roster and cap problems.

As things stand they are almost one and a half million over the salary cap. That includes just six defenseman. It also includes thirteen forwards including the thirty-eight year old Marian Hossa who is signed for this and three additional seasons at nearly six million a year. Think about that. Even if he comes back next year having recovered from his skin ailment. He’ll be 39 years old, having suffered a season erasing illness, and still pretty expensive.

If they put Hossa on LTIR they’ll have $3,829,372 in cap room. They’ll need to replace him on the roster, and add a defenseman. With two guys on their entry level contracts you’re looking at about two million, minimum. And that leaves very, very little room for the inevitable injuries. Given the way the mumps have spread among Canadian players in the last half decade, it likely means you’ll need space on the roster and under the cap for a few days for two to three players at a time.

They are almost certainly going to need to trade someone. Hossa has a full no movement, and won’t be attractive without including some kind of overpayment going the other way. The Buffalo Sabres could certainly use someone who is part of the fairly expensive core of the Blackhawks, unfortunately there are six, count them six players including Hossa who have full no movement clauses. Marcus Kruger adds to the mess with a seven team no trade list.

To complicate things further, they have RFA’s Tomas Jurco, Anton Forsberg, and Dennis Rasmussen they need to do something with. Stan Bowman likely can’t keep Johnny Oduya, Andrew Desjardins, and Brian Campbell. There’s a lot to do. I’ve said before there are no cap problems, only management problems. There may be a path forward from here, but unless Vegas, Carolina, and Florida start earning enough to push the cap up about fifteen million in the next two years, they have long term problems of the sort that lead to complete turnover in front offices.

This years NHL entry draft was described as lacking the ultra high-end talent that we saw in the two previous drafts which produced Eichel, Matthews, and McDavid. A more in depth look at the scouting reports will show you you’re looking a a higher percentage of middle six forwards, 3-5 defensemen, and strong number 2 and journeyman goalies than in more exciting years.

In some ways this is the perfect year for an expansion team to come into the league. In drafts where you have two or three elite players at the top like the Ovechkin/Malkin draft, you may not have as much depth, or as much consistency further down the rankings. The first round this year saw the mild surprise of Nico Hischier going first, despite nearly universal projections for him to go one slot behind Nolan Patrick of that Patrick family.

I suspected that given all the turmoil in New Jersey over the last two or three years health would be a priority. I was not surprised. Gabe Vilardi was expected to go in the top five and slid nearly out of the first round. Owen Tippett is headed to Florida where I predict a sunburn or two, and not just on the back of the neck of opposing goaltenders.

Don’t anyone sleep on the trade of Brayden Schenn from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Jori Lehtera and Morgan Frost. Lehtera was exposed by the Blues and one has to wonder if there were hard feelings before or after he learned he was not that highly valued by the Blues. This trade has the potential to workout for both sides, but it doesn’t feel like an even trade. The Blues also traded Reaves for Sundqvist, and it so both they and the Penguins will have a very different feel next year. Assuming Reaves ends up playing.

While the trades during the first round were interesting, the Rangers and Coyotes have just about transformed their rosters.

 

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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