The Boston Bruins have cut almost another dozen players from the roster.

Here’s the breakdown.

  1. Bracken Kearns was released from his PTO. He never looked great, but was shifty in traffic.
  2. Chris Casto, as a defenseman he was a long show, especially with high draft picks ahead of him.
  3. Jared Knight, ill luck in previous years made this his best camp, and he honestly looked good enough to make some NHL teams.
  4. Matt Lindblad, with three of the four left wing spots locked down and the fourth probable, he never had a good shot at making the team.
  5. Joe Morrow I like what I see, but the blueline is very, very deep.
  6. Seth Griffith, possibly the most surprising cut from camp. He looked great with Bergeron and Marchand, really nice hands.
  7. Brian Ferlin, good wide body. Not surprised he was cut, will be less surprised when he’s called up at some point in the future.
  8. Alex Fallstrom, didn’t show me much at camp.
  9. Tyler Randell, has to clear waivers, but not likely to be picked up.
  10. Ben Sexton, didn’t distinguish himself.
  11. Zach Trotman, again a victim of depth, and possibly lack of hope.

There are players on this list who are better than Gagne or Leino, I’m pretty amazed that both are still in camp, particularly Leino.

Since it doesn’t appear that Martin Brodeur is going to fade off into the sunset and enjoy the numerous accolades he so richly deserves just yet, the question becomes where can he go play?

We’ll start with some basic assumptions:

  1. He wants to play or a team who is going to win at least half their games as is.
  2. He wants to play for a team who might not have a legitimate number one goaltender.
  3. He wants to be penciled in for for 25-30 starts minimum to start the season.
  4. He wants to hit 700 wins, this year.
  5. A defensive system that favors goaltending is the ideal landing spot.

Those five points eliminate a lot of teams. Towards the top of the heap the Kings, Rangers, Bruins, and towards the bottom the Hurricanes, Panthers, Flames, Oilers and not a few more.

The one place where there is both a need and a fit is the Saint Louis Blues. Brian Elliott has done well splitting starts. Jake Allen has one strong AHL season under his belt. Neither has ever proven themselves to be the goaltender that can go out and play fifty five or sixty games and come out with a winning record and strong individual statistics.

If you look above ice level the need grows even more pronounced. General Manager Doug Armstrong and Head Coach Ken Hitchcock have been in place since 2010 and 2011 respectively, and have only made it out of the first round once, that was in the first year. That is not the upward trajectory that keeps people managers and coaches employed in the NHL. Two out of the three years of Hitchcocks tenure as coach they have finished in the bottom half of the playoff teams in goals against. In his career Brian Elliott has a playoff save percentage of .898 and a GAA of 2.55 in 18 games.

Martin Brodeur has almost as many playoff games played as Elliott does regular season games, and stands up wit a career .919 sv% and 2.02 GAA, his last playoff appearance was the New Jersey Devils run to Stanley Cup Finals 24 games played .917sv%.

This is a textbook case of when to bring in a ringer to make a deep run, possibly even a cup win. Brodeur is a good mentor, he’s won the Stanley Cup before. He knows his time is very, very, limited and given the current roster and how much more some of them will need to be paid in two years, the teams window isn’t much wider. If Brodeur signs for about a million for one season, this could be a marriage made in heaven, if if its just for one year.

The Central division is the toughest in the NHL. Last season five teams from the division made it into the playoffs something no other division in hockey matched. In the division you’ve got dynamic goal scorers Norris quality defensemen, top flight goalies and not a lot of mutual love.

Top Shelf

Chicago Blackhawks

They got edged for a trip to the Finals, and will likely be trading someone pretty soon. Two of their core forwards Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa are closer to the ends of their careers than the beginning, but they are probably the best balanced team in the conference. They’ve got got great forwards, strong defense and adequate goaltending.

St Louis Blues

This team is likely to take a half to a full step back this year. Elliot has never thrived as a number-one goalie, and Jake Allen is still an unknown quantity. That said, they may have the best top three for defense in Pietrangelo, Shattenkirk, and Bouwmeester. They downgrade slightly going with Steve Ott over Vlad Sobotka, but did add Paul Stastny. Jaden Schwartz remains unsigned and doubtless need to do some catching up when he gets back into the fold.

Wild Cards

Minnesota Wild

Mikko Koivu led the team to the playoffs where he, Ryan Suter and the rest waged a fierce battle in the second round with the Blackhawks. Out are Clayton Stoner and Dany Heatley. Goaltending remains as unsteady as ever, but that doesn’t distract this team. Charlie Coyle, Erik Haula, Mikael Granlund and the rest will have to dig deep and pull in some more offense, but this team is capable of laying anyone out.

Colorado Avalanche

The advanced stats and the eyeball test said this team should not have been as dangerous as they proved to be in the regular season last year. It took until the playoffs to prove it. They did lose long time contributor Paul Stastny, and replaced him with the notably older Jarome Iginla. I don’t expect them to fall out of the playoffs, but 112 points again is not that likely. It will be interesting to see how older players like Briere and Iginla adjust to playing at altitude.

The Rest

The Dallas Stars

Finally a return to the playoffs last year. This year among other moves was punting the push and passion of Alex Chaisson for Jason Spezza’s finesse and offense. Anders Lindback will be this years backup in the crease. With a full season under his belt Valeri Nichushkin should be crossing the 20 goal mark this year. Given the changes in the roster, and the injury history of some players, this team a not a lock for the playoffs, but I don’t see them in the lottery.

Nashville Predators

In the off season the Predator made several moves that collectively add up to some big question marks. James Neal an elite sniper was added at the expense of Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling. Derek Roy, Olli Jokinen, Viktor Stalberg and Derek Roy were brought in to rearrange the forward group. I have no idea what these players will look like this season, and I don’t think anyone else does either. On the plus side, Pekka Rinne will have a full summer of health under his belt, Seth Jones and the other youngsters have played through the worst of things and the light is indeed brighter this year. Whatever else, the Predators have Shea Weber, and their opponents do not.

Winnipeg Jets

The weak sister of the division, the franchise hasn’t made the playoffs in years. Ownership needs to decide if they are building or breaking down, because what they are doing isn’t going to get them a Stanley Cup. They have a lot of talent in Evander Kane, Blake Wheeler, Zach Bogosian, and Dustin Byfuglien. When you look at the talent level at the top, and an average to above average middle of the roster, you have to wonder if it isn’t either the environment or the players themselves. Without reinforcement, and a strong on ice system, this team is not making the playoffs.

The Pacific division is probably the murkiest to forecast, you’ve got the defending champs last seasons top team in the western conference, an several teams that made changes that could add up to a better or worse finish.

Top Shelf

Anaheim Ducks

Last season they were one of two teams to finish with more than 50 regulation or overtime wins. They addressed the need for a second line center when they acquired Ryan Kesler, and solidified the third or fourth line by adding Nate Thompson. They did get a bit more questionable in goal moving on from Hiller and bringing John Gibson into the mix. One can ask how much of a distraction the absence or even the potential return of Sheldon Souray is, but it is impossible to know. They were handily the best regular season team in the league last year, if the coach can keep from jostling the elbow of the goaltenders, they might just finish with even more points this year.

San Jose Sharks

California’s only team not to win a Stanley Cup enters the season in a unique position among contenders; they have cap space. The only other major differences from this time last year are the departure of Boyle, the ‘lack’ of a captain, and Burns going back to defense full time. If the Sharks were to help themselves out in the early season by swindling one of the cap strapped teams like say Chicago out of Kris Versteeeg, they could be more than a handful in the regular season and still have cap space to work with when the trade deadline rolls over the horizon. At first look Boyle’s departure would appear to be a big loss to the Sharks powerplay, as it is, they were 20th in the NHL last year with the man advantage.

Wild Cards

Los Angeles Kings

The defending champs are returning a very high percentage of their Cup winning roster. Which is good in the sense that there’s a high level of ability to work together successfully and feed off each other emotionally. It is bad in the sense that you have to have something to feed off of. Most of this roster has now won two Stanley Cups. Many of them have played in the Olympics as well. That’s a lot of hockey, a lot of travel, and not a lot of rest. More good news is that this year they enter with Martin Jones ably backing up Quick. The two are a great one-two punch in net.

Arizona Coyotes

They were so close to making it into the playoffs last year. This despite a rather poor overall season by Mike Smith, and the distractions surrounding Mike Ribiero at the end of the year. If the team as a whole can turn three of the overtime losses from last year into wins (preferably in regulation) they make it in. If its five they are in comfortably. A full season of Sam Gagner and Tippet willing, Domi could add a lot more finesse than the roster has seen years.

The Rest

Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks have a new General Manager, a new goalie, and are almost certainly worse off than last season. No Kesler, and a cut rare replacement. The Sedins are past their prime. To put it in perspective, last year despite less games played Mikko Koivu finished with more points than either twin. While Ryan Miller is probably a better goalie than Roberto Luongo, it remains to be seen if he can catapult the team into the playoffs given how patchy the roster is. The good news I suppose, is that when the trade deadline rolls around they have some depth players who can be dealt for picks and young prospects.

Calgary Flames

This team has an inside lane to the draft lottery. They lost Mike Cammalleri to free agency. Even with the young, and talented players who may be added to the roster for the season this is not a good team. Between Giordano and Hiller they’ll likely stay in a lot of games. but beyond that there’s not a lot in the way of difference making talent on this team. There are some solid players like Hudler and Glencross who will be a help to younger players like Sean Monahan,  Johnny Gaudreau, and Lance Bouma.

Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers on paper are better than they were last year. Hockey is played on ice. I happen to consider Nikita Nikitin a bit under rated league wide. He’s a solid second pairing defenseman who finally got a tastes of the playoffs last year. I’m not quite as high on Aulie or Fayne, but they are at least serviceable. Benoit Pouliot joined them for the opportunity to become a highly paid third line winger who has never scored twenty goals. Not a great decision, especially he length of the contract. Even if you consider all the additions worth twelve points and the maturation of the core talent worth another five, come April they’ll still be looking up at more teams than they are looking down at.

For the second year in a row, the Metropolitan is the weakest division in hockey and it isn’t even close. Some teams are better than last year, others are worse, and anyone who tells you what the others will do is just a bit out of their mind.

Top shelf:

New York Rangers

The Rangers are a safe bet for the playoffs and likely for the division title as well. Lundqvist will be entering the season with a quality backup, and most of the key players in front of him healthy. Despite an injury to top center Stepan that will keep him until around Halloween, the Rangers have otherwise good health up and down the lineup, McDonaugh, Staal, Girardi on the backend, St. Louis, Nash, Brassard and Hagelin up front will do the heavy lifting for the team again.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Like the Rangers, the Blue Jackets have a high quality goalie, this one who just happens to be in a contract year. They also have an underrated defense group. Jack Johnson, Ryan Murphy, James Wisniewski and the rest will contribute at both ends of the ice. The forward group is unheralded as well, Brandon Dubinsky rarely gets the recognition he deserves, Scott Hartnell is a legitimate scoring threat who should be entering the season with something to prove. If Johansen can be signed, and retained, and Horton can have a healthy season, this team is going to be more than a handful.

Wild Cards

Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins have a lot of chaos factors to contend with this year. A new coach is one. Their putative number one goaltender is on an expiring contract and unlike Crosby, Malkin, and Letang was not extended early. They lost two of their top four defensemen from last year. Matt Niskanen was their top points producer and Brooks Orpik led the team in short handed time on ice. To replace them they brought in Christian Ehrhoff. Aside from the top 3-4 names, it would be hard for an observer to guess where the rest of the forward group sits as most of them look a lot like bottom line players.

New York Islanders

The Islanders actually made some smart moves this summer. They picked up and locked up Grabovski giving them a compelling one two punch at center. Their defense is a whole lot of young and learning with Visnovsky and Carkner for contrast. On the backend they have two goalies new to the system, the up, then down, then sideways Jaroslav Halak and the surprising Chad Johnson. I will be equally unsurprised if this team is in the playoffs, or in the bottom five in the league.

Washington Capitals

The Capitals are the east coast equivalent of the San Jose Sharks. On paper they’ve had the talent to win the Cup at lest once in the last decade, on ice, not so much. They too have a new coach, and possibly more importantly they have a coach who recognizes what he’s dealing with. Barry Trotz did what was probably the smartest thing a Capitals coach has done in several years and put Ovechkin back on left wing where he is most comfortable and had several pretty good seasons. The defense could shake out into pairings of Carlson-Greene, Niskanen-Orpik, and Alzner-Erskine, which as top six defense units go, is better than many can boast.

The Rest

Philadelphia Flyers

Even allowing for the Pronger/Timonen money once the season starts and he can be placed on LTIR, the Flyers are still in cap trouble. The roster genuinely looks like the team is trying to tank but just doesn’t know how. Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, and Jacob Voracek are all top end players, the rest of the forward group and much of the rest of the roster feels like the punchline to an inside joke that you’re not quite inside enough for. That said, this is largely the group that managed to make the playoffs last year.

New Jersey Devils

On the plus side the added Mike Cammalleri and finally admitted who their number one goaltender is. On the other side of the balance they added Martin Havlat who is generally good for one bizarre injury and twenty or more man games lost. The defense is rather bland, no one makes over Zajac’s $5.75m and yet they are still only three million from the cap, all without their seeming to have found a backup goalie.

Carolina Hurricanes

The season will kickoff on a sour note with Jordan Staal down-checked for an unknown amount of time with a broken leg. Even assuming Jordan Staal and he rest of the top six forwards were healthy and productive all season, Caniacs were still in for a long slog. The teams defense has high water marks that are merely average followed up by players who are at historical drought levels of talent. It would not be a surprise to see this team draft in the top three next June. The only real hope in season for this team is for the coach with the enthusiastic backing of management to go with whichever goalie is playing better and not with the one they’ve been trying to pass off a a franchise goalie for half a decade.

The Vancouver Sun felt it was useful to refer to the Vancouver Canucks 4th round draft pick from 2013 as “the dark guy in the middle”.  This despite him being the younger brother of one of the more notable players in the entire NHL. “The dark guy in the middle” is everything that’s wrong with Canadian sports media; provincialism, parochialism, and above all a never ending quest to dumb things down to the writer or speakers level. Give me forty seconds and I can spit out half a dozen blogs with more insight, a keener feel for teams, and above all the acuity not to put both feet in their mouths.

I’m not sure anyone in the media in Vancouver has noticed, but there are these brand spanking new innovations in sports called ‘uniforms’.  What that means is all the players on one ‘team’ are playing in clothes that all very, very closely resemble each other. For the benefit of those unfamiliar, those uniforms also have numbers and letters on them unique to each player. They are the players last name and number. Revolutionary as it sounds, this makes identifying who a player is pretty easy even for people not familiar with a team. This makes inane attempts to clarify who a player is when their name or number are visible insulting to the consumer, and in general a waste of key strokes and bandwidth.

I didn’t really want to write this post. It’s not exactly a secret what color my skin is, but I do tend to stay out of race discussions because this is first, last and always a hockey blog. I sat on it for hours, and deleted it not once but twice. But some kinds of stupid just can’t be ignored. While part of wants to dismiss it as just stupid people being stupid, I can’t help but wonder if maybe this isn’t The Vancouver Sun’s “Upworthy moment” where they engage in click bating simply to deliver a noxiously banal product to more people. I’m honestly not sure what would be worse, pure ignorance allowed a public voice for a supposedly respectable media outlet or a news organization that is so desperate for attention it did this deliberately simply to draw attention to itself like some fading Hollywood star years past her prime and still desperate for attention.

Any NHL observer who only knows a little bit about the Boston Bruins can tell you they are fortunate to have a system deep in defensemen with players who slot in to all three pairings. The team as a whole, and the defense in particular are led by Norris trophy winner, six foot nine Zdeno Chara. Other names to be familiar with are German Dennis Seidenberg, towering Dougie Hamilton, Johnny “Trade Rumor” Boychuk, the healthy again Adam McQuaid have all logged notable time on the Boston blue line. Kevan Miller arrived on the scene last year and managed to hold onto a spot, Pittsburgh native Matt Bartkowski has found his way into the lineup more and more over the last four years. Zach Trotman, and David Warsofsky made it into several games last year, behind them are Tommy Cross, Joe Morrow and Chris Breen.

What the Bruins have is at least four top four defensemen with Chara, Boychuk, Seidenberg and Hamilton on currently on the roster. An argument cam be made that Bartkowski is another top four defenseman. Miller and McQuaid are quite good at the bottom pairing role and are interchangeable. Breen is build along much the same lines as McQuaid and Miller, large, aggressive and largely defense oriented. Trotman has played with Bartkowski, and makes a potential solid second pairing. Where Cross and Warsofsky would end up is anyone’s guess.

On the surface it would seem one more mite-sized defensemen one way or the other wouldn’t be worth the time it takes to look up the team roster. That is until you look at two major factors. Without Krug, the roster is seriously lacking in those factors and the chances of getting another Stanley Cup a notably reduced.

The first is team speed. Bartkowski is the next fastest member of the blueline legion, after that you have an assortment of guys well over two hundred pounds who have varying levels of straight line speed, but beyond Hamilton and Bartkowski who are both of average lateral movement. When you consider how much faster the two other top teams in the division are, you have a problem. The Montreal Canadiens beat the Bruins in seven games even with him, without it might only take five games. The Tampa Bay Lightning are even more gifted offensively, and are at least as fast. If you reduce the speed of the teams defense, and possibly slide in defensemen who is less experienced and slower, well bad things from the teams perspective are the likeliest outcome.

The other is pretty evident when you look at one telling stat. The powerplay. In the 2012-13 season the team was a truly wretched 26ths. In 2013-14, it jumped to 3rd. One big difference, a certain small defenseman. Knowing how smart my readers, I’m betting you can all guess who was number in powerplay points. Here’s a hint, Zdeno Chara was second with 15 powerplay points, and Dougie Hamilton was second with six, and only four defensemen had a point on the powerplay last year.

There are somethings you shouldn’t give up without a fight; success is one of them.

After a season where you win your division, and make it to the second round of the playoffs to fill out your roster when you return a high percentage of your players. Unfortunately, nothing is ever easy for the Boston Bruins. They lost their top right win, have failed to secure their second line right wing, allowed their fourth line right wing to walk, and the third line was a work in progress all season.

4: Are Torey Krug and Riley Smith going to be signed?

The status of either of these players is important, together it is critical to resolve which of them is coming back. Krug was crucial to the powerplay, and is hands down the fastest skater on the Bruins blueline. He played more games than any other defenseman last year, and to top it off he lead the entire team in playoff scoring.

Seth Griffith right and Alex Fallstrom left.

Seth Griffith right and Alex Fallstrom left.

Riley Smith returning would at least tell us what is going to happen with the Bergeron line. It is highly unlikely anyone will displace Marchand on his left, but Smith made a more than effective right wing for Bergeron. Despite a late season slump he turned it around in the playoffs and had as many goals as Eriksson, Soderberg, and Fraser combined. Also infinitely more goals than the center the brass just signed to a contract north of seven million dollars a year.

3: Are you going to be a top six/bottom six team or a top nine/bottom three team?

NHL15 Cover boy, Patrice Bergeron lets one rip while warming up before practice.

NHL15 Cover boy, Patrice Bergeron lets one rip while warming up before practice.

If your game plan is to move Soderberg and Eriksson off the third line and up to the Bergeron and Krejci’s right wings, you are making a different statement about your team (and feeder system) than if you go with a configuration that leaves one or both on the third line.

The first likely means the team will be weighting minutes heavily towards the first two lines and that the third line will be largely a checking line, and the fourth line penalty killers, and an energy line.

2: How healthy is Greg Campbell?

It may seem absurd to base roster formulation on the the health of thirty year old fourth line center, but given how much the coach leans towards veterans over younger players, it does matter. Add to that Campbell’s leadership and penalty kill prowess and you’ve got an interesting problem.

If Campbell is out, you can either “demote” Chris Kelly to the fourth line and slide Ryan Spooner, Alexander Khokhlachev, or possibly Soderberg into the third line center position. Khokhlachev plays both center and left wing, making him a possibility for either position on that line, dependent on the rest of its components.

Going the other way you have the option of bringing up Rob Flick or Bobby Robbins to hold down the fourth line center spot.

1: Seniority or system product?

Simon Gagne in Boston Bruins cam on a professional tryout (PTO) is stretching and watching other players warm up before practice.

Simon Gagne in Boston Bruins cam on a professional tryout (PTO) is stretching and watching other players warm up before practice.

While Gagne and Lieno have shown little to nothing to me, as every Boston Bruins observer knows Claude Juline loves his veterans. Gagne has been about average in most drills and has a good release, he’s clearly still, when healthy, a NHL player. Leino hasn’t fallen down too much and managed to survive a hit from Matt “The Mauler” Bartkowski without shattering like angel hair. When you add in their injury history which is long and distinguished, you have to wonder how much value they add. Furthermore, with the likelihood of them getting another injury this season you have to factor in cap space for whoever replaces them on the ice.

On the other hand you have a variety of young guns looking for a place to let off a few rounds. Seth Griffith has looked like a natural fit for Bergeron’s line. Assuming Eriksson goes to the Krejci, that leaves Soderberg and Kelly for the third line. If you put Kelly at left wing, and Soderberg at center, which is where he looked best last year, you have can almost take your pick of right wings.

Jared Knight has the best shot, had a strong reputation as a penalty killer and hard worker in for the London Knights. Matt Fraser got his cup of coffee with the Bruins last year and made it into four playoff games potting a goal and an assist. Brian Ferlin is a big body that can skate and check. Seth Griffith has a great combination of skating, hands and reading the ice. Depending on what configuration you’re looking for

Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien at Bruins Training Camp 09/20/14

Aside from David Pastrnak crumbling under light contact from a not very physical defenseman, camp was largely an exhibition of which pairings and trios acquired chemistry the fastest, and which people in the stands could survive the chill.

Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien at Bruins Training Camp 09/20/14

Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien at Bruins Training Camp 09/20/14

One of the more intriguing and yet low key battles is between former Dartmouth College forward Matt Lindblad and Michigan native, London Knight alumni Jared Knight. The two were paired against each other on day one and engaged in spirited but professional battles through drills and rushes. Day two, more of the same. It’s pretty close. Knight is more skilled. Knight’s shot has a better, more concealed release, and is a bit truer to the net. Lindblad is two years older, and has had better health over the last two years. Whoever comes out ahead in camp, team, players and fans win.

From the rest of camp:

Trotman: Ate Villie Leino a couple times on a drills and looked both good by himself and when paired with Bartkowski.

Khokhlochev & Eriksson watch Breen and others drill below the faceoff dots.

Khokhlochev & Eriksson watch Casto #65 and others drill below the faceoff dots.

Caron: Better day today.

Krejci and Caron eye up goalies and defensemen.

Krejci and Caron eye up goalies and defensemen.

Khokholachev: Deceptively agile and speedy, good hands, went around the enormous Breen and his reach to get off a shot with zero warning.

Alexander Khokhlochev watching drills.

Alexander Khokhlochev watching drills.

Bartkowski; Arguably the best defenseman at skating backwards in camp. Good speed and balance while he does it allowing him to turn in either direction as needed.

Griffith: Looked like he’d been playing with Bergeron and Marchand for a year during drills.

Subban: The new pads were repeatedly referred to as “Turco like” by various fans watching.

Malcolm Subban in his 2014 pads

Malcolm Subban in his 2014 pads

 

Morrow: Made a really nice backhand pass to McQuaid while both were moving at pace.

Matt Lindblad #52 and Ethan Werek #78 leave eyeball prints all over the rink.

Matt Lindblad #52 and Ethan Werek #78 leave eyeball prints all over the rink.

Lucic: Much more engaged today, accidentally took out both defenders during a two on two drill allowing Kelly to go five hole on the goalie.

Seidenberg #44, Cross #56, Lucic #17

Seidenberg #44, Cross #56, Lucic #17

Simonelli: Interesting resume, four years at Wisconsin, and some time on the US National Development team. both yesterday and today he was frequently paired with Seidenberg for drills.

Hamilton is pretty frequently seen watching the other session, usually while trying to hide.

Hamilton is pretty frequently seen watching the other session, usually while trying to hide.

Ferlin; Out-muscled Paille to get to a puck despite Paille having the inside position and a lower center of gravity. Did more than one drill with Lucic and looked like he could easily be part of more than one NHL team we could name.

Fraser #25 and Soderberg #34 size up the competition

Fraser #25 and Soderberg #34 size up the competition

Robbins: Made a really neat kick of a puck from the heel of his skate to the curve of his blade, made one or two other plays with his feet.

Robin, Batman

Day 1 is here.