It’s September 1st.

Some teams are still trying to destroy their futures. The NHL, like any ecosystem is a delicate entity. There are many moving parts, and the ratio of one part to another will impact things two or three steps removed from either. You need players on the rise, players at their peak, and ones who are on the decline. They all contribute just as moths, and blue jays, and red tailed hawks all play their parts.

Marcus Foligno is a great example of a middle six forward who gives much, and is well regarded. The Chuck Fletcher thought it was more important to sign aging Penguins discard Matt Cullen, than to secure the return for trading Scandella. CapFriendly and others currently project Landon Ferraro and Joel Eriksson Ek as making the roster, with either of them back in the AHL the Wild would have right around three million in cap space. If they decide to carry just twelve forwards it would give them an additional cushion for injuries. The issue here is do you pay him better or the same as other left wings who had similar point totals like Justin Abdelkader and Carl Hagelin who both made more than four million last year? Or do you simply try and cram him into a roster that is unlikely to go far in the playoffs?

In the last two season Bo Hovart has increased his point total year over year, jumping from third two seasons ago to first last year, and has a better faceoff win percentage in that time than team captain Henrik Sedin. Somehow with training camp close enough to feel, he is without a contract. He’s scored shorthanded, powerplay, and even strength goals. He’s played over 18 minutes a night. He’s done just about everything a setup man can do on a roster that is 80% ECHL and alumni quality to help the team win. Joe Thornton, Milan Lucic, and Jason Spezza all produced less points last year with far, far more help and hugely better compensation.  Ondrej Palat was on a non-playoff team and produced the same number of points, Logan Coture had the same points total, as did Anze Kopitar and Aleksander Barkov. With all or most of the $14,000,000.00 set on fire at the feet of the Sedin twins coming off the books next year, and no other player in the system in need of a big raise cash should not be the issue. Not when they have close to nine million in cap space to work with.

David Pastrnak has been covered in depth over the summer and all that’s worth adding is that the team president said there haven’t been any talks in months.

With all the glory of last season, the Columbus Blue Jacket’s seem to have gotten a pass on Alexander Wennberg not having been hog tied to their roster yet. Year over year ye’s increased his points total twenty points twice in a row. He played in 80 of the teams games last year. Last season he stepped into the gap created by trading Johansen and ended up the team’s second leading scorer, putting up just two less points than the Nashville Predator’s second most famous Ryan. While the Blue Jackets do have a pretty dynamic cap situation with the number of impact players due contracts in the next two years, they do have to be careful. But in the ultra competitive Metropolitan division who can afford to be without their number one center?

The Detroit Red Wings roster is as run down as the Joe, and while Andreas Athanasiou isn’t the level of impact player the other forwards on the list are. That said, you don’t improve by continuing to leak talent. All players are ultimately replaceable, but alienating players for little good reason when you have a new arena to fill, and pay off is senseless. The optics are also poor when it’s time to get free agents into town, or when the next RFA is due a contract.

Damon Severson is one of three men to crack the top fifty among defensemen in scoring while playing less than twenty minutes of ice time. The other two Brady Skej, and Dmitry Orlov were both on playoff teams. The New Jersey Devils were needless to day, not quite that good. His point total eclipsed Noah Hanafin, Jake Muzzin, and Jonas Brodin. So why is a team with unlimited growth potential wasting time dithering with a solid young defensemen? It’s not like they have 299 other defenders ready to hold the line against the Persians and other NHL teams.

Over the last few weeks there has been a lot of discussion about David Pastrnak, his lack of a contract, the comparables, and who is to blame. Much of that is irrelevant. He’ll eventually be signed to a contact, be it in Boston or some other NHL city. He’ll eventually play in the NHL again. This will surely be superseded by some other contract dispute, trade gone awry, or major injury.

What matters is who is perceived to be at fault. The results of a recent Twitter poll speak for themselves. Given the options of blaming the player, the agent, or the organization, fans overwhelmingly voted against the player being responsible with nearly 60% squarely blaming Boston Bruins leadership. 

Just under sixty percent put the blame right in the laps of Jeremy Jacobs, Charlie Jacobs, Cam Neely, and Don Sweeney. That’s overwhelming, and something that isn’t going to go away. If this proves to be the end of Pastrnak’s tenure in Boston, this won’t be forgotten.

This isn’t a pattern. It is the pattern. Boston Bruins fans are obsessive, loud, occasionally lewd, crude, and unruly. They’re devoted, they’re emotional, but no one ever said they they don’t pay attention. This pattern of failing to pay talent market rates is clearly recognized by fans. The last time the Bruins were missing the playoffs, and losing talent over the organization failing to pay you could walk into the Garden and see two or three thousand empty seats any given game, and hear thousands of visiting fans cheering on their team.

That’s not a fan passion problem. That’s an ownership problem. When you have the means to do something, and fail to do so, the fans have the right, and some might argue the responsibility to not pay for a willfully inferior product. Nothing would embarrass any passionate, engaged ownership more than their local fanbase being drown out by visitors, many Boston Bruins observers would be hard pressed to say that the Jacobs family cares at all.

If the worst should happen and the Boston Bruins do get forced to trade the best young star the team has had in years not named Brad Marchand, then we need first need to stop blaming agents, stop blaming players, and go back to the truth; The Jacob’s family is not interested in retaining top talent. For some people that means dusting off the hate they carried around up until Tim Thomas and company won the Cup. For others it means finding a new team to cheer.

If you’re looking to see how David Pastrnak stacks up against Phil Kessel and Tyler Seguin, its pretty interesting to see. Kessel was on the deepest team at center in his first three years, and played opposite Milan Lucic in that time. Seguin rode some coattails to a Stanley Cup. Both of them had better defenses behind them than Pastrnak has seen. And of the three Pastrnak was the fastest to reach 70 points. Kessel has shown to be the best of the three in the post season (with more opportunities), Seguin appears to be the worst of the three. As far as three zone play Pastrnak outclasses the other two, even today, collectively or individually.

When it comes to trade value, not only are there more RFA years left for Pastrnak, he’s a more complete, more physical player who has shown coach-ability, not to mention both the physical ability, and the mental drive to get better. David Pastrnak may just be the most likable guy in the Boston Bruins locker room. That’s not something anyone has ever said about Kessel, or Seguin, or even Blake Wheeler who was also traded away young.

As it is beginning to look more and more like a suitable deal that will keep Pastrnak in the Black and Gold for the long term isn’t coming, you have to examine the potential return. Phil Kessel was traded for first round picks in consecutive drafts, and a second round pick. Tyler Sequin who has the key return for Kessel was part of an outgoing package that included Ryan Button (a late pick who has done nothing), and Rich Peverley a utility forward who played up and down the lineup. The return there was Loui Ericsson, Joe Morrow, Reilly Smith, Matt Fraser. Smith and Morrow were badly bungled, Fraser barely eclipsed Button.

I’m not sure even teflon coated owners like the Jacobs can get away with trading a popular, healthy, productive, two way, high scoring stud like Pastrnak without a hefty return without repercussions in ticket sales, merchandise, ratings, and public image. Three first, assuming someone would part with them might look good on paper, but you still have to draft and develop them, and that’s not something the Bruins have been noted for in the past decade. Two first and two seconds might be palatable, but how long will it take those prospects to fill a roster spot and contribute at a similar level?

For players with similar goal totals over the last two seasons you’ve got guys like Jonathan Toews, Adam Henrique, Nazim Kadri, Aleksander Barkov, Chris Krieder, Anders Lee, and Phil Kessel all putting up 49 goals in the last two seasons. Toews is a non starter for comparison, and a trade piece. Barkov is unlikely, Lee was just locked up for the Islanders. Henrique is a center, which the Bruins don’t need unless we’re talking something bigger than just Pastrnak leaving. Kessel will be thirty when the season starts and that’s nine years age difference with Pastrnak, even assuming Pittsburgh could fit Pastrnak into their cap situation, and they can’t.

The Columbus Blue Jackets own two comparables that equally interesting. The first is a pending UFA with just this season on his contract. The other is a RFA who will need a contract next year. The first would almost certainly mean more pieces going to Boston, and that’s the undersized dynamo Cam Atkinson. The second is the center/left wing Boone Jenner. Both are established NHL players who have put up similar numbers with lesser centers, if better defense. Both are older. Atkinson is seven years older, Jenner three. Jenner is riskier as he’s only had one season over 20 goals, and that was two years ago with 30, the other two full season have been 18 goals each. Atkinson’s consistency, and year over year improvement is worth noting as it has kept pace with, and likely pushed the team’s improvement over the last four years.

A player who is a good bet on availability, and will likely be less expensive than Pastrnak if he gets anything similar to Draisaitl is Evander Kane. I’ve discussed the value of Kane who was second to only Brad Marchand in even strength goals last year from his return to the end of the season. He’s older than either Pastrnak or Jenner, but younger, larger and more physical than Atkinson. There are downsides to an in division trade, but the Buffalo Sabres would almost certainly add more than just Kane to the return.

If a trade for prospects is on the table, the Florida Panthers need to make legitimate strides towards winning now. If they were to flip 10th overall pick in 2017 Owen Tippet and University of Denver standout Henrik Borgstrom to Boston, I can’t see much more being required for both sides to come out smiling.

Trading with someone out west makes sense in a lot of ways, and one of the teams that has transformed itself the most in the last year is the Arizona Coyotes. The have a wealth of young players, some interesting mid career players, and an arresting collection of prospects. The “you’re out of your mind” swinging for the fences is a straight up trade for Oliver Ekman-Larsson who would be a great successor to Zdeno Chara. A pairing of Pastrnak and Stepan gives you a line you can put up against anyone in the league if you’re behind the Coyotes bench.

But a more risky if completed, but also more likely is Pastrnak and one or more defensive prospects on the cusp of making Boston’s roster for Jakob Chychrun. Chychrun is injured right now, so picks coming back from Arizona would have to be conditional based on how many games he played in the 18-19 and maybe 19-20 seasons. But David Pastrnak and Matt Grzelcyk for Chychrun, Anthony Duclair, and a conditional pick in the 19-20 season might just work out great for everyone.

If Don Sweeney can exploit a team that has set itself up for massive cap problems, then the Edmonton Oilers are possibly the best trade partner of all. Slicing Ryan Strome and Darnell Nurse off the roster might be doable. Nurse is a fleet footed big man on the backend, Strome has yet to reach his potential and plays both right wing and center. Possibly the Bruins could unload Spooner in the same deal, Peter Chiarelli has demonstrated a fondness for players in his past organizations over and over again in his career.

If David Pastrnak is moved, many fans would say it’s time to impeach the president, this would after-all be the fourth big name youngster traded when his second or third contract was due. I think you could make an argument for moving the owners as well, and that’s even if the return is excellent.

You can find this week’s Two Man ForeCheck on the web, or on Facebook as well as iTunes, Google Play, and Tune IN.

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.