Bruins Boston Management, NESN, 98.5 The Sports Hub, this post is for you.

Last fall, in the most talked about transaction of any Boston sports team in the past twelve months the Bruins traded soft and speedy right winger Phil Kessel to Toronto. In return they got two picks in the draft in June of 2010, and one pick in the draft in 2011. Two first round picks, and one second. Which is actually more than they Bruins would have been compensated for Kessel had Brian Burke sent an offer sheet for the amount he was signed for.

By mid October it became apparent that the Bruins were not going to come anywhere near their previous campaigns goals total. In fact thanks to under-performing forwards, Denis Wideman, injuries to key players like Zdeno Chara, David Kreji, Patrice Bergeron, Marc Savard, and Milan Lucic they would score seventy four less goals. By the same token, by the time of the Winter Classic where the Bruin’s out lasted the Philadelphia Flyers at Fenway Park, it was equally apparent that the Toronto Maple Leafs were destined to hit the lottery. Indeed, the Taylor Vs Tyler debate raged across the internet and from blog to text message to social network (and incidentally on the ice) wherever hockey fans were.

When the Bruins won the second pick in the NHL Entry Draft lottery the buzz was insane. There was talk of trading up, there was talk of trading for the Oilers pick so that both players could be drafted. There was even talk of trading the pick for a kings ransom, maybe two. Their playing styles were analyzed to the nth degree, their stats were twisted until they screamed for mercy.  And of course the positions they played and “raw potential” vs “current skill level” were debated in more words a day than the entire Obama health care package.

Add to this pump priming the fact that scapegoat Denis Wideman had been traded for big bodied power forward Nathan Horton who had languished in Sunrise where the only thing lower than the  rosters talent level is the local fan interest. With one squawk across the trade wire the Bruins offense gets a go to guy, and the backend looses its biggest liability, perhaps the only player to be booed consistently by Bruins fans in the last decade.

And of course, Seguin is put directly into prospect camp with past draft picks Maxime Suave, Jordan Caron, Yury Alexandrov, Zach Hamill, Joe Colborne, Ryan Spooner, and Jared Knight among others, and free agents where the Bruins banner wavers crowded the Ristuccia Arena to the point that there was hardly room for Bruins Management to evaluate the on ice talent. NESN’s own Naoko Funayama was seen having to ask people two or three times to get through this crowd, even with the camera crew standing just over her shoulder.

So, when the Bruin’s rookies took to the ice was their coverage of Tyler Seguin’s first game in a Bruin’s jersey? Or his second? Nope. This I can sorta forgive, Seguin and maybe Kabanov were about the only names most casual hockey fans might know.  How about for his first (preseason) game against The Montreal Candiens? Nope, no coverage anywhere. This is inexcusable.  The average New England hockey fan would show up for a B’s vs Habs tilt if both rosters were filled entirely with coma patients; if for no reason than to shout down the idiotic and misplaced soccer chants of the visiting Francophones. Adding the teams newest power forward, a veteran who is the same age as the core of the Bruins roster, and rookie sensation-to-be to the roster should have madesure  this a game that was circled on the calender for months.

Now recall that NESN broadasts hour upon endless, interminable, salacious, mind numbing hour of Red Sox pitchers and catchers arriving at camp. Not the first throws, or outdoor fitness activities, but simply enough footage of players driving into the parking lot, getting out of their cars and telling people about their time off before walking inside the training facility for physicals and the like to sink the iceberg that sank the Titanic. The SportsHub for its part had an entire Truck Day event to celebrate Red Sox equipment truck leaving Fenway.  Bruin’s Management has stated ad nauseum that they want Boston “to be a hockey town again”.

So where is the disconnect? The Bruin’s (state) they want the Bruin’s to get better market penetration, The Sports Hub (claims to be) The Official Home of the Boston Bruins (or is it the Revolution?) , and NESN is (of course) New England’s Sports Leader. How was the puck cleared over the glass so egregiously if all three of these organizations are even attempting to make it look like they mean what they say?

So here’s the song, and post title.

Sing it Evelyn! (embedded video here)

With Savard likely out at least a month, and Sturm down checked until probably December, the race for roster spots has gotten even more interesting. I went to the second rookie game against the Islanders and was treated to more hustle and grit from some players than I had expected.

Jamie Arniel was relentless about chasing the puck in his own zone and turned in a very solid two way game. I’ve seen him play before and his speed is no surprise, but his tenacity and work ethic are reminicient of P.J. Axellson.

Ryan Spooner, if there’s any of the picks from this years draft who have just jumped on the ice determined to make every GM who passed him over look silly, it’s this guy. Fast, quick release, solid shot and did better than certain other centers in the faceoff circle tonight against Montreal.  He even picked up a point against the defense that shut down Semin and Green last spring.

Jordan “I’m a first round pick too” Caron had a hat trick in the first game against the Islanders rookies, and delivered three in the Bell Centre tonight. On a team starved for size (Bergeron at 194 lbs was their largest center last year.) his now two hundred plus pound frame might leverage out the slighter men. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a versatile player comfortable at both wing and center. Of note was his penalty kill time against Montreal. He was the only rookie forward to get any PK time, and was just behind Seguin in powerplay time for rookies.

Maxime Suave. It’s hard to believe this guy had a pin removed from his ankle just a few weeks back. His speed is top shelf, and like Arniel his two way play came as a pleasant surprise. This is of course in addition to his release which will remind Bruins fans of a young Glen Murray. Add in his passing ability and you’ve got a lethal combination. During the second rookie game he peeled around the back if the Islanders net, zoomed towards the blueline and made a tape to tape backhand saucer pass to a waiting Spooner who fed it into the goal mouth.

Joe Colborne despite the nose they feared was broken he’s somehow flown under the radar, despite having a solid camp. I suspect he’ll get more of a look this year than he might have if Savard were healthy. He’s packed on a lot of muscle since he was drafted, but still has yet to play an 82 game schedule and was we saw with Blake Wheeler, and other college players this can add some hiccups the already rough transition from other levels of hockey to the NHL.

Michael Hutchinson. While this is probably the least interesting position for the Bruins this year, I got to see this young goalie do some impressive things. He’s very sound positionally, and uses both glove and stick effectively.

Ryan Button. My level of whelm has climbed greatly since prospect camp. I’m not prepared to rewrite the Bruins top 7 depth chart to include him, but I don’t wince when I hear his name.

Matt Bartowski is another of the new boys with his aims set on a top six defense spot. I’m liking what I’m seeing so far, but with defensemen it is so hard to tell.

Yury Alexandrov. I liked his game a lot against the Islanders, his speed and positioning are more than just sound, and he clearly has a “game speed” that is a step or more above his “practice” and “scrimmage” levels. I wonder if he’s doing enough in practice to snatch a roster spot, but I don’t think it matter Julien is pretty conservative overall and he at least knows what he’s gonna get from the seven guys who played defense last year for the Bruins.

These guys will almost certainly be the last half dozen cut with one or two making the squad. Others with an outside shot include Jeremy Reich, Zach Hamill, Jared Knight, and Brad Marchand.

Marc Savard:

I’m not sure which was more traumatic for Savard, a regular season where he landed on the shelf more often than score-sheet or an off season where he was the subject of more rumors than any other player in the NHL with a contract. It was just days after the playoffs ended with him probably being the cause of one of the innumerable too many men penalties of last seasons playoffs that cost the Bruins a shot at the conference finals that the trade rumors started. This after coming back from a broken foot, and nearly having his head taken off by a now illegal blow from Matt Cooke. The only player on the ice who saw clearly what happened,  Michael Ryder, apparently didn’t see enough wrong with it to do anything.  Despite the inconsistent play brought on by injuries to himself and his wingers, Savard had produced at .804 PPG, not his usual point per game standard, but far from a bad season.

This season, he needs to return to form and develop some synergy with Horton, and reclaim his connection with Lucic.

Mark Recchi

While it’s a given Recchi will climb higher in the all time goals and games lists, you have to wonder what drives him. Clearly last season was exasperating for him, at twice the age of some of his team, he was one of the two or three most consistent players on the ice every day. He did everything he could to make the Bruins succeed.

Bergeron and Stamkos have credited Recchi with improving their game, Seguin is likely to be the new youngster on the line and Recchi will like find himself tutoring another bright light.

Matt Hunwick.

Hunwick has what I’ve decided to call “mirror competence syndrome”. Put him with a good player, having a good night and he’ll have one too, put him with a player who is hesitant, slow of wit or injured and it’s time to cover your eyes. If he plays with someone physical he’s likely to leave a few people on the ice while he goes about his duty. Much to the dismay of may Bruins fans Hunwick was paired frequently with Wideman last season and the results rarely managed to achieve passable.

On the plus side Hunwick was third on the Bruins in assists in the playoffs, and was never the worst Bruin on the roster in the playoffs and logged over 33 minutes in one game. Despite this being his fourth year on the roster, he’s still sixty games short of the 200 mark many NHL observers say it takes to learn to play defense at that level. With his skating, shot and vision he can be a big positive, he just needs more confidence. Despite his skillset he could find himself the odd man out with several younger, cheaper players pressing for roster spots.

Daniel Paille

He may possibly have had the hardest job all season. He was brought in at the expense of good guy Chuck Kobasew, and was immediately tasked with the job of leading the Bruins restructured penalty kill. With the Bruins abandoning stalwart P.J. Axellson, Paille was the new face of the penalty kill. For the sake of his career it’s a good thing he’s good at this, very good in fact.  Otherwise he’d be shuffling around with Kyle Wellwood trying to find a job as camps open, because aside from his explosive speed and penalty killing ability there isn’t much to recommend him.

Hopefully Paille spent the off season working to improve his shortcomings and honing his current top skills. The Bruins need his penalty killing ability, but the former first rounder was forced to take a pay cut to stay in Boston. If he can threaten or achieve twenty goals this season or next he may earn himself a larger check either here or somewhere else in two years.

With very few changes in the roster, the Bruins opening night lineup is pretty easy to nail down. For the sake of discussion the guys in bold are going to be playing unless injured. The guys in italics are the guys on the bubble who have camp to prove they deserve the spot and the guys underlined are the most likely trade candidates.

Milan Lucic – Marc Savard – Nathan Horton

Tyler Seguin – Patrice Bergeron – Mark Recchi

Blake Wheeler – David Krejci – Michael Ryder

Daniel Paille – Greg Campbell – Shawn Thornton

Zdeno Chara – Denis Siedenberg

Mark Stuart – Johnny Boychuck

Andrew FerenceMatt Hunwick

The bubble players are where I expect to see the most interesting battles. For forwards its almost a given that Brad Marchand will be held in Boston very late, and may even make the roster. Jeremy Reich is another guy who could be that thirteenth forward quite easily, he’s a veteran with a lot of leadership abilities and no one questions his toughness or willingness to put himself on the line for the team. Jordan Caron, Maxime Suave, Joe Colborne are probably the three who will push hardest for Michael Ryder’s roster spot. The Bruin are in need of an offensive renaissance and if Ryder doesn’t come out of the gate firing on all cylinders he may find himself on the injured reserve or assigned to Providence in favor of one of these youngsters. Not to be forgotten is the seventh or potentially sixth defense spot if Ference or Hunwick are found lacking or sent elsewhere.  McQuaid has the inside line, but Alexandrov is quite likely to push hard as well. Delahey has similar size and physicality.

The next tier of players is even more intriguing. As high as Caron and Colborne were drafted no one would find it a huge surprise if one of them snatched a roster spot from a veterans hands. Despite his off seasons surgery, Suave was one of the very last players sent packing from Bruins camp last fall and has a wicked shot, so even he wouldn’t be a huge shock. Jamie Arniel, Jared Knight, Yannick Rinedeau, Jeff Penner and Zach Hamill all have various things to prove. Hamill’s whole NHL career probably comes down to this camp. He was drafted in the first round of a truly weak draft class in 2007, he’s proved to be slightly less unspectacular than most of his year mates. That draft has to date produced only six players who have played more than 100 NHL games, the 2008 draft has produced five. Hamill has to jump over guys who are bigger, more physical and already have Julien’s trust and respect and I’m not sure he’s going to do that while at the same time going around Caron, Colborne and the rest in the first tier of prospects. If he can’t make the roster, he may want to ask for a trade anywhere he’ll be on the roster.  Jared Knight has to prove he can translate the skills that make this jaw dropping highlight reel to the NHL level and handle the physical play and speed of full grown men.

Arniel’s proved at least to me that the issues that marred his draft year are behind him, now he needs to bury all thought of his being among the players most responsible for last years pathetic AHL Bruins campaign. He’s got the disadvantage of having a few injuries, and a small frame but I think I like his chances better than Hamill’s as he’s got a bit more of an edge.  Yannick Rinedeau lit up Juniors in his final season like he was firebombing them, a series of injuries and the move to the pro-ranks have left his reputation in need of the polish that only a breakout effort in camp and a good early season can provide.  Jeff Penner faces two problems in cracking the lineup, first is a severe shortness of NHL time on a team that lives or dies by its defense, and second is his small size.  With Ference and Hunwick not even close to two hundred pounds, adding the 183lb Penner to the roster in a conference that has Kovalchuck, Ovechkin, Staal, and other large aggressive forwards might be a liability the Bruins can’t afford. Among the positives are good speed, willingness to take a hit, and having made good on his limited playing time in the NHL. In his first NHL game, Penner faced the star studded Washington Capitals and was tossed all the way into the deep end with almost nineteen minutes of playing time.  Particularly telling was his two minutes of penalty kill time, and the fact that he played several shifts with the dealt and unlamented Denis Wideman.