We are quarter of the way through the season, and it’s time to set your Calder watch. Synchronize now.

Some surprises in the top five goal scorers:

  1. Logan Coture of the San Jose Sharks just barely squeaks into the rookie count and leads all rookies with 8 goals.
  2. Jeff Skinner of the Carolina Hurricanes is not only second in the NHL in rookie goal scoring, he’s second on his team to only Eric Staal in both goals and points.
  3. Derek Stepan’s squeaking into number three is the guy who most likely will not be in the top five at the end of the season as three of his six goals for the New York Rangers came in one game.
  4. Behind Stepan are three players tied with five, Tyler Ennis of the Buffalo Sabres who has played 25 games, Edmonton Oiler and first overall pick Taylor Hall has his five in 22, and Michael Grabner of the Islanders has potted 5 in 8 games. Of the three Ennis has the best */-.

For defensemen to keep an eye on:

  • John Carlson of Natick Ma and the Washington Capitals has a solid line of 3-8-11 +8 to go with his 58 blocked shots and 25 hits through 25 games. Most impressively he’s second on the team in TOI/G, trailing only Mike Green.
  • P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens is turning heads for more than the attitude some term cocky. He’s behind only Carlson in rookie defensemen TOI, and fourth in scoring for rookie defensemen.
  • Kevin Shattenkirk of Greenwich, CT, and Boston University has earned his way into the Colorado Avalanche lineup and is second to only John-Michael Liles in points from the blueline for Denver’s home squad.

In goal you’d be almost right in saying the conversation begins and ends with the man between the Philadelphia pipes.

  • Sergie Bobrovsky is the man making people reevaluate the Flyers chances this season, he’s played so much better than veteran Brian Boucher it almost doesn’t bear thinking about. He’s played 1/3 more games than his second nearest competitor for rookies. His 2.19 GAA and .926 S% have him at ten and eight in the league respectively.
  • Possibly more impressive, if for no reason other than the comparative defenses in front of them is Czech Michael Neuvirth. His 2.63 GAA and .912 Sv% are a better pair than any Capitals netminder has finished a season with since Cristibol Huet in 2007-8.

So far this season Ilya Kovalchuk has a line of 4-6-10 -11 and is fourth on his team in scoring. Here’s the current list of rookies with better stats than the $100 Million Man.

  • Jeff Skinner 7-12-19 -4
  • Jordan Eberle 4-11-15 -4
  • Derek Stepan 6-8-14 +1
  • Logan Coture 8-5-13 -5
  • Taylor Hall 6-6-12 -5
  • Tyler Ennis 5-6-11 +2
  • John Carlson 3-8-11 +8
  • Cam Fowler 1-10-11 -8
  • Kevin Shattenkirk 4-6-10 +2
  • Bryan Bickell 4-6-10 +2
  • Jake Dowell 4-6-10 +8
  • Mark Letestu 4-6-10 Even

All stats as of 10pm 11/29 via NHL.com

The Boston Bruin’s defense is second only to the Montreal Canadien’s in goals allowed.

Andrew Ference: B, has been paired with Zdeno Chara most of the season. Has looked good their so far, and is in fact a +12 despite only having two assists on the season.  The current +/- is roughly twice the highest he’s ever finished a season with. He’s now played almost half as many games as either of the last two seasons. This may just be the best play of his career. It should be noted he’s playing with a guy who has won a Norris trophy, and who might end up on the final ballot again this year.

Mark Stuart: C-, when you’ve looked good, you’ve looked good, when you’ve looked bad, oi vey even your biggest fans can’t excuse it.  With McQuaid you look not so hot on a good shift, with Seidenberg or Boychuck you look like the Caveman we all know and love. I suggest that when paired with McQuaid you remember you are supposed to be the highly reliable veteran and direct traffic as much as possible.

Adam McQuaid: C-. as you are still technically a rookie, this grade is possibly a bit harsh, but probably not by much. You need to keep your goalmouth position better when that is your assignment, and take direction from the coaches and your teammates if you want to stick in the NHL. Otherwise you may end up the next dealt out of town.

Zdeno Chara: A-, its funny how having a working hand can affect things. Right now you have more goals than in any of your first four seasons, and are halfway to last years total. You need to give the puck away less, and try not to feed the puck to people who are gonna get steamrolled as soon as they take the pass.

Dennis Seidenberg: B, you’re leading the team in blocked shots, and second in hits to Shawn Thornton. But, you seem to have forgotten how to make the outlet passes you were making last year before your injury. Please watch some footage, maybe you’ll pickup a few more points.

Johnny Boychuck: C, hey, remember that booming shot you used to the teams advantage last year? So do we. I’m betting Julien, Ward and Jarvis all remember it too.

Matt Hunwick: C. Sorry you got exiled to Siberia traded to the Avalanche.  You didn’t shoot nearly enough, but you committed far less of the ghastly turnovers than you did last year.

Goal:

Tim Tomas: A, nearly flawless so far. you should have had another shutout in that second Washington game.

Tuukka Rask, D. The vast majority of the bad grade is not for how you’ve stopped pucks but for attitude. Last year you displayed cool confidence all season in good games and bad, shutouts and blowouts. You don’t show that same confidence in interviews this year, your body language in net and on the ice lacks the panache you showed last year. Reacquire that and I’m willing to bet the team plays better in front of you.

Matt Hunwick, we hardly knew you, and now you’re an Avalanche.

Matt,

Good luck, I always liked your heart. Even on the nights when your head was elsewhere you laid your body on the line.  You had your spleen removed while you were here, you nearly had your eye gouged out by Mike Komisarek, and you had a memorable fight with some nameless git on the Carolina Hurricanes.  While some of us found you maddeningly inconsistent, we all love your shot, adore your skating and hell, you gave grown men a chance to call you “Hunny” with your breakouts and sick puck handling. I think you’re solid at defense, but maybe the Avalanche will convert you back to a winger. I think with your speed and shot you might succeed their beyond what you can do as defenseman. I doubt this trade was highly personal, it’s just a matter of salary movement and you got the ticket west. We both know others will be leaving the hub of hockey. But who knows, Glen Murray returned, you might too. I doubt the guy you were traded for, a former BU Terrier, Colby Cohen, will see the roster anytime before the All Star game at the earliest, Kampfer and Bartowski are probably arguing right now over which of them will end up in your locker. Both deserve a shot, and you still get to go play for an upcoming team. As a veteran of three different playoff series you may find yourself a leader on your new team.

Much success (except against the Bruins),

Puck Sage

Forwards:

Patrice Bergeron: C-, has occasionally struggled in the faceoff circle, hit more posts and crossbars in November than he had goals. Managed to accumulate a steady progression of assists.

Milan Lucic: A Leads the team in points, leads all forwards in */-, hasn’t been afraid to drop the gloves but hasn’t gone looking for a fight either. Finally showing the promise to develop into the type of power forward he’s projected as.

Nathan Horton:  A,  second on the team in points, has adjusted to the Bruins system well, played with two centers with different styles, and contributed most nights.

David Krejci: B has not shown the scoring touch he’s had in the past, appears to have regressed slightly in faceoffs, and is still not tracking opposing players as well as he should.

Blake Wheeler: B+ his scoring touch appears to be off, but appearances can be decieving, he’s spent part of his season at wing, part at the unfamiliar center slot, and has more goals than either Bergeron or Krejci, still projects for the 20 goal range, hasn’t let the constant line shuffling affect his efforts.  Needs to make better use of his linemates, whoever they might be on any given shift.

Michael Ryder: B, is a minus 5, but unlike last year has actually shown up most nights. He’s run some people over with wicked and well timed hits, is currently third in goals.

Mark Recchi:  C, half of his goal production this year was in one night. Has played a bit to conservatively with the puck in the offensive zone and been stripped of the puck when he could have made a better pass, taken a shot, or cycled into better position.

Tyler Seguin: C+, does not make good use of his linemates, poor faceoff stats. Is above average at stripping the puck, uses his speed in the neutral zone and offensive zone to create havoc when he can get the puck. Needs to leverage his linemates to get a points explosion.

Jordan Caron: C-, has regressed from the physical, smart, three zone play that earned him a roster slot out of camp. Needs to snap out of it, put on his big boy pants and step up or he’ll be in Providence before the new year.

Brad Marschand: A, aside from size he may just be the perfect fourth line player. He’s willing to take hits, make hits, get under people skin and can make plays. He’s been huge on the penalty kill, and is playing more time per game than Seguin.

Gregory Campbell: B, has centered a great fourth line, and upon occasion a good third line. Given that he leads the team in penalties, he may want to practice a touch more discipline.

Shawn Thornton: A-, has more goals than Ilya Kovalchuk, has dropped the gloves more than last year, and has been a good deterrent to other teams running over players like Seguin. Doen’t loaf, could make better outlet passes.

Daniel Pialle: Incomplete/C-, has only played in 9 games this season after losing his roster stop to Marshand and Caron. Hasn’t shown much, has taken one or two ill advised penalties, still needs to spend a few weeks working on his shot.

Jamie Arniel: Incomplete. Did live up to my early season prediction he’d be an early call up, and put all the effort Bruins fans could hope into his appearance.

Marc Savard: Incomplete, no appearances at all.

Marco Sturm: Incomplete, no appearances yet.

Coming up:

Part 2 grades for defense, goal, coaching and management.

For various reasons the players in this post are highly unlikely to be traded. Some would induce a rant from the average Boston Bruins fan that’d make a Mel Gibson diatribe look as meek and melodic as the local choirs rendition of Silent Night.

Mark Stuart. As one of his biggest fans I’d be displeased to see him go under nearly any circumstance. Given the stable of defensemen behind him, it’d be foolish to send him off without getting something similar in return. At this point only two of the defensemen outside the top six have the physical gifts to be a punishing, durable, aggressive defender in front of the Bruins crease at near the same scale as Stuart. Adam McQuaid is one of them, and he lacks polish and to a degree poise, and I doubt he’s got the same locker room presence, and he’s not quite as punishing a defender. The other is Ryan Donald, at 24 he’s  now a facing a long uphill climb to make it to a full time NHL position, and the jump from the AHL to top four minutes in the NHL is not one that most could expect to make in half a season.

Johnny Boychuck, with a full season left on his contract and his skating, hitting, power play time and blazing shot, it’s hard to imagine any team willingly parting with Boychuck. He’s developed into a top four defenseman after years of toiling in the AHL. While Boychuck’s attractive tradebait, he’s not going to clear much in the way of cap space, and it’s doubtful there’s much that could be brought back with a similar or greater value for less or equal money, the odds of a team being willing to part with that talent in the first place are even lower.

No list of unlikely trade candidates would be complete without he inclusion of Tuukka Rask. He’s young, he had a highly successful regular season last year, he’s got good health and a friendly contract. He’s part of the wave of Finnish goaltenders that have swept over the NHL in the last two or three years. By himself he could probably bring back a good piece of talent, as part of a package, the Bruins might be able to unload a salary or two that other teams might not normally be willing to take on.  Leaving aside Dallas, Atlanta, and Phoenix all who have various ownership issues there are still a dozen teams with more than three million in cap space. When you consider that we’re one quarter of the way through the season and contracts are prorated on a daily basis, that makes even a four million dollar salary doable. It is likely that a team like Florida who is not expected to resign Vokoun, or Edmonton who don’t have much between the pipes might be willing to part with a couple high picks or prospects and take on a salary or two, particularly if they are expiring, to nail down what some call the hardest position to draft for.

While I doubt that the Bruins have given up on Joe Colborne yet, I suspect he’s probably not overly pleased with playing on the fourth line in Providence. Jamie Arniel was among the last players cut before the Bruins departed for their European trip, and the 2008 pick fourth rounder currently leads the P-Bruins in both goals and points. Zach Hamill, was a high pick in the notably thin 2007 draft, and might just decide to seek greener pastures. With the additions of Seguin, and Spooner to this years horde of centers, it’s not entirely outside probability that he asks to be traded. At this point all three would essentially be afterthoughts in any cap clearing trade, in regards to this years cap. Next year though Colborne’s entry level deal could prove prohibitive with the hard cap taking affect.

With the guys who might not even move if hell freezes over taken care of, it’s time to tackle the players the Bruins might get some value from trading. While it’s unlikely all of them, or even most will be traded, and the thought of losing some of them is nearly as scary as Brittany Spears as a mother, they would do the club some good one way or another.

While the thought of losing David Krejci fills most Boston fans with the type of feeling you’d get just before you showed Mom & and Dad where the bad man touched you on a dolly, it’s both logical and leaning towards inevitable. He’ll still be an RFA when his current deal expires at the end of next season, he’s an NHL proven high end player who contributes in all three zones, his play making is his most remarked upon skill, but his contributions when he plays on the penalty kill can’t be overlooked and are nearly enough to make some teams drool alone. His $3.75 million cap hit is manageable, and he’s not the type of guy who’s going to get into trouble off the ice, and will play through any injuries he can. While the Bruins probably don’t want to trade him, he’s not (yet?) the playmaker Savard is, he’s not got the speed or shot (do I need to mention hype?) of Seguin, and he’s not got the size, physicality, puck protection or faceoff prowess of Bergeron. He’s also not got a contractual bar to movement.

Andrew Ference, when he first arrived in Boston in the Brad Stuart deal, I was surprised the scrappy little tree hugger was often the best defenseman on the ice. In the last season or two with various injuries, and certain dearly-departed defensive partners we’ve rarely seen his best play. This season, Ference has had two enormous advantages over the last couple seasons, one is the monster lining up on the opposite side of the blueline, the other is simple good health. While he only played 51 regular season games last year, he played the entire playoffs, preseason and the nineteen games so far this season. At a +11 he leads all Bruins in the category, and is undoubtedly enjoying the best play of his career.  His speed, tenacity, and grit make him desirable, his current deal at a cap friendly$2.25 million isn’t going to cause many teams to back away.

Had Marc Savard started the season healthy, it’s very likely Michael Ryder would have been assigned to Providence, or shipped out for a half stick of bubble gum and a roll of stick tape. Most of the Boston Bruins fans would have been willing to drive him to the airport. Today, he’s third in goals, fifth in scoring and has shown the most consistent effort he’s put forward in any stretch since the start of last season. He put in a strong effort no matter who he was lined up with, and had the loan goal in the Bruins recent loss to Tampa Bay.  His four million dollar deal expires at the end of the season, and teams lacking in scoring might be willing to give up a decent draft pick or prospect for the chance to tip them into the playoffs or from playoff team to contender.  He’s got a great shot, has a blazing release, and when he plays well along the boards can create a lot of turnovers.

Blake Wheeler, in this is third season out of college, the 2004 number 5 pick of the Phoenix Coyotes has been shuffled back and forth between wings, from line to line, and now from wing to center. He’s not scored all that much , but has shown some aptitude for playing center at the NHL level. If he stays and Krejci leaves he becomes the number three center by default, if he goes he has the potential to be playing like a number two center for most teams before years end.  With just a $2.2 mil cap hit, the Bruins would probably like to keep him, watch his development until the end of the season and then decide what to do with him. He went to arbitration this past off season, and landed a deal that’s fair. Even if he walks on July 1, 2011 the Bruins didn’t spend anything to get him and any deal where they bring back a pick or prospect is a win.

Dennis Siedenberg, while it’s unlikely that the shot blocking, hit-man who was acquired at the end of last season and signed over the summer will be traded, he’s a valuable player who has boosted his own stock with consistent, quality play and a solid learning curve over the last two or so seasons. His $3.25 cap number is manageable, and even desirable when compared to deals like Wayne Redden, Sheldon Souray and Brian Campbell.

Daniel Paille, who came to the Boston Bruins from the Buffalo Sabres last year has lost a lot of the cache he had when he was drafted. Back in 2002 when he was drafted by Very South Ontario’s team in the first round he was projected to be a top six forward. This season he’s been squeezed out of the lineup by younger players like Marshand and Caron. While he was an indispensable part of last years penalty kill, he’s played less than ten minutes on the penalty kill this year having been eclipsed by the arrival of the son of master of the NHL’s Wheel of Justice. There’s no question that the speedy winger can still play in the NHL, it’s just a matter of if it’s here in Boston, or elsewhere. As mentioned back in October, there are strong reasons to want Paille around, including his affordable cap hit.

Next up unlikely trade pieces and why they might be interesting one way or the other.

While in the middle of reviewing the Bruins cap crunch, I took a minute or four off to look at the All-Star Vote totals. Sure, the school yard format threatens to make a game that’s as real as Pam Anderson’s chest even worse, but that’s not the point. The point is there are players in non-hockey markets ahead of the Boston Bruin’s players.

While it makes me want to vomit to know that Carey Price is ahead of Tim Thomas in goalie voting, I can accept that. I mean seriously, it keeps the Montreal fans from flipping cars and burning cruisers so it’s a good thing for the environment, the court systems and law and order in Quebec. True Price has done little but watch better goalies get traded away in his career, but with all the work he put in helping the Smurfs on his team reach things on the top shelf I can live with this one, I guess. Besides Montreal doesn’t have anything to do with any real sports other than hockey so… But, that’s not the point.

And given that Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin have been force fed to anyone who hears anything about the NHL since before the lockout was over, it’s not a shock that they are top five vote getters, hell they might even deserve it. Chicago is one of the largest cities in North America, so last seasons Norris Trophy Winner Duncan Keith is a natural as well, and he does deserve it. Nicklas Lidstrom is pushing triple digits in age, and as the hockey fans have more sense and class than the hacks who vote people into the Hockey Hall of Fame, it’s not surprising Lidstrom is on near the top given that this is probably his last hurrah. But alas, that’s not the point.

Even that whiny, one zone, overpaid git Phil Kessel is high on the list. Given that Toronto fans are delusional enough to believe they got the better of that trade, and thought they’d be in the playoffs this season, I’m kinda surprised he’s not even higher. I’m going to have to guess that his failure to top the list is due to the passionate love Leaf Lovers have for the Raptor’s who are just as dynamic as the Maple Leafs. I wonder if Brian Burke is GM of them too?

The point is there are players in non-hockey markets ahead of the Boston Bruin’s players. Here’s some of the various players from redneck crossroads, hick towns, and places where belt buckles and NASCAR are more popular than hockey, high school diplomas and hygiene that somehow have players ahead of the Bruins players on the All Star ballot count. Also included are things that just plain baffle me.

  • Michael Cammilleri (@MCammalleri13), in more games has the exact same number of goals as Michael Ryder. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, is there ergot in every dish of poutine in Quebec?
  • Alex Semin aka “Little Drummer Boy”

has more votes than Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci combined.

  • Ilya Kovalchuk who has four goals and $100 million contract has almost twice as many votes at Milan Lucic who has about three times as many points and more than twice as many goals.
  • Mike “What’s Defense?” Green has more votes than someone who actually has won a Norris Trophy. Honestly, can the Washington Capitals just reassign him to wing where he belongs? I’ll even cheer for him playing there since his complete lack of defensive play will be less noticeable there.
  • Ok, let’s leave aside the fact that he’s the captain of Toronto, and that as their continued cheering of Kessel proves they have no taste there, how is former Calgary Flames “stud” first among the Maple Leaf’s blueliners in votes? He’ll get confused, at this point he’s used to coming in second.  How in the hell is this head case ahead of Johnny Boychuck?
  • Max Talbot of Pittsburgh, Jason Spezza of Ottawa, and Jussi Jokienen of wherever, are all ahead of Milan Lucic in ballot count? I didn’t even know any of the three were actually playing in the NHL this year. Sure, the Senators play in a building that’s quieter than a library, but they are at least a hockey market (sorta). I do have to admit I am impressed that the Sidney Crosby fans in powder blue knew the name of another player on their roster. Very impressed, Kudos.
  • As far as pure shock value goes, near the top has to be Zach Parise getting more votes than Shawn Thornton. Leaving aside any other year of their careers, Shawn Thornton is far more deserving of being there this year, and would be the only player at the All Star game who’s interviews didn’t threaten Ambien’s market share.
  • Brandy Brandon “The Slasher” Dubinsky is somehow getting more votes than any Bruins forward.
  • I do think it’s really amazing that everyone who’s ever been to a Carolina Hurricanes game sent in a vote for their favorite figure skater Jeff Skinner.

But, I have no problems with Sean Avery getting votes, I think it’d be good for coverage for someone who might play with an edge, say something interesting, and has the skill to pot a goal or two to be there.

It’s as big a secret as Perez Hilton’s sexuality that the Boston Bruins are in a bad cap place. The sword of Damocles has been doing more dangling than Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Anze Kopitar combined. Before the season started, it was widely speculated who would be signed at all, who would be dealt, and who would stay. The return of Marc Savard’s post concussion syndrome, and Marco Sturm’s long recovery from a second knee injury provided a stay of execution for both the front office, and the players. With Savard recently cleared for contact, and Sturm skating urgency is the word of the day. The on ice play of some members of the Black and Gold has made what was expected to be a clear cut case of dumping salary far more murky.  Here’s a look at some of the players who are highly unlikely to be moved in the next week or two.

First on the list of players going no where is Tim Thomas, last season he battled a hip injury, a hand injury, a team that spent most of the season forgetting that they were supposed to play in front of him. This year he’s returned to his Vezina winning form, a form that includes acrobatics that might land him a job in Cirque du Soleil if he ever considers a career change, and a shutout collection that seems to grow weekly. To put things in perspective, in his Vezina season where he split duties with Manny Fernandez, he had five shutouts in fifty seven games. This season in thirteen he has four.  He currently leads the NHL in Sv%, GAA, and SO. He also has a NMC he’s unlikely to waive.

Next on the list is Olympic Gold Medalist, faceoff ace, best all around player and longest tenured skater, Patrice Bergeron. He’s a leader both on and off the ice, is an emotional catalyst for the team, can play center where he has been for the past several season, or wing where he was drafted. Bergeron plays in all situations, and is one of the guys who can be counted on to show up and play every shift of very game.  Even if one of the youngsters should emerge as a better option at center the not-quite greybeard can easily be slip back to right wing. He was resigned to a new three year deal back in October as well. As the organization has made it a goal to get bigger at forward losing the largest of the top three centers, who also outmasses Seguin, Spooner and Suave seems like a step backward.

Milan Lucic isn’t going any place. He’s probably not going anyplace even if he asks to be traded. Leaving aside the burgeoning power forward’s on ice contributions, he’s good for merchandise sales. Given the huge cheers that spring up from the Garden Crowd’s whenever he touches the puck or pummels someone, even if he did ask for a trade I don’t think I’d want to be the GM who traded the man who is currently the teams goal scoring leader, has turned in one of the best post season +/-‘s in the last several years, and has worked consistently at improving one aspect of his game every season since he got here. Just go look at footage of his skating from his rookie season, and then look at his skating now. Then, go look at his second season and pay attention to his shot release.  His release wasn’t quite slow enough to be clocked with a sun dial, but it’s no where near the speed it is today. Also, he’s leading Phil Kessel in goals, points, and plus-minus right now.

Zdeno Chara, it may seem strange that I have to list a six foot nine, two hundred sixty pound, Norris Trophy winning blueline monster who happens to be the team captain on this list, and I agree. However, there are certain chowderheads in the local media who don’t buy Chara as a number one defenseman, much less an elite defenseman who can’t be left any objective list of the top ten defensemen in the NHL, and will probably appear in most top five lists.  While his $7.5 million cap hit would erase the cap crunch in one move, the question becomes what sort of value are you getting back? None of the comparable defensemen (Keith, Weber, Doughty, Pronger, Lidstrom) are going to come cheap (if at all), and both Pronger and Lidstrom are older than Chara. I can’t see the front offices in Chicago, Columbus or LA doing anything but laugh hysterically at the thought of trading their studs. For the next tier down, (Suter, Seabrook, Markov, Jovanovski, Bouwmeester) you’re looking at players who are either not going to be available, one dimensional, or who have consistency issues.  While a blockbuster trade that sent Chara and Ryder to Atlanta for Byfuglien, Kane and a pick might work in a fantasy league, and would be exciting, I think I’ll fail to hold my breath on it happening.

Marc Savard, not only is he aging, not very athletic, and possibly subject to bias from high up the NHL pecking order, he’s now making a second comeback from at least his second concussion. He’s got a no trade clause he’s unlikely to waive, and on top of that he’s still a dynamic playmaker with sensational passing skills on a team that’s offense is shaky.  I don’t see him wanting to go anywhere else, even to a team where he’d have as good a shot at winning a cup as he does in Boston (or better) in the next year or two.

Marco Sturm. As the longest tenured German in NHL history, you might expect him to be older than his 32 years. Despite the injuries of the last two years he’s been a remarkably consistent and healthy player. In the last seven seasons that he’s played 64 or more games he’s never failed to score less than twenty goals.  With the depth up front he has a solid shot at breaking twenty goals again. There’s even a possibility he’s reunited with old running mate Patrice Bergeron. This is the last year of his contract, and he’s got to be playing not just for pride this year, but for his future employment. He’s another of the Boston players with solid three zone play.

Next Post:  players it may be most beneficial to trade.

I had an on going argument over the value of Dennis Wideman to the Boston Bruins for nearly his entire tenure. One of us was of the opinion that his the offense and ability to dig the puck out of the defensive zone more than compensated for my opinion that he was a misplaced winger with no skating ability, the defensive tools of a three legged sheep, and all the hockey instincts that can be put into an eye dropper. It was a fun discussion, usually expressed in unprintable words with cheerful slander of each others wit, sanity, lineage and hockey knowledge. I miss the discussion more than I miss having number six consistently failing to contain passes on the blueline during a powerplay.

So what the hell does the title have to do with my mental meanderings up and down this page? Everything. I could forgive Wideman his scant defensive skills, and the fact he’s the worst skater I’ve ever seen making more than a million dollars a season. And yes, that most certainly includes Glen Murray (pre and post hip & ankle injuries), Aaron Ward and any goalie you care to name. What I can’t forgive is his work ethic.

Like Brad Boyes, whom the Bruins shipped out to get him, Wideman is the epitome of a “maybe, sometime” guy. These two are guys who put in a real effort maybe, sometimes and loaf the rest of the time. Boyes is a talented goal scorer who can bury the puck with the best of them, when he wants, which is -maybe, sometime. Wideman can make solid passes, has a more than respectable half-slapper, and is willing to block shots, but only maybe, sometimes. Neither player, exhibits a consistent work ethic.

Now compare these two to say, Alex Ovechkin. This is one of the fiercest competitors not just in the NHL but all of sports. When faced with blueline badass Zdeno Chara he doesn’t hesitate even half a step to go straight at the six foot nine monster. Even on night when Ovechkin is kept off the score board, he doesn’t stop trying to win the game. He hits, he clogs up passing lanes, he shoots, he passes, goes full tilt start to stop. Dennis Wideman, not so much.

Some might say that Ovechkin who has not just the fierce drive that others lack, but a double fistful of talent and athletic ability to with it is an unfair comparison. In some ways I agree, but not most. So how about former. Detroit Red Wing, Boston Bruin and Carolina Hurricane Aaron Ward. Strong skating, great offense, tremendous shot are not things you’ll find in any credible scouting report of the now former player. But positional soundness he possessed at the sports pinnacle, willingness to hit or be hit, and the ability to block hundreds of shots. Injured or healthy, home, road, preseason, regular season or post you knew when Ward stepped onto the ice every minute was a flatout effort to give his team the best possible chance to win. I don’t recall a single game during his tenure in Boston, or even a shift where I thought Ward was capable of giving more. Were there times he was beaten by a great pass or agile opponent, of course those happened to Bourque, and Orr to.

Wideman clearly, and manifestly lacks the willingness to compete shift by shift, night by night all season long. He’s so into the game he’s paid to play that he was caught absent-mindedly picking his nose on the bench instead of trying to keep track of the play like the number 2 defenseman he was (over)paid to be. He spent almost the entirety of last season loafing through shifts and rebuilding many of the bad habits he’d dropped the season before. When the playoffs came he turned on the jets and started to compete, but aside from allowing the Bruins to trade him out of town for well more than his worth, it accomplished little.

So from my seat tonight, I will not be cheering Wideman, not even once. Not because he’s no longer a Bruin, not because of his incomplete skill set but because I can’t stand maybe, sometimes guys.