In the case of the Mob vs Reality docket number PS/12282101RIDIC-CJ we have the case of the “embattled” Bruins head coach Claude Julien. The charges are listed with all evidence included. Decide for yourself.

He’s been here three years and hasn’t won in the playoffs.

This is only partly true, the first year they lost in the first round, going to six with a loaded Montreal team. In that campaign, Bergeron was lost early on leaving Glen Metropolit, Peter Schaefer, Jeremy Reich with rookies David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Petteri Nokelainen, and to provide breaks for Marc Savard (who had a vertebrae broken in his back just before the series), Glen Murray, and P.J. Axellson. On defense were Bobby Allen, Matt Lashoff, and Andrew Alberts.  Clearly that was a roster with Stanley Cup written all over it.

The case in 08-09 is actually slightly better, except they won a round. They went into the playoffs and embarrassed the Canadiens, and going to the mat with the Hurricanes. The goaltending and defense were solid, any case that can me made against a 1.85 and .935 isn’t worth writing down, listening to or responding too. The two issues were goal scoring, and what I can only hope was a communication break down that led to Wideman and Montador being on the ice, together, in the defensive zone, in overtime. Add in Recchi having a kidney stone removed between games six and seven, Kessels shoulder injury, Krejci’s hip injury, and Chuck Kobasew having as many goals as the entire defense. On top of this, Bitz and Yelle, were getting ice time because there was no once else.

Then there is last year. The previous years Vezina winner is quietly on the shelf with a hip injury that no one was talking about.  Savard had his brains scrambled then lied his way back into the line up, half of the top four defensemen entering the post season were on the shelf, the previous seasons top goal scorer was on the shelf with a knee injury. During the brutally physical Buffalo series Vladimir Sobotka has his shoulder separated. Mike Richards tosses a sixth roster player on the scrap heap with an open ice hit that cracks Krejci’s wrist.  Mean while, back on the ice, Trent Whitfield, is playing big time NHL minutes, Milan Lucic is nearly recovered from a high ankle sprain that limits the mobility of someone who’s never been a great skater and is one of the best two physical presences left on the ice. Zdeno Chara has finally removed a cast he’d worn since October. Behind Chara are, Hunwick, rookie Boychuck, and the ever reliable Denis Wideman. Adding depth to the addled Savard and the singled out by survival Bergeron are Steve Begin, Miroslav Satan, and the NHL’s elder statesman Mark Recchi who led all Bruins in goals in the playoffs last year.

He plays veterans too much and doesn’t give young players enough time.

Not really an operative complaint on a team that’s not failed to reach the playoffs and have a winning record in his tenure. Are other rookies getting more time than Seguin, yes absolutely.  Among rookie forwards, Seguin is ranked 13th with none of the twelve players ahead of him having played less games. Of the players ahead of him, Logan Coture, Mark Letestu, Bryan Bickell, Jake Dowell, Mikael Backlund and Tyler Ennis all played in the NHL before this season. Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, and Magnus Paajarvi represent an unfortunate percent of their talent given that two of them are one and two in goal scoring for their team.

Of the other true rookies there is David Stepan, Jeff Skinner, Alexander Burmistrov and at the start of the season, none of their three teams were expected to make the playoffs back in September except possibly as bubble teams.  The Rangers have had a lot of injuries up front with Drury, Gaborik, Frolov and others spending time on the shelf, giving more ice time to a player two years older. Jeff Skinner looks like the steal of the draft, but let’s face it, on his team anyone who could skate, and show up who ended up playing part of the season with Eric Staal was going to look pretty damned good. Skinner has worked hard to be second in scoring on his team no doubt, but how much of an accomplishment is that on a team that’s 16th in goals for, one point out of last in their division, and two points out of the lottery?

But he skated Wideman, and Ryder when they #$%&\@!.

Yes, as the coach he did. Look at the AHL stats for the Providence Bruins last season, hint hint, they did not qualify for the playoffs. Look now, Wideman is gone, Ryder is third in scoring and has gotten much less time and far more linemates than the two men ahead of him.

He doesn’t develop young players!

You mean like David Krejci, Johnny Boychuck, Tuukka Rask, Milan Lucic, Blake Wheeler, Brad Marchand who have all stuck with the club in his tenure? Or do you mean guys like Matt Lashoff, Byron Bitz, Vladimir Sobotka, Phil Kessel who were all traded away for building blocks? Yes, I can see your concern, I have a great microscope.

But Chicago fired their coach last season and went on to win the Stanley Cup!

The Chicago BlackHawks were incredibly loaded, with the exception of their goaltending there wasn’t a single position on that team that didn’t make other clubs drool with envy. The cap sodomization they inflicted on themselves ensures they will be lucky to even make the playoffs this year as half their roster turned over. They were also lucky enough to have all their key components reasonably healthy all at once.  More importantly as this years New York Islanders amply demonstrate, just dumping a coach doesn’t always improve things, not that it saved Macleans job.

He’s lost the lockerroom! They aren’t showing any emotion! Their powerplay sucks!

I’m pretty sure it hasn’t been moved on him. I’m also pretty sure that a team that goes out and beats down Atlanta, when the only guy on the on the ice who is a well respected fighter is the one who got the cheap shot in the first place, and the rest have combined for less NHL fights than Lucic has had in one season is “showing some emotion”. Also, I’d be hard pressed to explain a powerplay that has essentially the same personnel as last year jumping from 23rd to 13th in the NHL if the players have stopped listening to the coaches.

The defense rests.

Thanks to @ScottyHockey for the fact check.

One of the things that greatly annoys me about the only other sport I pay any attention to is accessibility. Or rather the lack of. While I’ve listed before, and will again the things that NHL management has goofed, hosed or just screwed up, today’s post is a bit more positive.

I’m a New Englander born and raised, we know what football team that makes me a fan of. My work and occasionally travel schedule is intense, chaotic and not prone to neat Monday-Friday 9-5 type regularity. When I get the chance to enjoy a game, its great that the NHL let’s me.

I was out of town not long ago hoping to listen to the local heros of the gridiron. No internet access to it. Not on tv, and when I opened up my smartphone radio app I couldn’t even listen the station was streaming some garbage talk program when I was craving a game.

Let’s compare this to the NHL. Last year, I listened to about a dozen out of market games through the same app, watched about fifty games on my computer, and was able to rerun full games right online anytime. I don’t have to pay the NHL to listen to a radio broadcast of any game I want. Like a lot of people the only radio I own is the one in my car, which is limited to what stations are in range. If I’m sitting at my computer in some back corner of nowhere its nice to be able to watch and listen to games when I want.

The Lost Nordiques and the Boston Bruins have a history of trades, the most memorable of which was the trade that sent hall of famer Ray Bourque to win a Stanley Cup. This trade idea is slightly less laden with all star and all time names, but could result in one or both teams making their own cup run again. This would be a three player trade that provided both teams with something they desperately need.

To Boston:

Chris Stewart,

Why: Goal scoring touch, feisty attitude, big body. Putting Stewart with Savard or Bergeron and you’re instantly upgrading size,  scoring depth and physicality. With the

To Colorado:

Daniel Paille, Blake Wheeler

Why:  Colorado’s defense and especially penalty kill are woeful. The have the 27th ranked penalty kill in the league, and not surprisingly they sit at the same place for goals against. Both Wheeler and Paille possess speed in the top 5-10% of the NHL, and even if they are a slight downgrade in goalscoring, between the two of them they can probably improve the penalty kill 5% minimum.  As the highest scoring team in the NHL, a five or six goals for over the course of the regular season are not going to spell disaster.The Avalanche are likely to be flowing into the post season for the second straight year, and a key to sticking around to see round two will be improving their penalty kill.

Cap consideration:

Annualized, this would save the Bruins about $400,000 this season,  and cost the Avalanche the same amount according to Capgeek.com. Both Wheeler and Stewart are RFA’s at the end of their deals according to NHLNumbers.com, with Wheelers expiring this year, and Stewart next season. Paille would be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2011-2012 season. Even with the cap expected to rise next year, long term the Avalanche are looking at some a some serious number crunching. The recently acquired Tomas Fleishmann is due a new contract at the end of the year, and he’s clicked quite well with Matt Duchene. Duchene’s entry level deal will end at as next season expires, and I can’t imagine him signing cheap. At 34 Milan Hejduk is still trucking along and is currently a more than point per game player through 28 games this season. Sooner or later the Avalanche will have to replace the aging Adam Foote who eats up a lot of time on their penalty kill, and it’s doubtful they can get anyone worth having at a cap hit as low as his. For the Bruins the cap savings might mean the ability to recall Caron, or Arniel and maybe take an extra player or two on road trips without taking a prohibitive cap penalty that will carry over into next year.

Back on the 30th of November was the first look at where the NHL rookies stood. We also looked at how they compared to the one hundred million dollar man.

Leading the pack for forwards were Logan Coture of the San Jose Sharks, Jeff Skinner of the Carolina Hurricanes, and Derek Stepan of the New York Rangers. Tops in the crease were a pair of young Europeans, Sergei Bobrovsky of the Philadelphia Flyers, and backstopping the Washington Capitals Michael Neuvirth. Rounding out the conversation were blueliners John Carlson, another young gun for Washington, the mouth of Montreal PK Subban, and flying high enough to earn lots of minutes for the Avalanche, Kevin Shattenkirk.

Ilya Kovalchuk’s current stats are 8-10-18 -21.

Just moving up to the pack are Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle of Edmonton, and Brian Bickell, of the injury plagued BlackHawks. Eberle and Hall sit in third and fourth behind Coture and Skinner. Right now,  of the four only Coture has a positive +/- rating.  While Hall was the clear cut favorite before the season started, learning the game at the NHL level is not quite as easy as it sounds, even if you’re lucky enough to have an elite vetern player or two on your squad as Coture and Skinner do, and Hall and Eberle do not.

On the blueline, John Carlson continues to make a name for himself on the recently woeful Washington Capitals.  Racking up seventy blocked shots and thirty-two hits, would earn him a spot on just about any blueline, add in his TOI which hovers just under 22 minutes a game, and you’re making waves. He’s also tenth in rookie scoring. Cam Fowler was another of the last drafts crop of potential Calder winners, currently he leads all rookies in TOI, and is number eight for rookie scoring. With a -6 to Carlson’s +6, you might be tempted to simply focus in on a quick look at the quality of the two teams might say more. Kevin Shattenkirk has only played 22 games this season for the high flying Avalanche, and is still tied for fourth in points, everyone ahead of him has played at least 31.

Blissfully, the picture in goal has gotten murkier. Bobrovsky has gotten shuffled to the bench as Boucher has his yearly hot streak, but remains high in the rankings for goalies in major stats. New to the dance is Anders Lindback Nashvilles other goalie. Pekka Rinne is due back soon, but I can’t help but wonder if it might the coaches might want to let Rinne take his time coming back, like a month or two more. Today, Lindback leads all rookie goaltenders in GAA, Sv%, and shutouts. Lindback is also comfortably ahead of Rinne in those stats, with a similar number of games.

Once darkhorse worth mentioning is Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand. While some will only remember him for getting smoked on a clean PK Subban hit, he has been a big part of a very effective penalty kill. Marchand is also first in rookie shorthanded goals and tied for the NHL lead among all players in the least games in the same category. He’s second among forwards in SHTOI, and sits 15th in among rookies in scoring, and seventh in hits for rookies.

Lights. Camera. Action!

Some of the teams in the NHL would have you believe they star of their own summer action adventure flick. In some cases they’ve even been mowing down the opposition with a Rambo like pace. Despite what history says about teams who are in playoff position in December, being in the playoffs in, some teams are going to fall down the ladder, and some will fall out entirely.

Anaheim: They currently sit just five points behind the division leading Dallas Stars.  Seventh place in the west isn’t always a bad place to be, right now it shows how much they are over achieving, and how weak the conference is as a whole. The Ducks are 21st in both goals for and goals against, and their penalty kill is a dismal 24th.  About the only strength of the team is their ninth ranked power play. With all those weaknesses, its not surprising with the most games played in the NHL, as many as six more than other teams that they currently lead a few other teams.

Montreal: Yes, I am a Bruins fan, yes I think Price is at best the fourth best goalie in the division, but take at look at who they Habs have played and a few other stats, and you will be as unsurprised as I am to see them significantly lower in the standings than they are today when April rolls over the NHL. Almost half of their wins are within their division.  A 9-3-0 record in your division doesn’t do bad things for your points total, but when the division only has two teams worth naming this season, it can do bad things for your view of how talented you are. While they are scoring some wins, scoring is hardly their strength. At 18th in the league and seven spots behind the other team worth talking about this year in their division.  While Price is playing the best hockey of his career, its doubtful he can keep up quite this good for the 65-75 starts he’s likely to get at the current pace he’s on. His previous high is 52 games.

Tampa Bay: With Stamkos cooling off, and a goaltending tandem that is the worst in the NHL its awe-inspiring to see them in playoff position right now.  They are the highest ranked team in the NHL with a negative plus/minus.  To put it another way, they are currently tied with the 26th place Edmonton Oilers for most goals allowed. The Boston Bruins currently have the best goals against with 65 goals allowed, Stamkos, St Louis and the rest have allowed 108 goals. They are clearly rebuilding the right way, and the type of offense they have now, will probably be attractive to free agents this summer.

This is a feature that will run about every two weeks with improbable stats and situations in the National Hockey League.

If I told you in September that:

  • … more than halfway through December the New Jersey Devils would not only be out of the playoff picture, but separated from the Atlantic Division lead by more than twice their own points total…
  • … that Alex Ovechkin would lose his cool, lose his mits, and lose his first NHL fight to Brandon Dubinksky who he’s currently losing the scoring race to…

  • …on December 16th, there would be more points between 8th  and  9th in the Eastern Conference than there would be between 1st and 6th in the Western Conference…
  • …Mike Green, and Marc Staal would be tied for points on this date, and neither would be within sight of the points lead for defensemen…
  • …the leagues second oldest play Nicklas Lidstrom who entered his 19th season without ever recording a hat trick, would beat Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin, Jeff Skinner, and Magnus Paajarvi to the punch…
  • …Andrew Raycroft would have more than twice as many wins and less than half as many wins as Tuukka Rask with a third of the season gone…
  • …both Carey Price and Tim Thomas would probably deserve and earn not just Vezina attention buy Hart Trophy consideration as well…
  • … Nittymaki, Smith, and Budaj would have better stats at anything than Halak, Thomas, and Bryzgalov. Even if it isn’t real hockey.
  • …the Chicago Blackhawks who kept their key defensive pieces would have allowed  the third most goals in the NHL.
  • …the same Chicago Blackhawks would be as close to the Edmonton Oilers in points as they are to the Detroit Red Wings…
  • …the Penguins would have allowed less goals than the Flyers, Devils, Sabres, or Red Wings…

The Boston Bruins have long been maligned for a certain lack. But that isn’t the case, Marc Savard, hardly the most athletic or imposing member of the Black and Gold has over the years stood up for Milan Lucic, and now Zdeno Chara when the big boys were outnumbered or blindsided.

Neither Chara nor Lucic have ever needed someone to stick up for them, it was done because someone needed a message sent. Patrice Bergeron will never threaten any NHL enforcers job, but when players take one too many liberties even he will drop the gloves and go, as Josh Georges found out to his dismay and indignity.

Mark Stuart has yet to meet the man who will make him pass on a chance to send them, once going three separate times with Jamal Mayers, two of their “discussions” in that game were listed as roughing minors by the officials, but everyone else in the building, and everyone watching at home knew the score.

Hell, even Grampa Recchi proved there was still some fire in the belly by dropping the gloves and going with Chris Campoli earlier this year.

So toughness, isn’t the answer. They have more than a handful of guys willing to drop the gloves, even the monster known as Blake Wheeler has been known to go for gladiatorial glory.

Statistically, this team is about where it needs to be to succeed. They have a stellar defense, and a rather enviable goalkeeping situation. (Mostly.) Their offense is nearer the top of the league than most people would have predicted in October. The failure to thrive has to be something different. I pointed out who shapes the personality of a team a few days ago.  So let’s take a look at who drafted which of some of the better known members of the Bruins, and look at the two men.

Mike O’Connell was a mostly unremarkable NHL defenseman. He had a career goal goal high of 18 goals in 1984, smack dab in the middle of the NHL’s golden age of scoring, Wayne Gretzky scored 87 that year, teammate Ray Bourque had 31 that season. He never am-massed more than  75 penalty minutes in a season in an era when line brawls were still common and bench clearing brawls weren’t unheard of, most of his seasons were in the 40’s.  As GM he was the man who traded Joe Thornton to San Jose. Never really came off as a great public speaker or someone who particularly enjoyed the spotlight, media attention or was highly emotional.

Some of the guys drafted by O’Connell:

  • Patrice Bergeron, a cerebral playmaker who’s good in all three zones, tolerates the media but would clearly rather be in the gym or on the couch with a good book than in front of the cameras.
  • David Krejci, a cerebral playmaker who’s good in all three zones, not spectacular but has very sharp passing skills and the ability to track his own teammates in an almost uncanny way. Clearly regards cameras as a form of torture that’d be outlawed if he were ever world dictator, but he’d probably rather be bowling than ruling.
  • Mark Stuart, quiet stay at home defensemen who’s pops is a brain surgeon, and who while mostly a quiet guy who has trouble remembering to breathe when he gets interviewed.

Peter Chiarelli was a Boston University college player, who’s pro-resume is exactly four games long, all of those in the British Hockey League, on a team where he may have been the best player. Peter Chiarelli, probably has almost as much love for cameras as does David Krejci, and his interviews aren’t going to become something that earn him a post management color commentating job ala Mike Milbury and Don Cherry, they might however get him a job as a drug free sleep therapist.

A few of the players brought in by Peter Chiarelli.

  • Jordan Caron. A kid who was criticized in some circles for taking to long to get to the podium when he was drafted because he stopped to quietly embrace the six or seven hundred supporters at the draft with him. Even during his interviews after his first NHL games and goals, he was very soft spoken.
  • Tyler Seguin, a cerebral high end talent who actively seeks direction from everyone around him to the point where he has actually had a limit on the number of question he can ask placed on him. When a camera is aimed at him he looks a bit like Pinocchio before he goes from puppet to real boy.
  • Blake Wheeler, took the route of passive resistance and preferring to risk not having a pro-career to demanding the Pheonix Coyotes trade him. Has had liberties taken with him right and left and only dropped the gloves once. Of the six players singled out, is probably the best pure interview, and yet I doubt he’ll end up holding the microphone when he hangs up the skates, not surprisingly he majored in economics.

While all of these guys are skilled at their positions, and at least two have leadership qualities, none of them, nor Zdeno Chara or any of the teams other top talents can really be counted as outgoing volatile personalities.  On the ice when the provocation is three steps beyond intolerable and as plain as the nose on Lucic’s face, they will act.

What they need, what the lack, what the front office should desire far more than a puck moving defenseman is a catalyst. That dynamic player who makes things happen, drops the gloves at the drop of hat, who burns hot on the ice, and can be counted on to have two or three feuds running with other teams, or even individual players. they guy who plays on one of the first two lines, and can be counted on to infect the entire team with his outrage, passion, or grim determination. Think of Shane Doan or Jarome Iginla and the way both of their teams ride their wakes. When either creates large waves, the team swamps whoever is on the ice with them. Either of those players is a potential solution, and while it’s unlikely either could be had has Iginla has a not trade clause and a hefty salary, and Doan as a full no movement, either one could be the mix that takes the current Bruins roster from contender to champion.

Some people will say its the job of the coach to motivate players, and in someways that’s correct, but this is the type of motivation I’ve never seen come from a coach. It’s either a skater or no one, right now in the case of the Boston Bruins, it’s no one.

With Marco Sturms tenure with the Bruins laying firmly in the crosshairs of the salary cap, injuries and the surprising play of others, it was only a matter of time before the trigger was pulled. Before you get overwhelmed by the Bruins not so many woes, let’s take a look at some of those woes.

Woe 1) The Bruins need better defense.

Sure, being the best in the NHL, in a conference with five (six if you count Lucic) of the top goal scorers, and six of the top goal scoring teams is clearly a sign of faulty defense. I’m not sure why any mobs haven’t already strung up Peter Chiarelli, Claude Julien, Geoff Ward and the rest of the Bruins management, Cam included. Atrocious.

Woe 2) The Bruins want a puck moving defenseman.

Well, so do 29 other teams in the NHL, and probably every other team in every other hockey league on the planet. Every little girl on the planet wants a pony too, that doesn’t mean they need one. With very few exceptions, puck moving defensemen (once called two way defensemen) are the streaky wingers of the blueline. Of the defensemen who were in the top five for points last season, none are currently in the top five, and only Duncan Keith is in the top ten. He’s a -7 on the year. The Chicago BlackHawks have scored about one eighth of a goal more per game, and allowed just under a goal per game.

Woe 3) The Bruins aren’t scoring enough!

This is nearly legitimate. When the Penguins last won the Cup, they headed into the post season having scored twenty three goals more than they allowed. In other words they had a +23. Today, right now the Bruins sit with a +25. With their top play-maker Marc Savard having spent time on the shelf, and not back to full capacity yet, and with David Krejci missing time being 11th in the NHL with just a few percentage points separating them from ten is a nice place to me. I can’t imagine guys like Lucic, Bergeron, Chara, Savard being complacent and not wanting to get into the top ten, or even the top five before the end of the season.

Woe 4) Why aren’t they doing anything with all the cap space?

Even with Sturm gone, the Bruins are still pretty tight to the cap. The reason for moving him, and not the salary of a slightly higher paid winger was that they didn’t want to rock the boat. You may not have noticed, but the Bruins have scored more goals, and allowed less than anyone in their division. This is considered by a few people to be a winning formula. While Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe reports, there were Dallas Stars scouts at the Philadelphia and Buffalo games, I’d be surprised to see anything huge come out of it. The west is so tight this year, that I’ll be amazed if we know anything more than which teams won’t make the playoffs before the final week or two of the season. If something does happen I wouldn’t be surprised if it was something like C, D to Dallas, W, Pick to Boston.

With Mark Stuart on the shelf until as late as February recent Bruins acquisition Steve Kampfer is in. Mark Stuart blocked a shot early in the Bruins over time win against the Buffalo Sabres. While this is the second broken hand for Stuart in two years, entering last season Boston’s “Caveman” was the team ironman.  With the stats updated through last nights game, Stuart is just one blocked shot below Captain Zdeno Chara, and in third overall.

Kampfer is a Michigan native, and like Stuart came up through the college ranks instead of heading north to play major juniors. Listed at 197lbs, he’s larger than either Ference or McQuaid and gives the team three sub 200lb blueliners. With Boychuck and McQuaid totaling a spare 105 NHL games and now Kampfer added to the mix, one has to wonder how long the Bruins defense can remain the NHL’s stingiest.

On the plus side Kampfer was among the last cuts made from the NHL roster at the end of the preseason. More importantly he hasn’t spent any time sulking. Like Jamie Arniel who had a cameo earlier this season, Kampfer took the time in Providence to prove it wasn’t where he belongs. At the time of his recall Kamfer was second overall in team scoring, first in defensemen, and first in assists. His stat line of 3-13-16 +10 is good enough to be tied for sixth in AHL defensemen scoring.  The first year pro was also tied for 8th in rookie scoring in the AHL.

If Kampfer can achieve a similar level of performance in the NHL, he might just jump into the Calder Trophy race. Given the nature of the Bruins defense, more injuries are not a probability, but a certainty. Hell, if he plays well enough one or more of the current top six could find themselves sent packing. Despite his frequent pairings with Chara in the preseason, I’d expect that he probably won’t see more than 12-15 minutes a night over his first half dozen games if there are no other injuries.