Given how little turnover was expected for the remaining roster spots after the signing of Pouliot and the acquisition of Joe Corvo I’m honestly surprised by how many of the AHL players are still in camp. Add in Chris Clark lingering around and you have a genuine mystery if all you do is look at the surface of it. One forward position to fill, and a seventh defensemen to weed from the pack. A coach who just wanted to get thing set up and start working on the regular season lines could be forgiven for making an easy call and going with Jordan Caron who was here for twenty games last season much as Brad Marchand was the year before, or Jamie Arniel who led the Providence Bruins in goals and points and calling the forward position filled. Likewise, Steve Kampfer was in the midst of a promising rookie season before being sidelined, and Matt Bartkowski was called up for six games.
Yet, it is down to ten days left before the banner is raised and the puck is dropped on the new season and ice is littered with other players. Part of this is no doubt an effort to give the key players like Tim Thomas, Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara and others who did the heaviest lifting throughout the championship run as light as workload as possible. But that can’t explain it all. It’s only when you pull up a site like NHLNumbers.com or CapGeek.com that it becomes apparent that you’re looking at plans for later in the season when it becomes expedient to move players who won’t be brought back either because of their contract demands or their performance, as well as next years potential roster.
As of today, the number of players signed for the 2011-12 season is disconcertingly small. NHLNumbers lists just four defensemen from the Cup run signed beyond this season, Chara, Seidenberg, Ference and McQuaid are a lot of minutes covered but not enough for a full season. Up front the numbers are even worse, excluding Marc Savard, there are just five forwards signed for the 2012-13 season. Worse, of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Tyler Seguin, only Bergeron is not due for contract renewal after that season.
This also explains the early dismissal of the bright junior prospects. Not a few fans were genuinely shocked to see the departure of the top CHL players before allowing them even token appearances in the middle preseason games. While only one or two of the forwards were even close to NHL ready, they weren’t collectively close enough to make distracting from the AHL prospects reasonable. Sauve and Arniel are entering their third year out of juniors. Zach Hamill who had a cameo last season in his fourth year out of Everett Silvertips is one of just two of the two ten picks in the 2007 draft to play less than 100 games in the NHL.
Two of the defense pairings that have emerged through camp and the preseason games draw attention to themselves. The first is veteran Andrew Ference and Colby Cohen who was brought over in the Matt Hunwick trade. Cohen despite being traded for a roster player was not among the defensemen called up during the season. The former BU Terrier has shown some offensive prowess as an amateur but in sixty-six total professional games has just two goals. Cohen’s fellow Keystone State native Matt Bartkowski who was part of the filling on the Seidenberg acquisition has been seen skating with Johnny Boychuck. Bartkowski did manage to be on the ice for six games for Boston last season in with limited ice time.
Add in the return of Zach McKelvie and David Warsovsky’s first full professional season and you can see eleven different defensemen jockeying for seven positions. Warsovsky left school to join Providence last season, and put up three assists in the final ten games of the AHL season. Warsovsky was acquired for Sobotka and is looked at as a potential powerplay quarterback. McKelvie is fresh off two years with the Army and looks steadier than most expected after two years away from the professional game.
One can’t help but speculate on if we will see one or two of last seasons roster moved. With the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement set to expire at seasons end, the Bruins pitiful powerplay, and the cachet of a fresh Stanley Cup run these might present the perfect storm for getting or moving players for the Bruins suits. Some teams may be nervous the labor dispute will get as bad as the NBA’s. Even a work stoppage that is settled as relatively quickly as the NFL’s could have a negative impact on some struggling franchises ticket sales and advertising revenue. Because of this there is a chance that swapping out a player or two could become irresistible.
With just two preseason games left and a solid dozen players vying to fill two roster spots it is anyones guess who will be on the opening night roster. Given the moves the Bruins have made in recent years in the early portion of the season that have moved players like Matt Hunwick, Jeff Penner and Andrew Alberts the odds of the roster being the same on January 6th as it will be on opening night aren’t very high.