The Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs will square off Wednesday in Toronto, and Saturday in Boston. Amazing as it is to be talking seriously about the Maple Leafs and the playoffs, not to mention the importance of a two game set in November, it’s a reality. With more than a quarter of the season gone the Leafs enter this pair of games atop the Northeast.

The Bruins sit just one point behind them, and have had a strong November. With two meetings already in the bag, and the Bruins having won both games handily these two games will provide an opportunity for both teams. The Leafs can get back even with the Bruins by winning both, or at least remain competitive with a split. The Bruins with two wins can go forward knowing they have nailed down one of the tie breakers. As difficult as it is to imagine a team like the Leafs can give up over three goals a game and remain in the running, they hold a playoff spot now.

In the previous two games the Bruins won by a combined 13-2. Tyler Seguin has a hat trick, in Toronto. Phil Kessel has not had a goal and is -2. The Bruins enter Wednesday’s game without any injuries. Toronto is missing Colby Armstrong, James Reimer, Matthew Lombardi, Mike Komisarek is also on the IR.

Fair market value is one of those wonderful terms that means nearly whatever the user wants it to. In my case it means: What are comparable players making on other teams, and when were they signed? And also what are they doing now vs what they did previously?

Chris Kelly is in his first full season with the Boston Bruins, last season he played 24 regular season games, and the fun little playoff run we all remember so well. Here’s some of the key facts.

First long term view.

  • Is 31 now (November birthday)
  • Has been in the NHL since 05-06 season,
  • Is very healthy. Only 20 regular season games lost to injury since entering the NHL.
  • Has been equally effective at home or on the road throughout his career.
  • Career highs: Goals;15 (twice) Assists; 23 Points; 38
  • Career average points per game: .387.
  • Career plus player.
  • UFA in June.

Short term, current role:

  • 3rd line center
  • top penalty killing forward 75th out of 463 NHL forwards for average SHTOI
  • Currently tied for league lead in short handed goals: Mike Richards, Cal Clutterbuck, Brandon Sutter, TJ Oshie, Patrick Dwyer, Dave Bolland also have 2 shorthanded goals through 11/28.
  • 3rd among Bruins forwards in SHTOI
  • Current average points per game: .727. (Higher than the career average for either Bergeron or Krejci.)
  • Good at faceoffs.
  • Best takeaway to turnover ratio of Bruins top six forwards.

Comparables:

  • Adam Pardy (defenseman) has a cap hit of $125,000 less, has played no more than sixty NHL games in a season, career high of 10 points in the NHL in four seasons. Pardy is younger and larger, playing slightly more total minutes, about a minute less short handed, and hitting more. 1st year of a 2 year deal.
  • Andrew Burnette, of the Blackhawks is 7 years older, on a 1 year contract with a cap hit lower than Kelly’s. Last three seasons were 50, 61, 46 points with the Wild.  Is a career minus player. Does not kill penalties.
  • TJ Oshie on a one year contract, has had serious injuries, seven years younger, higher offensive peaks. RFA at end of current contract. Worst (of 3 and current) NHL seasons is a -1.
  • Manny Malhotra, same age, very similar offensive numbers, has had multiple injuries, better faceoff man, plays about 40 seconds more shorthanded per game. Current cap hit 2.5m, year 2 of 3 year contract.
  • Tomas Kopecky Cap hit 3mil, signed this off season, plays about the same number of PK minutes, not as offensively gifted, in first full season playing PK.
  • Martin Hanzal: Starts new contact next season at 3.1 per year, plays more minutes than Kelly, roughly 7 years younger, giveaway to takeaway fairly similar to Kelly. Very similar offensively.

Given his current numbers, age, and role with the Bruins, I’d say that at a low ball or long term deal $2,850,000 for five plus years or up to $3,333,000 for three years or less would be a appropriate. Given that he’s wearing an A, has played through facial injuries, was a good part of the Stanley Cup win, and seems genuinely well liked by his team mates if I’m sitting in the corner office and its $3.5 a year or he walks for less than five years, I take it and consider myself lucky assuming no no-movement or no-trade clauses.

One benefit to signing him past thirty five if you think he can keep handling the minutes and penalty killing at that age is that it would be a more moveable contract than resigning him then if need be.

The Bruins have just two games this week. With luck the last of the “flu-like symptoms” will work their way out of the locker room and the Bruins can keep the new win streak alive.  This weeks two games are against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Wendesday’s is a return trip where the Bruins can hope for a second round of cheers for hometown boy Tyler Seguin and maybe an end to his mini-slump. Saturday night they are back in Boston.

Don’t forget the viewing party this Wednesday night.

There’s another one, with a different host on December 6.

Boston Bruins prospects Ryan Spooner and Dougie Hamilton were named to the Canadian World Junior’s Camp roster.

Dougie Hamilton

Hamilton signing autographs during training camp at the Boston Garden 2011

No word on USA selections.

Not officially. Last year's camp roster came out Dec. 7, for reference. RT @ Any world on when the USA will announce it's WJ roster?
@chrismpeters
Chris Peters

Jared Knight and Brian Ferlin lead the list of USA born Bruins prospects that might make the list.

The NHL snubbed the Bruins announcing Sidney Crosby, Cory Scheider, and Brian Elliot as it’s three stars of the week. I’m personally impressed that Crosby only got one slot.

The Habs Max Pacioretty handed out a head shot the other night against the Penguins Letang.

He not very surprisingly has a phone interview scheduled over this trifling matter. Still no word on how Crosby escaped discipline for his Macho Man like elbow the other day.

Bruce Boudreau of the Washington Capitals was fired today. He is replaced by London Knights coach and former NHLer Dale Hunter. Among the numerous NHL bound youngsters on the London Knights recently is Boston Bruins prospect Jared Knight. Hunter was known as a merciless physical player whose game was highlighted by strong defensive play, physicality, an enormous work ethic and winning faceoffs. The difference between this man and the team he’s taking over is stark, the union of the two should pop out colums like welfare moms. I’m not a huge fan of coaching changes to affect change, especially not when the general manager has assembled and retained a group of skaters known to have issues and made any large scale revamping, but this should have a decent short term impact.

Trade speculations continues at pace, with the cycle shifting back to Iginla, and Semin now that Kyle Turris has signed. How teams hit by major injuries will affect the trade market is anyone’s guess. The Dallas Stars who already had key components on the shelf lost Lehtonen to what is reported in various places as a groin or knee injury. Taylor Hall has suffered the second injury of his NHL career going down to a shoulder injury, how much this changes the Oilers desire to move Sam Gagner is unknown, but it might change the type of player they go after.

So is diving a problem in the NHL?

[poll id=”10″]
In other coaching change news, the Carolina Hurricanes have fired head coach Paul Maurice. No word yet on if Eric Staal will take over behind the bench since he’s been at his best off the ice anyway. TSN’s Bob McKenzie says Kirk Muller is the replacement.

To me, the Capitals move makes some sense as the team has been highly erratic this year, and regressed. On top of that there is well reported rift between Ovechkin and Boudreau and they are at least on paper equipped to be a top team in the NHL. The Carolina Hurricanes firing Maurice makes much less sense. The Florida Panthers are easily the conference surprise and look to be a legitimate playoff team. The Canes did little in the offseason to improve, as has been normal there for years, and you get passed when you stand still.

 

Among the things have no place is sports is blatant, center stage cheating, Perhaps the most common, and inexcusable form is diving. It’s not called often enough, sadly it is most often called in conjunction with the tripping, hooking, high sticking or interference events that inspire the dive. It can’t be both, but if the referees are going to call both make the liars hurt. There are fines clearly stated in the rulebook, but honestly those may not be enough.

In my mind referees should be able to rule that something was enough of an infraction to make the mechanical requirements for a hook or high stick, and not be enough to actually impede or endanger the attacked player. In this case both calls would be correct. But, that’s not really enough to eradicate the problem. The solution is to make the dive or embellishment a more costly penalty.

There are three main options that present themselves.

  1. Call the dive and an unsportsmanlike penalty on the same play even if the other team is penalized, leading to two players serving two minutes for the infraction and potentially leading to a powerplay for the team who committed the act that met only the mechanical requirements for an infraction.
  2. Make the dive a double minor. From five on five play this would lead to four on four play for two minutes, and then a two minute penalty kill for the embellishing players team.
  3. Make diving a five minute major. Even if the mechanical requirements for a hook, trip or other call were met.

Number one is probably the easiest to implement now as it would not require an in season rule change, or a wait until next season to implement. Like the “Avery Rule” it would be an interpretation change. Realistically it could be an intermediary step to one of the other options.

Number two and number three to me have the most appeal. I think implementing both might actually be the right answer. Option two the double minor would probably be the best option to use when there is an action by the opponent that would warrant a penalty if it were to continue or connect. Option three in making a dive or embellishment a major (possibly with video review) if unaccompanied by an opponents infraction or potential infraction.

If the NHL is serious about providing role models in the form of it’s players, this fairly minor set of adjustments to the rules is the simplest thing they could do all year to improve the integrity of the game.

What’s your call?

One of the few areas the Bruins have been able to depend on just about every night is the goaltending.

Tuukka Rask: Has had the misfortune of being in net on nights when the Bruins couldn’t score to save their lives no few times. Looks to be on pace for the same number of starts as last season. This is his contract year. Very solid numbers with a .921 Sv% and a 2.25 GAA. Grade: B+

Tim Thomas: “Timmy Trophy” has a .936Sv %, better than his first Vezina year, and a 1.85 GAA, better than either Vezina year. Has not allowed more than three goals even once this season, has three shutouts and a one goal game. Grade: A

Coaches: Very, proactive this year. Line changes happened possibly too much as they attempted to shake the forwards out of the funk the team started the season in. Has inexplicably gone with Pouliot over Caron or Hamill, or various other forwards, but was rewarded for faith in Pouliot and Horton in the shootout on consecutive nights. The coaches have their finger on the pulse of the team. It’ll be interesting to see how long certain forwards are allowed to keep slacking without a severe cut to their ice time. Grade: B+

Management: Made exactly one signing in the off season that can’t be regarded as an endorsement for any of the forwards in the AHL pipleline. Neely had the quote of the year in his statement on the Miller fiasco. Didn’t panic early in the year, but probably could have set a firmer expectation on what would be expected during the off season, and seen to it that the Cup was shipped out or at least screwed down in an office somewhere. Grade: B

1st Quarter 7th Player: Chris Kelly. He’s flat out done it all and looked good doing it. It doesn’t matter who the linemates are, or what the situation is he just get’s it done. After he was picked up from Ottawa last season it was hard to see what he was doing other than playing huge shorthanded minutes that convinced Chiarelli to grab him, but there’s zero question as to why he’s here and

 

After the awful start to the year, the Bruins got back into it to sit one point out of first in the division, with two games in hand.

Matt Barkowski: Only played in three games with minimal ice time. Was a minus player in two of those October games. Did not appear ready to play in the NHL yet. Grade: Incomplete

Johnny Boychuk: The Prince of Pinchestan has been bailed out on most of his errant charges deep into the offensive zone. As the slowest member of the Bruins top six he needs to either get faster or make better choices when pinching. Is on an almost identical pace to last years offensive numbers, which would be a slower pace than his rookie season. Has a nice running total of hits and blocked shots.  Grade: C-

Zdeno Chara: The captain looked spent and occasionally sullen in October, but was a big part of the turnaround in November. Had a 7 point +4 streak over four games to start November, hammered Robyn Regehr and has looked solid all month regardless of who he’s been paired with. Grade: B

Joe Corvo: Looked wretched in October. Part of this was settling in on a team that plays a radically different style than the Hurricanes, part was just not reading plays well. November has seen him level off to an efficient level of play. Nothing spectacular, no goals yet, but also hasn’t been the turnover machine that had people (nearly) fondly recalling the glory days of Wideman and Montador. Grade: C-

Andrew Ference: Currently on pace for 29 points on the season, which would be his most as a Bruin and second most of his career. Has put up solid numbers of hits and blocked shots, has even gotten some powerplay time this season. Still the feistiest tree hugger in town. Grade: B-

Steve Kampfer: Has only gotten into five games this season. Is a plus 4 in that very limited time. Has mostly been a victim of bad luck (other peoples good health) and worse luck (getting injured late in the preseason) he may find his way back into the lineup at some point soon if management decides to make any moves. Grade: Incomplete

Adam McQuaid: Has gotten some time riding shotgun with Chara in the past week or two and not looked out of place at all. Very responsible defensively and has only been a minus player twice this season. Needs to find some way to check the springiness of the boards that does not involve taking a header into them. Grade: B

Dennis Seidenberg: Oddly enough he has nothing like the offensive numbers he did last year, but has a much better plus/minus. Could top 200 each in hits and blocks which is a whole lot of bruises. The 176th pick of the 2001 draft (By Philadelphia) has now played more games as a Bruin than three of the four Bruins draft picks from that year (Shaone Morrison, Jonathan Sigalet, Milan Jurcina) and is in the top 25 in games played for that draft class. Grade B-

Coming up: Grades for goalies, coaching, management, and early 7th player candidate(s).

The Bruins got off to a god awful start in October, had ten wins in a row to start November and after 21 games they look a whole lot better.

Patrice Bergeron: The longest tenured skater for the team has done it all, all season. Even when the team was doing it’s zombie shuffle through October there was never a night he looked bad, disinterested or poorly conditioned. He’s done it in all areas and ways. Huge hits, five goals, a team lead in assists, second leading scorer on the team, dominant in faceoffs, and has been a key piece in reviving the powerplay even when he doesn’t figure into the powerplay goal. Leads the team in powerplay time, leads forwards in short handed time…  Grade: A

Gregory Campbell: Second among forwards in shorthanded time, has like the rest of the team had a better November than October. Unfortunately the Merlot Line’s October was a key reason for the teams failure to thrive. Grade C-

Jordan Caron: While he’s been in and out of the line up, and had numerous linemates, it’s tough to get a grip on where he fit into the equation. He’s getting an incomplete, but if I had to grade his total effort I’d give him a C weighted on his rookie status and the chaos that was the first month. Grade: Incomplete

Zach Hamill: Looked ok in Camp, was the pace setter in Providence before being called up, contributed while he was here showing more speed, toughness, and ability than his detractors would ever of credited him with. got an assist and was plus 3 in just two games. Not enough time to fairly grade him. Grade: Incomplete

Nathan Horton: Has had the most uneven of seasons. A month of being wretched, a couple weeks of being about what we expect of him. In just his second season here has gotten Julien to coach via the media which is highly unusual for him. Frustrating to watch. Grade: D+

Chris Kelly: Has been one of the guys shuffled around a great deal this year skating with: Horton, Lucic, Hamill, Caron, Peverley, Marchand and Pouliot among others. Has performed above what anyone most expected of him. Tied for third in goals on the team, tied for second in plus minus huge penalty kill minutes, a shorthanded goal, a game winning goal, a good fight… Grade: A

David Krejci: Last years leading scorer in the playoffs has been a no show this season. He did enter the season with a nagging “core” injury that eventually caused him to miss a game. Has looked very slow, disinterested and is currently tenth on the team in scoring. Has points in just five of his games this season, and has only had one streak of consecutive games scoring (3). Grade: F

Milan Lucic: Like Horton has had an up and down season, but has kept the up higher and done what he needs for himself and the team to succeed of late. Has played with passion and interest for most of the last three or four weeks and despite his linemates he’s second on the team in goals, and tied for third in points overall. May want to threaten to beat his linemates in practice if they don’t play better. Grade: C+

Brad Marchand: One of the four forwards who hasn’t taken nights off this season. Even when he doesn’t score you hear his name, you notice him play no matter who else is on the ice. Successfully plays the body, the puck and his opponents minds took on and beat the larger PK Subban in a good fight. Tied for third on the team in scoring, has the most underrated passing skills on the team, second among forwards for time on ice, second on the team in takeaways. Grade: A

Daniel Paille: As part of the Merlot Line he and was less dependable than needed in October, but certainly not the whole of a problem that stretched up and down the lineup. Got a nasty facial injury a few weeks back missed a couple games and jumped back in the lineup without a hint of rust. On pace for his best goals performance as a Bruin in this his third season here. Grade C-

Rich Peverley: The Swiss army knife of the Bruins lineup has played up and down the lineup, on both wings and three lines. Is scoring at a pace that will bring him near his career highs. November has been much better than October for him. This month he’s been a minus player just once, in October he was four times including three straight.  Should probably ask guys what athletic supporter they use instead of attempting to guess with the blade of his stick. Grade: B

Benoit Pouliot: I don’t honestly understand how or why he’s beaten out Hamill and Caron for the 12th forward position, but his effort is commendable. Uses his speed and willingness to drive the net to open up chances. Has taken a lot of just plain stupid penalties. Grade: D

Marc Savard: Teams most engaging Twitter use. Has a good handle on the teams mood and his ability to predict the performance of the team is uncanny. Grade A

Tyler Seguin: Leads the team in scoring and plus/minus. Has made enormous strides year over year in his defensive play as well. Needs to focus on better passing and not be so impatient. The itchiness to get rid of the puck tends to lead to sometimes costly turnovers. Could stand to throw the body or rub guys out along the boards more often.  I end up saying it twice a game but if he could pass as well as he can shoot and skate the Bruins could win games by double digits.  Grade A-

Shawn Thornton: The third member of the Merlot Line has done his best to stem the tide in games, and has been the leader we saw last season this month, but was one of the more notable flops in October. Grade C

The Montreal Canadiens have had two problems the past several years. The first is an injured and aging defense. The second is an undersized and not especially skilled forward group.

Starting with the defensive unit, the injuries this season and last have actually been a mixed blessing. Without the various injuries I don’t think Subban would have gotten the shot he has. Yannick Weber would still be buried in the minors, and no one would know who Rapheal Diaz is. Subban is a hugely skilled asset, with wheels, will and a scoring touch. Despite injuries to Markov, Gill and Campoli this group, with the assistance of Carey Price, has the 8th best goals against average in the NHL. That’s not a bad number for a group who’s most experienced defenseman is Josh Gorges who is a creaky and venerable 27 years old with just under 400 NHL regular season games to his name.

Max Pacioretty is emerging as something more than a bottom six checker or grinder. Michael Cammeleri is a gifted goal scorer and has been he most offensively the most dependable source if offense the last few seasons. After that, even taking the talented Plekanek into account, there’s not much offense to be had. This year the Habs are 20th in goals for, last season they finished at 23rd in goals for.

When the older defensemen return, they can use the silver lining of the first problem to help solve the second. Markov, Gill, and Spacek between them represent a good deal of talent, experience and leadership. There are at least half a dozen NHL teams with much shallower defensive pools who would pay and pay well to get  one of them. Bringing back a gifted goal scorer or a high first round pick that could be turned into a goal scorer has to be a priority. Even if it’s a young talent that takes a season or two to blossom, the young blueline and Carey Price can wait. But the team on the ice and in the trainers room just isn’t going to do the trick.