Dennis Seidenberg has been an invaluable bastion of calm, professional competence on the Boston Bruins blueline is done for the year. With any defenseman other than Seidenberg or Chara you’d shrug, examine the depth charts and medical reports and go forward. In this case however, especially with only one other veteran defender, Johnny Boychuk, that might not be an option for a team that in the words of its own leadership should compete for a Stanley Cup every year.

Option 1

Do nothing. Not precisely nothing, just don’t bring in any external talent. With Hamilton mending, and Joe Morrow doing well in the AHL you have high end draft picks waiting in the wings to fill minutes. Both are high end skaters, both have shown their pick wasn’t a waste. On the ice now are Boychuck, McQuaid, Krug, Bartkowski and Miller. The first four of them have seen playoff action under Julien and earned at least that much trust. Boychuck and McQuaid were part of the Stanley Cup win and know the game at the NHL level.

Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski are a little less familiar to fans. Krug is a small, undrafted highly mobile defenseman signed out of college as a free agent who burst onto the scene in the playoffs last year and is now the only defenseman to play in every game for the Bruins. Bartkowski’s journey is equally blue collar if of a slightly different path. Often overlooked is that the Pittsburgh native was a part of the trade that brought Seidenberg to Boston. After a false start or two Bartkowski stake a claim to to a roster spot and has been a solid contributor to the team. An interesting trivia note is that Bartkowski was supposed to be part of the aborted trade that would have brought Jarome Iginla to Boston last year.

Kevan Miller and to a lesser extent David Warsofsky and Zach Trotman are the internal candidates to help fill the roster spot while Hamilton is still recovering. While Hamilton is recovering, it is unlikely any moves will be made unless there is a major setback for the towering second year defender.  Elsewhere on the list are Tommy Cross and Chris Casto who have yet to even earn a recall.

Option 2:

The modest trade. The minutes you most want to fill are the defensive shutdown minutes which are a vast gulf that is just about impossible to fill based purely on talent or similar attributes because of the need for chemistry, and some might say synergy among those defending than pure objective skill. A trade for anyone under four million a year who could play some or all of the 2:36 a night of shorthanded time on ice Seidenberg has left unclaimed.

  • Mark Stuart, as a retread he would be familiar with all of the teams core players from Bergeron, Lucic and Krejci to Chara, Boychuk and Rask. He even played as part of an effective pairing with Boychuk. He’s tough as nails, the Jet’s aren’t going anywhere and would love a talent infusion. A couple middling draft picks for the pending (and inexpensive) UFA would do the trick.
  • Matt Greene, like Stuart is a pending UFA. With the pipeline from the Manchester Monarchs wide open the 30 year old blueliner has found his ice time reduced overall, but is still contributing a good 3:18 a night of shorthanded time on ice. At under 3 million a year, he wouldn’t break the bank and is unlikely to strip the farm bare.
  • Victor Bartley is a name that’s probably a bit under the radar anywhere outside Nashville Tennsessee and Ottawa, but Bruins brass is familiar with the 25 year old who had a ten game tour of duty with the Providence Bruins in the 2008-09 season. His on ice sv% is one of the higher ones on the Predators, and he plays solid shorthanded minutes for perhaps the most conservative minded coach in the NHL.
  • Jared Spurgeon, with 200 NHL games to his name the 25 year old is the 2nd highest paid defender for the Wild, and plays in all situations. I can’t imagine him being traded for picks alone, but for as a team that should be looking to tweak their offense, Spurgeon might find himself in a new zip code if Chuck Fletcher can find the right pieces to turn his collection of forwards into a contending team.

Next up, option 3.

The NHL has seen a lot of things in its time. Full fledged bench emptying brawls, skates that cut necks and knees, changes to the rules for icing, and even the glowing puck. Each of those has come and gone, and some will be seen again. The NHL and how it is perceived in the world have survived all of those things pretty well. I’m not sure the hockey world is ready to embrace Patrice Bergeron as a frequent flier in the church of sin.

Sure Bergeron plays on every inch of the ice doing whatever is needed to push the team along towards success. He’s killed penalties, played in all possible spots on the power play and skated with some highly questionable “N”HL talent some years. What he’s never done is be among the Bruins PIM leaders. Of the currently active Boston Bruins just three guys sit ahead of him, two of them got their with a combined seven fights, Jarome Iginla and Milan Lucic, and Brad Marchand got their partly on reputation and partly because he’s Brad Marchand being Brad Marchand.

Any one who’s watched Bergeron play over the years has seen him frequently enter a battle along the boards or at the blue line, engage full force and walk away with the puck. What we haven’t seen him do is take many penalties. His career high for penalty minutes was during the 2009-10 season when he racked up just 28 over the course of 73 games. This season in a slim 36 games he’s already up to 25, including his first regular season NHL fight. A fight which came only a little over six months after a playoff bout with Evgeni Malkin.

The operative question is: Why? He hadWhen you add up with the number of penalty plays that can be laid at the feet of frustration in the last year or so, you have to ask what is causing this?

Possibility A:

  • He’s unhappy with the effort one or more of his teammates are bringing to the game night in and night out.

If so, he’s in theory trying to spark the team to more emotion, or maybe make himself trade able in the eyes of fans and management.

Possibility B:

  • He’s underwhelmed with the skill he’s been put between and wants to make sure the organization’s leadership sees it for themselves.

If so, he is simply lobbying for the team to spend to the caps that will coming along down the line and is hoping to see either more talent acquired for his line, or a reshuffling of the roster that allows him to play a more offensive part.

Possibility C:

  • He’s got one or more off ice issues that are eating at him.

If this is the case, much as Ovechkin’s slump when his grandfather died, it will work itself out, eventually.

Possibility D:

  • At the ripe old age of 28 he’s having some sort of midlife crisis.

Odd as it may sound, this could be true. He’s won at the WJC, won a Stanley Cup, won Olympic Gold, won Gold at the Spengler Cup, won gold at the World Championship, was an NHL Young Star his rookie season, won MVP & All Star at WJC, the Selke Award and the King Clancy award. Realistically, what else is there for him to do in the NHL or hockey in general?

Possibility E:

  • He’s sick to death of blatant calls not being made by officials and is simply more willing to defend himself now.

At one point Joe Thornton who is a likely hall of fame inductee almost retired because of the amount of nonsense he had to endure, Jumbo Joe is a whole lot bigger than Bergeron. The current crop of NHL officials is suspect on good days, and their aren’t many of those.

Whatever the reason(s) he’s getting more familiar with the penalty box, it is slightly disturbing. At his current pace he’ll likely finish the season around 60 PIMs. That’s more than double his previous high, and not something the Bruins can afford long term in their most valuable skater.

This summer the Florida Panthers an Stephen Weiss parted company. The 30 year old Toronto native had played 654 regular season games as a member of the Sunrise squad.  In all those seasons he only saw the playoffs once. When that time came to an end, he left for what many pencil in as a playoff lock each year. Stephen Weiss, like Daniel Alfredsson went to Detroit to have a shot at a cup, with just four points in 26 games, he is not living up to his end of the bargain.

The contract Weiss signed made him the third highest paid skater on the team. Entering tonight’s action Weiss has 13 players ahead of him on the wings roster in goals. Sixteen men are head of Weiss in total scoring. Weiss has had injuries, but he’s not played well even when he’s been healthy. His shooting percentage is down, he isn’t scoring, and he looks out of place on the ice, when he’s visible at all.

A buyout would be a rare thing for the Detroit Red Wings, and should only be considered in light of the status of the rest of the team. Zetterberg, despite edging reluctantly into the latter stages of his career isn’t even in the top five for age on the Wings, one of the NHL’s three oldest teams.Datsyuk will be 36 before the start of next season, those two are the heart and soul of the team. Add in Alfredsson, Bertuzzi, Samuelsson, Cleary, and Franzen as players currently 33 or over and you might get the idea this team is in for an enormous amount of turnover. While defensemen tend to stick around at the peak of their powers longer, it should also be noted that Niklas Kronwall will be 33 before the season ends.

With this year’s Winter Classic part of the plan to fund a (long overdue) replacement for the Joe Louis Area soon to pass, and the decades long playoff streak coming to an organic end, it might just be time to accelerate the rebuild. With the need to let younger, hungrier and more talented players like Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco, Riley Sheahan, and Danny DeKeyser needing both new contracts and more responsibility to build the future around, Weiss could find his stay in Detroit shorter than expected.

What the decision will come down to is the Red Wings front office level of belief in Weiss’s ability to bounce back to the level of an average 2nd line center he’s played his career as. With multiple wrist injuries, ankle issues, groin issues, knee problems, shoulder ailments and the ubiquitous “upper body and lower body” injuries that belief might be hard to muster in any quantity. The other factor will be what they expect the rest of their elder players to produce in the next three years. While Datsyuk and Zetterberg are likely to be productive at least two more years each, they might better serve the team on someone else’s roster in exchange for younger, healthier, and less expensive assets.

It can be argued that the Wings owe it to Weiss to give him a full season, or that his health problems are just poor luck. Those arguments are not convincing. More importantly, the health one has more than enough momentum to make it clear this signing was questionable in the first place, and won’t improve in the future. With the need to spend to the salary floor, even if Ken Holland and company decide not to buy him out, it is an open question if Weiss will play for the Red Wings next season.

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

 

Players:

  • that Joe Thornton would be in the top ten in the NHL in scoring when he last finished a season there in the 2009-10 season.
  • of the top five goal scores, Ovechkin, Steen, Perry, Kane and Kunitz, Ovechkin would have both overtime goals in the quintet.
  • the leagues three leaders in PIMS Derek Dorsett of the New York Rangers, Chris Neil of the Ottawa Senators, and Antoine Roussel would combine for more penalty minutes (275) than the New Jersey Devils (251) or San Jose Sharks (271) and each be playing 11:35 a night or more.
  • Brandon Dubinsky would be the only player over 20 points and 60 PIMS, and have a 56.1 FO%.
  • Mike Santorelli of the Vancouver Canucks and Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings would be tied for the NHL lead in overtime points.
  • last years Masterson Award winner Josh Harding would be dominating the league and have the best save percentage of any goalie with more than 1000 minutes on the season and be sitting pretty with a .938 sv% and a 16-5-3 record.
  • undrafted rookie goaltender Cam Talbot with ten games played would have a significantly better sv% (.934 vs .910) than teammate and the NHL’s highest paid netminder Henrik Lundqvist.

Teams:

  • a month after losing Steven Stamkos to injury, the Tampa Bay Lightning would still be holding a top 3 spot in the Atlantic division.
  • on December 13th the spread betwen the 1st and 8th place teams in the east and west would be 10 in the west with 3 teams tied for 8, and 13 in the east.
  • to date, no team in the east would have scored 100 goals.
  • Of the teams in the bottom five (tie for 5th) last year in the NHL, only two would currently be in that place.
  • the Buffalo Sabres who are dead last in the NHL in points would have allowed just one more goal than the Chicago Blackhawks who have the most points in the league.
  • the Edmonton Oilers would be the only team to allow more than 4 shorthanded goals.
  • there would be no apparent pattern to the four teams yet to score a shorthanded goal as to date the Coyotes, Penguins, Panthers and Sabres would all be on the outside looking in.
  • four teams in the west would have scored 100 or more goals.
  • under offensive minded coach Alain Vigneault the New York Rangers would be producing over half a goal per game less than under the blueshirt’s previous bench boss in prior two seasons.

Last spring after being ousted from the playoffs by the Boston Bruins the New York Rangers were due for some change. They got it. A Stanley Cup winning coach was dismissed. In place of the fiery Tortorlla who’s bywords are; discipline, structure, consistency and effort is former Vancouver Canucks bench minder. It was expected that the more offensively minded players like Carl Hagelin, Rick Nash and Michael Del Zotto would (finally) flourish.

But that’s hardly the case. Del Zotto has once again found himself on the outside looking in. The Stouffville Ontario native has been punted from the lineup in a quarter of the season’s games. But why exactly? John Moore, Marc Staal and Dan Girardi each have worse on ice save percentages. Both Stralman and Moore are taking more penalties, and since none of the three is a fighter, the penalties are very comparable. No other Rangers blueliner is as likely to finish a shift in the offensive zone as Del Zotto either.

The New York Rangers are 25th in goals for heading into action on December 3rd. That’s a full ten places below where they finished last season (where MDZ played most games). They are producing at about half a goal per game below the number they put together in last years campaign. It could be just a coincidence that Del Zotto an offensive defenseman selected in the first round is regressing under an offensive minded coach.

More likely it has something to do with going from playing 23 minutes a night over the last two seasons to an anemic 18 this season. Where the time has come from is also revelatory. Under Tortorella Del Zotto played a respectable if not staggering 1:23 of shorthanded time on ice a game for each of the previous two seasons. On the other special team he an average of over 3 minutes a night. Now, he’s down to eight seconds a night of penalty kill time and just 2:30 per game of powerplay time.

It is pretty common for fans to scapegoat a player. sometimes fairly, others not. The media does it and no one who pays attention takes it too seriously. But when coaches do it, especially inaccurately, that’s something else entirely. Reading the future in goat entrails is just as easy and accurate as trying to forecast Alain Vigneault’s moves. Even working backwards with the facts to arrive at the current coach’s motivation is difficult.

In this case we have an offensive minded defenseman who’s finishing more shifts in the offensive zone than any other defenseman. While not known for his defense consistent use on the penalty kill under another coach does tend to indicate a player has some ability at a given task, and two seasons back the team’s penalty kill was better than this year’s edition. The powerplay which has improved under Vigneault is given a boost in opportunities when Del Zotto is in the lineup as only Falk draws more penalties among the Rangers defensemen.

So what gives? Has Del Zotto regressed to the level where he’s a  6th or 7th defensemen or is someone ignoring the facts?