While Savard is a nearly peerless playmaker who can make passes that only a handful of other men can, I’m not convinced his loss is fatal to the playoff hopes of the Bruins. In 25 games he was a -7 and put up just 10 points. Unlike last year or the year before he did not contribute to the penalty kill, and even with him the power play wasn’t stellar. That said, as of right now the Bruins still lead the northeast division, have a great PK, and a solid record against most of the other top teams in the east. They have won their last three against Carolina, have won against Washington, have a shutout over Philly, and have beaten the Penguins, the Lightning have been grounded, and Atlanta fell apart after their last meeting with the Bruins. It is true that the powerplay will become more of an issue in the playoffs, but even there we can look forward to some growth.
Potential replacements for the center position currently filled by Zach Hamill could be either a 1st line production center, of which their are very few, and fewer still on teams that would be willing to part with them. Or they could be a third line checking center. Bergeron can fill either of the two roles, and Krejci is best suited to being the secondary scoring line role.
For either position, given the deficiencies of the team and its playing system this center should have a few qualities:
- At least 3 trips to the playoffs.
- a faceoff percentage over 50%
- the ability to play on both sides of the puck
- drive to thrive
Some possible candidates are:
- RJ Umberger, former Flyer, current Blue Jacket has seen action in the playoffs, on two different clubs. Plays both center and left wing. Umberger is also a big body at 220 and would give the center position much needed size.
- Brooks Laich, will be a UFA this summer, plays the PK, blocks shots, hits and has been a 20+ goal scorer three times.
- Vladimir Sobotka, already familiar with the Bruins system, good at faceoffs, was important for the Bruins in the playoffs last year, is fearless and will be able to stand the media attention here in Boston.
- While the least likely prospect, if the Penguins decide to pull the plug on the season with no time table for Crosby’s return, and Malkin due back about the same time as Savard, Jordan Staal would give the Penguins cap room, and probably get them either a roster player and a probably a 1st round pick and prospect in return. With this they could address their chronic weakness on wing, and their cap crunch.
- Patrick Sharp, is probably on the team with the most ability to pull the plug on the season and not have a huge fan backlash. While he’s slightly below 50% in faceoffs, he’s got 51 games of playoff experience, a cup ring, 26 goals, and is on pace for a career points year despite the draw down in talent around him.
- By the trade deadline, despite my preseason pick, the LA Kings could fall out of the race. In which case both Jared Stoll and Michael Handzus might serve the team better by serving someone else for a draft pick. Both are UFA’s either this summer or next and while neither is a number one center, they could fill the third line role admirably. Both have extensive playoff experience as well.
Of them all only Handzus has a no movement clause, Staal is probably a pure pipe dream or too expensive, and that leaves Umberger as likely being the easiest to get with the highest ceiling. I’d be kinda shocked to see anyone of these guys land here, but Chiarelli did say he’d be busy this trade season so all things are possible.