The most commonly projected rosters for the Boston Bruins had the team with as little as $410,000. That’s not even enough room to call someone up for an injury or illness situation that doesn’t require a player being put on the long term injured reserve.

The rumored cuts include. Ryan Spooner, Alex Khokhlachev, Justin Florek, and Jeremy Smith, aka the skill guys. Among those retained on the Boston roster are Jordan Caron, Bobby Robbins.

Why?

Cash Rules Everything Around Management, this year each player and what they make:

  • Jordan Caron $600,000
  • Bobby Robins $600,000

vs.

  • Ryan Spooner $760,000
  • Alex Khokhlachev $786,687

No, don’t bother to do the math, that’s $1.2m versus $1,546,687 and a savings of $346,687 and brings the team to roughly $756,687 under the cap.  We know there’s a skill difference. We know this may not be the opening night roster.  If we’re going to be honest Jeremy Smith is fighting with the currently injured Adam Morrison for the fourth best goalie in the Bruins system and he’s probably never going to play for the Boston Bruins in the regular system.

Is $756,687 a lot of cap space? No. Is the increase of less than $350,000 in space huge? Not really, it does allow for a few extra days of a call up though. Would Ryan Spooner, Alex Khokhlachev and Justin Florek being playing full time in the NHL in other franchises? Yep, at least 15 or so. The first two would likely have made it last year, and Florek would probably still have made it in full time via injuries at some point.

A quiet camp session with a few drills and scrimmages. The players had shuttle runs before getting on the ice. Some of the players seemed sharper today, a few others seemed to be wearing.

Adam Morrison had his best day in the net today, controlling rebounds along with the rest of his game.

Matthew Lindblad shows some smooth movement, made a couple real nice cross ice passes and is well aware of where other players are on the ice.

#85 Mitchell Dempsey #79 Matthew Lindblad #72 Chris Casto

#85 Mitchell Dempsey
#79 Matthew Lindblad
#72 Chris Casto

Zane Gotheberg, as he reminded me this was his fourth development camp, the first happening when he was just 17 , is best described in two words: crisp, consistent. Early in the camp or late, the beginning or middle of a session and its the same story.

#80 Brian Ferlin #83 Seth Griffith #88 Matt Grzlecyk

#80 Brian Ferlin
#83 Seth Griffith
#88 Matt Grzlecyk

Matt Grzelcyk showed more physicality than last year, also scored on a nifty backhand roofer.

Wiley Sherman hustles up ice

Wiley Sherman hustles up ice

Chris Casto reminds me of defensemen like Matt Greene of the Los Angeles Kings and Dennis Seidenberg of the Bruins.

#81 Malcolm Subban in goal #82 Alex Cord #68 Colton Hargrove #90 Casey Bailey

#81 Malcolm Subban in goal
#82 Alex Cord
#66 Colton Hargrove
#90 Casey Bailey (Number obscured)

Wiley Sherman is a raw big body who will probably project to be about 225-230 for regular NHL play.

#50 Linus Arnesson #79 Matthew Lindblad

#50 Linus Arnesson
#79 Matthew Lindblad

Malcom Subban addressed the low points of his game between last year and his visibly in camp, and even more so in the jump in his stats. Interestingly he had three assists in the regular season, and one in seventeen playoff games and you don’t hear much about his puck handling ability.

Linus Arnesson apparently no one told him European defensemen aren’t supposed to play physically, or if they did he probably knocked them down three or four times.

Development camp is fun to watch because you get to see what the coaches and scouts see in players that might never show on the ice. Having been to camp the past several years I like larger groups than this better. With the larger groups there’s a wider spectrum of talent, and you can point to individual standouts much easier. I also find it is easier to concentrate on players. I also think that with the larger groups the players go at it a little hard trying to stand out.

The five days of camp were quite the spectacle. While the smaller number in this years crowd showed off individuals more, it was harder to separate the players into either A: likely NHL ready this year or next or B: not yet close. Like everyone else, my focus was first on the guys most likely to turn pro this season, second on the new draft class, and third on everyone else. With so many players, including six goalies and drills being run at both ends of the ice and sometimes in three lines, I didn’t get a chance to focus on everyone.

In the first group:

  • Tommy Cross, unflappable puck handler, smooth, smart passes and over the years his willingness to throw the body has grown. Some have criticized his foot speed but the list of NHL guys without high end speed who have logged hundreds and hundreds of games isn’t short. Glenn Murray, Hal Gill, Mike Komisarek, Adam Foote are just a few on the list.
  • Ryan Spooner, almost certainly both the best skater in agility and speed as well as the softest hands in camp. Solid shot too. Has clearly gotten stronger and filled out since being drafted.
  • Jared Knight, still a fearless net driver, willing to trade hits with larger players and definitely plays bigger than his average size. One of the fitter players and was able to absorb hits from larger players, in a manner similar to Bergeron, without it shifting his balance.
  • Dougie Hamilton, good straight line speed, good passer and not afraid to shoot, pinch or or go deep into the offensive zone. Made a nice hit crossing the blueline in scrimmage. Is off to the Worlds this summer.
  • Alexander Khokhlachev while barred from contact in drills, and held out of scrimmages, his hands are undeniably gifted. Has bulked up a bit despite the time off. Unless he makes the NHL this year will be playing for the KHL team his father manages this year.
  • Torey Krug, sealed off the boards well, went into traffic as needed and was also aware enough of more offensive minded defense partners to stay back when they pinched. It’s not a surprise why the Bruins signed him out of college.

Malcolm Subban watching the action at Development Camp

This years draftees:

    Malcolm Subban, high end athleticism, not

just

    explosiveness but control. When you watch him move in the crease you get the feeling he could move the exact same distance fifty times while singing the national anthem. When I spoke to him I got the impression he listened very intently and that can’t hurt a goalies development.

  • Matt Grzelcyk, of the defensemen, probably the most agile, showed good hands in several drills as well. Small but popped in and out of lanes well. He’s off to college this fall.
  • Colton Hargrove good skater both in terms of movement and speed, made nice passes even on bad ice, willing to hit and be hit as well. Western Michigan University fans will get to watch him play this year.
  • Cody Payne, while the most notable line on his stats in the PIMs he showed off more than you might expect. He’s played for Team USA internationally in the Ivan Hlinka so he certainly should be watched.
  • Seth Griffith, shoot first, and second mentality, never looked out of place. Was tracked a bit better by TheOffWing, but I noticed him more and more as the week went on.
  • Matthew Benning is one of those rare right shooting defensemen, was limited by a minor injury. On his juniors team he was in the top half in points per game, and had 87 PIMS. Clearly not a goon, but bears watching for his skill.

Everyone else:

  • Robbie O’Gara is headed to Yale this fall, big body, better agility than some of the smaller players. More than willing hitter who didn’t get out of position to do it.
  • Adam Morrison, the recently signed goalie tracks the puck well and is not going to be beat along the ice. Moves the pads well even if both are flat.
  • Niklas Svedberg, no beatings dished out this week, but he also didn’t get beat by many pucks. Aggressive play, willing to come out of the crease and just shrugged off physical contact.
  • Wayne Simpson didn’t look out of place, handled the drills, physicality and the like quietly, had a huge open ice collision and shrugged it off. Also showed off some nice hands.
  • Brian Ferlin two words best describe his game one is power the other is forward. Uses his body and brain.
  • Ben Sexton, in body and scrimmage reminds me of Sean Bergenheim, compact and solid body, lower skating posture
  • Parker Milner, stays upright a bit more than some goalies while down, good glove.
  • Justin Courtnall, quiet competence, for some unknown reason attracted a lot of attention from other Hockey East players, displayed good on ice awareness and dropped back to cover for pinching defensemen frequently.
  • Chris Casto, more a stay at home defenseman than guys like Hamilton or Krug.
  • Anthony Camara, good size, straight line player, likely to annoy the hell out of the defenders he runs over.

 

While I’m not going to predict any career trajectories based off of a bit more than an hours on ice observation. Some players did stand out for one reason or another. Here’s the quick hits.

  • Ryan Spooner, has filled out and looks stronger and larger but hasn’t lost even a hint of speed or agility. When I spoke to him after practice he was extremely focused on playing in the NHL this fall.
  • Colton Hargrove who is headed to Western Michigan showed off some high end hand eye coordination. He’s a big, solid guy who grew up a Mike Modano fan in his native Texas. Said he sees similarities in his game to Milan Lucic.
  • Adam Morrison is more concerned with focusing on refining his game this year than where he plays. He said he was in Boston during the spring for the playoffs but slightly surprised by the atmosphere at development camp.
  • Malcolm Subban drew a lot of attention and is a more active goaltender than many, the OHL stud goaltender and first round pick is wearing his Bellville Bulls pads.
  • Hamilton has put on some muscle, his wrist shot looked smooth and quick.

When Don Sweeney spoke after practice he mentioned that while no one will make the team out of development camp they expect some of these campers to come in and push for a job. The chance to push aside a veteran does exist. From his comments other, I would guess there are three forwards and one defenseman at camp who can be expected to supply the most pressure.  I think any of the veterans who show up this fall out of shape or try and sleep walk through camp might find themselves in a different uniform before the season starts.

There are some differences this camp to previous ones. First off six goaltenders makes for not a great deal of crease time. The total roster on the other hand is smaller than in past years. Part of this reflects the depth of the Boston team and the fairly young players already on it. Another part may well be the pending lockout. A player in the locker room did mention the pending labor dispute and that it might affect the season. With the turnover in some other NHL teams management offices I can imagine young players going to where they expect a better change to play in the NHL next season, whenever it may be, than to a deep perennial playoff team.

The most asked, least answered question in regards to the Boston Bruins moves in the last four months has to be: Why do we need another goalie? The answer to that may just be that the Bruins suits lack confidence in the twenty-five year old Finn.

Why would they lack confidence in what the constellation of Boston media luminaries line up in his camp describe in terms that make one wonder if Rask might not be the perfect goaltender? Well, three reasons. First is the question of health. A twenty something who has two seasons ended by injury in row does not speak to long term health. The knee issue was the warning shot. The groin hit center of mass.

Second in performance. The first year of his expiring contract was his best. He played 45 games. He had sub 2.00 goals against average. With five to ten more games his .931 save percentage might have earned him a Vezina. It was a solid season he stepped up when Thomas was injured and did a more than presentable job. The next season? Not so much. Yes he was outplayed by Thomas. That isn’t the problem. His save percentage dropped drastically. His GAA shot up. Last season, his save percentage rebounded slightly, but he still only managed a record of 11 -8-3. Worst, is his playoff numbers. In the playoffs his career sv% is two or three notches below his regular season numbers.

Last and most telling is his confidence is indisputably not what it once was. When you watch him in games he plays far deeper in the crease, often standing with his backside thrust over the goal line. When he’s interviewed he’s very, very quiet without the sorta quips that made him a media darling when he first landed. Most of all when things go poorly, where’s the rage? When he had that monumental moment of rage in Providence that ended in thrown milk crates, and equipment strewn everywhere he had confidence. You can’t getthat upset if you don’t believe you’ve been wronged (and he probably was) you have to believe your judgement and knowledge are superior to the other sides. He did. Tukka Rask had the same breed of transcendent, coolly confident swagger you see from Patrice Bergeron and other elite athletes from time to time. It’s gone.

That confidence is gone. Like Tiger Woods, he’s just not as effective after losing his brio. As with Woods, or other players who have suffered a setback, we don’t know if Rask will ever get that natural braggadocio back. Even aside from the health concerns, this is huge.

The chances that a goalie was signed in the Spring, Adam Morrison, another was added just a week or two ago in Svedberg, and then the drafting of Malcolm (@SubbZero30) Subban, and now the development camp invitation to Parker Milner of Boston College might not be aimed at a 38 year old who had one year on his contract exists. It not only exists, it is staring everyone in the face who can see past the end of their nose. Rask is unsigned at this point and I don’t see the Bruins blinking first. The goalie market shrank when the Penguins acquired and extended Vokoun. Bobrovsky being shipped to Columbus didn’t expand the market. It got smaller again when Pavelec was signed.

Unlike Price or Pavelec Tuukka Rask has never spent even one full season as the designated number one guy. The most regular season games he’s played is 45, and that same season accounts for more than half his career minutes played. Cory Schnieder is worth more money, he’s gotten an increased workload each season and responded well. In fact his numbers are better than Rask’s. It would be foolish for Rask and his camp to take much longer in getting him signed.

Recently some interesting and oh-so-timely news came out of one of the Boston newsies regarding one of the Bruins goalies possibly being traded. While there was certainly a reason behind that article, I’m not sure it was a reasonable writeup.

If you look at the way goalies are developed and handled across the NHL, both now and over the last decade or so there is an absolutely explicit path to stability in the crease. One older veteran goaltender, one young goaltender. The Montreal Canadiens tried going with two youngsters in Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak and abandoned the model pretty quickly. The Washington Capitals spent a couple seasons with Varlemov, Neuvirth and Holtby, and quickly jettisoned a youngster for a veteran.

The Saint Louis Blues had great stability with the veteran Elliot and the young Halak this season. The Minnesota Wild, health aside, have enjoyed stability in the crease with their goaltending duo. Jimmy Howard in Detroit has been nurtured in his development by a series of elder statesman.  It’s pretty simple, two veterans can work, like in New Jersey, an older and younger goalie can work, but no one ever relies on two young goalies.

So when we look at the Boston Bruins goaltending assortment, we see a pretty clear mix in the system We have the elder statesman, who has been there and done that, and is still able to do so; Tim Thomas. We have a young, and goaltender who can play well in the regular season in a limited role but hasn’t ever played more than 60 games or performed well in the playoffs; Tuukka Rask. Then there’s Anton Khudobin, only a handful of NHL games to his name, just one professional playoff appearance to his name, and ten months older than the player immediately ahead of him on the depth chart.

After that things get murkier. Lars Volden and Zane Gothberg will both turn 20 this year, and both are college boys.  It is unlikely either will be playing anywhere professionally in the next year or two and three years is a more likely break in point. Michael Hutchinson made some impressive strides in limited duties for the Providence Bruins. Next up is Adam Couchraine who’s entry level contract expired on July 1 and has not managed to claim much playing time in the AHL or even the one NHL callup.

Adam Morrison and Niklas Svedberg have both been signed this season. Morrison bad his pro debut for the Providence Bruins this spring, and Svedberg has some Euro experience but neither is much closer to the NHL than Gothberg and Volden. A further spanner in the mix is Karel St. Laurent who played in 21 games for the Reading Royals and four for the Providence Bruins in his first year pro last season.

So, the question to ask yourself is:  If you’re an NHL club in win now mode, where do you put your trust? Do you break the trend that has been successful for teams and go with a 20-22 year old and one or two guys in their middle twenties who haven’t established themselves as winning playoff goaltenders? Another option would be bringing in one or more free agents. Of course any new player in the system, free agent or promotion especially in goal, the most important position in the sport, will have a shakedown period and the margin between a division win and deep playoff run, and having team breakup day in the middle of April isn’t as wide as it used to be.

Report out of Europe indicate another addition to the goalie stable. The Bruins who signed WHL standout Adam Morrison have added another talent to the equation. Now before we dive into who might or might not be traded Niklas Svedberg does have some pretty outstanding numbers in the playoffs, and more than respectable numbers in the regular season, but has never played a single game in North America. According to Elite Prospects he also appears to have another year on his contract.

Also of note is Svedberg’s reported stats. Listed at six-two and one-seventy-six he’s both taller and thinner than Krejci. With height and weight identical to the Buffalo Sabres Ryan Miller, it doesn’t mean he can’t succeed or even thrive in the NHL environment, simply that injuries are likely on a frame without much in the way of extra muscle or insulation.

Svedberg seen here in white, is an interesting addition for the Boston Bruins who have prospects, Michael Hutchinson, Lars Volden, Zane Gothberg (@ZanoInsano_29), RFA to be Adam Couchraine, the previously mentioned Morrison, in addition to starter Tim Thomas, backup Tuukka Rask, and Anton Khudobin. It’s hard to argue that Khudobin is not NHL ready after a second solid season’s numbers behind a poor team, or that Hutchinson is not progressing nicely when he finished tied for third in sv% in the AHL in his second professional season.

It is unquestionably for the best that depth is added, and that the depth be of high quality. After two (and counting?) Vezina seasons from Thomas, and a legendary Stanley Cup run that saw him become the first American goaltender to win the Conn-Smyth trophy, it’s unlikely any goaltender not playing at an elite level will survive the not so tender mercies of Bruins fans and media.

With speculation about Tim Thomas potentially being traded, and his age, added to the questions of Rask’s health and contract (RFA) we could see a seeming embarrassment of riches disappear in a single afternoon or two. One things for certain, if the Boston Bruins are going to have playoff success in the post-Thomas Era, they will need goaltending that doesn’t lose them games.

S/T to Boston Julie for the Svedberg 411