Have you ever seen a magic show? David Blaine, Siegfried and Roy, or one of the others? A lot of how they do what they do is through distraction, misdirection, and convincing you what you are seeing is what they say it is. Often magicians will use smoke, mirrors, magnets and other inanimate props to direct your attention to what you think is the point you should be paying attention to. Other times they’ll have an inevitably attractive assistant parading around right where you can see and fixate on while the action is elsewhere.
That’s what’s going on with the Boston Bruins. In this case the lovely assistant is David Pastrnak. The surprise first round draft pick of the Boston Bruins was picked for his position, right wing, a slot the Bruins currently have zero point zero players who have succeeded at in a Boston uniform. First round picks, especially late round ones get hype all out of proportion with what they usually accomplish in the first two or three years post draft. In most cases that’s a trip back to juniors (like Hamilton), frequent injuries do to physical immaturity (see; Ryan Nugent-Hopkins), frequent time missed due to off ice issues (see Tyler Seguin), or as will likely be the case with Pastrnak, more time in Europe (see; Carl Soderberg).
So what is Pastrnak, who couldn’t do a single pull up at development camp three months ago, here to distract Bruins followers from? How about a summer where the most impacting actions the team took were chipping in to collectively grow Peter Chiarelli’s mustache. I mean its an impressive flavor saver given that he didn’t have it when the boys were ushered out of the playoffs by the Montreal Canadiens. But it doesn’t make up for the fact that one of the teams two 30 goal men from last year couldn’t even be tendered an offer. It doesn’t cover up the fact that the best offensive defenseman the team has seen in over a decade isn’t signed. Torey Krug not only led the whole team in playoff scoring he tied Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara in regular season scoring.
Reilly Smith who is hands down the best right wing that Patrice Bergeron has played with possibly since he teamed with Boyes and Sturm as a line is also not signed. If you’ve looked at the statistics from last year you know as well as the front office does that with Reilly Smith and Torey Krug unsigned and Jarome Ignila departed for the Colorado Avalanche, three of the top nine playoff point producers from last year are not on the roster. And let’s not forget the camp invites, Simon Gagne who has missed more time over the last four season than he’s played and Ville Leino who last year averaged 14:26 of TOI an didn’t net even a single goal in 56 games he found his way onto the ice. Neither of these guys can stay healthy and productive. How are they a benefit?
Who is going to replace their production? Are Kevan Miller and or Adam McQuaid going to morph into 10+ goal defensemen? Is Pastrnak really going to come in and put up 20 or more goals under Claude Julien as a rookie? If so he’d be the first to do it in a Bruins uniform. Seguin had 11 as a rookie, Kessel had the same number his rookie year. Unless I’m missing someone, the only rookie to crack 20 goals under Claude Julien is Blake Wheeler, who as a college player was older, larger, and more physically and mentally mature than Pastrnak.
Essentially this was a wasted summer. Neely and Chiarelli did their Rip Van Winkle impersonations while their cap crisis festered. Instead of moving players for value at the draft or early in free agency, they remained wedded to a stagnating roster. When finally they roused from a months long siesta they signed a guy with a full year left on his contract who has publicly stated that he wanted to stay in Boston more than once. They’ve also been very careful to tell us everytime they get near a microphone that Pastrnak could be on the roster opening night.
I’m not sure anyone paying careful attention believes that though. With Kessel, Seguin, Hamilton we were told over and over ‘… be given a chance to earn a spot’. The difference being, Peter Chiarelli and Cam Neely were trying to temper expectations and hence the follow on pressure for guys they were in excess of 90% certain were going to make the roster. They aren’t doing that, and one of the tell tales he’s unlikely to be on the roster this fall is the number on his jersey. He’s playing with 88 right now. In Europe he played as 96 Sodertalje SK. Eighty-Eight isn’t his year of birth, and is unlikely a preferred number as when Seguin came in wearing his preferred number.
The next clue is the number of prospects who are less expensive, more mature and seasoned in the North American style of hockey. To name a few those players are Fallstrom, Spooner, Griffith, Sexton and Knight. Those are just the right wings or guys who have gotten extended looks. Not only has Pastrnak only played 47 games professionally in the last two years, he’s not played hockey at any level with the level of physicality to be found in the USHL, CHL, US college hockey or the AHL/NHL. He also hasn’t played a season anywhere near as long. With conditioning a definite negative, the team can either look forward to a series of penalties that are the result of being to tired to play the system or sitting him in the pressbox on a regular basis.
Not only does the evidence not add up to Pastrnak being locked into the roster for the Bruins, it does not point to the idea being even average in quality. So this year Pastrnak will likely play the lovely assistant, and maybe by next year he’ll have his own show.