As things stand right now, the Boston Bruins are a quarter million dollars over the cap having gone out and signed Jordan Caron to another NHL contract. If you allow for the Marc Savard contract being put on the long term injured reserve day one of the season that leaves about $3,700,000 to spend. Torey Krug and Reilly Smith are unsigned and there is no sign the players will be members of the Boston Bruins in October when the season opens.

Assuming no trades, major injuries or retirements before the season lets look at each line and pairing.

The Bergeron could see the steady tandem of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand check in for another season together with the right wing who scored the most goals for the Providence Bruins; Seth Griffith. Griffith put up 20 goals in 69 games as first year pro for Coach Cassidy last year.

The Krejci line, or given time on it arguably the Lucic line, would see the return of left wing Milan Lucic and center David Krejci, with yet another winger to work with. This year it would at least be a player familiar with the Boston system. Loui Eriksson is the only logical choice for this spot.

The third line becomes a writhing knot of enigmas, questions, and mysteries. If we assume Chris Kelly is healthy enough to start the season does he go back to center? For now, lets put him at left wing. Carl Soderberg looked his best last year as the season tipped over into the playoffs, at that point he was paying center but could get shuffled back to wing. For now we’ll write his name firmly in the center spot. That leaves the right wing open. With a look at maturity, size and a ability to play a third line checking position in the Claude Julien system, one of the best picks for the open position is Brian Ferlin.

The former Merlot line has lost something, but retains Daniel Paille at left wing, and Greg Campbell at center. Jordan Caron is the likely right wing. If Caron fills in more of the penalty killing duty, this would allow Campbell and Paille to take extra shift with other lines in the event of injuries, illness or under-performance. The Sangria Line is likely set.

At defense we’re looking at a first pairing that has Zdeno Chara and a rotating cast on the other end of the blueline. If it is Hamilton, that puts the best offensive defensemen on the same pairing, for now Seidenberg can be penciled in.

If we put a second pairing of Hamilton and Boychuck we’ve got a solid, if unfamiliar pair would can certainly be counted on for 19-22 minutes a night.

The third pairing will become a rotation of Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller and Matt Bartkowski. Thanks to the deep affection the injury bug holds for the Bruins defense, either here or in Providence the three have a working familiarity with each other, and as parings that will see 12-17 minutes most nights, it isn’t as important as upper pairings.

Now for the problems:

  • The most experienced right wing on the team, has never played that position consistently in Claude Julien’s rigorous system.
  • The other three right wings have all of their NHL experience concentrated in Jordan Caron. This is the same Jordan Caron who has been displaced in the lineup over the years by Zach Hamill, Brian Rolston, Carter Camper, Jamie Tardiff, Craig Cunningham, and never showed more value head to head than Shawn Thornton.
  • The defense as a whole is slow. Hamilton is hands down the swiftest, and then its a question of Miller versus Chara. Given how speedy teams like Montreal, Tampa Bay, Detroit, and Carolina are this strikes anyone with a lick of sense as disastrous.
  • With the offense taking a step back, and the defense taking at best, a step sideways it is unlikely the team is as strong overall as last year.

The observant will have noted I didn’t mention a 13th forward. Given that promoting Ferlin and Griffith brings the team to $2.1m short of the cap, and the fact that their will be injuries at some point, there needs to be some flexibility to bring up one or two players to fill those injuries. Despite the front offices’s seeming love of David Pastrnak, he also isn’t here on the roster for a number of reasons. One is simply that his cap hit is higher than any of the other wingers who are currently signed and at his size, its questionable if he’ll make it through camp onto the roster on merit.

There is a case to be made for putting Pastrnak on the roster this fall that has nothing to do with how he does at camp, but that isn’t the point of this article. Realistically, even allowing for higher speed than Griffith or Ferlin, Pastrnak has arguably not played at a level as high as the AHL, he certainly hasn’t played anything like the length of an NHL season. Having played 36 games last year, the jump to an 82 game season is likely to hit him harder than it does most college players who leave school larger and stronger.

If a thirteenth forward is carried, Ryan Spooner, is likely in the mix, or might entirely displace whoever might otherwise win the 3rd line wing. If Spooner plays there pushing Soderberg to one wing and Kelly to the other, seeing him get reps with wingers from the top two lines wouldn’t be a big surprise. You could also argue for a more physical presence in the lineup and slide Bobby Robbins into the space vacated by Shawn Thronton and possibly pushing Caron to the third line or more likely the pressbox.

For the first time in decades there are very few questions to be answered in terms of personnel on and off the ice. We have two time Vezina Trophy winner, and Conn Smyth holder Tim Thomas returning in goal with the well regarded Tuukka Rask backing him up. The defense is nearly as well stocked with the hulking Zdeno Chara and his oft overlooked but indispensable wing-man Dennis Seidenberg as the go to duo. Slated to return was are last years breakout defender Adam Mcquaid, the snarling wolverine to Chara’s loping wolf Andrew Ference, former AHL defenseman of the year and newlywed Johnny Boychuk. The well traveled Joe Corvo is the only new guy likely to be in the top six on October 6 when the banner goes up.  At forward Brad Marchand recently resigned and will almost certainly resume his “I Felt Like It.” behavior along side the teams best skater Patrice Bergeron, and leaving just one forward slot among the four lines in doubt.

With studs like Jared Knight and Ryan Spooner headlining the list of those who hope to turn pro this year, some might just pencil one of their names into the lineup and go back to counting down until the puck drops. That would be a mistake. The biggest question left after Marchand reupping and Savard being down checked for the season is where Seguin will play. This is the question that affects every other decision that will be made this year and going forward. If he is going to play at center going forward, for now that means the third line and likely with one or both Peverley and Kelly. If he’s going play at wing, he could still end up with last seasons late acquisitions, or he could slide up and join Marchand in flanking Bergeron. If he does, as some have speculated land next to the dynamic duo the question become what role the third line will take. If you’re expecting the lines centered by Bergeron and Krejci to carry a hefty percentage of the offense, the third line becomes a checking line by default.

If the third line is to be a checking line with Kelly and Peverley making up two thirds of it, then Pouliot is likely in the lead for the third spot on the line. Another option is to put a rookie who may not be ready to play in all situations on that line and use them sparingly while double shifting other forwards to leverage their capabilities. If that is the case the door is wide, wide open and the list goes well beyond Arniel, Caron, Suave, as front runners and allows for anyone such as Camper, Cunningham or Khokhlachev to blow the doors off management and earn a chance to grow into a well rounded player.

One of the other options that I haven’t seen talked about for Bergeron’s second winger is Peverley. Peverley was used in every situation and on every line during the playoffs last year. He’s a high end skater in both speed and agility, he’s a good passer and has even taken faceoffs on a regular basis. If he’s slotted in on the second line, the third line is possibly even more interesting. Pairing Seguin with Caron to fill out the line with Kelly gives a good amount of size, speed and skill and makes the Bergeron’s line even more effective as a two way production and scoring line. Seguin and Caron would be able to come along at a reasonable pace earning additonal ice timeand give each of them familiarity with a player likely to be in the organization a long time.

On defense the question of who is number seven is possibly more interesting. Steve Kampfer looked great for parts of his time prior to his injury last season, looked good at others, and looked entirely out of his depth on more than one occasion. Still, he played more time among the six defensemen put on the ice last year than any of the other options. David Warsovsky is a possibilty as he’s an offensive specialist and might be looked at to help improve the powerplay. Ryan Button intruiged me at prospect camp with his skating, reflexes and hands and shouldn’t be overlooked when taking notes the next couple weeks. Matt Bartkowski was the other semi-regular member of the Bruins defense last year. While his time wasn’t particularly impressive, it’s hard to lay that entirely at his skates as most of the game he played the club was mired in a funk that made the team painful to watch.

Given how little was done to address the powerplay from outside the team over the offseason, and the cap position of several teams don’t be surprised if the Bruins make a move or two between now and the start of the season. The Buffalo Sabres have heavily retooled since Terry Pegula took over, are currently well over the cap and a very dangerous team, the Calgary Flames are still in desperate need of a center who can stay within shouting range of Jarome Iginla as well. Not to be left off the list of teams yearning for a playoff spot are the recently uptooled Columbus BlueJackets and the Minnesota Wild. Columbus hasn’t made the playoffs in their history, and the Wild have not been in the post season the last two seasons.

There aren’t many questions to be asked about roster spots this year, but what questions there are will keep us all watching.

So when last we met, I was waxing poetic about the talent on the ice at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington, Ma., where the future B’s (they hope) had gone through Day 4 of Development Camp.  Well, the young men were back on the ice for Day 5, and there were some notables in attendance as well.  Peter Chiarelli had a great spot to watch the action from and Claude Julien, sporting some after playoff facial hair and possible golf attire, was walking the seating area during the intermission.  Unsure as to how much of the action he witnessed, but my guess is he saw quite a bit.

The day started out with, of all things, skating drills.  These were fun to watch on Day 3 and exposed some skating issues for the young guns.  Today was no different.  Everyone seemed to grasp the concept of skating forwards and backwards, staples to be sure, but coach Besa Tsintsadze had other plans.  Anthony Camara had issues skating over his stick and and also with the “stand your stick on the butt end, spin around and catch it before it falls” drill.  He fell once.  He wasn’t the only one that fell, Koko had his issues as well, but showed some good footwork making figure 8s around his stick while it lay prone on the ice.  The good news is that once again Tommy Cross showed no ill effects as he worked the drills with no issues but did appear to take one or two of them a little more slowly than the others.

At the opposite end of the ice sheet coach Essensa put the goaltenders through some workouts, and once again Lars Volden showed that he was equal to the task.  As mentioned in the previous post, he has nice horizontal movement from post to post, and also showed a strong glove hand when faux one-timers were being fired at him from 1o feet out.  Hutch and Goth looked strong through most of the drills but appeared a little exposed when shots were taken over there shoulders to the top shelf.  None of the three are going to be challenging for a starting spot on the Bruins any time soon, but Hutch looks to be heading toward a back up role in Providence with the baby B’s.

Some more mental notes…

Zane Gothberg:  Showed that he can handle the rubber being fired at him and stopped just about everything he was supposed to stop.  During the scrimmage section he did make some nice stops, but never really ventured away from the net.

Ben Sexton:  Showed some speed during both the skills and scrimmage.  Had some issues during the scrimmage but looked good on offense.  The thing with Sexton that I liked most was his ability to take direction and his willingness to ask for direction, as evidenced by his taking face off instruction from, I believe, Cunningham or Koko.

Jared Knight:  One of the most polished of the crew at camp this week.  He looked as though he was showboating a little, as was Spooner during the skating drills.  Jared is better at back-checking and defense and he is really good in the offensive zone, as to be expected.  His passing is spot on, and he has a good shot, but looks much better from in close.  He was also willing to get a little physical.

Craig Cunningham:  To me Craig didn’t do anything blatantly wrong, but he didn’t jump out at me either.  He has good speed, but had an issue finishing one timers in front of the net.  He did go into the corners and was willing to muck it up, which works for me when it comes to having a B’s mentality

Alexander Fallstrom:  Alex doesn’t seem to shy away from the physical contact, both taking and receiving it.  It appeared that he checked Camara into the stanchion (anyone say Max?) but it was later learned that Anthony put himself into the stanchion avoiding or trying to hit Fallstrom.  Anyway, Alex did appear to have some issues with the skate drills in the morning session but he showed good hustle and grit.

Brian Ferlin:  Brian showed some hustle and speed on Day 4 scrimmage.  Day 5 saw him repeat the effort.  Appeared to be having a good time on the ice, nothing glaring about his defense, would like to see more physical in his game.

Justin Florek:  He can score, and what a shot!  Fairly accurate as it hit the back of the net twice.  The line combo for both scrimmages had Florek and Ferlin centered by Spooner, and they clicked well together.  All three were vocal and knew who was supposed to be where.  He was physical behind the net and didn’t shy away from contact.

Only got a few in here, but keep an eye out for the rest of the Development Camp roster…

The arena was again well filled with fans, some dressed a tiny bit more realistically for the frigid conditions of the Ristuccia arena than others. Some of the people were the same folks who had been several days running, but there were also a lot of people who hadn’t been the last two days. Claude Julien visible with some scruff and looking like golf had a spot on the days to do list was present as was Peter Chiarelli.

While as I said before, there isn’t a ridiculous spread in talent from top to bottom, there were definitely a few players that stood out. My very top tier includes just four players, three of the defensemen but I could be easily convinced to add two of the forwards who while less well rounded or were still high end. After those six players there is a tight bunch of twelve to sixteen players who are solid but didn’t display one or two elements in the time I was there. Five years ago, and probably even four any or all of the top six players could have made the Bruins roster. This year, I highly doubt any of players at this camp crack the roster without a bit of help from the injury bug or someone suddenly demanding a trade.

From the scrimmage and shootout today:

Volden: Lights out goaltending in the shootout. He faced some truly pretty shots and got rousing cheers from the crowd.

Button: Just plain looked good. Didn’t seem to be flustered by anything.

Camara: Looked damn solid, love his work ethic and willingness to go through traffic. Think Jeremy Reich type work ethic with better wheels and hands.

O’Gara: One of the youngest players in camp, didn’t look out of place playing with some of the top players at camp.

Fallstrom: Showed a more physical presence than I’d seen from him yesterday or in past camps.

Trotman: During the scrimmage he was paired Warsofsky and got a couple really nice looks and potted a goal from the high slot.

Warsofsky: Made a neat play along the boards during an offensive zone entry. He got rubbed out along the wall, and didn’t miss a beat in spooning the pass to the slot as he slid a good ten or twelve feet on both knees. No sign of ill effcts from it. Could turn into a powerplay quarterback.

Knight: Grabbed my attention by going deep into the defensive zone and working hard at blocking shots and taking away lanes. Plays with a bit of swagger, people are either going to love him or hate him.

Spooner: He drilled Hamilton a couple times during scrimmage and special teams practice.

Hamilton: Seemed to drop back into more of a defensive role today than yesterday.

Cross: Answered any reasonable questions on his knees over the last two days with not just some of the best mobility for the bigger guys, but some of the best mobility in camp. Perhaps the thing that sticks out most even over his obvious leadership is his positioning. He appears in the right spot and shifts smoothly with it around the ice.

Khokhlachev: Was shifted to left wing from center (he plays both) in scrimmage, looked very comfortable, was again a going concern in all three zones.

Spinell: Looked comfortable at his own crease to the opponents blueline, still in college and in camp on an invite. I’m not sure where he’s sign when he graduates, but where ever it is will be getting a solid piece.

I liked the camp, and can’t say enough about the competitiveness and energy of the camp. While a few players were flagging at one point or another I didn’t get the impression anyone was mailing it in. Today’s scrimmage was much more physical than yesterdays with a few hits that were a touch more than the “light contact” you normally see.

Not so risky guesses:

  • None of the guys at camp this year make the NHL roster out of camp without multiple injuries at a given position.
  • One of the defensemen who was at camp and in the AHL at some point last year jumps the queue to be the first callup over one or more of last years call ups.
  • Two of the forwards here this year make the team in two years.
  • At least two forwards and defensemen as yet unsigned ink their entry level contracts before the start of Boston’s 2012-13 season.