David Krejci is out with another injury. This time it appears to be his back. Tuukka Rask is in the middle of his fourth down trending season in a row. Krejci is 31 and has as storied an injury history as he has a playoff pedigree. Rask has suffered abdominal and hip injuries and then this year a concussion. Additionally Rask has suffered “illnesses” in remarkable proximity to big games for the last several years.

So which of them is more important?

Ordinarily this isn’t a question. The goalie is about 40% of any teams success. A number one goalie is a huge part of the fortunes of team. The counter argument to the value of a goalie is that a top center is a makes a goalie better by helping keep the puck out of the defensive zone and limiting the shots on net by creating offense. A number one center can create a lot of offense, and a lot of sustained puck possession.

Here’s the problems. Yes, plural. Rask is no longer a legitimate number one goaltender. Krejci is not a number one center. While Krejci has gone from leading the NHL in playoff scoring two out of three seasons, Rask was once upon a time a Vezina winner.

Today, Tuukka Rask has turned in two league average at best seasons. David Krejci has been pretty consistent in his scoring over the years. The drop last year was both remarkable, and worrisome. But it brought Krejci from above average to about average for a #2 center in the NHL. There is no way to damn the decline of Rask with faint praise. While Krejci was elite six to ten weeks a spring a few years ago, at about the same time Rask was a Vezina quality goaltender in about the same span.

The drop off is more extreme in Rask’s case than anything seen in Boston in a very, very long time from any position. Rask is currently displaying numbers that wouldn’t have kept a goalie in the NHL fifteen years ago.  With an .899sv% Rask is 42nd in the NHL among all goalies with 7 or more games played. That’s in the bottom 20% of the NHL. Of the 74 goaltenders to start games in the NHL so far this year, Rask ranks 62nd. That QS% is .308. That’s a 7 million dollar a year giving you worse play than career AHL guys getting called up because the first two goalies are unavailable.

Replacing Krejci’s numbers isn’t as easy being 98th out of the 194 centers to play seven games might suggest. With the number of games he’s missed Krejci’s standings in points per game are much more relevant. Among those same 194 centers he is 31st in PPG, which puts him slightly ahead of Bergeron.

The production isn’t the only factor to consider. Whatever other issues he may have had, there’s never been an issue with David Krejci scapegoating team mates. No one has ever questioned Krejci’s willingness to play through injuries. Krejci has played with a remarkable, and not always talented assortment of wingers and been able to concoct points both on the powerplay, and at even strength. He’s even been strong penalty killer when called upon.

Right now, today, barring further serious injury to David Krejci, even as he sits on the shelf nursing his ailing back, he’s the more valuable of the two players.

The Boston Bruins have made a history, and largely ramshackle franchise out of refusing to pay forwards. Patrice Bergeron has been one of the most valuable players in the league for most of the time since he was drafted. Brad Marchand has been one of the best wings in the NHL since he was instrumental in winning the Stanley Cup. Even David Krejci never really got a top tier salary, despite being the setup man who took over for Marc Savard and managed to work with multiple iffy wingers for years.

Phil Kessel is one of those guys where both price and term were an issue. He’s got a nearly identical points per game total in his career to Brad Marchand, and if the Boston Bruins had both of themthey likely beat Chicago and collect a second Stanley Cup. Instead they downgraded to Tyler Seguin. Yes Seguin had loads of issue, on and off the ice, inside and outside the arena, but he is still a top tier offensive weapon. They punted Rielly Smith in favor of Jimmy Hayes, and we know how that ended. When they decided to part ways with Carl Soderberg they traded him for a pick who has only scored one goal in two years in the SHL.

Milan Lucic was traded for essentially nothing. They flipped him for Martin Jones who they traded for little. They also got one of the six players drafted in the 2015 first round yet to play an NHL game. In addition they got Colin Miller who was a tire fire on the ice, and who they gave up to protect better players (literally everyone in the system), and who then was ‘lost’.

There are two major issues at play here and no one is addressing both. The first is that how you pay your drafted and developed players greatly impacts what free agents will even take serious phone calls from your franchise. The second is that they haven’t managed to acquire and retain  any quality talent in exchange for what they’ve let go. Seguin is not as good as Kessel, especially not in the regular season. None of the return for Seguin is still in the Boston Bruins system. The return for Milan Lucic is still in question. What they received for Soderberg and Smith was barely worth the time to notify the NHL of the trade.

Free agents? Who was the last top tier NHL UFA to land in Boston. Not guys who are future hall of fame members like Jagr or Jarome Iginla (after a failed trade), but legit stars. It might well be when Marc Savard and Zdeno Chara were signed a long, long time ago. Even they are iffy because Chara was considered leftovers from Redden and the rest of the disintegrating Ottawa Senators defense. Savard was as much of a one dimensional, unathletic, and iffy effort player as can be when he arrived. Both were made better by a very under rated coach.

College free agents? Don’t make me laugh. Blake Wheeler was the last of those worth something to land in the Hub. Causeway is not graced by Will Butcher or Alex Kerfoot, Jimmy Vesey does not wear the spoked-b.  They can’t win with veteran UFA’s looking for the next chapter in their career because of their parsimonious treatment of guys they do develop. They can’t win with college free agents because who wants to take a job with an organization they know is going to under pay?

Even if you consider it gross overpayment to get David Pastrnak a contract that is in the near neighborhood of Draisaitl, that’s the market rate. None of us pay what we want to for gas, we pay what the market demands. It’s time to repair the organizations reputation with the players as a whole. It’s well past time to get Pastrnak under contract before he does something sensible like trot off to the KHL where he’ll make as much money and have to play fewer games to do it. If they wanted to sign him at a lower rate they should have done so when he hit the thirty goal mark during the season, between the regular season and the playoffs. Now the market has been reset and they need to adjust their expectations accordingly.

Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers finally signed his contract. His $8.5 million a year will make him the highest paid player on the team this year. In his career, he’s put up a solid .717 points per game in his 191 regular season games. Drafted in 2014, he’s a very, very good comparable to the Boston Bruins David Pastrnak who was also taken in the first round, has played 172 regular season games.

Pastrnak, despite coming into his first professional year after a serious shoulder injury, and being suspended two games, has produced .715 points per game, and more goals, and goals per game than Draisaitl. On the surface you could give them identical contracts and call it a day, the Boston Bruins have the cap space, they certainly should aim to keep him, and keep him happy. The problem isn’t this year’s cap space. Next year is where it get’s dicey.

Chara will be out of contract July 1, and if he plays this season as well as he did last, he’ll deserve another, and he’s not the biggest worry as he can likely be resigned at the same rate. Assuming the cap remains the same, the team would have 15 players signed for July 1, 2018, and have just over $12.6 million to fill the minutes of the unsigned players which will include a backup goalie, Chara, Vatrano, Spooner and a few others, the year after that McAvoy, Carlo, JFK, and McQuaid are all due new deals.

If they sign Pastrnak to the $8.5 a year Draisaitl got, or even a little more if they avoid the three years of no movement clause and no trade clause at the backend of the Oiler’s center’s deal, they need to lose one of the big contracts. A lot of people will point immediately at Backes, or Beleskey, and they are short sighted. You need to consider who will want them, and give you any thing at all for them. Realistically, they need to either work a deal with one of the eight teams Tuukka Rask can moved to this year, or 15 next year. David Krejci is unmoveable without serious persuasion.

There are several key questions the Boston Bruins front office has to ask before they take whatever their next step is:

  • What is the value of David Pastrnak to the Boston Bruins now, three years from now, and five years from now?
  • What will the deal we offer to him mean to other players in the system moving forward?
  • What impact will deals like this have on our own salary cap?
  • How will it affect the process when the CBA is up for renewal or replacement after five more seasons?

For me, I think Draisaitl is overpaid on a small sample size. Yes he’s been very good, and downright impressive in his one playoff appearance, but I think the contract is probably about $1.5 million high, as of his current production. When you get to second  (or later) contracts you’re either fearcasting or dreamcasting what the player will be over the course of the contract. For Pasta who had an all star, year one can hope very high, maybe even a fifty goal season in the next four or five. But you can also look at how effectively he was smothered in the week or two after he hit the 30 goal mark, and of course that draft year injury and worry about the low end of the number.

Based on current market trends, he’s likely to sign for somewhere within $250,000-$400,000 of Draisaitl depending on what he end up with for NMC’s or NTCs. If they force him into a lesser contract, I think it would be a very bad precedent for their relationship with him, and any other young talent that breaks out during their entry level deal.

Listen to next week’s Two Man ForeCheck as I’m sure myself and @TheOffWing will get into more on this topic.

Each player leaves a season behind in the form of another building block in their legacy. Last season was not a great year to be a Boston Bruin. Between management and players they cost a top tier NHL coach his job, and their showing in the playoffs was hardly encouraging. Among those players there are a handful with more to prove than most.

#5 Charlie McAvoy

His goal this year, in the NHL or the American Hockey League should be to prove that he does belong in the pros, and that he can be a consistent net positive contributor. In limited time in the NHL, with no one having the opportunity to scout him he failed to register a goal, was shutout in three games, including the final two, was a minus player in four of six games, and failed to even register a shot in three games.

#4 David Backes

While Backes contributes a great many hits, and a respectable total of blocked shots, his downward spiral is pretty sharp. In the 2014-15 season the former captain of the Saint Louis Blues tallied up 58 regular season points. In his first year as a Boston Bruin, he put found just 38 points to add to his career total. While it’s true he did suffer an injury that cost him eight games, and played for three coaches in two conferences, in twelve months, the fact remains he didn’t live up to expectations.

#3 Ryan Spooner

Spooner was drafted in the top half of the first round back in two thousand and ten. Since then he’s done a great deal of not very much. He has yet to play a full 82 games. He’s yet to crack the 50 much less the 70 point mark. He’s never crossed the twenty goal mark. His career faceoff win percentage is the lowest of any Bruins center to play 150 games since his draft year. In the playoffs he was hipchecked from the lineup by Sean Kuraly in the playoffs, and Kuraly, unlike Spooner managed to score in the post season. And, as part of a staredown on the way to arbitration he picked up a contract for one year that’s over what many thinks he deserves.

#2 Zdeno Chara

At 40 its not surprising that the Boston Bruins Captain had a dip in his offensive numbers. Given that he was tasked with even more of the defensive heavy lifting with the buyout of Dennis Seidenberg, one can account for some of the dip. That said, his twenty-nine point total last year was his second lowest full season total as a Bruin. This is also a contract year for him. While I can’t see him demanding or getting six or seven million as he has in the past, with that point total even with his continued remarkable defensive acumen, leadership, and the frankly staggering ability to average more than twenty-three minutes a night at an advanced age he’s going to struggle to get the four million he’s due this year in the future.

#1 David Krejci

This and one more season remain before Krejci’s no movement clause expire. Last year Krejci put up one of the lowest regular season points totals of his career. In addition to slowing down physically, he failed to connect on a higher percentage of passes than I’ve ever seen from him. Worse, he never managed to have one of those incredibly hot streaks that have typified his career.  In his 94th, 95th, and 96th playoff games he registered not a single point, just three shots, and had a faceoff percentage under 42. In many years Krejci has been free money in the playoffs, this year he was the worst we have have seen in total form October to April.

Don’t forget you can now find the Two Man ForeCheck podcast on it’s own site and Facebook page.

With the NHL Expansion draft looming, it’s time to take a look at who the Boston Bruins must and should protect. Anyone with an active no movement clause, must be protected. Anyone who has played under a certain number of games or is on exempt, so McAvoy, Kuraly, JFK are all safe from being dragged off to the city of sin.

For the Boston Bruins the must protect list includes David Krejci, David Backes, Zdeno Chara, and Patrice Bergeron. That’s a lot of salary, but it also includes a ton of minutes eaten every night. At least one goalie must be exposed, and three that count right now are Malcolm Subban, Anton Khudobin, and Tukka Rask. Of them Subban is due a contract sometime before games start to count, Rask has four more years with a cap hit of seven million, and Khudobin is entering the final year of his contract with $1,200,000.

I can’t see Rask not being protected, which means either Subban or Khudobin being taken is a real possibility. For youth, Subban might be the better pick for Vegas, but Khudobin has more experience and has played behind bad NHL defenses and still turned up solid numbers when healthy and focused.

At forward I can’t imagine anyone feeling the need to argue against protecting Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. Further, any argument to the effect either is worth giving up for nothing is nonsensical. After that you need to weigh the risk and reward of protecting Beleskey, Spooner, Hayes, Nash, Schaller, Moore, and Stafford. It is hard to find a reward to protecting Hayes. Schaller and Nash are decent bottom six players, but either can be replaced by half a dozen guys in Providence or UFA’s. Moore will be 37 when camp opens this fall, and while he had a career year last year, that just means he’s even more likely to slump. Nice player, probably the best of the bottom six, but still I’m not sure I protect him.

This brings us to three players. Ryan Spooner a Bruins draft pick with extraordinary hands and feet but who has failed to thrive. Matt Beleskey who was hindered by injury and saddled with Hayes as a linemate much of last season, and career Bruins killer Drew Stafford who has had just one twenty goal year in his last five and is now 31. Of them I think I have to protect Beleskey. In limited action he still provided a great deal of physicality the team needed. Spooner is younger with a theoretically higher ceiling, but he has shown zero consistency year to year.

On defense Torey Krug is a must protect. You simply don’t give away a guy who finishes sixth in scoring among defensemen, ever. McPhee would snatch him in a heartbeat and the Bruins would be set back years. The blueliners to keep track of left after Krug and Chara are John Michael-Liles, Kevan Miller, Colin Miller, and Adam McQuaid. Liles is aging and couldn’t crack the top six last year against very, very inexperienced competition, there’s no reason to protect him. Colin Miller has shown even less of the reasons he was acquired than Ryan Spooner.

In many ways Kevan Miller and Adam McQuaid are similar players. It isn’t until you look at the various stats you see the differences. McQuaid is simply better in his own zone, his on ice save percentage is better, his difference from team save percentage is better, and he plays more short handed time, and his even strength time is played against better opponents. Kevan Miller is noticeably better offensively (.20ppg vs .14ppg) but neither is anything to make note of, nor does it outweigh the other factors. Age, McQuaid is slightly more than a year older, and while both have health issues again it’s about even.

Unless Neely and Sweeney commit resume generating events in their protection list, I don’t expect the team will suffer anything from the expansion.

The Boston Bruins ended their season against the Ottawa Senators. Some, myself included believe they never should have made the playoffs. Given their lack of quality even taking a team that left them sitting on their Bettman with a fat lip at the end of every meeting in the regular season is an accomplishment. There are a couple reasons they lost, and no, the officiating in the playoffs isn’t it.

5:  Balance

The bottom three were an issue because it should really be a bottom six on a team like this. The MAN line of Moore, Nash, and Acciari was very good. Tim  Schaller was variable, Krejci was useless before he went down to injury, and Spooner was well, Ryan Spooner. The only real strength shown in the depth on the blueline, McAvoy looked as good as anyone could reasonably expect, probably better, Morrow looked like the guy who they hoped he’d be when they traded for him. Cross looked good, and I have to wonder where he’ll be playing next year.

4: Inconsistency

This team was held to less than five shots on goal more than once, including a period without a single shot on goal. They took stupid penalties, like the three delay of games over the board in less than half a period to start game six. Their goaltender had three games with a save percentage under .900.

3: Speed

The speediest players didn’t do much with their speed. The rest of the players weren’t fast enough to break through the slopfest of a neutral zone created by Guy Boucher and the Senators trap. Pastrnak was ineffective, Marchand was largely invisible, Vatrano didn’t make a splash. Colin Miller who was the fastest skater in the AHL a couple years ago was invisible even before someone tried to end is career.

2: Shooting

They barely did. They had the second fewest shots on goal per game of any team in the playoffs. They allowed the Senators the same number of shots per game as in the regular season where Ottawa beat them  each time, and finished ahead of them. You don’t consistently beat a good goalie with low shot totals, you don’t support your own goaltender with very few goals.

1: Communication

I have never seen a team with such bad communication and awareness on the ice. There were collisions between players who have been on the roster for years. There were more passes to no where than to other players. How in the world were there yet more two many men on the ice penalties? Even Bergeron and Marchand who have played together for hundreds and hundreds of games could be seen crashing into each other once below the circles, and Marchand being on the receiving end of a Bergeron blueline check. We know some of the injuries guys were playing through, maybe they were addled by pain killers, but this was not a team in sync.

Of the teams left who are expected to make the playoffs, or sell out to make a playoff some of them have yet to make a move, there are different pressures on all of them, and different asset sets.

The San Jose Sharks went as deep into the playoffs as you can go last year, and made some savvy moves in the off season adding some speed, and some playoff acumen. As it stands they are likely the third most dangerous team in the west. They could go out and make a move and add something now, but what? There isn’t as much pressure to do something as there has been in the past. They also lack assets. They don’t have either a second or third round pick in the next two drafts. The talent pipeline for the Sharks really isn’t good either. They are ranked as the 23rd best farm system. Don’t expect much.

The Edmonton Oilers made a minor move to add Henrik Samuelsson back on the first, but haven’t done anything that will impact their playoff prognosis, and nor should they. They have literally no pressure. Lucic, Maroon, and Talbot have all been to the post season before and can help mold how the team responds to the pressure, the highs, and the lows of the second season. They really shouldn’t make any moves, I can’t think of any available combination of players that would make them the best in the west, much less the favorite to win the Cup.

The Boston Bruins need to either commit to the rebuild and move out everyone they don’t expect to see on the roster in three years or just do nothing. They have decent to really good prospects in the system at both wing and defense, and they have some goalies who have high potential as well. If anything I think they should ask two of their biggest salaries (Rask, Krejci) to waive their movement clauses and see what they can get for them. I don’t expect a significant move, because this isn’t a contender.

If the Nashville Predators have decided this isn’t this year (and they should), they should move some older player for young assets. Fisher is well regarded, and at 36 he’s not got many more chances to go for a Cup. A contender who added him would be getting a better deal, and a guy with more miles left than Doan or Iginla. Vernon Fiddler is inexpensive, versatile, and playoff experienced. If he can be moved for anything he should be as I doubt the team brings him back next year. If they do want to make a move for a push into the second round, they are only short one fourth round pick in the next four years.

The Colorado Avalanche have two of the most talked about potential trade pieces of the last three months, and whatever they go after with those pieces, they players they bring back should be defensemen. Maybe they make a trade with the Hurricanes that brings them Faulk or a wealth of prospects from a team like Nashville. Sell, sell, sell should be the mantra of the team. Pretty much everyone on that team over the age of 25 should be made available, with the possible exception of Erik Johnson who would likely fetch as big a return as anyone but MacKinnon.

 

We are 10% into the season, and it is time to take a look at what is going on with the organization.

Heading into today’s games the Boston Bruins are:

  • 5th in the division
  • 3rd in the East’s wild card race
  • 16th in goals for
  • 15th in goals against
  • -5 in goal differential
  • 30th on the pp with 7.1% success rate
  • 10th on the PK with an 85.3% success rate
  • tied for 5th in faceoff win percentage at 51.7%st

They have used four different goalies, and 22 skaters.

By salary the top forwards without goals are:

  • David Krejci $7.25m
  • Matt Beleskey $3.8m
  • Jimmy Hayes $2.3m

The three together are a minus 18, $13.35m in salary, 56 shifts of hockey a game, and just 33 shots on goal through eight games each.

So what do we know now that we didn’t know September first? We know Brandon Carlo has shown himself to be a pretty solid NHL defenseman in this small sample. We know that Jimmy Hayes and Matt Beleskey on the same line still doesn’t work. We know that despite the extraordinary (for him) trust Julien has put in Carlo and earlier in O’Gara, he’s still not ready to shelve Liles for Morrow or one of the other youngsters in need of ice time. To date, Liles appears to have been the most culpable defenseman on the ice for a greater number of goals against than any other blueliner. Honestly, this is starting to remind me of Hnidy’s second tour through Boston. If Morrow, O’Gara, or Grzelcyk, can’t handle the time in what is clearly a bridge year, they’ll probably never handle it.

Liles plays third pairing minutes, and has averaged less time than Colin Miller this year. His powerplay time could easily be handed out among Krug, Chara, Morrow, or O’Gara who are all left handed shots as well. And as effective as the current powerplay isn’t you can make the argument putting a goalie out their in his place would be more effective. The most dispensable part of his game is his PK time, where the team is doing above average if not well, and even there in the time he was in Boston rookie Rob O’Gara averaged more shorthanded time. I don’t know how much say Julien has over who is on his roster and in the locker room, but for the long term good of the team developing a quality defenseman over allowing an aging veteran to playout their contract should win every time. That’s a call management should make, and should make firmly.

In summary:

Problems on defense that aren’t quite as bad as I feared coming into the season. Problems at forward that are worse than I feared, and a lack of health and experience in net. Not a compelling total, but this is just 10% of the season.

The first three days of the NHL season are in the books and while I’m not prepared to hand out any major awards or declare the Stanley Cup a given to anyone, there’s been some fun stuff to watch.

The Los Angeles Kings are so thin at forward that even when Marion Gaborik gets back on the ice it is still quite likely that Dwight King and Trevor Lewis will see top six minutes. Good guys, honest players they are, the core of an offense they should not be.

Did someone hide Jonathan Toews’ prescription strength discipline? He’s had a couple iffy penalties, and fight just two games into the season. I’m not sure anyone knows what’s going on here, but this looks more like the rattled guy Seabrook felt the need to comfort in the penalty box back in 2013 than ice cold muscle and sinew of the franchise people depend on.

A Patrice Bergeron deficient Boston Bruins squad is nothing the Causeway faithful have had cause to look forward to int he last twelve seasons, but in their first game of the season, fans were exposed to just that. The play wasn’t just iffy in the first half of the game, it looked like a scramble of eight year olds in their own end. They did right the ship and win, but only because of the extraordinary efforts of Marchand, Backes, Pastrnak. A quick look will tell you six forwards were held to one shot or less, including David Krejci the highest paid player on the team.

Auston Matthews put on a very memorable show, there are a couple things worth keeping in mind. First, the only notable defensive defenseman on the Senators is Phanuef, and he was only on the ice for one goal against. And two, a lot of the players who have had very memorable debuts  have gone on to be not very much. Matthews has talent, drive, and passable size, but no one knows what the future will bring.

It’s clearly October, Edmonton is at the top of the standings, where they will likely stay for two or even three more games.

Pay no attention to the rumors that Joe Thornton’s beard has acquired it’s own agent, and is looking to be traded.

The NHL schedulers have conspired to keep the Vancouver Canucks out of the loss column for as long as possible, on this the fourth day of the season they will play their first game.

The Arizona Coyotes who are a team to watch this season have an exciting mix of young stars up front, and what may be the most under rated top four on their blueline in the NHL.

Even knowing that he’s spent the bulk of his career in markets with less assertive media than places like Toronto, Boston, New York or Chicogo, I don’t know how James Neal escapes a well earned reputation for being one of the dirtiest players in the NHL. Head shots, slew foots, and more are a routine part of his game. Sure players like Shaw and Marchand are annoying, but they are looking to keep people off their game not off the roster.