The dividing line between the upper echelon of the NHL’s forwards in terms of pay and the merely competent is always sliding upwards. Right now the line is slipping from the five million mark upwards. Without knowing what the next CBA will look like, much less the next two or three annual caps we’ll take a look at the league and who’s earning about twice the leagues average salary or more.
In the Northeast division, there are this year or next only a handful at this salary or more. The Montreal Canadiens have three on the list, Scott Gomez, Thomas Plekanec, and Brian Gionta, combining for a cap hit of $17,357,143. The Ottawa Senators have just Jason Spezza making north of five million, and he’s got making a cool seven million with a no trade clause. The second highest paid forward in the division is Thomas Vanek, who along with Pominville are over the threshold for the Sabres. Boston boasts Patrice Bergeron, Brian Rolston and David Krejci. The Maple Leafs lay claim to Mikhail Grabosi and Phil Kessel.
A brief look at the disposable:
Gomez is a punchline. He appears to be liked by his teammates, but with 38 points in the 2010-11 season, and a boatload of missed games in the 2011-12 season that’s allowed him to put up 11 points in 38 games, he’s not in anyway living up to his contract. While it’s true no one forced the Rangers to sign him to the contract or the Canadiens to trade for him, he’s unlikely to see another contract worth north of $2million anywhere in the NHL when his deal expires in two more seasons. He’ll be 34 by then and can retire if he chooses having suffered through his $51,000,000 seven year contract.
Phil Kessel is exactly the player he was at the end of his second season. He’s a one dimensional goal scorer who disappears for weeks at a time. He shows up and blows the doors off the league working hard for October, showing interest in November and then might as well not exist the rest of the season. He’s shut down on a regular basis by smart defense regardless of it is the top pairing or the third against him. He “didn’t want to be traded” from Boston, and landed in Toronto to the tune of $5,400,000 a year and frequent “Thank You Kessel!” chants. If he did any thing other than score or at least did it consistently all year he’d be an elite player, as it is his contract is dead money December 1st onward.
Brian Rolston, while part of his issue is simply not fitting into the plan and system on Long Island, his age has more than a small part in it. It’s highly unlikely he’ll be in the NHL in two years, and how much he plays from now until the end of the season in Boston depends on how fast Horton and Peverley work their way back into the lineup.
David Krejci is nearly a mercurial as Phil Kessel. He shows up willy-nilly, sometimes for a game, other times for a week or even a month. Then like responsible government he becomes a myth for days, weeks and months at a time. His saving grace is that even if he’s not particularly physical he’s willing to hit, take a hit to make a play and can be counted on not to make reasonable efforts defensively when engaged. Next year the soon to be 26 year old becomes the highest paid Boston Bruins forward with a cap hit of $5.25m.
Brian Gionta may be proof that going from the Atlantic division to the Canadiens is a bad career move. No one would bat an eyelash at the numbers he put up for the Devils and his current contract. Unfortunately when your production drops about 20 percent people tend to notice. Not a complete waste of a contract, but possibly they are putting him on the ice too much. His last year in New Jersey he played about four minutes less per game and produced twenty percent more points, including picking up shorthanded points. Nineteen and a half minutes a night is a lot for any forward. At an even $5m he’s worth watching to see what happens if and when a new coach takes over, especially if the team drafts a high end forward like Filip Forsberg or Alex Galchenyuk who might make the immediate jump to the NHL.
Thomas Vanek is another curious case. The last three seasons have seen his numbers spiral. Even if you throw this season where the Buffalo Sabres had more injuries than can be counted out, the last two years are still wanting. He’s got a ton of ability, but is very, very streaky. Realistically he hasn’t much support around him in recent years, and that will drag any one down. But after two 40+ goal seasons, more is needed. Maybe if he’s paired with skilled import Hodgson he’ll revitalize himself.
Jason Spezza for all the negative press he’s earned over the years is still a very highly skilled center working around the fact he’s been marooned on a team with little NHL talent for the last several seasons. Hometown All Star appearance aside, with one more goal he’ll be the least heralded 30 goal man in the NHL. He’s won almost 54% of his faceoffs this season, won over 56% last season and is over a point per game this season while spending a lot of time on lines with guys you probably can’t name. The Ottawa Senators star center is on the books for $7m a year with a no NTC>
Patrice Bergeron in any reasonable version of the universe Bergeron would probably own at least two Selkie trophies. That could finally be addressed this season. He wins faceoffs, is arguably eclipsed defensively only by Norris trophy winner Zdeno Chara on the Boston Bruins. He’s a former 30 goal scorer who has not often been gifted in terms of his linemates offensive abilities and despite that he’s 6th in total points for the fabled 2003 draft, just 6 points behind Zach Parise, and ahead of a number of big names taken ahead of him like Richards, Carter, Kesler, Eriksson, and Brown among others. He’s taking home $5m with a no movement clause.
Thomas Plekanec is living the post Thornton pre-Savard era of Patrice Bergeron’s career in Montreal. There’s very little offensive help and he’s spending entirely too much time on the ice. With almost 21 minutes a night of ice time sucking down his reserves his production would plummet even if there were someone to pass the puck too. More than three of those minutes are spent standing in front of slapshots as he plays and produces points short handed. If I’m going to point to a guy in the league currently “under producing” and say it’s the system or team, it’ him. The $5m and ntc are about what he deserves simply for taking the mess the team is quietly.
Mikhail Grabovksi is the newest member of the club. If I were taking over the general managers job in Toronto, immediately after scheduling weekly time with a therapist, I’d put him officially on the teams “untouchable” list. Much like Plekanec or Bergeron he’s a gamer. He shows up ready to play and play hard. He may or may not prove to be as offensively gifted as some of the other players on the list, but he doesn’t take nights off and he brings his game no matter how bad the teams situation is.
Looking back at the last several weeks of Bruins play there are some things that are readily apparent, like:
less capable replacements
mid season boredom
some atrocious calls by on ice officials and the office of Player Safety
What’s less apparent is that up until his injury, the Bruins were sliding Tuukka Rask into just about every other game. It started in late December, and continued on from there. Unlike years past where Thomas would get six or seven games then Rask one or two, Thomas for five or six, then Rask in one half of a back to back, then Thomas again for several games. The rinse and repeat continued unless one of the two had a much better record against a given opponent.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or Jack Adams winner to notice Tuukka Rask and Tim Thomas have different playings styles. Rask is a methodical butterfly goalie. He very rarely goes even one step outside the crease and the number of times he’s gone two steps outside the crease while play is below the dots can probably be counted on one hand. He plays upright, and in a very similar manner to goalies like Lundqvist. He’s also played well so far playing just the few games at a time and seems to wear down after five or six. In comparison to his crease crony he’s pretty passive in game play. Sure milk crates fear his very shadow, but other players?
Tim Thomas on the other hand uses what some have called the “battlefly” style. He’s aggressive. He’s athletic. He’s rarely still. He’ll come three or four steps outside the crease if he feels more confident about making the save half a dozen times a game and not consider it worth noticing. He’ll initiate contact with opponents. If he figured out how to do it and thought it would help he’d split himself in three to make saves.
While neither goalie is anyway an adept puck handler, where they leave the puck for their defenseman is often a little different. In addition to their playing style there’s a couple physical differences. Thomas looks like the “Tank” he is sometimes called. He’s shorter than Rask, barrel chested, and about thirty pounds heavier. Rask is whipcord over bone, tall, gangly and absolutely needs to make sure his shoulders are square on every shot to have a chance at saving it. He’s got much the same physical body type as David Krejci, but is even skinnier and several inches taller. The biggest similarity between the two is that both catch with their left hand.
All of these differences present adjustment difficulties for the skaters. Standing three strides out of the crease with Rask in net means you’re well clear of his comfort zone and likely have room to pivot and retrieve any pucks that leak through or hit him and fall straight in front of him. That same distance out is well within Thomas’s comfort zone. Then there’s the height difference. Neither is going to be able to see over Chara, McQuaid or Lucic, but if Ference, Bergeron, or one much of the team have their edges set for a puck battle either should be able to see over or around them depending on the angle, but Rask will have a slight advantage. Thomas has a better lateral range of the two by virtue of having a better glove, and rarely going down into a butterfly until a puck is inbound.
Most of the the time the two have shared the crease there has been a much wider split in games played, and barring injuries one subbed in for the other only intermittently. As different as their physical attribute are, and their playing styles making the adjustment two or three times a month at most may have kept players more aware of the difference and what they meant for their play. The constant back and forth in the weeks heading up to the Rask injury may have thrown all parties off.
When you look at some of the other teams to win the cup recently and what they did in their next year, most of it isn’t pretty. Duncan Keith had a bad year after the Cup win, by comparison Chara’s average to slightly above year is pretty nice. Zetterberg played two more games, and scored 20 less points they year after winning the Cup, Lucic has 12 games left to the season and is only 9 points off of last years total. Marc-Andre Fluery’s save percentage took a tumble year over year, oddly enough he started off the year strong, and had a stumble with a train wreck of a month towards this time of year and then bounced back in his post-Cup year. Even Nicklas Lidstrom had a down year in the post-Cup year.
With all the travel that the Bruins saw for the Eastern Conference finals schlepping back and forth from far north to far south in the US, not to mention a seven game series started without their best forward, then added to the cross continental 3 time zone shift four times and seven games and losing a top winger its not surprising they are having issues even this long later. Detroit, Chicago, and Pittsburgh all had much shorter trips between home and away. Chicago played Philly, Pittsburgh and Detroit played each other both years and none of those cities are all that far apart. The year after their Cup wins, Detroit finished with less points, Chicago finished not just with less points but made the playoffs on the last day. As disconcerting as what we’re seeing is, it isn’t unprecedented or even as bad as it could be.
Trickle Down Weariness
The injury front presents a couple less apparent problems. Nathan Horton and Rich Peverley both went out it put bigger than apparent holes in the team. Horton’s physicality and size on a a team that is pretty small up front can’t be be overlooked. Of the top nine forwards left, when he went out only Lucic was over 200lbs. Krejci, Marchand, (Hamill), Seguin are all under 190lbs. Taking away that added ability to not just throw big hits, but withstand them and maintain control of the puck is huge. Add in his willingness to drop the gloves and pound the snot out of someone and you’ve got a second problem. The elephant in the room however is his powerplay production. Despite the slow start and the time missed, he’s still third on the team in powerplay goals.
Rich Peverley’s injury created it’s own fault lines and widened the ones left by the loss of Horton. Rich Peverley’s speed has always put him in the top tier of the NHL’s forwards. Unlike a lot of the company he keeps there he has not just straight line speed but an ability to go side to side and make sudden stops and starts that is very nearly unparallelled. Taking that speed and agility out means you’re left with Marchand and Seguin in the top nine with game changing speed, both of whom are smaller than Peverley and one of whom isn’t nearly as physical. When you drill into the stats and look at who does what on the team you find he’s still second in powerplay assists despite almost a month out. What’s worse is where he plays his special teams time. Most of his powerplay time is done at the point allowing one or more defensemen to rest, and he has averaged nearly two minutes a game of shorthanded time on ice. That extra time has either gone to the already burdened Bergeron or Kelly, or slipped to Krejci and Marchand.
Caution Contents Easily Damaged
As if the physical injuries weren’t bad enough, the teams psyche has gotten fragile enough to make Rick Dipietro look like the model for endurance. The game against the Florida Panthers they put in their best effort in weeks right up until the Panthers second goal went in. Then the Panthers could have been replaced by some the LincolnStars of the USHL, and still lost the game. I have no idea where the team that saw Nathan Horton get nearly decapitated at center ice and then come back to curb stomp the opposition went. Michael Ryder, Kaberle and Recchi moving on are insufficient reason for this many guys who have been there and done that to fall apart at the first sign of things not going their way.
The powerplay that had been in the top third of the league before the slump is now 14th. The penalty kill that was top five is now ninth. In comparison to the playoffs last year their hitting is down, as are their blocked shots. Worse what they are doing in front of the net is creating problems for the the goalies. Instead of committing to blocking a shot or letting the goalie see it, skaters are routinely setting screens. The puck will go in off their body or between two or more Bruins skaters on the way to the net. The shot shirking is bad enough it reminds me of various thankfully departed defensemen from years past.
Open Armed Welcome
When opposing players get to the crease, behind the net in that god awful trapezoid, or park themselves in the low slot no one does anything. It isn’t just Corvo who looks at opponents and wonders how long they have to think about getting a good draft at The Greatest Bar before whoever it is goes away. The softest most contact aversive forward in the league can now stand anywhere he likes and know for certain no one will drop him on his backside. Skate into the crease after the whistle? No problem. I’m honestly surprise the guys haven’t put a visitors sports bottle on the net for them.
Front Of Leadership
I think the trade deadline sent a very clear message to the team:
We’ve got our hands over our eyes.
The best piece they traded away was Steve Kampfer, and got less in return. What the brought in were pieces they clearly don’t see any real use for. None of the three has a contract that runs past the end of the season. None of the three addresses a need at the time or now. Rolston does not have Horton’s physicality. Rolston does not have Peverley’s speed. Rolston also does not have their scoring ability. Zanon and Mottau haven’t eased Chara’s penalty kill minutes. Zanon and Mottau haven’t taken up any of the scoring slack on a very low scoring defense. Zanon and Mottau aren’t injecting any real speed, physicality or poise into the lineup. When you come right down to it these guys fit the team the arrived too and not the team that is supposed to be here.
What’s wrong with the Boston Bruins is a question I’ve been asked a couple times a week for about two, nearly two and a half months. The tailspin didn’t start with the losing, it started with some of the undeserved wins at the end of December. In January, it was bad luck and stupid injuries but there are several underlying factors some affect the team as a whole, some individual components. For the sake of accuracy, we’ll include the injuries Sunday in the mix.
What’s wrong the Bruins top six?
Bergeron, Krejci, Lucic, Marchand, Seguin, Horton, Savard and yes in fact I can count. As a group,right now and for the last two or three weeks we’re seeing mental and physical burnout. Patrice Bergeron who is one of the fittest athletes in the NHL has sounded winded during his last two post practice radio spots. This is unheard of. He’s now injured with a probably bone bruise from blocking a shot.
Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin are in the middle of their second full NHL seasons. In addition to having the shiny of playing int he NHL wear off, they’ve got the after affects of the Stanley Cup run. The early season hangover was certainly the morning after, but for these two in particular and the team as a whole, this is that second wretched part of the night after when you get home but its a bit too early to go to bed. While it’s hard to call a performance that exceeds their previous campaign a sophomore slump consistency hasn’t been high.
Milan Lucic the wonder isn’t that he has so few goals, but so many. With Horton’s early struggles and Krejci non-existence for several weeks he was for all intents and purposes a one man line for a long time. Krejci has decided to check in again after searching the woods for Ilya Bryzgalov. The non biological, retraining issues of a concussion recovery took a bite out of his season even before he was waylaid by another hit to the head. Marc Savard, would be such a skill infusion.
With the injuries to the second six, the top six has been getting more ice time than usual, leading to less energy, more mistakes, more if not apathy than resignation at failure. Paile and Peverley’s injuries in particular have led to a lot more penalty kill time for other players.
What’s wrong with the Bruins second six?
Kelly, Peverley, Paille, Campbell, Thornton, Pouliot have been riven with injuries at various points this season. Broken feet, knee injuries, busted up faces the works. Injuries and inconsistency in the top six have pulled guys out of their comfort zone, and often over their head as well. For all the effort he shows, Pouliot is not getting powerplay time on a healthy playoff contender. Shawn Thornton might be having a better points year than most of his career, but he’s playing less minutes and getting less results than last year and part of that is the time Campbell and Paille have spent dinged up.
One of the biggest losses to the roster from the second six is speed. Peverley and Paille give their linemates so much extra space with their speed its silly. Peverley is a bit more agile and can weave in and out of crowds with the best, but Paille can run up to and then run down anyone his size or larger. The breakaways that these to can create normally force opposing coaches to leave their second defensive out longer since most third pairings just don’t own both the skill and speed to keep up.
What’s wrong with the Bruins fill-ins and add-ons?
Hamill, Caron, Kampfer, Sauve, MacDermid, Rolston, Zanon, Mottau, Camper, Turco, Whitfield, Bartkowski…the first problem is that their are two damned many of them which has a not so incidental bearing on the second problem. The second one being ill defined roles. The best illustrations of this are Rolston who since coming over has played on both wings, two different powerplay units and two different lines. Zach Hamill is an even better example, he played on all four lines, all three center positions and with at least seven different linemates when he wasn’t in and out of the lineup.
Obviously none of this group is the issue. But not knowing where you’re supposed to be in hockey is the next worst thing to playing blind.
This is a two part post, the rest of which will post soon.
With the Bruins slump now entering its seventh week, its time to consider something I didn’t think I’d find myself endorsing at any point this season. Unfortunately with the loss of Peverley piled upon the loss of Horton, it’s past time to examine the idea. The Bruins need to break up Bergeron’s line. It has been the top line for the Bruins all season, however as things stand there is a decided lack of NHL proven skill and speed on the other lines.
Ideally the lines would shake out like this:
Lucic – Bergeron – Caron
Marchand – Kelly – Hennessy
Pouliot – Krejci – Seguin
For the first line, Bergeron gets to keep one of the top two goal scorers for the team this season, and both his new left and right wingers shoot from the same side as his current wingers. We need to know what Caron’s true talent level is, and he’s defensively responsible enough to put out against top and second lines even if he’s not going to score much.
The second line gives Kelly the type of speed he’s used to from Peverley, and a physical presence in both Hennessy and Marchand. With his ability to win faceoffs, they can control the puck and the pop them past the goalie. Again with Marchand and Kelly on the line we have enough of a defensive presence to keep the gents behind the bench happy, and off all the players in the Bruins system Hennessy has spent the most time playing with Kelly from their days in the Senators system.
Krejci lines up with a similar dynamic to the line he had early success with while playing pivot for Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder. Some speed, some physicality and two guys he’ll have to work to keep up with. In Seguin he’s also paired with a player happy to take up the burden of shooting the puck multiple times a shift. If Pouliot is on a line with a high end scoring threat, it will open him up further and he may get a few more goals.
While this won’t fix lack of effort, won’t fix players not going to the net, and won’t fix defensive issues, it will however make it harder to shut down the forward lines. Spreading out the offense and making it more difficult for the opposition to simply throw the best defensive unit they have against the Bergeron line and pushing the other lines to the outside. The change in linemates might just spur certain players who are performing well below their expected level of play might make it back to something like their desired level play.
Before the Phil Kessel trade, there was the David Krejci contract. A furor rolled across message boards for weeks. He should get paid more than whatever Kessel got, he should get more than Bergeron or even Savard were the top ends of hubris. Krejci should get get less than any of them. He’s lazy, he’s slow. He’s the best passer, he’s a great shooter. He’s the second coming of Lafontaine, he’s the second coming of Bochenski. It was a great deal of noise was even louder than it was disjointed.
Then he got a modest contract. And earned it. At three million and change he was well worth it as a second or third type center. In that role he was solid. Then Bergeron hit his stride offensively. Then Savard went down. But, Krejci was between new comer and 30 goal scorer Nathan Horton and the resurgent Milan Lucic. At times they were the best line in hockey last season. At times they were the best paid line per point in Boston. Lucic battled through a breathing problem, and the lines play was generally solid but even in the playoffs where Krejci eeked out the most points on the team, no one called him the most impactful forward game in game out.
Way back in October when everyone got a hall pass on the opening weeks of the season as part of the Stanley Cup hangover. Then Krejci was given a day or two off for a nagging injury. He was eventually called out along with Nathan Horton for lax play by Julien. He had a solid six week run mysteriously just after he signed a contract that will pay him more than any other Bruins forward. Since then he’s reverted to the hangover form. Against the Capitals, he was shuffled to playing with Benoit Pouliot the twice discarded, and Jordan Caron who has bounced between the Boston ice, the AHL and the pressbox.
“I don’t think there’s really any message other than we expect our players to come out and be the best they can every night,” Julien said. “That’s something that I think they owe it to the organization especially based on their contracts. That’s what we expect from them no matter where they are. The message should be the same whether he plays with certain players, his normal linemates or other players.”
But does anyone believe that? Claude Julien is the last coach to throw a guy to the media lions, but he will do it. As we saw with other players of variable effort level, it is a tactic he clearly dislikes and uses only as a must. We saw it with Wideman, we saw it with Ryder. We’ve certainly seen him do it with Seguin, Kessel and even Marchand, but he’s not going to do it until he feels he’s got no choice.
What do: David Krejci and Matt Bartkowski have in common? They are the only two players to lace up the skates for the Bruins this season and not manage at least an even +/-. Bartkowski was universally deemed not yet NHL ready. Which makes Krejci’s performance on the NHL’s goal differential leader more telling. A guy who led the NHL in scoring in the playoffs, but can’t manage positive contribution in the regular season isn’t lacking in skill. There is the possibility that another nagging injury like the hip he had off season surgery for exists. If that is the case it does him a lot of credit to still be on the ice. Injury as the cause also would make the locker room, and staff pretty tight lipped as I’ve not heard a whisper of it.
In the last ten games, he’s been held to 1 or 0 shots on goal seven times. This is from a guy who’s getting as many as 18 minutes a night. By comparison, Rich Peverley has only been held to 1 or 0 three times. In that same ten games, Peverley has twenty shots on goal, Krejci just ten. The revealing thing about the shot disparity is that Peverley plays a lot more time short handed, and is pushed out to the point in their nearly identical powerplay time. A more one to one comparison to another center is that Bergeron has 18 shots on goal in the last ten games.
The Bruins got off to a god awful start in October, had ten wins in a row to start November and after 21 games they look a whole lot better.
Patrice Bergeron: The longest tenured skater for the team has done it all, all season. Even when the team was doing it’s zombie shuffle through October there was never a night he looked bad, disinterested or poorly conditioned. He’s done it in all areas and ways. Huge hits, five goals, a team lead in assists, second leading scorer on the team, dominant in faceoffs, and has been a key piece in reviving the powerplay even when he doesn’t figure into the powerplay goal. Leads the team in powerplay time, leads forwards in short handed time… Grade: A
Gregory Campbell: Second among forwards in shorthanded time, has like the rest of the team had a better November than October. Unfortunately the Merlot Line’s October was a key reason for the teams failure to thrive. Grade C-
Jordan Caron: While he’s been in and out of the line up, and had numerous linemates, it’s tough to get a grip on where he fit into the equation. He’s getting an incomplete, but if I had to grade his total effort I’d give him a C weighted on his rookie status and the chaos that was the first month. Grade: Incomplete
Zach Hamill: Looked ok in Camp, was the pace setter in Providence before being called up, contributed while he was here showing more speed, toughness, and ability than his detractors would ever of credited him with. got an assist and was plus 3 in just two games. Not enough time to fairly grade him. Grade: Incomplete
Nathan Horton: Has had the most uneven of seasons. A month of being wretched, a couple weeks of being about what we expect of him. In just his second season here has gotten Julien to coach via the media which is highly unusual for him. Frustrating to watch. Grade: D+
Chris Kelly: Has been one of the guys shuffled around a great deal this year skating with: Horton, Lucic, Hamill, Caron, Peverley, Marchand and Pouliot among others. Has performed above what anyone most expected of him. Tied for third in goals on the team, tied for second in plus minus huge penalty kill minutes, a shorthanded goal, a game winning goal, a good fight… Grade: A
David Krejci: Last years leading scorer in the playoffs has been a no show this season. He did enter the season with a nagging “core” injury that eventually caused him to miss a game. Has looked very slow, disinterested and is currently tenth on the team in scoring. Has points in just five of his games this season, and has only had one streak of consecutive games scoring (3). Grade: F
Milan Lucic: Like Horton has had an up and down season, but has kept the up higher and done what he needs for himself and the team to succeed of late. Has played with passion and interest for most of the last three or four weeks and despite his linemates he’s second on the team in goals, and tied for third in points overall. May want to threaten to beat his linemates in practice if they don’t play better. Grade: C+
Brad Marchand: One of the four forwards who hasn’t taken nights off this season. Even when he doesn’t score you hear his name, you notice him play no matter who else is on the ice. Successfully plays the body, the puck and his opponents minds took on and beat the larger PK Subban in a good fight. Tied for third on the team in scoring, has the most underrated passing skills on the team, second among forwards for time on ice, second on the team in takeaways. Grade: A
Daniel Paille: As part of the Merlot Line he and was less dependable than needed in October, but certainly not the whole of a problem that stretched up and down the lineup. Got a nasty facial injury a few weeks back missed a couple games and jumped back in the lineup without a hint of rust. On pace for his best goals performance as a Bruin in this his third season here. Grade C-
Rich Peverley: The Swiss army knife of the Bruins lineup has played up and down the lineup, on both wings and three lines. Is scoring at a pace that will bring him near his career highs. November has been much better than October for him. This month he’s been a minus player just once, in October he was four times including three straight. Should probably ask guys what athletic supporter they use instead of attempting to guess with the blade of his stick. Grade: B
Benoit Pouliot: I don’t honestly understand how or why he’s beaten out Hamill and Caron for the 12th forward position, but his effort is commendable. Uses his speed and willingness to drive the net to open up chances. Has taken a lot of just plain stupid penalties. Grade: D
Marc Savard: Teams most engaging Twitter use. Has a good handle on the teams mood and his ability to predict the performance of the team is uncanny. Grade A
Tyler Seguin: Leads the team in scoring and plus/minus. Has made enormous strides year over year in his defensive play as well. Needs to focus on better passing and not be so impatient. The itchiness to get rid of the puck tends to lead to sometimes costly turnovers. Could stand to throw the body or rub guys out along the boards more often. I end up saying it twice a game but if he could pass as well as he can shoot and skate the Bruins could win games by double digits. Grade A-
Shawn Thornton: The third member of the Merlot Line has done his best to stem the tide in games, and has been the leader we saw last season this month, but was one of the more notable flops in October. Grade C
With so few coaches are are vastly different from the coaches in precarious positions available, the solution teams are turning to is player movement. With some teams being unexceptionably bad, and lots of players, many who have been on the the same team a long time struggling who gets moved will be interesting.
Rutherford said some players likely would be reassigned to Checkers and some recalled. Said Faulk is one of players being discussed.
The Canes are one of those teams that is struggling mightily, and no one on the team more so than captain and (former?) face of the franchise Eric Staal. He, and their high priced free agent acquisition Tomas Kaberle are unlikely to be waived so they can be assigned to the AHL, but the rumors around Kaberle are already flying.
Trading Staal would hardly be a popular move in Raleigh, but now when he owns the worst plus minus in the NHL is possibly the best time they could choose to do it. He’ll eventually break out of this funk, but it is anyone’s guess if it will happen soon enough to make the season salvageable.
Add Jeff Carter to the list of possibly disgruntled players. He wasn’t happy to be traded away from the city he’d spent in his whole career in. The injury to himself, the suspension of fellow summer pickup Wisniewski to start the season can’t have improved his mood any. Columbus is a nice little town, but from my visit there, I can fully understand why someone who loved the vibrancy of a larger city (even Philly) could find it pedestrian.
For those asking about reports of Jeff Carter requesting trade out of CBJ, here's my understanding: There has been no formal request BUT...
Given how well he’s played this season, and the number of teams who are looking for defensemen now I do wonder if the LA Kings might consider packaging Slava Voynov or one of their other defensemen not named Doughty with the the well regarded Dustin Penner and move them for a forward who might be able to score a goal or three. Of Penner Kings GM Lombardi has this to say:
One thing we can all count on nearly as often as another Sidney Crosby update that isn’t is Kyle Turris rumors spinning until either December first or maybe, just maybe the Phoenix Coyotes sign or trade him. As well as they Coyotes are doing, maybe they don’t feel they either need him or whatever they got in trade. But sending him to a likely lottery team could get a legit franchise forward or a one of the numerous cornerstone defensemen.
Joe Haggerty, Boston’s Twitter Czar says:
@twolinepass Krejci would likely be odd guy out with Bergeron & Seguin as future 2 two centers. Bruins aren't sure he's a $5M a year player
which while not exactly earth shattering, is likely an indication they’d listen to interesting offers towards the deadline, or sooner if the price was right. He’s not exactly the only person in the Boston area to speculate on the movement of the Sternbeck native.
With Rene Bourque having an extended cold spell, it’s nice to be able to log into twitter and not see his name in every twelfth tweet. I’m sure that will last until he scores his next two goals in one week.
Last but not least (of what’s interesting anyway) is the speculation that the Avalanche might be willing to move Paul Statsny for defense.
Tyler Seguin leads the team in points, has earned a huge increase in ice time over last year with much improved three zone play, and has done at wing and center. This could be an even more interesting year to watch him than many fans expected.
Patrice Bergeron leads all forwards in time on ice with almost twenty minutes a game, leads the team in powerplay time (on a powerplay that is slightly better than the playoff version), and has been a physical force on the ice above being positionally sound, and his normal three zone play.
Chris Kelly leads the team in shooting percentage, captains a penalty kill unit that is over 90% at home this year, has a short handed goal and managed to find and beat the one member of the Carolina Hurricanes that hasn’t perfected the Claude Lemiexu turtle.
David Krejci who’s stats tell the story, as does his having plunged from fifth in time on ice per game last year to tenth this year.
Joe Corvo has been a turnover machine, ineffective at full strength, possesses a team worst -6 and despite four times as much powerplay time has the same number of powerplay assists as Andrew Ference.
The Merlot Line had an uncharacteristically bad month. Last year they were for multiple long stretches the most consistent line on the team and better than many teams third lines, this month they looked like marginal NHL players.