In the last dozen years the hockey world has seen the advent of dozens of statistics used to measure everything in half a dozen ways. We have a dozen different forms of Corsi, there’s PDO, and goals against per 60, and points for by strength, by period, and per game. We have a proliferation of ways to count how much each player interacts with other players on the ice and make pointed observations as to how two or so players together enhance or detract from each other.

I love information more than most people. If I could drink it, I’d put down a couple gallons a day and still be looking for more. But some statistics are just plain worthless. Some are of very limited use. Corsi for example is a reasonable way to judge teams in the regular season, but recent history has shown it to be a counter indicator in the playoffs. Should it be discarded? Should it be evaluated further? No, it shouldn’t be eliminated, but weighing it as heavily as it has been the last few years is clearly not a winning strategy. PDO, is one of those statistics that is somewhere between vaporware and a clock with a short circuit and hasn’t stopped, but isn’t keeping time properly.

But neither of those is reason for today’s writing session. (It’s not even that my schedule has been eaten in the past week and I didn’t get to the other three posts I wanted to write.) Today is about two other purportedly linked stats: Giveaways and takeaways. Even more than hits, far more than blocked shots, and laughably more inconsistent than plus/minus this pair of stats is both inconsistently kept within a given arena, and across the league.

If you squint just right, you can see a loose connection between giveaways and ice time. Even players who normally have a firm leash on the puck like Patrice Bergeron and Shea Weber will pile up giveaways as a result of having the puck a lot.  But takeaways? What are they using to count those? I’ve watched players like Weber, Vlasic, and Seidenberg snuff a rush, take the puck and pass it off for a counter attack twice in a shift and end the night without a single takeaway. This is a long term, endemic problem the NHL has in the way statistics are kept.

If we’re to believe the official NHL statistics then Jeff Skinner, Mitch Marner, and Filip Forsberg all had as many takeaways or more as the four time Selke winner Patrice Bergeron last year.

And that’s a statistic that just doesn’t pass the sniff test.

No team in the east is more changed since the end of the regular season than the Boston Bruins. Gone is the General Manager who broke the cup drought. Gone is the hulking left winger who made the Causeway crowd scream. The one eyed Swede who took half a decade to don the spoked-B wore it for less than half that time. Riley Smith, one of last falls holdouts is gone as well. Greg Campbell one of the glue guys who came in and made it possible for Julien to roll all four lines is gone as his partner on the Merlot Line Daniel Paille. Gone, and largely forgotten are Matt Bartkowski and David Warsofsky.

Now manning the helm is the aggressive, at least comparatively, Don Sweeney, former Boston Bruins defenseman. He’s brought to the ice Jimmy Hayes an imposing Hub native. Standing squarely at the other end of the size spectrum is perhaps the player with the most reckless disregard for his own health and safety of any Bruin since PJ Stock, former Philadelphia Flyer Zac Rinaldo. The blue line is lightly augmented by former San Jose Shark Matt Irwin and Manchester Monarch’s alum Colin Miller. The brain trust has also brought in Jonas Gustavsson on a PTO.

The only forward pairing likely to start the season intact from last year is Bergeron and Marchand, which have become something of an institution. Unless there is a big trade involving the removal of the supposedly healthy David Krejci from the roster we are highly unlikely to see Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak reunited any time soon. There is the possibility that Eriksson and Kelly will play together again, but I doubt the season hangs on the success of these to working as a cohesive unit.

What’s hopeful about this year:

Bergeron, Chara, Marchand are all healthy and seem to have their heads in it right now. The new blood, and the young guns pushing for spots last season all have more visible strengths than weaknesses, even if none of them have the look of a burgeoning all star. Lastly the east, despite huge improvements Buffalo, is largely no stronger than last year.

What’s worrying about this year:

There is a strong possibility the Bruins will end up playing Loui Eriksson on the right side. If this is happens, the Bruins might be better off just buying him out and moving on. They won’t get to the playoffs with him running full time on the right side unless he suddenly at age 30 plays better there than he ever has before. The right wing is still questionable from top to bottom. Last year they added Brett Connolly to the mix to cover up the flailing of Seth Griffith and Riley Smith, who at least was playing through injuries, to little impact.

The blueline is a bleeding mess. After the 38 year old captain, and the 34 year old German, you have 24 year old offensive leaning defenseman who is still half a season short of his 200th NHL game. Behind them you have a grab bag of proven 5-7 guys and ones with ‘potential’. A heady Tommy Cross is three full seasons out of college and yet to make his NHL debut. Zach Trotman looks to be leading the pack with potential, as he did last year. I wouldn’t rule out Chris Casto or Linus Arnesson even if both have an up hill climb. While it’s hard to dislike the work ethic of Adam McQuaid or Kevan Miller, neither one is a guy you can pencil in to play 22 minutes a night in 75 or more games a season, and that makes both in jeopardy of having their job taken.

And then there’s the situation in net. I strongly believe both Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre can play in the NHL. There is a solid chance one or both will be an NHL starter for several seasons. Right now, I don’t see either of them being up to the challenge of being a backup who plays 30-35 games and gives the team a chance to win on the nights Rask needs off. Jeremy Smith isn’t even a consideration at the NHL level, and Gustavsson is someone I’ve seen enough of to say he doesn’t have a job with any cup contender that involves him putting on pads every practice.

Season Outlook:

As currently constructed the Boston Bruins are a bubble team.

The Atlantic Division is probably the easiest of the four divisions to break down. The three teams that highlighted the division last year are all back with little to no change. The rest of the teams are not greatly changed either. If you missed the other previews just click the division name Metropolitan Central Pacific.

Top Shelf

Tampa Bay Lightning

This team is legitimate. Victor Hedman has emerged as a top level defenseman and the rest of the defensive group is solid. Ben Bishop is a high end goaltender. Up front is Steven Stamkos, the other forwards Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and more proved themselves formidable last year as well. The addition of Stralman to the roster just makes the team even better. When the playoffs start this season don’t be surprised when this team is in the top three, don’t even be surprised if they are at the top of the division.

Montreal Canadiens

The Habs put up a hell of a fight last spring even after Carey Price went down. Since then they brought in P.A. Parenteau and removed some older, slower players. The blueline is likely to be younger than last year as well. Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi are with the organization, Douglas Murray and Francis Bullion are not currently signed by the Canadiens (or anyone else). You can still ask “who’s going to score”, but recent history has shown that it mostly doesn’t matter if Price is playing well.

Boston Bruins

They lost future hall of fame inductee Jarome Iginla and at this point most of the team is waiting for the trade ax to fall. Even with the losses of emotional catalyst Shawn Thornton and Jarome Iginla the team isn’t a lot worse off than it was last year. The biggest question mark on for this team hovers over the real health durability, and game readiness of Seidenberg, Eriksson, Kelly, and McQuaid. Eriksson started to look better as the reason wound down, but the other three are still complete unknowns.

Wild Cards

Detroit Red Wings

In order for this team to be in the playoffs they have to get consistent star level contributions from players like Tatar, Nyquist, Joakim Andersson and more as their top level players just don’t cut it anymore. Datsyuk has already suffered an injury, Zetterberg is always just one more hit (or maybe a stack of #Pennercakes ) from a month of rehab. While I honestly expect the team to be on the outside looking in when the season ends, the brain trust in Detroit keeps surprising me.

Toronto Maple Leafs

This team should not be as bad as they were last year. I don’t think they can win the division, but in addition to a healthy David Clarkson (we hope), they made smart additions with Mike Santorelli and Roman Polack. Also of note is the return of Leo Komorov. If all are playing near peak, those four players alone are nearly enough to get the squad back into the playoffs even without David Booth who to no ones surprise is again injured. It is pretty likely that if this team isn’t in playoff position around the trade deadline they are not going to look very similar next fall.

The Rest

Ottawa Senators

The Ottawa Senators can hope for better health this season, it was a factor in last seasons finish.  With the departure of Jason Spezza, they have lost raw talent. There is however an enormous amount of room for young players to prove themselves. Mika Zibanejad, Eric Gryba, Codi Ceci, Alex Chaisson and the rest can finally go out on the ice a prove to the world where they truly stand in the NHL and hockey world. There isn’t much ahead of them on the depth chart, and who knows if they, Jared Cowen and the rest all have healthy productive seasons they might just get to bonus hockey. If you see that happening, I’d advise you not to bet the rent money, or even the tip on a mocha latte.

The Buffalo Sabres

When your first line center is horse raise between Zemgus Girgensons, Tyler Ennis, and Cody Hodgson, that tells you about where your season is headed. When fans show up to a USA hockey event with McDavid Sabres jerseys, its a sign fans know it too. Unquestionably the best unit of this team is the defense. Tyler Myers is the best known member of the group, but Josh Gorges and Andrej Meszaros have been through the wars and know their way around the NHL, Jake McCabe has an excellent amateur pedigree and I expect him to develop well. Last year they have 21 wins, I’d bet on them being within no more than six either way of that this year.

The Florida Panthers

The Cats might just surprise people a time or two this season. Nick Bjugstad, Aleksander Barkov, and Jonathan Huberdeau have all had a tour of duty in the NHL, and won’t be wide eyed rookies this year. Jussi Jokinen and Dave Bolland will help thicken up the top six, and Derek McKenzie and Shawn Thornton will play important bottom six minutes. Roberto Luongo on the backend makes a big difference in net. Don’t expect them to win the division (or even more than they lose) but expecting them in the NHL’s bottom five in April might not be realistic.

Aside from David Pastrnak crumbling under light contact from a not very physical defenseman, camp was largely an exhibition of which pairings and trios acquired chemistry the fastest, and which people in the stands could survive the chill.

Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien at Bruins Training Camp 09/20/14

Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien at Bruins Training Camp 09/20/14

One of the more intriguing and yet low key battles is between former Dartmouth College forward Matt Lindblad and Michigan native, London Knight alumni Jared Knight. The two were paired against each other on day one and engaged in spirited but professional battles through drills and rushes. Day two, more of the same. It’s pretty close. Knight is more skilled. Knight’s shot has a better, more concealed release, and is a bit truer to the net. Lindblad is two years older, and has had better health over the last two years. Whoever comes out ahead in camp, team, players and fans win.

From the rest of camp:

Trotman: Ate Villie Leino a couple times on a drills and looked both good by himself and when paired with Bartkowski.

Khokhlochev & Eriksson watch Breen and others drill below the faceoff dots.

Khokhlochev & Eriksson watch Casto #65 and others drill below the faceoff dots.

Caron: Better day today.

Krejci and Caron eye up goalies and defensemen.

Krejci and Caron eye up goalies and defensemen.

Khokholachev: Deceptively agile and speedy, good hands, went around the enormous Breen and his reach to get off a shot with zero warning.

Alexander Khokhlochev watching drills.

Alexander Khokhlochev watching drills.

Bartkowski; Arguably the best defenseman at skating backwards in camp. Good speed and balance while he does it allowing him to turn in either direction as needed.

Griffith: Looked like he’d been playing with Bergeron and Marchand for a year during drills.

Subban: The new pads were repeatedly referred to as “Turco like” by various fans watching.

Malcolm Subban in his 2014 pads

Malcolm Subban in his 2014 pads

 

Morrow: Made a really nice backhand pass to McQuaid while both were moving at pace.

Matt Lindblad #52 and Ethan Werek #78 leave eyeball prints all over the rink.

Matt Lindblad #52 and Ethan Werek #78 leave eyeball prints all over the rink.

Lucic: Much more engaged today, accidentally took out both defenders during a two on two drill allowing Kelly to go five hole on the goalie.

Seidenberg #44, Cross #56, Lucic #17

Seidenberg #44, Cross #56, Lucic #17

Simonelli: Interesting resume, four years at Wisconsin, and some time on the US National Development team. both yesterday and today he was frequently paired with Seidenberg for drills.

Hamilton is pretty frequently seen watching the other session, usually while trying to hide.

Hamilton is pretty frequently seen watching the other session, usually while trying to hide.

Ferlin; Out-muscled Paille to get to a puck despite Paille having the inside position and a lower center of gravity. Did more than one drill with Lucic and looked like he could easily be part of more than one NHL team we could name.

Fraser #25 and Soderberg #34 size up the competition

Fraser #25 and Soderberg #34 size up the competition

Robbins: Made a really neat kick of a puck from the heel of his skate to the curve of his blade, made one or two other plays with his feet.

Robin, Batman

Day 1 is here.

The best news is that just about all the guys were healthy. Adam McQuaid not only moved without restriction, he lacked the pain lines and strain fans had grown used to seeing on him. Chris Kelly looked to be not just back to preinjury form but possibly a half step faster. Dennis Seidenberg held nothing back and looked in one viewing to be back to preinjury for as well.

The pair skated together for at least one drill at Bruins training camp.

The pair skated together for at least one drill at Bruins training camp.

The good news is I think all the guys battling for a job in the NHL this year who were with the club last year, look like they came to win the job now. Brian Ferlin and Seth Griffith showed up and looked good, Jared Knight looks to have slimmed down and no longer looks like an NFL free safety, perhaps most surprisingly Simon Gagne looked not just healthy, but like he was still capable of holding down a top six position, at least with one viewing.

#54 is six foot five or so

0 #54 is six foot five or so

Perhaps the biggest positive surprise other than Gagne looking good was Matt Fraser. During one on one battle drills he was paired up against a reinvigorated Zdeno Chara and held his own both taking and receiving checks, while staying with the puck, or pressuring Chara when the Captain had the puck.

Bergeron and Julien plotting, planning and talking hockey,

Bergeron and Julien plotting, planning and talking hockey,

The bad news is who wasn’t on the ice; Greg Campbell. He was watching from rink side. Torey Krug and Riley Smith are somehow still unsigned. And at the bottom of the list was the unsurprising lackluster performance of two players; Jordan Caron and Ville Lieno. About the only positive to Leino being there was he did manage to get off a few shots from the seat of his pants or knees, which he ended on pretty regularly as everyone including Caron seemed to drop him with ease. Caron for his part looks to have lost a good deal of muscle, and was moving poorly, as in Recchi in his last three months before retirement poorly, short choppy steps and all.

#44 Showing all signs of good health.

#44 Showing all signs of good health.

One heartening bit for long term prospect watchers is that Tommy Cross looked the most quick and agile I can recall seeing him. While he’s got a whole mountain range to climb before getting a sniff at the NHL, he’s moving well enough not to be an instant liability when he hits the NHL stage.

#50 Knight and #52 Lindblad, two of the Providence Bruins competing for a Boston roster spot.

#50 Knight and #52 Lindblad, two of the Providence Bruins competing for a Boston roster spot.

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.

Dennis Seidenberg has been an invaluable bastion of calm, professional competence on the Boston Bruins blueline is done for the year. With any defenseman other than Seidenberg or Chara you’d shrug, examine the depth charts and medical reports and go forward. In this case however, especially with only one other veteran defender, Johnny Boychuk, that might not be an option for a team that in the words of its own leadership should compete for a Stanley Cup every year.

Option 1

Do nothing. Not precisely nothing, just don’t bring in any external talent. With Hamilton mending, and Joe Morrow doing well in the AHL you have high end draft picks waiting in the wings to fill minutes. Both are high end skaters, both have shown their pick wasn’t a waste. On the ice now are Boychuck, McQuaid, Krug, Bartkowski and Miller. The first four of them have seen playoff action under Julien and earned at least that much trust. Boychuck and McQuaid were part of the Stanley Cup win and know the game at the NHL level.

Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski are a little less familiar to fans. Krug is a small, undrafted highly mobile defenseman signed out of college as a free agent who burst onto the scene in the playoffs last year and is now the only defenseman to play in every game for the Bruins. Bartkowski’s journey is equally blue collar if of a slightly different path. Often overlooked is that the Pittsburgh native was a part of the trade that brought Seidenberg to Boston. After a false start or two Bartkowski stake a claim to to a roster spot and has been a solid contributor to the team. An interesting trivia note is that Bartkowski was supposed to be part of the aborted trade that would have brought Jarome Iginla to Boston last year.

Kevan Miller and to a lesser extent David Warsofsky and Zach Trotman are the internal candidates to help fill the roster spot while Hamilton is still recovering. While Hamilton is recovering, it is unlikely any moves will be made unless there is a major setback for the towering second year defender.  Elsewhere on the list are Tommy Cross and Chris Casto who have yet to even earn a recall.

Option 2:

The modest trade. The minutes you most want to fill are the defensive shutdown minutes which are a vast gulf that is just about impossible to fill based purely on talent or similar attributes because of the need for chemistry, and some might say synergy among those defending than pure objective skill. A trade for anyone under four million a year who could play some or all of the 2:36 a night of shorthanded time on ice Seidenberg has left unclaimed.

  • Mark Stuart, as a retread he would be familiar with all of the teams core players from Bergeron, Lucic and Krejci to Chara, Boychuk and Rask. He even played as part of an effective pairing with Boychuk. He’s tough as nails, the Jet’s aren’t going anywhere and would love a talent infusion. A couple middling draft picks for the pending (and inexpensive) UFA would do the trick.
  • Matt Greene, like Stuart is a pending UFA. With the pipeline from the Manchester Monarchs wide open the 30 year old blueliner has found his ice time reduced overall, but is still contributing a good 3:18 a night of shorthanded time on ice. At under 3 million a year, he wouldn’t break the bank and is unlikely to strip the farm bare.
  • Victor Bartley is a name that’s probably a bit under the radar anywhere outside Nashville Tennsessee and Ottawa, but Bruins brass is familiar with the 25 year old who had a ten game tour of duty with the Providence Bruins in the 2008-09 season. His on ice sv% is one of the higher ones on the Predators, and he plays solid shorthanded minutes for perhaps the most conservative minded coach in the NHL.
  • Jared Spurgeon, with 200 NHL games to his name the 25 year old is the 2nd highest paid defender for the Wild, and plays in all situations. I can’t imagine him being traded for picks alone, but for as a team that should be looking to tweak their offense, Spurgeon might find himself in a new zip code if Chuck Fletcher can find the right pieces to turn his collection of forwards into a contending team.

Next up, option 3.

The rumors surrounding Evander Kane have been higher hip waders for two plus years. There’s his supposed off ice issues. There’s the rift that is said to exist between he and management and or coaches. There’s the fact that fans in 29 cities not named Winnipeg that are home to NHL franchises would love to have him. There is also the fact that the Jets are more likely to be tanking in February than looking to add depth for a playoff run.

The latest round of hot air and hearty keystrokes has Kane, the 30 goal scoring 22 year old who is 3rd in his draft class in goals and points headed to Montreal. On the exhaustive list of players the Jets would supposedly get in return for him are Max Pacioretty. Such a trade would free up an additional three quarters of a million in cap space the Jets don’t particularly need. What else it would do for the Jets is unknown.

The question is what is Evander Kane worth? If you use the Phil Kessel benchmark of two first and a second round pick, you may be at least in the right ball park. Kane has not scored as many goals in one season as Kessel has, but he’s also never had as much offense around him. On the plus side for Kane is much more physicality, no history of cancer and an ability to shrug off media attention.

If your the Winnipeg Jets, the return for your best young talent needs to be high. The teams needs are pretty noticeably: a center capable of excelling in the one or two slot, a long term solution in goal, and a 22+ minute a night defensive defenseman who can help protect whoever is in net from some of the NHL’s top talent. Getting experienced number one centers is not easy, just look at the number of guys the Calgary Flames have tried to put into that position. Right now the Anaheim Ducks have an embarrassment of riches in net, and one of their younger goalies would be good mix for a Winnipeg team still building. Dan Girardi who is a UFA this off-season fits the mold of a shutdown defender, as does the Boston Bruins Dennis Seidenberg.

Another way for the Winnipeg Jets organization to approach this might be to aim for adding quality second line and second pairing depth via the draft. If they could swing a deal for Kane and five or even four relatively high second round picks they might just be better off long term. In Atlanta as the Thrashers or now Winnipeg as the Jets the franchise has never been known for its depth. Is this the time to go for it? As it looks very much like they will have at least one top ten draft pick of their own in the near future, it might just be.

The Boston Bruins defense has more questions today than it has in several years. The eternal question of “who will play the point on the powerplay” is just one of them. With the end o the Andrew Ference Era in Boston, the question of who will add speed and agility to a large and imposing rosters. It is a given that Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg have their roster spots locked in. Johnny Boychuk and Adam McQuaid will have to work hard to lose their spots, and that’s where it gets really interesting.

Injuries, illness and matchups showed us a lot bout the three young lions last year. Torey Krug’s speed, agility, and puck handling were overshadowed only by his refusal to give an inch and his ability to contribute to the offense. Matt Bartkowski proved reliable and consistent all over the ice against good competition or bad. Dougie Hamilton showed he as capapble of playing big minutes, and showed off a better defensive game than many, myself included, had expected to see. If you go purely on played as the best barometer of what Claude Julien and the coaching staff think of them, it would seem Krug is the front runner coming into camp for a spot. His scoring only strengthens the case for him.

If you look at experience in total under Julien, Hamilton edges the others, and he’s also a first round pick who was part of the return for the Phil Kessel trade, if that matters in real hockey arithmetic. Matt Bartkowski has two important advantages, and you just can’t overlook them in the system all three play in. First and most tangible, is that Bartkowski has proved he is highly coach-able and very driven. The upswing in his positioning and skating since his first NHL appearance is the type of thing coaches and players build their careers out of. The second is his age, he may have less NHL games than Hamilton, but he looks and sounds like a veteran, and is about the same age Boychuk broke into the NHL. With Julien “the veteran factor” is every bit as important as being Russian born at draft time.

Complicating things further are not so minor considerations like half a dozen defensemen aiming for a roster spot who have a legitimate claim to being NHL ready, and money. Among Krug, Hamilton, and Bartkowski there is a cap hit difference of over a million dollars from Krug down to Bartkowski. When you factor in Tommy Cross, Chris Casto, Zach Trotman, David Warsofsky, and newly acquired 1st rounder Joe Morrow, Krug and Hamilton’s cap hits are only a few dollars off the total of any three other players.

Given his displacement in the post season, a season spent in the AHL under Bruce Cassidy would not be a surprise, and 24-27 minutes a night of consistent play would be better for his development than 12-17 a night in Boston and sitting out specific matchups. One of the other possibilities is that another defenseman gets moved either because they have been eclipsed, or for cap reasons. Chara and Seidenberg aren’t going anywhere, McQuaid’s salary isn’t prohibitive, but his injury issues might make him a candidate for movement. Johnny Boychuck is a perfect candidate for trade if the Bruins think they can be a better team without him.

Boychuck who made his name in the AHL as an offensive defensemen, hasn’t cracked 20 points in the NHL. He’s currently the Boston Bruins second highest paid defenseman, but not many would list him as the second most valuable defenseman. With this, and another year left on his contract the return he could fetch in terms of prospects and or draft picks, might just help the team fill their deficit of right wingers, as well as free up almost $3.5m this year and next. With a good playoff performance behind him, it is doubtful his value is going to be higher anytime in the foreseeable future.

If Boychuk is moved, the Bruins will be a little fleeter of foot, a bit less physical, and likely better offensively. Whoever wins the battles or the 3-7 spots, it is hard to argue they will have a bad defense.