The Boston Bruins recalled Andrew Bodnarchuk. This is his second call up of the season, and he is up over Steve Kampfer for the second time in a row. Bodnarchuk has not yet played a game, but if Corvo is injured from the unsuspended Kyle Turris headshot or Boychuk is down from the hit by Neil, things could change.

This is Max Sauve’s (pronounced SOO-vay) first recall. The twenty two year old from Tours France has had an unfortunate string of injuries since he was drafted 47th in 2008. Other members of that draft class for the Bruins include Joe Colrborne who as traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs as part of the Kaberle trade, goalie Michael  Hutchinson who is having his best pro year in Providence, and Jamie Arniel who has taken a step back after finishing near the top of the scoring last year.

Sauve has an high end set of hands and has been putting up points of late after finally getting healthy. If he makes it into a game or two he certainly has the shot to break down some of that scoring gap the Bruins have lost with Peverley and Horton out of the lineup. Bodnarchuk is a restricted free agent in the last year of his contract. Sauve has one more full season left on his entry level deal.

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The Bruins are in a decent position in the standings. They do have injuries to two key forwards and have shown little ability to replace them internally. It’s likely that Peter and Cam will want to add without subtracting again (even if that is unlikely) so I don’t expect anything huge. Here’s a look at some of the players and prospects who might attract some attention or who fans might be worried could be moved:

Negative move potential:

  • Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Milan Lucic, Tim Thomas. These four are the magic smoke in the machine and without them the team does nothing, and goes no where. It isn’t that there aren’t teams with the assets on paper to buy one of them it is that they have more value to the Bruins because of who they are than any even moderately insane return could provide.

Very low:

  • Tuukka Rask, Brad Marchand, Dougie Hamilton, Jared Knight, Dennis Seidenberg. Either for today and the playoff run or the future these are key pieces. None is quite irreplaceable but the return would have to be unequivocally in the Bruins favor and have an immediate and long term impact.

Low 1

  • Ryan Spooner, Alex Khoklachev, Chris Kelly, Adam McQuaid, Tyler Seguin, Andrew Ference. This group is all players the Bruins would like or very much like to keep, but who have enough value without being completely indispensable either because of depth at that position, contract status or time on ice for the team.

Low 2

  • Johnny Boychuk, Daniel Paille, Shawn Thornton, Tommy Cross. The first three have value to the Bruins, and while other teams might want them none is likely to be the center of a trade. Cross is in the end of his senior season in college and the Bruins have invested a lot in the local guy and have to be expecting some return on it next season either in Providence or with the big club.

Medium

  • David Krejci, 1st round pick this year, Jordan Caron, Justin Florek, Krejci has been moved from center to wing lately and appears to have come alive, a first round pick this year if the team plays well will be somewhere in the 20+ range so a player who could he had for another year is a reasonable return, Caron probably doesn’t fit the Bruins system despite some flashes of high potential and good hockey sense. Justin Florek is having a good senior season at Northern Michigan University, and owns more than enough potential to be a key component in a trade for a team retooling.

If the Bruins do make a move, anyone expecting a blockbuster move will be sorely disappointed. From the pieces already taken off the market by trade or new contracts there is a chance they don’t make any trades at all. If they do make a trade look for guys who are going to play second or third line roles for forwards, or 3-6 rang defensemen. I wouldn’t even be surprised to see a retread come through the door.

The Boston Bruins are broken. They may not be as badly off as the Columbus Blue Jackets or The Montreal Canadiens but like those teams they need someone to reach under the hood and switch out a few parts. The Bruins problems come under three main categories. None of the categories is all that deep, but they are all enough to damage the Bruins system and momentum.

Below peak performance:

The two players this is most true of are notable here simply for what they are capable of put haven’t done this season. The first is Nathan Horton. Unfortunately as we’ve seen with other concussed players there is no magic pep talk you can give to make the recovery go faster. How long it takes to recover both physically and mentally varies widely based in part on how severe the injury was, how it was suffered and the mental and physical health of the player. Before Tom Sestito hit that put Horton out we had started to see him climbing back into the top of the form that made him and Lucic such a scary combination to deal with. As of now it is unknown when Horton will play again which unfortunately waters down the Kelly line as well.

Johnny Boychuk is the other player failing to thrive. In his rookie season he played fifty-one games. As a rookie he averaged a shade over seventeen and a half minutes a night and pulled down 15 points or .29 points per game. This season, while playing as much even strength as he did total that year, he’s totaled nine points in 49 games .18 PPG which puts him on pace for a total of 13 should he play every game the rest of the season. That represents a 30% swing in productivity. Worse, he’s making the same poor choices he did as a rookie. One of those is dumping the puck into the offensive zone on an offside instead of retreating to the neutral zone and retaining control of the puck, he can be counted on to give up control of the puck.

Reversion to normal:

Benoit Pouliot had a couple magical weeks that made you see why he was drafted so high. It was fun to watch. You could see why teams keep hoping they have the magical coaching to turn him into a legitimate top six forward and consistent threat. Unfortunately it doesn’t appear that’s happened. Despite half of his eight goals being game winners, and a couple of them just plain pretty, and a better shooting percentage than last year, Pouliot is on pace for less points this year than last. Despite half a minutes more ice time, a better offensive team than last years and a  strong two months span, he’s playing here about like he did everywhere else.

Joe Corvo is the other player who is depending on your point of view either returning to form now or still playing the way he always has. Defensively he absolutely is worse than Kaberle. He turns the puck over at least twice a game regular as a metronome regardless of what the real time stats say. He’s aggressive enough in the defensive zone in any category that doesn’t count attempting to force bad outlet passes. His body and stick don’t do much to move the puck out of danger areas, nor does he attack the opposition attempting to pry the puck loose or force them to go around him. His shot is impressive when he uncorks it, I just don’t see the total package justifying playing time.

Unclear roles:

With the Pouliot experiment, and the issues with Horton, Corvo and Boychuk other players have been forced into roles that are clear as mud. For Jordan Caron and Zach Hamill, the constant in and out of the lineup, or trips up and down the roster can’t have helped them adjust. During one two week span Hamill for example played fourth line center, first line left wing, second line right wing and bounced through all three positions on the third line. Caron who broke camp with the team was flipped in and out of the lineup for Pouliot a number of times when arguably he was the better player but the distinction was clearly a very fine one. To date, Caron has played as many games in the AHL as the NHL, and spent just nearly as many in the pressbox. One can’t help but wonder how much further along these two would be if they played consistently.

Less noticeably, but just as perplexing is Steve Kampfer’s for the most part non-play. He did injure himself early in the season but was skating with no limitations long ago. With the inconsistent play of Corvo and Boychuk (among others) it seems odd it would take a suspension to Ference for him to get into action again. While neither has been exactly impressive offensively, in half the ice time and spotty play Kampfers points per game is slightly higher than Boychuks. In a lineup with Shawn Thornton, Adam Mcquaid, Zdeno Chara, Milan Lucic and several others it’d be hard to put either Kampfer or Corvo into list of most intimidating players, Kampfer is more likely to throw a good hit, and turns the puck over less. He may or may not be as offensively gifted but he’s clearly more active and more aggressive defensively, more importantly he shows his hunger to be on the ice every night when he laces the skates up.

None of the Bruins problems are insurmountable. Equally true none of them will fix themselves. You can’t expect to win consistently with two thirds of your defense playing erratically, and while trying to use a marginal third line player as a key component on the powerplay. That is not how this team is built, it is not how they win. No further proof is needed than a look at their record of the last ten games: 4-5-1. Three of those regulation losses have come to the basement dwelling Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes and the Ovechkin-less bubble team Capitals.

Tonight the Boston Bruins throwdown with the Ottawa Senators. Just days ago Tim Thomas, Tyler Seguin and Zdeno Chara faced Erik Karlsson, Milan Michalek, Jason Spezza and Ottawa Captain Daniel Alfredsson in the All Star game and skills competition. Tonight the goals count for more than bragging rights, the win will either provide separation or leave the division rivals in a points tie at the top of the Northeast division.

Tonight is the third of six games between the clubs this season. Thus far the magic number is “5′. The Bruins have scored five goals in each of the first two games. The Senators have scored a total of five goals in those two games. Boston Will be without Nathan Horton who continues to recover from his second concussion in a year, this suffered on an unpenalized hit against the Flyers. The Senators are missing Jesse Winchester and Peter Regin, both out indefinitely since December 21st.

Horton’s concussion, has fueled trade speculation with desired club acquisitions including the New York Islanders Kyle Okposo and the Phoenix Coyotes Ray Whitney. Zach Parise who can of course be had for a pair of 3rd year AHL nobody’s is also on the radar. Any of the three is as likely as the other at this point, but one name I think bears thinking about is one that was linked to the Bruins for three or four straight years. The biggest holdup on Carter escaping the host city for next years All Star extravaganza isn’t his desire to get out, unhappiness with the city or even his play. Players like Steve Montador, Joffery Lupul, Kris Versteeg and other frequent travelers not to mention every goalie who isn’t in the top five or six prove most organizations believe they can fix any problems with a player. Magical coaching is a belief held as commonly as not stepping on the logo on the locker room floors, even if no one is willing to admit it.

I think the tide has turned on the forever contracts. The ten years left on his contract will carry him past his 37th birthday. While he’s probably worth the slightly more than five million dollar cap hit he’s on the books for, it is hard to imagine dedicating that much cap space, regardless of actual salary to a 34 or 35 year old s fraught with tension for any general manager.  A cap hit as high as Carter’s would make him the highest paid forward in a lot of cities, while unquestionably talented it remains to be seen if he has the ability to be the type of impact player generally associated with being the top paid player at a position.

Later this week, the Bruins will host the Carolina Hurricanes including much rumored blueline reinforcement Gleason has just signed a contract that should have Boychuk and Corvo’s agents laughing themselves silly. The Hurricanes sit 15th in the east and 27th overall, but have taken the previous meetings this season with the Bruins. Saturday the Pittsburgh Penguins skate in for a matinee. The potentially Crosbyfied Penguins will arrive in Boston with days rest off of a back to back home and home set against the Toronto Maple Leafs where Brian Burke (@LeafsBB20) will probably kvetch about Don Cherry some more.

Across the month of February the Bruins play 13 games in 28 days including three back to backs sets. Five of this months games are against teams not currently in playoff position.  Six games are against teams currently in the top five in their conference including two games against the Senators, games against the Penguins and Rangers, and a tilt with the Predators.

A staple of the Boston Bruins, perhaps even more than the “Big Bad Bruins” image, across the last several generations has been the quality of it’s defense. Park, Orr, Bourque and now Chara have anchored the blueline in particular and the franchise at large for far longer than I can remember. The supporting cast has included some high quality players who have gone onto success in other uniforms like Hal Gill who was key to the Penguins winning a Cup over the Red Wings and current Assistant General Manager and Head of Player Development Don Sweeney. It’s also included a number of players who had very short careers, none worth naming.

Most frustrating to some is the number of men who have been what can be politely termed “enigmas” and more accurately called players with erratic work ethic and highly varied attention spans. The Bruins roster currently contains three defensemen who defy observers the ability to easily quantify them. Over the course of their careers they have been good, bad and indifferent in no predicable pattern. Two of the three were part of the Bruins cup run last spring and were at apogee. The third was acquired this before the start of the season to fill the roster spot vacated by Tomas Kaberle.

First up is Joe Corvo. When Kaberle was not renewed, it was not entirely unexpected. Who his replacement turned out to be was. During his tenure here the most positive general assessment of him was that he didn’t turn the puck over nearly as often as people feared. I’ll go further and say he looked average defensively. Given his reputation as a soft, offensively minded puck mover that’s a compliment. Corvo, who was acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes who signed and have since traded Kaberle has been more effective offensively, but much, much worse defensively. His passes to the opponents have been every bit as accurate as the ones to his teammates and almost as frequent. Worse, despite the Bruins powerplay being noticeably more effective than the one he was employed on last year for the Hurricanes, he’s on pace for less points.  Given that the Bruins spent a fourth round pick on him, I guess they got what they paid for him. At least he’s an effective fighter.

Johnny Boychuk is in his third full season in with the Boston Bruins. Having passed the 200 game mark that has long been the standard for learning how to play in the NHL, it is safe to say he is what he is. On top of his more than two hundred regular season and playoff NHL games he had an extended career in the AHL where he piled up 373 games and won AHL defenseman of the year in 2009. The problem with the soon to be 28 year old is that he has regressed defensively. Offensively he’s likely to post his best NHL numbers this year, assuming Julien doesn’t bench him and he stays healthy. He’s considered an offensive defenseman by most and some will call him a two way defenseman. The problem is that he’s not displayed any particular gift offensively, or defensively. This season despite being part of the leagues number one offense he’s ranked 115th for defensemen in points. By comparison, Andrew Ference who is a defensive defenseman first and plays fewer minutes is ranked 57th in points for defensemen. His ill advised offensive pinches and turnovers have cost the Bruins on more than one occasion.

The most worrisome of the treacherous trio is Dennis Seidenberg. Last year he was the breakout star of the Bruins. Thomas had a resurgence, Marchand was a close second but the German defenseman was the heirloom sword cleaving offensive rushes with unseemly ease. In the playoffs he ratcheted his play up still further. While the media (justifiably) focused on Tim Thomas, if there was an award for defensive excellence it would rightfully have his name on it. But that’s not been typical of Seidenberg in his career. Drafted in 2001 he spent most of the next season in the Flyers lineup, regressed to the AHL the next year, was jettisoned to the Coyotes and spent most of his NHL time a marginal depth defenseman. The Bruins are his fifth team, and he’s played more than 75 NHL games just once since being drafted. Injuries have played a part in his journeyman career, as have time with franchises on extremely limited budgets. But one has to ask which is the real product, the guy we saw in the playoffs last spring? Or the one who this season is getting caught out of position with dismaying regularity. All players have a peak they hit and then quickly or slowly edge away from. Is this fatigue? It it his defense partner? Or are the three wrist injuries,  injuries to both knees, concussion and broken leg taking their toll?

There is just over a month before the trade deadline. With the goaltenders covering up many mistakes for these defensemen Peter Chiarelli and Cam Neely may just look to tweak their defense sooner rather than later. Both Boychuk and Corvo are unrestricted free agents this summer. Many would move one or both of them between now and the deadline rather than lose them to free agency over the summer or accept pennies on the dollar for trades at the draft, assuming its possible to do so then for either. Perhaps it’s just fatigue and a day or two off allowing Steve Kampfer, David Warsofvsky or Kevin Miller a few reps at the NHL level is the balm for what ails them. Whatever the solution is if it isn’t employed soon the Bruins who sit just one point above the Ottawa Senators heading into today’s action could find themselves looking up at someone in the standings for the first time in a long time.

December was all things considered another good month to be a Boston Bruins fan. The way the month ended with a very lucky win against the Coyotes and forty plus minutes of sleeping and most of a period of passable effort for the sedated in a loss to the Stars shouldn’t overshadow the month as a whole.

Stars:

Brad Marchand: Continued his strong play on the year climbing into a tie for the team lead in goal scoring. Added his first short handed goal of the season, a powerplay assist, and two game winning goals while being a point per game player for the month. The month included being named NHL’s first star of the week when he had a five point game 3g 2a.

Benoit Pouliot:  Turned in the best December of his career in goals. Continued to make Julien and Chiarelli look like they own the Midas touch, played a smart game throughout the  month and moved from being a reactive part of the team going only where the system told him to being an active player and leveraging his teammates.

Andrew Ference: Boston’s favorite tree-hugging pitbull only doubled the number of points he had on the season in December. In addition to that he turned in more blocked shots than either October and November and did all of this while only taking two PIMS.

Stumbles:

Jordan Caron: He who hesitates is lost. Jordan Caron is he.

Johnny Boychuk: The Prince Of Pinchestan continues to disappoint offensively acquiring just two points in the month, turning the puck over on numerous occasions. When he’s at the height of his prowess his play can be described as “high risk high reward”, at this point the reward portion is present in a portion statistically indifferent from zero.

Tyler Seguin: Numbers down across the board. Not just offensive numbers but things that show effort as well. No one sane expect the results of a month like November when he was over a point per game to continue, and a season long 28 shooting percentage is not sustainable. The physical, neutral zone and defensive zone play however fell into the toilet. As I’m sure someone pointed out to him, the sooner the puck leaves the defensive zone and gets to the offensive zone the better chance one has to score.

The Bruins have half a lot of choices to make between now and July first. They are on a pure rampaged through the league with a roster very little changed from the one that one them the Stanley Cup. Most of the team is fairly young, and it’s hard to argue that any of the unsigned players are having a negative effect on the team. Of players currently on the roster, there are two RFA, and six UFA’s.

The restricted free agents are Tuukka Rask and Benoit Pouliot. If you stretch the list to Zach Hamill who has done well in his call up games this year, and would likely be less expensive than most players that could be signed from outside. Rask has the most variables attached to his potential deal, he’s got great numbers and is arguably the best backup or 1b option in the NHL. On the other hand he’s yet to have a solid pro playoff season, has never started more than 39 games in a season. Additionally he’s had knee surgery before his 25th birthday.  Given the lack of depth in the system, unless he starts looking for over 3.5 million, I suspect he’s resigned. Realistically, a two year deal at 2.25 a year is desirable from both ends.

Pouliot is in an odd position, if he does well, even if he doesn’t live up to the hype of a fourth overall pick, he can probably get signed just about anywhere for an increase over this years contact. He’s currently on pace for his best pro goals performance, but that’s not exactly world beating. From his point of view, if he does well this season, there’s a lot of incentive to stick around given Julien’s known preference for older players over rookies, he’s likely to improve more in a second year in the system. Hamill, who has been a top scorer in the rather disorganized Providence system for the last two season. Either one could sign for as much as $1.75 depending on the role envisioned.

The unrestricted free agents are where the likeliest roster changes will be made. Chris Kelly is the UFA to be making the most noise at this point, and is one of four UFA forwards including entire fourth line. Campbell and Paille will both be 28 when next season opens, and have been important parts of the penalty kill, with limited offense. Campbell is more gritty, and can usually be counted on for solid faceoff numbers, Paille is much faster and can nearly kill a penalty himself if the other team makes one misstep. Shawn Thornton will turn 35 after his contract will go into effect. His offense isn’t what has Thornton in the NHL, but in that category he dwarfs most similar players. I honestly have no idea what the three could be signed to, but if anyone of the freeMerlot Line signs for as much as two million I’ll be surprised. Kelly, was discussed recently at length.

The defensemen due new contracts monetarily might do best to let the market set their value. With Suter, Brad Stuart, Josh Gorges, Chris Campoli, the resurgent Sheldon Souray and other leading the pack if they sign close on the heels of those players, they might do well for themselves, wherever they sign. Johnny Boychuk is 27, and a former AHL defensemen of the year, last season he didn’t have the offense expected of him, but has bounced back pretty well so far this season. Joe Corvo will be thirty five when his next contract starts and has been very uneven in games this year, he was picked up for a for 4th round pick. Depending on where Boychuk finishes the season points in points and minutes and length of deal, his contract will probably be in the three million neighborhood. With zero goals, and the implications of a 35+ contract, I’m expecting to see Corvo in another uniform next season.

The Bruins escaped their visit from the Columbus Blue Jackets with two points and that’s about all that can be said for the home team in front of the crease. Tuukka Rask made the most of his appearance and gave the Bruins a chance to…not lose badly. Curtis Sanford as the other end of the ice was impressive. Good rebound control, good positioning, and some good luck. I think it’s safe to say that two more starts by Sanford of that quality will make the call to go to Mason a very tough thing.

The Blue Jackets are a better team on the ice than they are in the standings. They had excellent defense front of their crease tonight and broke up far more passes than they allowed to be made. At center ice they held their own with the Bruins for stretches, something teams a good distance above them haven’t done much of even when the Bruins have lost. The offensive zone was not pretty for the visitors, they never managed to get any sustained pressure. Despite their managing to score, the power play was something that must have fans covering their eyes.

With Johnny Boychuk out with flu-like symptoms, something I more than suspect he was not the only player on the roster with, McQuaid slid into his spot along side along side the teams recently exonerated captain.  In sixteen pretty solid minutes of play he got the only goal, played sound defense and generally looked good against Nash and the Blue Jackets top forwards. It was interesting to note that McQuaid and Chara played within the offensive zone tonight where as many nights Boychuck and Chara line up just outside the blueline. I’m not 100% sure if this is an adjustment to the opposition or owes to the speed advantage McQuaid has over Boychuk.

Despite a game that can only be generously called sloppy, the Bruins will head to Long Island Saturday knowing they won all five games of their home stand, and have a chance to maintain one of the NHL’s two seven game win streaks. The other belongs to the New York Rangers who the Bruins will host on January 21st.  My stars of the game: 3: Sandford 2: Rask 1: Mcquaid.

How broken can they be, they just won the Stanley Cup? Very. They are two wins below the next worst team in their division, and one bare point off the league basement. They aren’t scoring goals, they aren’t hitting. They aren’t blocking shots, and surprise surprise they aren’t winning. The last possible route has two lanes for fixing it although the first one often leads to the second.

Fire everyone below ownership. Get rid of everyone from Neely down to the third assistant stick boy. Many would say that if they didn’t prepare a team ready to compete after winning everything they clearly can’t be trusted with long-term stewardship of one of the NHL’s oldest teams. Coaches gone. Trainers gone. General manager and assistants gone. Jeremy Jacobs has stressed in recent years how much he and his son love the team. Is it time for them to show it by giving it a shot in the arm?

Getting rid of Julien is probably pretty easy. Coaches take the fall all the time. The Bruins powerplay is awful and has been for years. He’s blamed for driving the NHL October 2011 first star out of town for being overly demanding and stifling of young players. He’s characterized as overly defensive and inflexible. He can go and take the little dogs with him.

Chiarelli is even easier. With a history of bad trades and worse free agent signings he’s literally cost the team millions of wasted salary dollars. No one needs to be reminded he strengthened a division rival by sending them the current AHL points leader Joe Colborne, an additional first round and second pick in a disastrous trade for Kaberle who was clearly the wrong choice to fix the powerplay. Then there are trades like the Bochenski for Versteeg “deal”, the acquisition of Patrick Eaves for Aaron Ward, only to buy out eaves before the ink was dry.

Thirty goal scorer Michael Ryder came to Boston and his goal scoring touch was on life support the whole time. Manny Fernandez was an aging old goalie with knee and back problems brought in to “solidify” the goaltending position. In two seasons Fernandez played in all of 32 games. The 2008-09 season saw him ride Tim Thomas’s coattails to a share of the Jennings award despite being 25th in Sv% and 20th in GAA. Some other names that will make Bruins fans cringe that we have only Peter to thank for: Schaefer, Begin, Allen, Montador, Lashoff and more.

Worse in the eyes of many who would advocate just blowing everything up he’s failed to build a farm system that can regularly feed players to the parent club. The AHL affiliate is bad enough that it’s playoff record going into last seasons final weeks was worse than the parent clubs and has had a revolving door for coaches. Then there is the fact he’s failed repeatedly to find fixes for the powerplay.

Traveling the second option is possibly harder but almost certainly closer to necessary. When a coach not known for throwing players under the bus publicly does so in an unprompted manner, they may have just punched their ticket out of town. Given that questions of commitment have followed one of them since being drafted, and injuries have followed the other a change of scenery might just do the trick. This seasons powerplay bandaid Joe Corvo is third in PPTOI, but has not out performed Andrew Ference who is playing less than one third the minutes on the man advantage.  Former AHL defenseman of the year Johnny Boychuk has clearly stagnated with his points per game tailing off over his three seasons in Boston. The numbers don’t lie. When you look at the backup goaltender, not only does Tuukka Rask get uninspired play in front of him, his performance in the playoffs is noticeably worse than his regular season numbers across his career.

Something has to give. When you go from first to worst without significant changes in on ice personnel, the problem needs to be addressed. Nuking the team or off ice leaders, trades to fill needs, or simply a shakeup it is past time to live up to fan expectations of a creditable title defense. The season after a championship win shouldn’t be a sedate victory lap it should be a tour de force that shows why the team is the top food chain.