The Bruins off ice leadership is pretty consistent. They do the same things over and over, and for their part the Bruins fans just take it with little complaint. Chiarelli and Neely dangle a new, young, talented player in front of the fans, then punting that player or players away just as soon as enough tickets are sold or they fail to play like a fifth year veteran by the end of their sixth shift.

This year the dangled players are unusually varied. We have almost seen Seth Griffith, sorta seen Ryan Spooner, there was the hope of seeing Brian Ferlin and David Warsofsky, but hey fans have gotten more of Jordan Caron, something that was on the top of the off season wishlist of fans everywhere.  If you get the feeling you’ve seen this dog and pony show before, you have. It’s all been done before.

A few years back Boston Bruins were treated to a never ending rotation of two promising young defensemen. The tale of two Matt’s, who were largely treated like doormats. We’d see Matt Hunwick, and Matt Lashoff, and they’d be in and out of the lineup, rarely getting more than a handful of games in a row. Which isn’t exactly how you develop young defensemen. Hunwick eventually went on to lead the Colorado Avalanche in time on ice one season before moving on to the New York Rangers. Lashoff was so broken he washed out of the league with less than 40 NHL games after leaving the Boston Bruins and his career is sputtering in Europe. Fans of course got to watch both get flailed by leadership, hope was lost.

Then there was Phil Kessel and eventually Tyler Seguin, and it was hit me baby one more time. Kessel lasted a couple years while they had no one else. Seguin lasted until they had to pay him. This year it was the David Pastrnak show and if you’re imagining Peter Chiarelli and his brain trust doing a rousing rendition of Oops I Did It Again, you are not alone.

Peter-BS

So far this season, the question is where do broken hearts go, because Carl Soderberg should not be leading the team in scoring, and whatever the statistics page says Adam McQuaid is not the most offensively gifted defenseman in the Boston system. The team is unbalanced with little talent playing in their natural position on the right side, making the left side easier to isolate and shut down. Instead of moving out excess centers and left wings to bring in a viable NHL right wing, the team has decided to sign a guy who can’t stay healthy, hasn’t played a game in over year, and hasn’t been healthy in the post season in almost five years.

This isn’t the first time they’ve take someone washed up and put them in the lineup over a promising young player. This time it is Simon Gagne over Jared Knight, Seth Griffith and the rest of the prospect, in the past it was Shane Hnidy over Steve Kampfer. Only time will tell what happens to this roster, the young and old players being shuffled in and out of the lineup, and of course the management doing it. I would have to recommend against holding ones breath until something good happens.

For more read here.

Last season was one of those years for the Colorado Avalanche where fans just covered their eyes and waited for it to be over. Matt Hunwick logged the most ice time, Stastny was not quite mediocre and missed 8 games. Tyson Barrie led the Avs defense in scoring, and Parentau and Duchene tied for the team lead in scoring. That was just about all. And then the inexplicable happened. Patrick Roy was signed to take over Coaching duties and seemingly anything else that amused him.  They cut, and then kept Hunwick, they traded for past glory in Alex Tanguay. After that they did the absurd, they passed on the projected number one pick a projected franchise defenseman in Seth Jones for a high quality forward to add to the depth they already have in high end picks at forward.

This season doesn’t project as much better than last. The biggest plus side is not any moves they made, but the fact that the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets who are both better teams are no longer in the conference. On the plus side there will be more of Gabriel Landeskog, more Tyson Barrie, and possibly even the debut of Duncan Siemens and Nathan MacKinnon. Patrick Roy is going into his first year an NHL coach, and perhaps his ability, force of personality, and legacy can push some of the more complacent members of the team into better performance. Don’t be surprised if the team has a very different roster after the trade deadline than it does opening night.

Number of days 1-5: 10

Number of cities: 4

Best Opponent: Boston Bruins

Weakest Opponent: Nashville Predators

Home Games: 2

Projected Points: 2

This will be a tough season for a team with so little quality on defense, and they open it up in an ugly manner. The suddenly deeper Anaheim Ducks and Nashville Predators at home before three straight road games. The Maple Leafs are easily a better team, the Capitals are better at forward, better at defense and about equal in the crease. If they can open the season and get five points in their first five games they should count that as progress. If they do it will give the team something to build on. It is unlikely they will be as bad as last season, but they are still going to struggle in the competition for a playoff spot. Much of the Avalanche’s mystique this season will center around seeing if the rebuild plan is short term or long term.

Joe Sakic is on the record as having said the Avalanche will not take defenseman Seth Jones, who grew up an Avalanche fan with the number one pick. Instead a team with multiple top five picks at forward will take another forward at the first pick.

10.3: The Avalanche have decided to use the Edmonton Oilers as their model for rebuilding a franchise.

9.3: As Sakic can tell you from personal experience the game is played today exactly the way it was in 1995 and having top flight mobile, two way defenseman has never won anyone a championship.

8.3: A secret cabal of owners led by the shadowy and diabolical Jeremy Jacobs have intimidated the Kroenke brothers into keeping the Avalanche a bubble team forever.

7.3: Sakic bets they will easily be able to successfully sign all of Calgary’s RFA defenseman to offer sheets.

6.3: Seth Jones didn’t have the good sense to be born a Canadian so they don’t want him.

5.3: Smooth skating, big bodied, right shooting defensemen have almost no value in the NHL.

4.3: Jones won’t be old enough to go to Vegas with the boys for a couple years and there is no sense in disrupting a locker room that produces so well on the ice.

3.3: Matt Hunwick has threatened to sit out if his status as time on ice leader for the team is threatened.

 

time on ice stats for the 2012-13 Avalanche defense

2012-13 TOI stats

3: Patrick Roy only agreed to coach the team if they drafted exclusively from the QMJHL.

2: The UFA market featuring franchise cornerstones like Mathieu Roy, Cam Barker, and Jordie Benn will more than suffice to push them into the Stanley Cup Finals next season.

1: The plan with a little luck and no improvements on defense this year is to be able to draft Connor McDavid first in 2015.

The Buffalo Sabre’s declared themselves sellers. Not trading for change, sellers. Today Darcy Regier might have moved a couple pens across his desk, but players? Not so much. Moving Jason Pominville is a start, and they got solidly rated prospects back, but this is a sellers market.  This is a team that should be blown up, they have talent to get pieces that fit together, they have an owner committed to winning, and they have a fan base who is getting really, really sick of losing.

The Calgary Flames certainly shipped out a lot of talent, but there wasn’t so much an earth shattering kaboom as a muddy plop, or at least a sound involving fluid and darkly hued stuff. The return on Bouwmeester and Iginla doesn’t appear to be worth the cost of the trade call to NHL HQ.

The Florida Panthers are excused, nearly everyone who was or should have been on their NHL roster opening night, is injured. They could still have shipped out a few people.

The Washington Capitals, did nothing. The team is certainly playing better now than at the beginning of the season, but that said they are still an incredibly mediocre team on the ice. Sure on paper with Ovechkin, Carlson, Backstrom, Alzner, as part of the long term core, the rest of the team is of a lot less value, and not built to win. For some reason, today they chose to add an aging Erat with two years left on his contract, and a guy who racks up penalties, for top prospect Forsberg.

The Colorado Avalanche are just pathetic. The team isn’t good at much.  They’re 26th in goals for, 28th in goals against, 23rd on the powerplay, 22nd on the penalty kill. There is no reason to hold on to anyone, for any reason if the price is solid. If someone offers a big enough return, even Gabriel Landeskog could and should be moved. Only eight players are in double digits in points, and the drop off between the second highest scorer Matt Duchene, and the third Paul Stastny is 14 points.  When you have Matt Hunwick lead your team in time on ice per game, you’re doing not a little wrong.

The Philadelphia Flyers had so many injuries it is tough to say what the could have done, but they deserve a public shaming for trading for Steve Mason.

Forget today’s rulings by the NHL. The league has an issue with handing out calls based on the name on the back of the jersey and not the action seen or the action actually taken. If the first thing you here when someone tells you Raffi Torres and Marty St Louis in a game last night. What’s your first impression?

It’s probably something along the lines of several unflattering words about Torres. But if you don’t know what the incident was, how can you be sure it was him committing the infraction? Just as we saw the NHL immediately (after the game) rescind the game misconduct to Milan Lucic because he was called for who he was and what the officials believed happened. They did not see him come off the bench illegally because he didn’t. Can you sit there reading this and imagine Rick Nash or Dany Heatley who are about the same size as Lucic getting the same ejection?

Another player who gets reputation calls made against him is Sean Avery. Is there actually anyone in the world who thinks that if Pavel Datsyuk or Tomas Vanek waiving their stick in front of Brodeur that the official on the ice would have called a penalty? Would “unsportsmanlike conduct” be suddenly construed as putting something several orders of magnitude smaller than the bodies players routinely use to obscure the view and distract goalies in their way? Of course not. Those players are among the power brokers favorites. Further if a lot of other players did that it would be unremarked or applauded. Anyone think Jonathan Toews would get the same treatment?

We’ve seen the opposite affect. There was Crosby stepping into a fight between Letang and Valbek, and even drilling Valbek in the crotch, no penalty or suspension there. Alex Burrows was not suspended for clearly biting someone even though there was precedent for doing so. Mike Komisarek gouged the eye of a defenseless Matt Hunwick in scrum that had the smaller Hunwick pinned to the boards, no fines, no suspensions. Komisarek was then a member of the Canadiens.

Do players who repeat an action over, and over again deserve harsher punishments for doing it the second fifth and succeeding times? Absolutely. Should officials assume that someone they don’t care for has done something? If I have to answer that one for you, shame-shame.

There needs to be more accountability for NHL officials. Today there is not. There is no visible mechanism for ensuring the right call is made. How many times have we seen a player get sent off for a high stick when the injured player was in fact hit by their own stick, a teammates or even a different opposing player? This sort of failure of reason, and abandonment of principle, is damaging to the sport. A player being sent off for something someone else did or in the case of so many phantom tripping calls never happened at all affects the whole game and takes tips the balance not just of the game, but of the season or playoff series and careers for not just players, but coaches and general managers as well. Worse, the plays will end up on the internet somewhere, and each time a call is made there will be mountains of evidence pointing out how bad that call was, each call eroding the leagues moral authority.

The Boston Bruins haven’t been shy about making trades in the Peter Chiarelli era. While many of them were the type of under the radar, no immediate impact trades like picking up AHL defensemen, or bringing in an aging veteran in exchange for some guys who were never going to be regulars, those aren’t the only trades we’ve seen. One need only look to last summer with the departure of Dennis Wideman and a first round pick for Nathan Horton and Greg Campbell.  Some trades have worked out better than others, few are for the player that everyone wants but they happen on a pretty regular basis.

When you look at the team a few things spring to mind immediately. One is the extreme and superfluous depth at center. This is the most obvious one, and half of the reason I suspect we’ll see a trade between now and the middle of October with it being more likely sometime from October 7th on. Another is how certain teams, mostly outside the conference are in desperate need of a penalty killing captain. For those teams, having someone who could help them against last years conference champions in 5 on 5 play as well would be a bonus.

On the backend things are a bit murkier.  The blueline has clearly been the general manager’s favorite place to tweak. Not one of the blueliners currently on or likely to make the opening night roster played for Boston before his arrival. Add in the movement of Andrew Alberts, Matt Hunwick, Matt Lashoff, Jeff Penner, and half a dozen others and it’s clear something motivates the man in the corner office to stir this pot frequently.  If you look at the Bruins scoring from defensemen last season, and compare it to other teams well, the ranking is quite similar to the powerplay, only not quite as high.  If you look for someone who may have failed to live up to their billing, or regressed since arriving under coach Julien’s eye the odds of someone being moved seem a little higher.

Given that Jordan Caron and Steve Kampfer spent enough time in Boston both playing and practicing with the big club for them to be known quantities, if a move is going to be made in their favor it shouldn’t come as that big a surprise.  They would in fact be following directly in the footsteps of Brad Marchand and Adam McQuaid who came up the previous year for some games and stuck to the roster. You could also say they would have an advantage over  McQuaid and Marchand in having been around to watch the big club prepare for and recover from playoff games. Assuming the coaching staff and management have faith in them, this would give them an entire season to integrate with the defending champions.

Given all the cryptic and in some cases naked remarks of Julien, Chiarelli and club history one or two prospects who might find greener pastures elsewhere might be moved as well. Sobotka, Bitz, and Nokelainen are just a few of the names who went from fringe players here to full time or regular NHL players in other cities. Currently the Bruins are at 49 contracts according to CapGeek.com, if they do need to make a move later in the year having another free contract spot could be make or break for a deal.

In order of likelihood I’d say we’ll see one move at forward, then a single move at defense, and least likely a larger deal involving two or three roster players and or prospects.

Given how little turnover was expected for the remaining roster spots after the signing of Pouliot and the acquisition of Joe Corvo I’m honestly surprised by how many of the AHL players are still in camp. Add in Chris Clark lingering around and you have a genuine mystery if all you do is look at the surface of it. One forward position to fill, and a seventh defensemen to weed from the pack. A coach who just wanted to get thing set up and start working on the regular season lines could be forgiven for making an easy call and going with Jordan Caron who was here for twenty games last season much as Brad Marchand was the year before, or Jamie Arniel who led the Providence Bruins in goals and points and calling the forward position filled. Likewise, Steve Kampfer was in the midst of a promising rookie season before being sidelined, and Matt Bartkowski was called up for six games.

Yet, it is down to ten days left before the banner is raised and the puck is dropped on the new season and ice is littered with other players. Part of this is no doubt an effort to give the key players like Tim Thomas, Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara and others who did the heaviest lifting throughout the championship run as light as workload as possible. But that can’t explain it all. It’s only when you pull up a site like NHLNumbers.com or CapGeek.com that it becomes apparent that you’re looking at plans for later in the season when it becomes expedient to move players who won’t be brought back either because of their contract demands or their performance, as well as next years potential roster.

As of today, the number of players signed for the 2011-12 season is disconcertingly small. NHLNumbers lists just four defensemen from the Cup run signed beyond this season, Chara, Seidenberg, Ference and McQuaid are a lot of minutes covered but not enough for a full season. Up front the numbers are even worse, excluding Marc Savard, there are just five forwards signed for the 2012-13 season. Worse, of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Tyler Seguin, only Bergeron is not due for contract renewal after that season.

This also explains the early dismissal of the bright junior prospects. Not a few fans were genuinely shocked to see the departure of the top CHL players before allowing them even token appearances in the middle preseason games. While only one or two of the forwards were even close to NHL ready, they weren’t collectively close enough to make distracting from the AHL prospects reasonable. Sauve and Arniel are entering their third year out of juniors. Zach Hamill who had a cameo last season in his fourth year out of Everett Silvertips is one of just two of the two ten picks in the 2007 draft to play less than 100 games in the NHL.

Two of the defense pairings that have emerged through camp and the preseason games draw attention to themselves. The first is veteran Andrew Ference and Colby Cohen who was brought over in the Matt Hunwick trade. Cohen despite being traded for a roster player was not among the defensemen called up during the season. The former BU Terrier has shown some offensive prowess as an amateur but in sixty-six total professional games has just two goals. Cohen’s fellow Keystone State native Matt Bartkowski who was part of the filling on the Seidenberg acquisition has been seen skating with Johnny Boychuck. Bartkowski did manage to be on the ice for six games for Boston last season in with limited ice time.

Add in the return of Zach McKelvie and David Warsovsky’s first full professional season and you can see eleven different defensemen jockeying for seven positions. Warsovsky left school to join Providence last season, and put up three assists in the final ten games of the AHL season.  Warsovsky was acquired for Sobotka and is looked at as a potential powerplay quarterback. McKelvie is fresh off two years with the Army and looks steadier than most expected after two years away from the professional game.

One can’t help but speculate on if we will see one or two of last seasons roster moved. With the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement set to expire at seasons end, the Bruins pitiful powerplay, and the cachet of a fresh Stanley Cup run these might present the perfect storm for getting or moving players for the Bruins suits. Some teams may be nervous the labor dispute will get as bad as the NBA’s. Even a work stoppage that is settled as relatively quickly as the NFL’s could have a negative impact on some struggling franchises ticket sales and advertising revenue. Because of this there is a chance that swapping out a player or two could become irresistible.

With just two preseason games left and a solid dozen players vying to fill two roster spots it is anyones guess who will be on the opening night roster. Given the moves the Bruins have made in recent years in the early portion of the season that have moved players like Matt Hunwick, Jeff Penner and Andrew Alberts the odds of the roster being the same on January 6th as it will be on opening night aren’t very high.

Earlier today Aaron Rome of the Vancouver Canucks was suspended for four games. I’ll save the behavior of Henrik Sedin and Alain Vigneault for another post since that could easily spiral into pages. As a fan who’s team has been on both sides of suspension rulings I’m heartily ambiguous about this suspension. When Marc Savard was hit by Matt Cooke I felt that was clearly an intent to injure and should have been a very long suspension. When Marc Savard was again laid out by former Bruins defenseman and current member of the Colorado Avalance Matt Hunwick I watched the replay three times and said “clean play”. When Marchand was suspended earlier this year I looked at the play, said “Ok, I get why and how this happened late hit, boneheaded, but not intent to injure.”

Comparing this to some of the other suspensions from the season we see repeat offender Matt Cooke with four games for charging and boarding, Daniel Paille two games for a hit to the head, James Wisniewski for two games for an obscene gesture to another player. So we’re lead to be the confusing conclusion that actually knocking someone out of the game for who knows how long in the Stanley Cup Finals is equally as bad as boarding and charging, twice as bad as a penalty that at worst left a player offended and likely amused, but also only twice as bad as another hit to the head by a first time offender. Diving a little further into the suspensions list, apparently smashing your stick into someones head is one fourth less bad than hitting someone with your body, as Olli Jokinen’s suspension clearly illustrates.

With that pure and unambiguous set of guidelines let’s dive into the case. Some of these are reasons I believe, others are what different people ahve put forward, and some are merely probable conjecture.

Too Long:

  • It’s the longest suspension in Stanley Cup Finals History, and is in fact longer than all three other suspensions put together.
  • Rome is a first time offender.
  • The rule is ambiguous and based on the precedent of intent on the Burrows bite, intent is important.
  • It was a clean hit.

 

Too Short:

  • The rule has been in place for a year, and players have had time to adjust
  • The other events of the series mean there was “a history” between the players.
  • Its the Stanley Cup Finals, the games are very important and a player who is knocked out through no fault of their own is lost to their team for far longer than any suspension.

While, for the sake of the game I could wish the suspension was longer, I actually think there NHL got this one as close to that near-mythical-beast “right” as is possible. By setting a bar this much higher than previous situational suspensions (preseason vs regular season vs playoffs vs Stanley Cup Finals) they have a clearly stated precedence they can apply to future escalations.

Having watched the hit about twenty five times now for the sake of uniformity I have to give my opinion. So:

  1. Yes it was late.
  2. Rome did leave his lane, step into the path  of Horton and turning his body to apply his shoulder.
  3. There was head contact.
  4. Rome’s hands, stick and elbows were down.

Those are the salient points. While the hit was clearly late, I can’t honestly call it malicious. If Rome hadn’t left his own lane and realigned his body it would be incidental contact.

 

I’m hardly discounting the rest of the season, but with the draft combine here and now, I can’t go another day without posting something.

At forward for the Bruins only Recchi and Ryder are unsigned unrestricted free agents.  Brad Marchand is an RFA, and as this is his entry contract and he’s played just one full year the Bruins have all the leverage.

Top forward prospects, in no particular order include:

  • Max Suave who’s fast, has hands that will make any goal scoring aficionado drool, and a long injury history.  At 6’2 and 184 he’s a bit wiry. This is if not his last year to make the club certainly the year he needs to hit 30 goals or 65+ points in Providence and stay healthy.
  • Jordan Caron, in essence he only has to do two things at camp next year a: bring his A game, b: remain consistent. He made the team out of camp this year, got second line minute, and penalty kill time under our fairly conservative coach. Of all the top six potential forwards he’s the only one listed over 200lbs, by the Bruins.
  • Jamie Arniel, after a day at rookie camp and watching the second of the rookie games at the Boston Garden last fall, I predicted he’d be the first Providence Bruin called up and he proved me right. Remorseless work ethic, was the leading scorer in Providence last year topping the charts with 27 goals and 50 points. This is the final year of his entry contract. While most projections list him as bottom six forward in the NHL systems vary and Juliens could favor him if he brings full effort. 5’11 193.
  • Ryan Spooner, pure fun to watch. Amazing puck disher I heard comparisons to Marc Savard like passing at rookie camp and the rookie game. One ace he may have up his sleeve is faceoff performance, which goes well with a solid shot and great vision. He did spend the year in Juniors where he set a point per game pace for two different teams, and in the playoffs. Not exactly imposing, at 5 10 17o. Finished the year with the P-Bruins.
  • Jared Knight won three awards among them hardest working player on his team this year. He also lead his team in scoring. Having added enough mass to top 200lbs, his relentless drives for the goal scoring areas are likely to be harder to stop this year than last. If you haven’t seen the goal scoring highlight reel on Youtube, go look. Like Spooner he finished off his playing year in Providence collecting a pair of assists.

What the Bruins lack in general is the aggressive, physical power forward type that has been key to the success of the team in the bodies of Horton and Lucic this year.  Bergeron, Seguin, Krejci and Marchand are hugely talented but none of them tops two hundred lbs and adding a little more size to some of the teams speed could make them even better.

Defense is honestly the position I find the Bruins depth thinnest at. Kaberle and Hnidy are the expiring contracts, and I expect to see Kaberle resigned for at least a year or two unless he unexpectedly retires. Steve Kampfer is likely graduated to full time duty and then we get the true prospects.

  • Yury Alexandrov is a Russian prospect with a couple years experience in the KHL. He was second in scoring for defensemen on the lackluster Providence Bruins last season. Fairly small, but smooth skating. Spoke no English when arriving last year. Had a better +/- at -6 than the leading scorer for defensemen on the P-Bruins last year.  Hockey’s future lists him as a potential 5-6 man at the NHL level.
  • Ryan Button, freshly signed to his entry level deal he’s listed just above Alexandrov on Hockeysfuture.com, the is another smaller defensemen projected towards the middle or end of the depth chart. Well respected in various circles for work ethic. Played the final seven games of the Providence series.
  • Matt Bartkowski, was called up for six games, including the Montreal game in which Chara was ejected for the hit on Pacioretty where he saw over 13 minutes of ice time. In six games he was a -1, with no points. This probably doesn’t reflect on him. His latest callup was during a funk in Boston that saw losses to half the leagues bottom feeders. Was the last cut at training camp. Could be called a smaller Boycjuck.
  • David Worsofsky, college player very small, agile picked up 3 assists in 10 games with Providence last year. Unlikely to see the NHL this year. Almost purely an offensive defensemen. Pro-comparison would put him in a similar mold to Marc-Andre Bergeron.
  • Colby Cohen, picked up in exchange for Matt Hunwick he’s billed as an offensive defensemen with passable ability in his own zone, was one of the few players and the only defensemen to finish the season in Providence with a positive +/- at +5. Projects as another 4-6 guy. Played three games in an Avalanche uniform before being traded.

These are the best of the guys signed for next year. None of whom projects to the type of number two or number three defenseman who can run a powerplay and or lead the defense if Chara is injured, suspended or in the penalty box.

Goaltending, while Tim Thomas does impressive things in net on a regular basis, and Rask has had an admirable career so far, that is about all that can be said for the Bruins goaltending. Khudobin is a UFA and will likely get an NHL or KHL contract of some sort next year, Schaefer is not a viable choice, and Zane Gotheberg is going the college route so he’s unlikely to be seen for three or more years.

  • Michael Hutchinson played just 28 games in Providence this year, allowed five goals in four of those occasions one of which was a win, had one shut out. In Reading of the ECHL he had better numbers than in Providence. It’s hard to tell how much is the the problem of the first year pro, and how much was just an underwhelming Providence club.

That’s it, after Rask and Thomas there is one goalie signed for next season to fill two Providence slots, two Reading slots and cover for injuries at all three levels.

Draft Wishlist:

  1. Strong top three defenseman.
  2. Goaltending depth, even if these pieces are dealt later.
  3. Power forward.