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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Free agency is underway and the Pacific division is as wide open to winning as it was last year. No division title is won in July, but it can be lost.

Anaheim Ducks: C-

The biggest strength of the Ducks off season so far is not signing any hideous contracts. That’s about all that can be said for it though. They finished 17th in scoring last year and the only player they have signed since July first is a retread journeyman defenseman. Nate Guerin was drafted back in 2002 by the New York Rangers and has played in an unimpressive 205 regular season and 7 post season NHL games since. Hardly the most optimistic of starts to the off-season.

Arizona Coyotes: C

Given their likely spending budget the Coyotes had a decent start to free agency picking up Jamie McGinn to play along side some of their youngsters. He’ll bring some size to the team. Other signings included depth players like goalie Justin Peters. They still have a lot to do to be a playoff team, maybe this is the year they go young?

Calgary Flames: B-

The Flames went out and addressed needs. They signed Chad Johnson to a one year deal at a team friendly number. Johnson is emerging as a strong goaltender and had very good number playing behind last years woeful Buffalo Sabre. Troy Brouwer is now their highest paid forward, which would be very odd on many teams, but at under $5m its a decent contract on a team that’s best forward are on or just ended their entry level deals.

Edmonton Oilers: C+

The Edmonton Oilers signed three players, Milan Lucic, Jonas Gustavsson, and Mark Fraser. Fraser is a big bodied defenseman who has spent most of the time since being drafted in 2005 in the AHL collecting just 219 NHL games. It’s worth noting he played in the New Jersey Devils system with Adam Larsson, but they were not very frequent linemates. Gustavsson is a quality backup goaltender which is something they need as only three teams finished with more goals against last year. Milan Lucic was signed for more money than another other player on July first. He’s quite familiar with Peter Chiarelli, Andrew Ference, and Benoit Pouliot from their time in Boston, having won a Cup with the first two. Lucic and Oskar Klefbom appear to be the long range plan for the Oilers as both are signed the end of the 2022-23 season. The signings themselves weren’t egregious, but defense, defense, defense were the first, second, and third needs of the team and they didn’t do much to address those.

Los Angeles Kings: B

Jeff Zatkoff who used to be in the Kings system having played for the Monarchs for a couple years. He may well see serious NHL time after playing well as part of the Penguins Stanley Cup run. The rest of their signings were all second (or lower) tier players with former Washington Capitals center Michael Latta as the most recognizable nationally, Tom Gilbert is a well traveled depth defenseman who is fairly reliable but not flashy, and last was the signing of Zach Trotman a defenseman with decent tools who was Mr Insignificant of 201o. Getting all three for under $3m is a pretty nice deal, especially given the taxes in California. There wasn’t a lot of need here, and also rather little cap space.

San Jose Sharks: B

When you go to the Stanley Cup finals and you aren’t losing anyone to free agency, there isn’t a lot to do. The Sharks added Mikkel Boedker who has proven himself able to produce in the playoffs. The Sharks need more of that, just as they could have used his speed in June against the Penguins. Solid signing that should enhance the team without damaging chemistry.

Vancouver Canucks: D

The Canucks needed to add youth, speed, and quality defense they did none of that. They added Loui Eriksson fresh of a contract year performance, and two players unlikely to play a combined 20 NHL games this season. Possibly their best move was signing Doug Jarvis as an assistant coach.

 

Some quick impressions on free agency so far:

  1. Major, obvious mistakes don’t seem to be as common as three or four years ago.
  2. Even though the Coyotes got Goligoski, I expected their aggressive young general manager to do more today.
  3. Did anyone tell Columbus what day it was?
  4. Marc Bergevin seems dead set on proving that the most important part of being the Canadiens General Manager is to speak French because I can’t see how his moves would match up with his stated opinions on players, attitude, and the rest.
  5. The Sharks made a shrewd move in picking up Mikkel Boedker that adds much needed fleetness of foot and a guy who stands and delivers in the post season. Kudos!
  6. My instant winner for worst move for worst move of the day would have been Vanek getting two or more years of term, but the Red Wings short circuited that by getting him inked for one year.
  7. Familiarity breeds good deal? Lucic signed with his former general manager, Eriksson signed to play with his international linemates, Khudobin signed in a city he played in before, Campbell went home to Chicago and Radulov was reunited with Shea Weber in Montreal.
  8. If Connor McDavid really does end up playing with Milan Lucic he should enjoy the hell out of it, Marc Savard enjoyed the hell out of it, David Kreci road him to a Stanley Cup, and playing with a living breathing bulldozer with a 30 goal, Stanley cup pedigree can’t hurt his career at all.
  9. While there have been some really interesting trades lately, and the UFA class had a good number of middle tier players, the RFA class this year is probably where the value is.
  10. Kyle Okposo has traded playing second fiddle to John Tavares to doing the same for Jack Eichel. arguably he falls behind Evander Kane, and Ryan O’Reily too. I’m not convinced he went to a better team now or in three years.
  11. The Oilers are clearly happy to spend money, one wonders however if the current General Manager will be any more successful there than the last half dozen.
  12. Speaking of RFA’s, does anyone else have the sneaking suspicion Monahan and Gaudreau to end up playing with the gritty, big bodied Troy Brouwer?
  13. Unless he stopped answering his agent’s phone calls, Kris Versteeg may just have run out of places to sign.
  14. Yannick Weber signing in Nashville probably spawned a ton of snarky tweets, posts, and headlines… and I have declined to look for them.
  15. New Jersey Devils fans who got all tingly over the trade for Taylor Hall can return to hating their ownership and management as the sexiest signing of the day was Devante Smith-Pelly.
  16. Jonathan Marchessault is clearly a warm weather boy having traded his Bolt in for a Panther.
  17. The twitter poll says Jason Demers is the best available free agent, and he is arguably the best defenseman available, I’m not sure he gets to the $6m plateau he is rumored to want.
  18. I don’t think I understand the goaltending choices made today. Zatkoff was a good get for the Kings, and another familiar face in a familiar place, but Montoya signed while Enroth waits? And Reimer going to play the role of Schnieder in the two goalie mess the Panther’s crease has become as Luongo reprises his waning years in Vancouver. What gives?
  19. Jimmy Vesey is likely to be the bludgeon teams use to negotiate deals with young RFA’s for the next six weeks, but he might just be best off signing in Nashville after all.

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.

With Mike Fisher’s injury given a preliminary recover time that takes until about the time of the Winter Classic, assuming no set backs, the Nashville Predators are now in dire need of a quality center. Having spent the assets to acquire James Neal and Filip Forsberg in the last fifteen months, the time and the circumstances are right to double down and aim for a playoff position again.

Shea Weber is signed, rested, and should have a chip on his shoulder after another season where he probably should have gotten the Norris, or at least finished second. Seth Jones has spent a year learning the NHL. Craig Smith and Colin Wilson are now tested NHL players who have weathered the storm of disastrous seasons. Most importantly Pekka Rinne is healthy and ready for the hunt.

Out on the coast are the Boston Bruins, for many reasons the team is in cap jail and the situation isn’t going to get better any time soon with Soderberg, Boychuck, McQuaid, and Hamilton all due new contracts next year, and that’s with Torey Krug and Reilly Smith still unsigned right now. With moderate salary increases you’re likely looking at about $12 million in salary minimum between these players. Someone has to go.

Bergeron has a no movement clause and trading him for anything less than 6 first round draft picks, the Holy Grail and a roster player is likely to result in Peter Chiarelli being burned in effigy outside the Garden, (and also lower concessions, ticket sales and merchandise).  Chris Kelly, when healthy, is a great penalty killer, a top shelf checking line center, and the type of all around good dude that teams seek out, unfortunately he finished last season on the shelf, and has a full no trade clause. He’s also not the type of center the Nashville Predators currently need.  Greg Campbell is a fourth line version of Kelly with all the same problems, excepting the no trade clause.

Realistically, that leaves Carl Soderberg who has one season of NHL play to set his value and David Krejci. Krejci has found success with wingers as varied as Milan Lucic Michael Ryder and Blake Wheeler, and incidentally lead the NHL in post season scoring. Moving Soderberg has essentially no impact on the Boston Bruins cap situation, it would give them about $2.6 million in cap space, about enough to renew Krug and Smith if the brass turns the screws and risks alienating both players and their agents but not really enough to add a replacement as well.

That makes David Krejci the default candidate, that he’s also the most likely to bring in a quality return is fortuitous for the Bruins. If you use the Phil Kessel trade as a benchmark you will get back a solid return and don’t spend any roster space on it. If you go with something closer to the Joe Thornton trade you retool with a mixed bag. Brad Stuart was the best defenseman on the roster when he arrived, Marco Sturm would play for several seasons and score the winning goal in the Bruins only Winter Classic appearance.

Many observers would say the Boston Bruins and Nashville Predators are both a crossroads. The Predators need to reach and advance in the playoffs if they are to be financially solvent, and grow their fanbase. The Boston Bruins have several talented prospects at center where the risk is stagnation and regression with an speedy return to a system and roster that looks like the 2005-06 roster if they don’t promote one or more players. The NHL and all it’s feeder leagues are better when more teams are competitive.

The right trade for both teams is one where both teams win. The Predators need to reestablish the themselves as a playoff team if they hope to extend James Neal, and you have to be pretty jaded not to imagine fans in Smashville enjoying a line with David Krejci centering James Neal and Filip Forsberg.

In life, in business, in relationships and in the NHL, neither success nor failure are instant. On occasion it appears that a team or business has succeeded or failed in the blink of an eye, what you are seeing is that iceberg tip those final twenty stories of a skyscraper that bring it above the rest. On July one, Peter Chiarelli and Cam Neely swept over the horizon and promptly fell flat on their faces. They made exactly one move on the day. They signed a no name plugger who will likely never see NHL action in a Bruins uniform.

But where does this spectacular failure stem from? Last season yes they went over the cap by about 4.7 million. Yes, with that money they could have kept Jarome Iginla, but they’d still have needed to come up with money for rookie sensations Torey Krug and Reilly Smith, and likely Matt Bartkowski and or Matt Fraser. But why did they get to this place? How? When they won the Stanley Cup they had more depth than last year at every position, they had as much youth, they were just as close to the cap (they went over that year too).

The answer lies in the composition of the roster. There is exactly one player on who played most or all of last season in Boston who was drafted and developed since Peter Chiarelli took over, and that’s Dougie Hamilton. One of 23. You can add in Ryan Spooner if you’re feeling generous since he was exceptional at the AHL level and held a place for a good stretch of games mid season as well. If you go back to the Cup year, Tyler Seguin was the lone player to be drafted and developed here and well, he didn’t last long.

Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic, are all players that were drafted before he took the helm. Zdeno Chara, Johnny Boychuk, Loui Erikssn, and all the rest were either brought in via trade or free agency. The player not named Seguin (Dallas Stars) and or Hamilton to be drafted since Chiarelli took over is Jordan Caron. He of course has produced less points than Shawn Thornton during his tenure.

What does this mean? It means the Boston Bruins have overpaid for free agents from Michael Ryder,  Steve Begin, and Joe Corvo and spent too much to get under achievers like Tomas Kaberle in trade. It means that instead of bring up young players like the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks, they brought in guys who no one will remember fondly like Peter Schaefer, Andrew Bodnarchuk, and Jay Pandolfo because the draft has been largely an excuse for other teams to laugh down their sleeves at consistently inept drafting.

The overpayment on free agents has translate into what can conservatively be figured at a 10% increase in the salary many of the Bruins developed players have received since. It means that instead of drafting players who fit the system, Peter Chiarelli and company have waited until two or even three years of RFA status of a player have been burned meaning not only will they over pay these players  who have little to no loyalty to the team, it means that even if they aren’t overpaid they will likely hobble the team with an unneeded no trade or no movement clause for a player who is a nice fit but is eminently replaceable.

This level of personnel mismanagement also means bafflingly bad trades that give up guys like Vladimir Sobotka and Kris Versteeg for guys no one remembers the names of. After half a decade and what most regard as a flukey Stanley Cup win the Bruins attempted a course correction with a change in scouting directors. The first run with the new leader shows he probably has as deft a touch in his current position, as his more famous brother had at coaching in the desert.

Cap mismanagement, inability to draft and negligible ability to recognize which players can be got without a no movement or no trade clause, and an over devotion to player like Caron and Hamill who consistently fail to live up to expectations that’s a hell of a dossier for his next position.

The only original six matchup of the first round could send the victor to a second round matchup with another original six team. For now the Boston Bruins, the team that has dominated the east for the last few years faces off with the Detroit Red Wings the model franchise of the west for many years. The contrast in syles, club directions, and cities couldn’t be greater. One similarity is that both teams have enormous, passionate fans all over the globe. You can’t follow either the team on the road and not spot jerseys for the visitors and hear the chants urging them on.

Boston Bruins

The Bruins did something they haven’t done in a while, finished the regular season with home ice advantage throughout the playoffs. They have had a lot of turnover since they last raised Lord Stanley’s Cup; gone are Michael Ryder, Andrew Ference, Rich Peverley, Tim Thomas, Mark Recchi, Tomas Kaberle, and Tyler Seguin. In their place are Reilly Smith, Jarome Iginla, Torey Krug, Kevan Miller, Dougie Hamilton, Loui Erikson. The structure is the same, the mind behind the bench unchanged but the attributes of the men in the spoked-B is rather different.

Best Players

Patrice Bergeron who scored the cup clinching goal not long ago has had his second highest goal scoring season, Zdeno Chara is still the best shutdown defenseman in the league. Jarome Iginla enjoyed yet another 30 goal season, Tuukka Rask had stellar numbers, and David Krejci and Milan Lucic are proving it almost doesn’t matter who is on their line that they will succeed with whoever.

X-Factor

The young Bruins have to stay focused on the very quick, highly talented stars of the Wings and not be dazzled or rattled by Datsyuk, Zetterberg (if he plays) or otherwise fall into Babcock’s inevitable plan to pull the Bruins out of their physical, space denial game.

 

Detroit Red Wings

It was an open question if the Red Wings would make it into the playoffs at all. The fact that they did means Mike Babcock is likely to come up short on votes but still have a great claim to the Jack Adams award for best coach. This roster was riven with injuries, is aging, and no one would have been surprised if their playoff streak finally expired. The good news for the Red Wings is that the Bruins are a good matchup for them.

Best Players

Pavel Datsyuk is not the man he was five years ago, but he is still capable of breath taking plays. Gustav Nyquist was an unknown a fistful of months ago, today he’s the guy who led the Red Wings in goal scoring despite playing just 57 games. Kronwall is one of the best hitters in the NHL and woe to anyone who doesn’t keep their head up. Daniel Alfredsson at 41 is still showing there’s gas in the tank and led the team in scoring, his 121 NHL playoff games, with 100 points in them, is more than many of the Boston Bruins defense total NHL games.

X-Factor

With the injuries they’ve suffered, and the ones they will no doubt collect in the opening games, can this team hang with a deeper squad that is just as well coached? This team had one player crack 20 goals in a Wings uniform, while the opponent had two cross 30 and two more over 20. If as the road team Babcock can consistently create the right matchups to win the series, it will be his finest coaching job to date.