The rumor mill insists that Peter Chiarelli is trying to move Brad Marchand. The Boston Bruins drafted Marchand 71st in the 3rd round of the 2006 draft. Taken ahead of him were Phil Kessel in the first round, Milan Lucic in the second, Yuri Alexandrov who has even sniffed the NHL. Kessel is second in scoring in that draft, Milan Lucic is sixth in scoring, and Marchand is 16th.

When looking at Marchand it is important to note he’s played about 190 less NHL games than Lucic and almost 300 less than Kessel. Kessel has recently been flipped for Eriksson, Smith, Knight, Hamilton. Lucic has turned into a solid two way player who’s skating is so improved over his first year in the NHL he’s almost unrecognizable. Lucic has also been put on the teams top offensive line for the past four seasons. Marchand started on the fourth line, and has worked his way to the teams premier two way line alongside Patrice Bergeron. In the past three years he’s played with the ‘still maturing’ Tyler Seguin, and two grey beards; Jaromir Jagr and Mark Recchi. Neither of whom managed even respectable speed two shifts in a month.

Pure points wise, there is so little reason to move Marchand it is absolutely silly to even discuss it.

Using the past three seasons his points per game start at .532 ppg over 77 games with 21 goals, 2 of them powerplay and five shorthanded. This is the season he spent the first 20 games or so on the fourth line.  Two season ago with regular time on Bergeron’s wing he jumped to .732 points per game, and 5 powerplay goals. In the lockout shortened season he again jumped up the points per game meter even though he spent the tail end of the season with Jagr and a couple games without Bergeron, this tail off left him with a slim and disturbing .8 points per game. This in a year where the compressed schedule brutalized players across the NHL.

Career wise, within the same system, Marchand handily beats Lucic. Lucic is a solid .59 ppg taking all regular season NHL games played into the measure, and Marchand is at .61. When you add in speed, the ability to play both shorthanded and on the powerplay, and a willingness to play physically clearly he has value. At 25, he’s in about the prime of his career, his .8ppg this year were probably among the most efficient in the NHL as he played just under 17 minutes a night.

Price wise he’s making a middling $4.5m. Other players in the range are Ryan Malone, David Legwand, Vincent Lecavalier, Erik Cole and Tomas Fleishmann

  • Marchand produced a point about every 21.19 minutes of ice time including over 57 minutes of short handed ice time.
  • Malone produced a point about once every 47.125 minutes of ice time including 19 minutes of short handed time.
  • Lecavalier produced a point about every 21.78 minutes of ice time including over 7 minutes of short handed ice time.
  • Cole produced a point about every 36.384 minutes of ice time including over 38 minutes of short handed ice time.
  • Legwand produced a point about every 35.36 minutes of ice time including over 51 minutes of short handed ice time.
  • Fleishmann produced a point about every 25.586 minutes of ice time including over 41 minutes of short handed ice time.

Of the players perpetually rumored to be available, some just don’t make sense even if you take theoretical off ice issues into consideration:

  • Evander Kane; very talented but has a cap hit that’s three quarters of a million dollars higher, just is as good defensively. And then there’s the Winnipeg media’s ever expanding repertoire of maneuvers to discredit him or drive him out of town.
  • Bobby Ryan; he was just moved and it highly doubtful the Senators would trade him within the division. He’s also a right wing where as Marchand has played his NHL career at left.
  • Dustin Byfuglien; a unique talent who can impact the game from defense or right wing. He’s got a larger salary than Marchand, and I just don’t see Julien configuring the lineup to play him at both wing and defense.
  • Kris Versteeg; a solid NHL forward who seems to wear out his welcome in short order, his salary is $100k smaller than Marchand’s.
  • Sam Gagner; while still unsigned, and a solid NHL player, I don’t see the Bruins trading for a player who is due a larger raise and hasn’t played in a system with a viable defensive element.
  • Keith Yandle; with ownership and the arena nailed down it is unlikely they start moving central pieces, especially not with the teams heavy reliance on their blueline.
  • Thomas Vanek; if the Sabres are really going to push their rebuild, he’s a logical player to move, but with one season left on a contract worth more than $7million, he’d create almost as many problems as he’d solve with just his contract.
  • Matt Duchene/Paul Stastny: both are solid offensive centers but neither fits the Bruins system, both need new contracts next year and both have question marks.

Is it possible to move Marchand and remain a contender? Yes of course. Is the return on him likely to be better at the same price or less? No, certainly not in terms of immediate NHL impact. If he is to be moved, there are only about five or six reasonable return, but it is unlikely anyone parts with them. Wayne Simmonds plays hockey perfectly to fit in Boston, Ryan Kesler shifted to wing would do well but Kesler’s injury history is long and distinguished, the Los Angeles Kings Matt Greene would be an instant fan favorite, and Marchand would give the Kings some much needed speed.

Is this a stupid rumor? Probably yes. But hey, when the hockey rumor mill gets boring, and you’ve analyzed stats  until your eyes cross there’s always People of Walmart, it is no better or worse than (most of) the NHL rumors but it is different.

I noticed a curious trend in the last decade. Few of the young players, say twenty five and under who won the Cup seemed to be major impact players later on. At the same time, players who won a bit later were contributing again and again to at least deep runs. Take Rob Scuderi and Mark Recchi as players who won the Cup towards later, and we’ll look at a few of the players who won young below.

While injuries have played a big part in the recent history of the Pittsburgh Penguins, its hard to argue that Marc-Andre Fleury is not playing well below the level he did when they last hoisted a banner. Oddly, the Cup win represents only a mediocre set of numbers for Fluery. The year before in a loss he finished with a save percentage of .933. In winning the cup he dipped to a pedestrian .908sv% and that represents the last time he was above .900sv% in the post season the trend in games played in the post season and overall performance is not pretty either, this season his save percentage was .834 and that’s about as unlovely as it gets.

Eric Staal was in his second NHL season when the Carolina Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup. In that season he crushed out 100 points. On special teams he was magic, 19 powerplay goals and 4 short handed goals are more goals than most players will total in a season, the rest of his 45 goals that year came at even strength. In the playoffs he had 28 points in 25 games. Since then he’s only been in the playoffs once more, and has never again been over a point per game.

Patrick Kane peaked in the year the Chicago BlackHawks ended their drought. He had 30 regular season goals and 88 points in the regular season. In the post season on his way to sending the Philadelphia Flyers home with heads hung low he had an eye popping 28 points in 22 games. In the two seasons since he too has trended downwards. He didn’t score a single goal in this years playoffs, this isn’t what was expected when the Blackhawks brain trust drafted him.

For the Los Angeles Kings, the players who entered this season under twenty five are, Anze Kopitar, Alec Martinez, Trevor Lewis, Jordan Nolan, Dwight King, Drew Doughty, Slava Voynov, Andrei Lokitinov, Kyle Clifford. New Jersey Devils fans may or may not want to be a bit more relaxed about the question, with just Mark Fayne, Adam Henrique, Adam Larsson and Jacob Josefson having entered the season under twenty five.

Am I 100% convinced that winning the Cup at a young age is bad for players? No, but it does factor in. And you really have to ask yourself how could it not sap the motivation at least a little? You aren’t even old enough to rent a car in some states or get good car insurance rates, all your friends are still in high school or college or maybe working some entry level job and you’ve just taken home the hardest trophy to win in sports. Having won a cup you’re assured of getting multimillion dollar contracts until at least two years past the point anyone else would have been forced to retire, and you’ll have a nice piece of bling for your hand to remind you of how great you were once.

The Long View

When you look at some of the other teams to win the cup recently and what they did in their next year, most of it isn’t pretty. Duncan Keith had a bad year after the Cup win, by comparison Chara’s average to slightly above year is pretty nice.  Zetterberg played two more games, and scored 20 less points they year after winning the Cup, Lucic has 12 games left to the season and is only 9 points off of last years total.  Marc-Andre Fluery’s save percentage took a tumble  year over year, oddly enough he started off the year strong, and had a stumble with a train wreck of a month towards this time of year  and then bounced back in his post-Cup year. Even Nicklas Lidstrom had a down year in the post-Cup year.

With all the travel that the Bruins saw for the Eastern Conference finals schlepping back and forth from far north to far south in the US, not to mention a seven game series started without their best forward, then added to the cross continental 3 time zone shift four times and seven games and losing a top winger its not surprising they are having issues even this long later. Detroit, Chicago, and Pittsburgh all had much shorter trips between home and away. Chicago played Philly, Pittsburgh and Detroit played each other both years and none of those cities are all that far apart. The year after their Cup wins, Detroit finished with less points, Chicago finished not just with less points but made the playoffs on the last day.  As disconcerting as what we’re seeing is, it isn’t unprecedented or even as bad as it could be.

Trickle Down Weariness

The injury front presents a couple less apparent problems. Nathan Horton and Rich Peverley both went out it put bigger than apparent holes in the team. Horton’s physicality and size on a a team that is pretty small up front can’t be be overlooked. Of the top nine forwards left, when he went out only Lucic was over 200lbs. Krejci, Marchand, (Hamill), Seguin are all under 190lbs. Taking away that added ability to not just throw big hits, but withstand them and maintain control of the puck is huge. Add in his willingness to drop the gloves and pound the snot out of someone and you’ve got a second problem. The elephant in the room however is his powerplay production. Despite the slow start and the time missed, he’s still third on the team in powerplay goals.

Rich Peverley’s injury created it’s own fault lines and widened the ones left by the loss of Horton. Rich Peverley’s speed has always put him in the top tier of the NHL’s forwards. Unlike a lot of the company he keeps there he has not just straight line speed but an ability to go side to side and make sudden stops and starts that is very nearly unparallelled. Taking that speed and agility out means you’re left with Marchand and Seguin in the top nine with game changing speed, both of whom are smaller than Peverley and one of whom isn’t nearly as physical. When you drill into the stats and look at who does what on the team you find he’s still second in powerplay assists despite almost a month out. What’s worse is where he plays his special teams time. Most of his powerplay time is done at the point allowing one or more defensemen to rest, and he has averaged nearly two minutes a game of shorthanded time on ice.  That extra time has either gone to the already burdened Bergeron or Kelly, or slipped to Krejci and Marchand.

Caution Contents Easily Damaged

As if the physical injuries weren’t bad enough, the teams psyche has gotten fragile enough to make Rick Dipietro look like the model for endurance. The game against the Florida Panthers they put in their best effort in weeks right up until the Panthers second goal went in. Then  the Panthers could have been replaced by some the Lincoln Stars of the USHL, and still lost the game. I have no idea where the team that saw Nathan Horton get nearly decapitated at center ice and then come back to curb stomp the opposition went. Michael Ryder, Kaberle and Recchi moving on are insufficient reason for this many guys who have been there and done that to fall apart at the first sign of things not going their way.

Sluggish Metrics

The powerplay that had been in the top third of the league before the slump is now 14th. The penalty kill that was top five is now ninth. In comparison to the playoffs last year their hitting is down, as are their blocked shots. Worse what they are doing in front of the net is creating problems for the the goalies. Instead of committing to blocking a shot or letting the goalie see it, skaters are routinely setting screens. The puck will go in off their body or between two or more Bruins skaters on the way to the net. The shot shirking is bad enough it reminds me of various thankfully departed defensemen from years past.

Open Armed Welcome

When opposing players get to the crease, behind the net in that god awful trapezoid, or park themselves in the low slot no one does anything. It isn’t just Corvo who looks at opponents and wonders how long they have to think about getting a good draft at The Greatest Bar before whoever it is goes away. The softest most contact aversive forward in the league can now stand anywhere he likes and know for certain no one will drop him on his backside. Skate into the crease after the whistle? No problem. I’m honestly surprise the guys haven’t put a visitors sports bottle on the net for them.

Front Of Leadership

I think the trade deadline sent a very clear message to the team:

Front Office Message

We’ve got our hands over our eyes.

The best piece they traded away was Steve Kampfer, and got less in return. What the brought in were pieces they clearly don’t see any real use for. None of the three has a contract that runs past the end of the season. None of the three addresses a need at the time or now. Rolston does not have Horton’s physicality. Rolston does not have Peverley’s speed. Rolston also does not have their scoring ability.  Zanon and Mottau haven’t eased Chara’s penalty kill minutes. Zanon and Mottau haven’t taken up any of the scoring slack on a very low scoring defense. Zanon and Mottau aren’t injecting any real speed, physicality or poise into the lineup. When you come right down to it these guys fit the team the arrived too and not the team that is supposed to be here.

 

Like everyone else I’m sick to death of hearing about the Bruins Cup Hangover. I’m even more sick of the absolutely asinine statement that we need to go out and find another Recchi. First, there aren’t many 40+ players in the league dying for a third Stanley Cup who have recently mentored two superstar forwards in two different cities. There are even less who possess an indomitable work ethic, a hall of fame resume walking in the door, and the rare at any age or talent level ability to command respect simply by breathing.  Obviously the cure is going to need to be something different.

The most likely solutions given the Bruins management style, the players current status and the performance of other teams are:

  1. A small trade that takes someone off the roster and moves them for a player with a slightly different skillset but not one of the core players.
  2. A move from within that sends one or more players packing and promotes someone from Providence (or if we’re going to be guilty of hubris the CHL) as either a permanent solution or a stop gap until closer to the deadline
  3. Medium trade of no more than one or two top six forwards or top four defensemen (with or without picks and prospects attached) for another player or players who can fill those roles.
  4. A blockbuster trade that involves players getting more than five million a year, All Star level talent or involves three or more roster players on at least one of the teams, honestly not likely, but still possible if the right pieces fell into place or it turned into one of those now very rare three team deals.

Of teams and players who might be shopping or looking for a shakeup themselves here’s a few that might fall into the mix.

The Kings are reportedly shopping Dustin Penner, and getting the third line a stable left winger over constant juggling of a prospect and this years hope for magical coaching, could have larger effects. Good news: Pretty healthy over all, has hit the 30 goal mark in the past. Bad news: not especially physical clearly in a slump or not fitting in with LA. I wonder if they’d take the future considerations we got for Sturm in trade?

If we’re going to insist on getting older, why not go with one of Tim Thomas’s contemporaries and neighbors while flashing back to before the lockout? Brian Rolston would be a solid leader, good mentor and as long as he wasn’t allowed to take slap shots in practice good for the team in a number of ways, including likely the powerplay.  Good news: Great shot, smart player. Bad news: 38 years old, 5 million cap hit, and an NTC that could make it hard to pry him loose given he’s just had another kid.

For a potentially cheap, and low risk high reward player, that we could send one of the roughly 72,345 centers in the system from Providence who might slide into their second or third line at the NHL level in exchange for one of the Senators AHL prospects, I think a call to Peter’s old stomping grounds about Filatov might be in order. He’s had an interesting couple of years, but has yet to actually play for a good team where he wasn’t clearly the most gifted offensive talent on the roster. While that isn’t quite true in Ottawa, Spezza has had his injury issues, and Alfredsson is old enough to be Filatov’s dad. Good news: Skilled, fast and likely cheap. Bad news: potential locker room issues or just plain head case depending on who you believe. (Note, was spotted in Ottawa for practice while this was being written.)

Since it’s always fashionable to draw up trades and potential trades with the Phoenix Coyotes, I guess I’ll throw one in too: Oliver Ekman-Larrson is a pretty iinteresting young defenseman. Good news: Young, has 3 goals already, is playing 18+ a night. Bad news: I can’t see the Coyotes giving him up cheap, especially not where they are getting good goal scoring as a whole.

Old friend Kris Versteeg has been in Sunrise for weeks now and despite a hot start it must be time for trade rumors to start about him. Good news: Been there, done that, only 25, RFA at the end of the year on a solid deal, currently a RW but plays some center. Bad news: There has to be a reason he’s on team three since leaving Boston for only passable returns.

With Crosby eventually returning to the lineup, and in theory a time when all three of their top centers are healthy, the Penguins are likely to need to move someone. Who? Who knows.

The Blue Jackets are a grade a mess with little true top six and top four talent and a goaltender best described as shaky. They could blow everything up either for immediate talent or lots of picks and prospects. The very well traveled Vinny Prospal is playing some of the best hockey of his career to little effect. With his 10 points in 11 games, and small cap hit, he could still bring a solid return to the team. Good news: Playing well, clearly still hungry. Bad news: 35, is currently leading the Blue Jackets in scoring.

Carter Ashton is buried in the AHL, and is the only rookie in their top five for scoring, The Tampa Bay lightning prospect might be available for defensemen or  defensive prospect since the team is deep at right wing and giving up 3.00 goals a game already this season.  Good news: Young, good size, good speed, good touch. Bad news: Probably wouldn’t come cheap.

Brandon Dubinsky is off to a slow, slow start in New York City, could Sather be talked into a mutual shakeup move? Would we be stuck taking Avery or worse Redden if that was they case? Good news: Once out of the slump would likely become a fan favorite, similar player to Bergeron. Signed for a couple years at less than I expect Krejci to get on his next contract. Bad news: Unless he’s gotten very desperate for a defenseman, say Boychuk or another NHL regular I suspect Sather either says “no” or demands an absurd return.

The New Jersey Devils are currently in twelfth place, the face of their franchise for the last two decades is under-performing, and their best home grown talent will be a UFA that get’s big, big offers if he isn’t signed buy July 1. Since no writeup of idle speculation is complete without the sensible of the surface but too ridiculous to make happen for real trade idea: Tuukka Rask for Zack Parise.

The Bruins are practicing in new lines. Some, me included, think it is well past due. The previous split had the lines falling into a top six-bottom six split that really wasn’t characteristic of how the Bruins played and won. Last year with Ryder, Horton and Bergeron on three separate lines they split the guys who had at least once scored thirty goals in the NHL.  This year with a third line on which Kelly was the highest offensive achiever, Ryder and Recchi departed the talent was compressed.

Tyler Seguin for all his growth isn’t yet ready to be a first line player against NHL competition. On a third line, the way they were constructed to start the season, he was underused and lacking in complimentary offensive talent.  As the new look lines are constructed he’d still be playing with Kelly at center and Lucic on the left wing. If Lucic has indeed come out of hibernation he’ll provide a physical presence that can’t be ignored and with Seguin’s speed the two could be just as complimentary if not more than Lucic and Kessel were.

Bergeron and Marchand are still together. I’m not sure if this is pure chemistry or if Bergeron is supposed to smack Marchand in the head when he gets out of line and there is no coach in reach but either way the two will now be skate with the man picked up when Wideman was jettisoned. Nathan Horton’s size is certainly an upgrade to Peverley. While Horton isn’t as speedy as Peverley he’s the highest scoring winger to land on Bergeron’s wing in his career.  Bergeron and Horton are two of the top ten scoring forwards from the treasure trove known as the 2003 draft and putting them together could be magic.

David Krejci’s and Rich Peverley split time at center between Pouliot on the left and Caron on the right. Assuming it finally shakes down to Caron-Krejci-Peverley you have Peverley’s top shelf speed, Caron who plays a similar game to Matt Moulson of the New York Islanders and Krejci’s high level passing and solid shooting, when he remembers too. With Pouliot the Bruins have what today looks to be a slightly smaller, slightly faster Byron Bitz. Hard working, reliable within certain parameters, but not the horse you’re gonna ride to the winners circle.

With the new line configurations you get back to something like the balance you had last season. Krejci has a better shot than he is given credit for, mainly because he seems to forget he’s allowed to shoot it. Rich Peverley has not ever played with centers as good as Bergeron and Krejci has still had solid numbers. If management is right and Pouliot can contribute at the level of Peverley or Marchand then he’ll be a great addition to this line, if he can’t he’s on a one year contract and development of Caron and other prospects should take priority.

Training camps exist for two reasons. The first is to get everyone in sync, the second is the one that is even more exciting; stirring the pot and seeing what stands out. As is the case in training camps across sports the highest draft picks, newest free agents and biggest stars get the lions share of attention, but if those people were all that mattered Ray Bourque would probably have won half a dozen Stanley Cups and not one.

Coming into this summer I had expected to watch no more than half a dozen of the young forwards vie for the last of the roster spots. With the poor showing of the Providence Bruins last season, and a draft that was likely successful, but not something we’ll be able to answer definitively for four or five seasons the attention of nearly all Bruins watchers turned to the guys who led Providence in one offensive stat or another. Some focused on a particular physical type as well. And as usual the prospects still playing in juniors who looked best back in development camp had their own spot on the watchlist.

I’m guessing very few of these lists included Lane MacDermid. His goal scoring doesn’t explain his being drafted. His assist totals are no more spectacular. Many people probably wrote him off with a dismissive comment about his PIMs totals. And yet after the intersquad scrimmage and first preseason game, he sits with the highest point total of any Bruins player. Twice assisting on goals in the scrimmage and being the lone goal scorer for the black and gold in their loss to the division rival  Ottawa Senators.  This is clearly a case of what the biggest difference between the Bruins and Canucks. Specifically, the triumph of will over skill. It may only be two games, but MacDermid has clearly decided to make the most of every moment on the ice. Equally clearly others have not.

The other prospect playing better than many expected is this years fortieth draft pick. Center and left wing Alexander Khokhlachev certainly entered camp in the shadow of the older players at camp (all of them). The young man hoping to make himself a Windsor Spitfire’s Alumni is making a good case for himself. At development camp he showed himself adept at faceoffs, passing and was willing to travel the whole ice service to make plays. In the intersquad scrimmage he potted two goals past a #1 goalie, and did it with guys who were probably not on anyones short list to replace the departed Recchi and Ryder in the top nine forwards.

It is still early days with a lot more camp left, but watching the drive of these two players has certainly made the preseason more interesting.

The ongoing saga of Brad Marchand’s dance with the Boston Bruins brass has reached the level of absurdity. No, I take that back. It passed absurdity a long time ago. Adam Mcquaid was re-signed and his existing deal wasn’t set to expire until next summer. Joe Corvo was acquired a long time ago. Sure forty goal man Benoit Pouliot was signed just days after the cup was raised. And just in-case anyone has forgotten it the 35 year Chris Clark who has a history of knee injuries was invited to training camp. Just today, the team extended Providence Bruins defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk, who went -8 with one goal last season.

While at least one of those moves was something that could be a serious positive impact on the team. Doing all of these ahead of signing a key forward who’s contract has expired is very much like sliding a chair under the doorknob to your backdoor to keep burglars out while leaving the front door, and every large window open and a trail of hundred dollar bills from the mantle to the curb. When you draft a player who’s somewhere around seventeen, what your drafting is potential and work ethic. The two don’t march in lockstep and one often fails to materialize. In the case of Brad Marchand we saw sports of both two seasons ago. Last season, when no one expected him to make the team, and he started the year in the pressbox before a stay on the fourth line. In January he was key to Patrice Bergeron earning first star in the NHL. In the post season he scored in every round of the playoffs.

So what gives? Are they hoping he might be versatile? Let’s see, he scored short handed, even strength, and on the powerplay. He delivered hits, drew penalties and blocked shots. He produced in the early season, the midseason and the late season. He produced on the fourth line, he produced with and without Bergeron on a production line.  He had two goals in game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals. He handled the media well. I suspect his jersey and tshirt have been selling quite well too.

So what’s the hold up? We know if they got the extensions for Bodnarchuk and Mcquaid done, a: the nice folks in the NHL offices are still talking to them and b: someone with the authority to sign deals has been sober enough to do so on at least two occasions. Regardless of what the hold up is, a deal could and should have been done by now. In the present day NHL there is no such thing as an unmovable contract. This applies doubly to Stanley Cup champions. If Scott Gomez and Brian Campbell can be moved with contracts that were deemed unmovable when they were signed, I can’t imagine any number that could be hung on Marchand that kept the team near the cap as currently configured.

Did Marchand suddenly become unmanageable? See above. Dany Heatley has been moved and has done far less in the playoffs. Nikita Filatov was made team captain of one of the Russian national teams despite the circumstances with the BlueJackets, then he too was traded to a rebuilding team. If there’s one thing we’ve all learned from watching the NHL the last few years it’s that if there is talent there’s a taker. So assuming the number is five million a year. That’s less than Kessel got, and Marchand has proved he’s willing to work hard with and without the puck, and be creative going to the net.

So what’s the worst that happens? With Savard’s cap space even Chara can’t reach the cap ceiling. If the number proves too much exile him to Florida where Dale Tallon is doing his usual bang-up job of cap management. Or ship him out to St Louis where he and Sobotka can shop in all the same clothing stores. Heck, given the biggest trade the Avalanche made over the summer Marchand could probably fetch a first, a second a prospect and the luxury box revenue.

Whatever the reason Marchand isn’t signed at this point, even if it is part of a sign and trade is no longer a good one. Camp opens in days. It is now a distraction to the team as well as fans and management. Why should he go into camp with his usual fire if he’s got no safety net? What about the other players? What about putting lines together, penalty kill use, and all the other roles he played? Then there is the question of how much turnover is a good thing. Given the likelihood Marchand doesn’t return that will be Marchand, Ryder, Recchi off the forward lines. That’s a lot of ice time across even strength and special teams. Essentially it is a whole forward line lost, for a team that struggled on the powerplay, and isn’t over blessed with speed letting Marchand go or having him sit out without a contract is absurd.

The Boston Bruins slayed the dragon on June 15th. They ended a Stanley Cup drought that stretched back longer than anyone on the team today has been alive. As a Stanley Cup champion they suffered injuries to the body of players that made up the winning legion. Some championship teams have been killed outright by massive loss of talent. For others, just as has been the case throughout the history of warfare disease has collected a far higher body count than enemy action. In the case of NHL teams, and certain nations throughout history victory disease is the quietest and most insidious killer.

Gone are leading powerplay producers of last season future hall of famer Mark Recchi and two time 30 goal man Michael Ryder.  Departed from the blueline is the man they paid a kings ransom for just prior to the trade deadline. In their place we have Benoit Pouliot, who’s extraordinary NHL exploits speak for themselves.  We have an empty roster spot that will possibly be filled with an AHL graduate or major junior prodigy. The blueline has actually been downgraded. As poorly as Tomas Kaberle performed he is still over the course of his the holder of greater efficacy than the Joe Corvo, and has avoided the off ice issues. Kaberle has been .13 points per game better than Corvo and even put up a better shooting percentage.

While it was nice to Adam Mcquaid extended it’s hard to say that the future of the club over the next four season would be radically degraded without him inked to an extension after his rookie season as an admirable third pairing defenseman. With Marc Savard unlikely to ever play again the same can not be said in regards to David Krejci who centered the top offensive line this season. His contract would have expired at the same time as McQuaid’s and unlike the brawny blueliner he’d have been eligible for arbitration. While he played behind the now two time Vezina Trophy winning, Jennings winning, Con Smyth winning 37 year old Tim Thomas Tuuka Rask is also probably a shade more important over the medium term than McQuaid, no rumor has reached me of an extension offer being dangled in front of him either.

The first elephant in the room is however the fact that training camp looms close ahead while the echos of celebration fade away and a forward who scored more playoff goals as a rookie than Mario Lemuix, who led the team in shorthanded goals in the regular season, and who clearly demonstrated his desire to improve year over year is still not re-signed. So far the lack of signing has been blamed on; illness, vacations, Stanley Cup days, El Nino, conflicting schedules, the hunt for the Amstel Light drinker and Brad’s ever absent shirts.  The second elephant is that several of the better teams in the eastern conference have been staging a noisy arms race since before the draft. The Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals, and Buffalo Sabres have all been hugely active in trades and free agent signings, and the Pittsburgh Penguins are going to get back not one, but two Hart Trophy winners. The Bruins who finished a slim seven points ahead of Buffalo, and behind the Flyers, Capitals, and Penguins have put pop guns into their lineup while the competition loads up with surface to air missiles.

Fans have to be wondering what the commitment of the Bruins front office is to being the first team in the post lockout era to repeat is. The Bruins powerplay still hasn’t been adequately addressed and fans across the globe still wince in memory of it. The team has downgraded the productivity of its on ice product as Corvo’s sole advantage over Kaberle is his willingness to shoot the puck, and Pouliot has yet to put together a season as good as even Recchi’s least productive. For Bruins fans, the summer of love looks to run directly into the winter of discontent.

The Boston Bruins have accomplished what every hockey player in history has dreamed of. They did it in unprecedented fashion by winning three game sevens, beating the President’s Trophy Winners in the finals and going blow for blow with their arch rivals in the opening round. All of those are great team accomplishments, they speak to the togetherness of the unit.  There are however some players who just don’t get the recognition they deserve, partly because they play so unselfishly, or because they aren’t being used to their fullest.

Over the course of his career in Boston, no player has been more consistently selfless on the ice than Patrice Bergeron. It often get’s ignored, in fact I doubt the main stream media has any clue about it, but he’s got more points in less games than media darling Ryan Kesler. This is despite the season after his first concussion that was statistically ruinous for him in any meaningful offensive category.  With the sole exception of the year he spent rolling up and down the ice with Marco Sturm and Brad Boyes he’s also been far removed from playing with high end or even above average scoring talent.

In the last few years we’ve seen him yoked to expiring offensive talents, those for whom offense is a nice after thought and those who are playing with or just returning from significant injury.  PJ Axelsson for all his huge contributions away from the puck was never going to be confused for an offensive dynamo any more than he was a supreme pugilist. Mark Recchi had several awe inspiring offensive seasons, but those were long past by the time he was make his critical contributions to the Bruins Stanley Cup run. While Brad Marchand had a solid season this year, last year he spent twenty games on Bergeron’s wing and got exactly 1 point. Fellow French Canadian Jordan Caron scored three goals in his 23 games with Boston last season. None of Caron’s goals were scored after his eighth game of the season and he was eventually reassigned to Providence.

We got glimpses of the offensively oriented version of Patrice Bergeron that has been kept cloistered by injury and line-mates last season. When Krejci was sidelined by injury, Bergeron was called upon to slide between Lucic and Horton and together the three became the most imposing line the Boston Bruins have iced since the 700lb Line.  More than that he was the NHL’s First Star for January, tossing seventeen points on the board in fourteen games with a not too shabby +13 to go with it.

On a team that’s been starved for an offensive dynamo since the days of Oats and Neely, it seems odd they’ve misplayed one so thoroughly.  You’d be hard pressed to find a comparable player that is more talked about than Ryan Kesler, and Bruins fans with varying levels of longing recall Phil Kessels offensive aptitude, and yet neither of them is as effective on a pure points per game basis. Ryan Kesler is plugging along with an average of 0.595 pts per game for his career, Phil Kessel is at 0.655 despite playing the last two seasons on a bottom feeder, and throughout all Bergeron is 0.739 points per game.

Imagine the difference maker Bergeron could be if welded to offensive players of higher output for just a moment or two.  A few other facts about one of the NHL’s most underrated players; In this years playoffs, no Bruins forward was a + player in more games, no forward had more multipoint games,  no Bruins player had more assists.

Offensively speaking, we’ve yet to see the best of Bergeron for an entire season. You have to wonder what that could be if given a lighter penalty killing load and more time on the powerplay and at five on five. The Bruins have a larder well stocked with superb players short handed, Paille, Campbell, Kelly, Peverley and Marchand spring to mind at forward, and Krejci has spent time on the PK as well. If Caron or Arniel make the team they too could be integrated into the shorthanded duties.

Based on his own play, and the talent around him on the team there is no reason to believe he can’t crack 30 goals (or more) again and or  put together a fifty assist season. The seventeen points in fourteen game rampage Bergeron went on in January if projected out to a whole season works out to 99.57 points. Just trimming back his short handed minutes to allow for fresher legs 5 on 5 might spark a serious increase in scoring. With the end of the Tim Thomas epoch just over the event horizon, added offense will be at a premium and there’s no tool more valuable than the right one in hand.