Some of the biggest cities are really tight to the cap, the Bruins, Flyers, and Lightning could all use a touch more cap space to deal with. Both the Bruins and Flyers are likely to lose pieces to free agency. The Canadiens are in danger of losing Ryder and Armstrong. Boston is supposedly getting attention on Seguin, and the Lecavalier to Montreal rumors won’t die until he’s retired or the Canadiens move, unless of course he does sign there.

What We Know

(By New Divisions)

Division C

Boston: After a run to the finals with lots of injuries, and some key contracts that are due, the Bruins could be in for a bigger offseason makeover than expected. With Horton headed to free agency, questions about Seguin and a previous lack of depth at that position, the right wing position is an area of need.

Buffalo: Miller rumors persist, as do rumors of trading nearly everyone. With the eighth and sixteenth picks overall, the Sabres should be able to get at least one more building block that enters the lineup and contributes within two seasons. It is an open question if that time frame is enough to keep Regier in the general managers office.

Detroit: Moving back into the eastern conference might be an advantage in start times and travel for the Red Wings, but they are no better than the third best team in their new division. They are fortunate enough to have a solid goalie, and two stars at forward, not much else is worth noting about the team with the longest active playoff streak.

Florida: The Panthers have just about declared the starting job for Markstrom by putting Scott Clemmenson on the market. Taking home a 2nd round draft pick or solid NHL player for that trade would be great. With the 2nd pick they ought to be able to solidify one position on their team. Tallon has shown he isn’t afraid to spend on free agent so don’t be surprised by surprises in Sunrise.

Montreal: Having returned to the playoffs last year after an embarrassing hiatus they need to take a long hard look at who they expect to be the core of the team going forward. There are some clashes between players that are visible on TV, they may or may not be short-lived events. But, building around a hollow center isn’t the best of ideas. It may feel wrong to do it, but making a move to ship out a good soldier or two for more cap space, less conflict and younger picks or prospects might be the best thing to do. The Norris trophy winner also has just one year left on his contract.

Ottawa: The first two questions the Senators leadership should be asking about any player they want to sign or draft are: can they stay healthy, and are we sure about that? From there fitting them into the roster or the farm system is the next step. With a bit more health the Senators might just have knocked off the Penguins. Adding a veteran playoff competitor like Briere, or Horton might push this team to the next level.

Tampa Bay: With the expiration of the Southeast division, the Lightning find themselves more in need than ever of improving a threadbare defense. In the last three seasons they’ve finished 28th, 30th, and 21st. They’ll be drafting in the lottery forever at that rate. Swapping for defense with a team deep at the position like St Louis or adding veteran Andrew Ference would be a step in the right direction.

Toronto: They made one of the more interesting moves of the offseason by picking up Bernier. Some say there was no need and Reimer was good enough, neither Nonis nor I agree. They have a clutch of offensively gifted defenseman, a lot of roster space, and decisions to be made on Tyler Bozak, Nazem Kadri and most the defense they iced last year. They are in a position of great flexibility but also a lot of vulnerability. The next two weeks will likely tell us how long it will be before the Maple Leafs next playoff appearance.

Division D

Carolina: With the Staal brother, Semin, Skinner, and Tlusty offense won’t be an issue for this team so long as Faulk and his henchmen can get the puck out of their own zone and away from the triage unit that served as goalies last season. Improving the defense could come at the cost of Ruutu or several draft picks. For the first time in recent memory the Hurricanes don’t have a huge amount of cap space either. With the new divisions configuration, they need to act and act smart.

Columbus: The Blue Jackets came within 2 points of getting into the playoffs last year. The most important thing they can do is to sign their goaltender Bobrovsky, after that getting some scoring and puck distributing touch up front will make them a much better team. With three first round picks 14, 19, and 27 as well as their own 44th pick, via trade or draft this should be a productive weekend for ‘Lumbus. If Lecavalier could be landed at a reasonable cap hit together with Dubinsky the team team could have a very strong 1-2 punch at center.

New Jersey: The Devils are rumored to have two suitors interested in buying the “financially stable” team. Its unknown what impact that will have on team activity over the next week to ten days, but the team has enough holes almost anything is a good move. A slick passing center to maximize Kovalchuk’s shot, an aggressive defender or two to keep Broduer from having to work to hard, a future goaltender so the team doesn’t experience its own Flyers like run of disasters in net going for stop gap after stop gap. It might just be a good idea to resign Henrique and Clarkson before to long too.

New York Islanders: The  Islanders really should reup with Hamonic, and if at all possible swing a deal for another blueliner with playoff experience. It also might not hurt to have an NHL worthy goaltender under contract. It is likely the empty forward roster spots will be filled with the return of some combination of Boyes, Bailey, Aucoin and prospects.  Hickey was a solid find too, his contract is up as well.

New York Rangers: A new coach is coming, and no one knows what he’ll bring to the roster. It is hoped he can perform some necromancy on the powerplay and get it to shamble along. Brad Richards is being given one more chance after playing less minutes and posting less points against the Bruins than their enforcer Shawn Thornton. Former coach John Torterella said the team wasn’t “stiff” enough. With most key position filled, the Rangers can afford to be picky with free agents, but might want to get a head start on locking up core players. Only one defenseman is signed beyond next season,  neither goalie is, and there are just three forwards who are.

Philadelphia: The bloodletting began with the Bryzgalov and Briere being bought out. It is unlikely to end any time soon as this team is a disaster cap wise and not much better on the ice. To make matters worse Coburn is one of the names most active on the rumor mill and their defense is not pretty even with him.

Pittsburgh: Kris Letang has the gratitude of Penguins scribes for giving them something to write about. He’s rejected long term huge money deals. I’ll be shocked if he’s a Penguin on opening night and even more shocked if he’s still there after the trade deadline. The Penguins still need to come to terms with the issues with Fleury, and there is something wrong with the mental makeup of this team when the playoffs arrive. They’ve lost composure and the ability to play at both ends of the ice in the same game over the last three post seasons. Maybe they should reacquire Gill and Scuderi?

Washington:  Oates had done solid work rehabilitating this team, but he can only work with what he’s given. A big roster shakeup is overdue for this team. Regardless of what they say to the media, there is too big a gap between their regular season scoring and their post season scoring for this team to believe in itself. Without that swagger you just can’t win in May or June.

The unrestricted free agent market tends to be where NHL general managers make their most interesting, and often fatal mistakes.  The right wings in this market represent a very strong crop. There are at least three who were in the top twenty for scoring at their position, some of whom were on pretty bad teams most or all of last season.

Jarome Iginla

While the entire Penguins roster evaporated in second round, and that might not give teams the greatest confidence in him, he did put up 10 points over his first twelve playoff games since 2009. In Calgary was a winger he took a lot of faceoffs and was at times their best man on the dot. Another seven million dollar a year contract is probably not in the cards, but two to three years at five per year is not an undue risk

Michael Ryder

The former Dallas Star, Boston Bruin and Montreal Canadien managed to tie for 14th in scoring for right wings with one of his teammates from the Stars, Jaromir Jagr. Not as physical as most forwards he still holds one of the fastest releases in the NHL. Most times when he gets his shot off there is no warning at all. At 33 he’s still young enough that if you believe he’ll stay healthy and motivated a five or six year contract is worth considering if you don’t want to deal with a roster spot for a few years.

Brad Boyes

Perhaps the most enigmatic UFA this year, Boyes is capable of outstanding offense, silly turnovers, sound but not stellar play in all zones, and being completely invisible. With 30% less games played than the previous year in Buffalo he put up 30% more points this season with the New York Islanders. It seems noteworthy that he’s been collecting more of his points of late as a setup man, so perhaps teams that have a shooting center versus a playmaker might want to sign the 31 year old, former 40 goal man.

Nathan Horton

Without even looking at his current skill set Horton is worth signing for two reasons that can contribute to his next teams success; he went high in the ultra-deep 2003 draft and he’s been part of a Stanley Cup win. Add in a willingness to play through pain, playoff experience as a top contributor, and having spent years at the bottom of the barrel to feed his hunger and you’ve got a compelling package. He’s still got his shot, he’ll play physically, has played at center in the past as well as his normal right wing slot. With the right linemates he’s still got thirty goal potential.

Pascal Dupuis

At thirty four having had his two best seasons in the last two years, its probably safe to call Dupuis a late bloomer. The forty five goals in just two years represent 25% of his career total in a career that is two games short of 800. The versatile Quebec native has a strong two way game, is a good penalty killer, plays on the penalty kill and has been pretty healthy throughout his career. A team willing do double his $1.5 million a year salary and sign him for multiple years is likely to end up with a guy who will be happy to sign and play hard every night.

David Clarkson

Speaking of late bloomers, the undrafted David Clarkson toiled as a bottom six player for years. Two seasons ago he gets elevated minutes in the wake of an unremitting string of injuries to the Devils forwards. How does he respond? He tosses up a thirty rack of goals. After that ‘fluke’ he put up fifteen goals in the lockout shortened season a stat in which he lead the Devils. At 29, he’s got several more good years left in him.

Teemu Selanne

While it is likely his list of choices this summer are A: return to the Ducks or B: Retire with maybe, just maybe C: play in Europe a distant third, no one expects Selanne to do anything but one of the first two options. Diligent general mangers will still place a call, but it should be regarded as strictly pro forma.

Jaromir Jagr

Anyone expecting the top flight goal scorer of ten or fifteen years ago is sorely out of touch. He is however a quality playmaker, almost immovable when he’s got the puck, and one of the most underrated passers in the NHL. On a team that gets a lot of powerplays he could be a difference maker. Seeing him dive into the pile to protect the net this post season should be enough to convince people he’s still playing because he’s hungry and not that he just doesn’t know what else to do with himself.

Welcome to the Second Season, unlike most years, the second season for the best teams will run nearly half the length of the regular season.

#1 vs. #8

The Pittsburgh Penguins marched determinedly through the regular season, attempting to keep pace with the western powers. Malkin, Crosby, Letang and other key players all missed games due to injury. Crosby is out least for game one, and Jarome Iginla will be playing in the post season for the first time in almost half a decade.

The Islanders haven’t seen the post season in so long you have to wonder how many members of the staff at Nassau had vaction plans this week and next. Sixteen players will be making their playoff debut, including nearly all of their key forwards, and several of their battered blueliners. From the blueline, only three gentlemen appeared in all 48 games this season; Mark Streit age 35, Andrew MacDonald, and 22 year old Travis Hamonic who’s in his third season for the Islanders.

Players to watch:

With Crosby out, the cameras may actually grace other Penguins, Neal is a human highlight reel, Brandon Sutter is finally making himself comfortable in the NHL, and Chris Kunitz quietly led the team in goals in the regular season.

For the Islanders if you aren’t already a member of the United Temple of Taveres; get familiar. The 2009 #1 overall has outpaced his class across the board, he’s got 20 more goals than the second place goal scorer from his class, and almost three times as many as 4th place. On the backend Vishnovsky and Streit are more than capable of being momemtum changers in any zone.

Edge:

The Penguins should win this series. But that depends on Marc Andre Fleury turning in a useful playoff performence. In the last three years his sv% has been awful, despite reasonable regular season numbers, .834, .899, .891 are useful but only for making sure your team gets plenty of sun. The Islanders have a chance if Nabokov can out duel The Flower.

#2 vs. #7

The Montreal Canadiens had a wretched season last year, and reaped the draft rewards, American rookie Alex Galchenyuk made an instant impact, Vancouver Giants alumni Brendan Gallagher did as well. They’ve had a small downturn since Alexi Emelin injured himself, but they still held on to win the last Northeast division title.

The Ottawa Senators are probably glad they don’t have to make room on the plane for medical records. Overcoming injuries have defined this team this season. Jason Spezza is still out, Erik Karlsson is just back, and the list of who didn’t play all or most games is much longer than the list of those who did.

Players to watch:

P.K. Subban is the most electrifying player in this series, and possibly on all of the Canadian teams, Lars Eller has shown a willingness to get his nose dirty, and Michael Ryder still has one of the fastest releases in the NHL.

For the Senators, Alfredsson isn’t a player you should ever take your eyes off of, Kyle Turris led the team in goals and points, and Gonchar is still a consistent threat.

Edge:

Offensively the difference between these teams is night and day, the Canadiens had the fifth best offense in the regular season, and the Senators the fourth worst. On the other hand the Senators finished second in goals against, while the Canadiens were a pedestrian 14th. Craig Anderson has better post season numbers, and should be able to snatch a game or two, but the Habs should win it.

#3 vs. #6

When it comes to winning the Southeast Division, the Washington Capitals have had that locked down for most of its existance, it seems only fitting they should finish its last season on top. Unfortunately, that’s all they seem to be able to win. Maybe this year with a rejuvinated Ovechkin, a mature Carlson and Alzner, and most miraculously a healthy Green they can turn in a good performence.

Last year the New York Rangers went to the Eastern Conference finals, and but for the skill of Adam Henrique, might have gone further. Some might consider it a problem when their 12th best paid forward leads the team in scoring, especially when that player makes roughly 10% of their highest paid forward, for the Rangers, that’s just the way things are.

Players to watch:

The Caps bost a potent offense, and a bit more grit than they are given credit for, Troy Brouwer was second in goals this season, Chimera had a big season last year, and Backstrom has finally started to round back into All Star form.

While Stepan led the Rangers in scoring, Richards, Nash and Callahan have got to be due for an offensive explosion at some point, right?

#4 vs. #5

The Boston Bruins had a heap of distractions towards the end of the season with bombings, blizzards and forever long pregame ceremonies, which might excuse their poor play if it hadn’t been a season long occurance. The positives for the Bruins are that they are pretty healthy physically. The negative is that no one knows where their collective head is.

The Maple Leafs are making their return to the playoffs. Lots of this team hasn’t played in the playoffs at all, and some who have aren’t all that good in the second season. Lupul and Van Riemsdyk have the most playoff experience, Kessel is a point per game player in the playoffs, but he’ll have to get over his ineffectiveness against Chara and Boston in a hurry to keep that going.

Players to watch:

For the Bruins, everyone is waiting on Soderberg to make his impact felt, but he may well sit, watch Bergeron per usual, and see if Ference and Lucic can keep up their snarl.

The Maple Leafs have woefully underused Grabovski this season, and he might just be the key to winning this series, Kadri and Gunnarsson should also be in your crosshairs.

Edge:

The Bruins played poorly down the stretch, but the Leafs are new as a team to the playoffs, and have a bug in their heads about the Bruins. Expect a lot of physical play and for the team that wants it more to win.

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.

 

With the Bruins slump now entering its seventh week, its time to consider something I didn’t think I’d find myself endorsing at any point this season. Unfortunately with the loss of Peverley piled upon the loss of Horton, it’s past time to examine the idea. The Bruins need to break up Bergeron’s line. It has been the top line for the Bruins all season, however as things stand there is a decided lack of NHL proven skill and speed on the other lines.

Ideally the lines would shake out like this:

  • Lucic – Bergeron – Caron
  • Marchand – Kelly – Hennessy
  • Pouliot – Krejci – Seguin

For the first line, Bergeron gets to keep one of the top two goal scorers for the team this season, and both his new left and right wingers shoot from the same side as his current wingers. We need to know what Caron’s true talent level is, and he’s defensively responsible enough to put out against top and second lines even if he’s not going to score much.

The second line gives Kelly the type of speed he’s used to from Peverley, and a physical presence in both Hennessy and Marchand. With his ability to win faceoffs, they can control the puck and the pop them past the goalie. Again with Marchand and Kelly on the line we have enough of a defensive presence to keep the gents behind the bench happy, and off all the players in the Bruins system Hennessy has spent the most time playing with Kelly from their days in the Senators system.

Krejci lines up with a similar dynamic to the line he had early success with while playing pivot for Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder. Some speed, some physicality and two guys he’ll have to work to keep up with. In Seguin he’s also paired with a player happy to take up the burden of shooting the puck multiple times a shift. If Pouliot is on a line with a high end scoring threat, it will open him up further and he may get a few more goals.

While this won’t fix lack of effort, won’t fix players not going to the net, and won’t fix defensive issues, it will however make it harder to shut down the forward lines. Spreading out the offense and making it more difficult for the opposition to simply throw the best defensive unit they have against the Bergeron line and pushing the other lines to the outside. The change in linemates might just spur certain players who are performing well below their expected level of play might make it back to something like their desired level play.

This is a feature that will run about every two weeks with improbable stats and situations in the National Hockey League.

Teams:

  • there would be three eastern conference teams in playoff position who did not make the playoffs last year: Ottawa, Toronto, New Jersey
  • only two teams would be in position to make the playoffs in the west who did not make it last year: St Louis and Minnesota
  • on today’s date the New York Islanders 5.4% would statistically have a better chance at the playoffs than the Buffalo Sabres 3.2%
  • the Montreal Canadiens and Buffalo Sabres would be the two northeast teams most likely to be in the NHL entry draft lottery
  • the Washington Capitals, Boston Bruins, San Jose Sharks would all have records no better than .500 over their last ten and still hold their division lead
  • three of the top ten powerplays by percent in the NHL would belong to non playoff teams: #2 Edmonton Oilers, #7 New York Islanders, #9 Colorado Avalanche
  • the team that had allowed the most shorthanded goals 13, and 5 more than the next nearest team the New Jersey Devils would be in playoff position
  • Of the top five teams in blocked shots, only one would also be among the five that allowed the least goals, the New York Rangers

Players:

  • Sam Gagner would enter play today with more goals than Patrick Kane
  • Brooks Laich of the Washington Capitals would be trailing Blake Wheeler of the Winnipeg Jets in goals, assists, points, hits and PIMS
  • 39 year old Ray Whitney would be the highest scoring player in the entire Pacific division and twentieth in the NHL
  • of the top five goal scorers in the NHL the oldest would be the creaky and distinguished 25 year old Evgeni Malkin
  • three of the four top shorthanded goal scorers would all play for the same team: Adam Henrique, Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk
  • the three defensemen facing the toughest competition by Corsi would be: Jay Bouwmeester, Chris Butler, Sheldon Souray
  • four members; Jamie Benn, Loui Eriksson, Michael Ryder, Mike Ribeiro, of the Dallas Stars would have as many or more points as departed “star” Brad Richards
  • of the five goalies with the most wins, two would be Americans and only one Canadian

… which if any would you have believed?

Before the Phil Kessel trade, there was the David Krejci contract. A furor rolled across message boards for weeks. He should get paid more than whatever Kessel got, he should get more than Bergeron or even Savard were the top ends of hubris. Krejci should get get less than any of them. He’s lazy, he’s slow. He’s the best passer, he’s a great shooter. He’s the second coming of Lafontaine, he’s the second coming of Bochenski. It was a great deal of noise was even louder than it was disjointed.

Then he got a modest contract. And earned it. At three million and change he was well worth it as a second or third type center. In that role he was solid. Then Bergeron hit his stride offensively. Then Savard went down. But, Krejci was between new comer and 30 goal scorer Nathan Horton and the resurgent Milan Lucic. At times they were the best line in hockey last season. At times they were the best paid line per point in Boston. Lucic battled through a breathing problem, and the lines play was generally solid but even in the playoffs where Krejci eeked out the most points on the team, no one called him the most impactful forward game in game out.

Way back in October when everyone got a hall pass on the opening weeks of the season as part of the Stanley Cup hangover. Then Krejci was given a day or two off for a nagging injury. He was eventually called out along with Nathan Horton for lax play by Julien. He had a solid six week run mysteriously just after he signed a contract that will pay him more than any other Bruins forward. Since then he’s reverted to the hangover form. Against the Capitals, he was shuffled to playing with Benoit Pouliot the twice discarded, and Jordan Caron  who has bounced between the Boston ice, the AHL and the pressbox.

Claude Julien says there’s no message:

“I don’t think there’s really any message other than we expect our players to come out and be the best they can every night,” Julien said. “That’s something that I think they owe it to the organization especially based on their contracts. That’s what we expect from them no matter where they are. The message should be the same whether he plays with certain players, his normal linemates or other players.”

But does anyone believe that? Claude Julien is the last coach to throw a guy to the media lions, but he will do it. As we saw with other players of variable effort level, it is a tactic he clearly dislikes and uses only as a must. We saw it with Wideman, we saw it with Ryder. We’ve certainly seen him do it with Seguin, Kessel and even Marchand, but he’s not going to do it until he feels he’s got no choice.

What do: David Krejci and Matt Bartkowski have in common? They are the only two players to lace up the skates for the Bruins this season and not manage at least an even +/-. Bartkowski was universally deemed not yet NHL ready. Which makes Krejci’s performance on the NHL’s goal differential leader more telling. A guy who led the NHL in scoring in the playoffs, but can’t manage positive contribution in the regular season isn’t lacking in skill. There is the possibility that another nagging injury like the hip he had off season surgery for exists.  If that is the case it does him a lot of credit to still be on the ice. Injury as the cause also would make the locker room, and staff pretty tight lipped as I’ve not heard a whisper of it.

In the last ten games, he’s been held to 1 or 0 shots on goal seven times. This is from a guy who’s getting as many as 18 minutes a night. By comparison, Rich Peverley has only been held to 1 or 0 three times. In that same ten games, Peverley has twenty shots on goal, Krejci just ten. The revealing thing about the shot disparity is that Peverley plays a lot more time short handed, and is pushed out to the point in their nearly identical powerplay time. A more one to one comparison to another center is that Bergeron has 18 shots on goal in the last ten games.

So the question becomes:

Message and malingering?

No message and it’s not Krejci?

Injury being disguised?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yesterday afternoon the Bruins front office set of a wave of speculation. All they had to do was let the hockey universe know they were going to be holding a press conference today at 6pm. No one I’ve seen, or heard knows anything and the lines of speculation are both long and distinguished. Some of the more plausible ones include:

  • A trade, either major along the lines of acquiring a number 2 or 3 defenseman, or goal scorer to help finish when on the powerplay. Or just a shakeup move or shuffling of excess and or disappointing parts .Andrew Alberts and Chuck Kobasew were all traded early in the season under Chiarelli. Peter also pulled off some last years key trades well in advance of the deadline, so a settling in period is clearly part of his philosophy.
  • A contract extension for someone in management. I could be his, or someone else.
  • A change in parts of the coaching staff.
  • Injury updates: Marc Savard being the most discussed, but some have pointed out Krejci and Mcquaid’s injuries as cause for concern as well questioning the extent to which Rask is recovered.
  • Others have wondered about health of off ice personnel and management.

Trade talk has focused on a few specific people, without the overwhelming, ridiculous, and flat out wrong push given in notable quarters to the acquisition of Tomas Kaberle. While that doesn’t mean this won’t be a major trade, it is entirely possible the trade won’t be for who is most speculated.

  • Ryan Whitney of the Edmonton Oilers is a big contributor from the backend. He’s been in the 40 point range most seasons, and peaked at 59. Points wise that lines him right up with Zdeno Chara, he’s also a 28 year old Boston native with a four million dollar cap hit this year and next.
  • Daniel Alfredsson is one of the more interesting players speculated. Age and injury history make the amount of time and money left on his contract risky, but the fact he’s still up to playing over 19 minutes a game which is comparable to Patrice Bergeron who is more than a decade younger is solid counter balance. Add to that Chiarelli’s days in Ottawa, the fact he was worn the C even through all the nastiness the last few years there, and that he is well known to Chara and Kelly and you bring the appeal a bit higher. He was a big part of the Senators “golden years” when they were crushingly dominant, but at 38 has still not won a Cup.
  • Rene Bourque (no relation) of the Calgary Flames has his name floated about in trade talks about as often as Michael Ryder did after his first season here, and for similar reasons. When he’s good, he’s damned good, when he’s not he’s almost invisible. His cap hit is reasonable considering he’s produced two straight 27 goal seasons on team with questionable centers.

Those are the three most reasonable and frequently speculated trades. Some others possibilities exist, and are at least to me more interesting.

  • The New York Rangers are sputtering. They may have beat the Jets last night, but through seven games they’ve only scored fourteen goals. As much as they like having Dubinsky and Callahan are very similar players playing on the same line and it is possible a different player might be what is needed to give the team some mojo. Neither is playing particularly well, both play center and wing, often alternating during the game. Both were recently signed, but Sather and company can’t have too much room left on the leash after the way the team has ended the last couple seasons.
  • Kyle Turris is frequently named in speculation since the Phoenix Coyotes and he have yet to reach an agreement, but I don’t find this likely given how many times the GM has said he’d rather let Turris sit the year than trade him.
  • The Columbus Blue Jackets have just about flatlined. They have 1 point in eight games, have allowed more goals than any team in the league, and spent a lot of money in the off season specifically so they could see more teams below them in the standings than above them. Of the players they might be willing to move, R.J. Umberger is former Flyer with a lot of playoff experience who has the center/wing experience that the Bruins management favors, I suspect going back would be defensemen and maybe a goalie.
  • The Nashville Predators have a lot of big decisions to make both as management and players. Pekka Rinne and Ryan Suter will be UFA’s if not signed by July 1, Shea Weber will be an RFA with arbitration rights. Weber has indicated he only wants to stay if they are committed to winning, I can’t imagine Suter and Rinne have said or done anything different. While I don’t expect we’d land any of them, a couple draft picks from a team that might finish outside the playoffs in exchange for parts of our system that don’t fit could be win-win for both teams.
  • Another team that for the sake of it’s long term survival, and recent change in ownership can’t be ignored in any trade speculation, especially given how much change there was in Buffalo when Pegula took over is the Winnipeg Jets. They aren’t an expansion team, but they might as well be, and they will need to to keep the fan base very satisfied with such a small building to draw revenue from.