Two of the most interesting and impressive forwards of the day were Sean Kuraly and Austin Czarnik. Both are likely fighting for roster spots. The two were notable for largely the same reason; being willing and able to grab pucks around the crease and either put them in the net, or start them out of the zone. Czarnik in particular put a couple shots in the twine the goalies didn’t even have time to react to.

Rob O’Gara was paired with Kevan Miller during drills, and displayed a consistent ability to take pucks from forwards. Including some jobber named Patrice Bergeron.

Matt Grzlecyk was paired with Adam McQuaid during their session. In that time he showed off something I don’t remember noting in the past; a slick and crafty ability to disrupt shots in and a round the crease and get them moving in the right direction. On a couple of rushes he disrupted he showed off soccer feet effortlessly moving the puck from skate to skate to stick. If you’re looking for a defenseman who is solid in his two way game, and stood out today, look no further.

Paul Postma played beside Torey Krug. Postma is coming off a career high in points and games. He looked respectable. He skates well, passed well, and never looked out of place. Despite his 84 points in 74 games in his final season in the WHL, he’s yet to display much offense in either the NHL or AHL.

Some of the forward groupings (not always by position):

  • Bergeron with Marchand & Bjork
  • Beleskey – Ryan Spooner – Ted Purcell
  • Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson -David Backes – Frank Vatrano
  • Sean Kuraly – Zach Senyshyn – Tim Schaller
  • Pastrnak – Krejci – Jake Debrusk
  • Nash – Acciari – Cederic Pare
  • Kenny Agostino – Austin Czarnik – Ryan Fitzgerald

David Backes was in the first session and lead stretches at the post practice stretch. During the first half of the session before ice maintenance he quite frankly did not look good. As practice wore on he stopped tripping, and looked better.

Matt Beleskey looks mechanically more sound than he did at any point after his first injury last year.

Ryan Fitzgerald looked committed to being there, focused and driven, something I couldn’t saw the last time I saw him in a camp.

The four goalies on the ice were Rask, Zane McIntyre, Malcolm Subban, and Anton Khudobin. You could split them into the pairs by the first and last two and argue quality all day. For my money McIntyre was the best goalie today, and Khudobin did not make the top three. Or even cast a shadow on them.

While it’s an outside chance of him making the team, don’t be surprised if Jesse Gabrielle makes the first or second cut.

From what I saw, and talking to other people at camp, I’d say Frank Vatrano is most in danger of losing a roster spot among the forward to play in Boston last year.

Of the three first round picks from 2015, I was unimpressed by Jakob Zboril in just about every way. Jake DeBrusk never looked out of place, and managed to both steal the puck from, and evade Connor Clifton.

More on Two Man ForeCheck which will be recorded in the evening 9/18.

The Boston Bruins need to do something with their RFAs and the need to do it quickly. They failed to move a disgruntled and ill fitting Ryan Spooner either at the expansion draft, or the entry draft. They were however lucky enough that someone mistook Colin Miller for a viable option on defense.

In order:

  1. David Pastrnak
  2. Zane McIntyre
  3. Noel Accari
  4. Malcolm Subban
  5. Colton Hargrove

And after that it’s entirely irrelevant who or what order they sign in. Even there, Pasternak far outweighs all the rest. Even saying that, I think both goaltenders are still viable. Noel Accari is in any reasonable evaluator’s mind a solid bottom six forward. Colton Hargrove can do everything Tim Schaller did, and play both wings. He’s also likely to be a bit healthier

With just a couple days left until free agency starts they have 36 of 50 total contracts, and as many as five roster spots available for forwards, plus a seventh defenseman. Morrow might languish in the pressbox for another year after a very strong showing in the playoffs. He too is unsigned.

The Bruins need to clear some dead weight from the roster. Push Hayes and Spooner overboard. Get the younger, hungrier players who will drive harder to be better players every shift into the lineup. Maybe you have to sacrifice Kevan Miller in a trade for O’Gara and Grzelcyk to make a run at the NHL without looking over their shoulders. What they can’t continue to do is let good players stagnate while sewing guys who cut corners and have slapdash effort to the roster.

Time for the second round of exams on the Boston Bruins.  The biggest concern everyone had this off season was defense, so I’m going to start there. The brilliant minds behind Hockey Reference lay out the stat I look at first for defensemen like so:

  1. Rob O’Gara 1.00
  2. Brandon Carlo 94.2
  3. Zdeno Chara 93.9
  4. Torey Krug 90.7
  5. Joe Morrow 88.9
  6. John-Michael Liles 88.8
  7. Colin Miller 88.8
  8. Adam McQuaid 87.9

Those are the eight defensemen who have played for the Boston Bruins this season. Rob O’Gara playe just three games at the beginning of the season totally just 48:02 in ice time. What’s most interesting about O’Gara besides him not being in Boston for a couple weeks now is that he played over six minutes shorthanded in those games, when their penalty kill wasn’t great and is still unblemished on the year. Joe Morrow is likewise dealing with a small sample size, and no shorthanded or powerplay time. But both of them are still better than the pairing of Liles and Miller. McQuaid has come back from another injury this season, and was still warming to the task when other players were nearing mid season form. I suspect his number will trend upwards. Also of note is that of the regulars, only Chara, Carlo, and McQuaid are starting more than 50% of their shifts in the defensive zone

Of note among the forwards are Brad Marchand who despite leveling off is still a point per game player this year, David Patrnak who has 1/4th of the Bruins goals this season. Dominic Moore is a head scratcher to sit alone at third in goals scored by the Boston Bruins, and if they are going to maintain a top three slot in the division, that needs to change. Krejci, Backes, Spooner, Bergeron, Beleskey all need to do more, and if we’re going to go off pure salary so does Hayes.

In goal we’ve been treated to a surprisingly good year in the games Rask has made it into, and shown the rest of the maked men are not quite top shelf goalies right now.

What is probably most remarkable about this team right now today is the coaching. Claude Julien not only has almost a completely new coaching cadre, he’s making it work and work well. At sixteen games into the season I’m not over my suspicion this is not a playoff team, but if they make it there someone needs to be at worst shortlisted for a Jack Adams, which he’s got a good shot at as long as the Columbus Blue Jackets don’t also make the post season.

We are 10% into the season, and it is time to take a look at what is going on with the organization.

Heading into today’s games the Boston Bruins are:

  • 5th in the division
  • 3rd in the East’s wild card race
  • 16th in goals for
  • 15th in goals against
  • -5 in goal differential
  • 30th on the pp with 7.1% success rate
  • 10th on the PK with an 85.3% success rate
  • tied for 5th in faceoff win percentage at 51.7%st

They have used four different goalies, and 22 skaters.

By salary the top forwards without goals are:

  • David Krejci $7.25m
  • Matt Beleskey $3.8m
  • Jimmy Hayes $2.3m

The three together are a minus 18, $13.35m in salary, 56 shifts of hockey a game, and just 33 shots on goal through eight games each.

So what do we know now that we didn’t know September first? We know Brandon Carlo has shown himself to be a pretty solid NHL defenseman in this small sample. We know that Jimmy Hayes and Matt Beleskey on the same line still doesn’t work. We know that despite the extraordinary (for him) trust Julien has put in Carlo and earlier in O’Gara, he’s still not ready to shelve Liles for Morrow or one of the other youngsters in need of ice time. To date, Liles appears to have been the most culpable defenseman on the ice for a greater number of goals against than any other blueliner. Honestly, this is starting to remind me of Hnidy’s second tour through Boston. If Morrow, O’Gara, or Grzelcyk, can’t handle the time in what is clearly a bridge year, they’ll probably never handle it.

Liles plays third pairing minutes, and has averaged less time than Colin Miller this year. His powerplay time could easily be handed out among Krug, Chara, Morrow, or O’Gara who are all left handed shots as well. And as effective as the current powerplay isn’t you can make the argument putting a goalie out their in his place would be more effective. The most dispensable part of his game is his PK time, where the team is doing above average if not well, and even there in the time he was in Boston rookie Rob O’Gara averaged more shorthanded time. I don’t know how much say Julien has over who is on his roster and in the locker room, but for the long term good of the team developing a quality defenseman over allowing an aging veteran to playout their contract should win every time. That’s a call management should make, and should make firmly.

In summary:

Problems on defense that aren’t quite as bad as I feared coming into the season. Problems at forward that are worse than I feared, and a lack of health and experience in net. Not a compelling total, but this is just 10% of the season.

Based on only the players currently signed to the Bruins, what we know about the coaches, players, and management. Here’s a quick look at what it may look like.

  1. Marchand – Bergeron – Hayes
  2. Beleskey – Krejci – Backes
  3. Vatrano – Spooner – Pastrnak
  4. Hargrove – Acciari – Nash

Bergeron and Marchand staying together is about as close to a sure thing as you’re going to get in Boston right now. For balance, something Julien is in love with, that’s why Hayes and Beleskey both start out in the top six. I can’t see Julien loving the idea of the current third line, but unless he’s going to flip Backes and Pastrnak for more defensive responsibility on the third line, and more speed on the first, it could well happen. The fourth line is going to come down to who has the best camp and what the biggest needs are.

Currently I have the penalty kill units looking like this:

  • Bergeron, Chara, Marchand, McQuaid
  • Krejci, Acciari, Miller, Liles

With the lines above I can see Hargrove and Backes both taking shorthanded time up front, which is part of why I projected Hargrove over Randell, but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see a platoon of players go through the fourth line and bottom of the defense this year even if/when more players are added.

Defensive pairs have everyone’s attention right now, and here’s a possible look at the future.

  • Chara – K. Miller
  • Krug – McQuaid
  • Liles – Grant

During Miller’s best play last season he played with Chara and looked respectable doing it. Krug proved last year he’s worth every bit of the money he’ll be getting this year, not just with his offensive numbers but by picking up more even strength play, and even some limited penalty killing. Alex Grant is a right shot defenseman and that is something rare in the Bruins system at the moment.

The extras are Seth Griffith who I could easily see displacing Hayes, especially given his past chemistry with Bergeron and Marchand, and Rob O’Gara who’s known to be a level-headed, strong skating, all purpose defenseman.

I won’t be a bit surprised when one or two of the currently unsigned RFA guys are brought back in, particularly Joe Morrow who I would slot in ahead of more than one player in the current six.

Goalies are almost certain to be: Rask and Khudobin. Partly because of experience, partly to make McIntyre and Subban less attractive in the expansion draft.

The Power Plays:

  • Krejci, Pastrnak, Hayes, Bergeron, Krug
  • Marchand, Spooner, Backes, Chara, Vatrano

Both units maintain several pieces from last year and allow Chara to be saved for more five on five play while still having at least one thirty goal scorer on each unit. With Backes on the second unit you also get a strong faceoff man who is the opposite hand from Spooner opening more options for set plays from faceoffs.  Again, Griffith, or one of the other prospects could displace Hayes, Vatrano, or Pastrnak fairly easily.

For those interested in the cap implications click here.

Other players on the bubble between AHL and NHL this year: Colin Miller and Joe Morrow who both played in Boston last year but are unsigned, Tyler Randell, Tommy Cross (who’s new contract surprised me), Danton Heinen who is highly regarded but still cutting his professional teeth, and Zach Senyshyn who had 45 goals in the OHL last year.

Last night the Boston Bruins lost their captain Zdeno Chara to reported knee injury. The list of accolades and accolades for the man passed over fifty five times in the 1996 draft doesn’t need to be repeated. But they do impact what happens in his absence. Chara vacating the lineup for two to three weeks is probably good for development of the other defenseman, namely Hamilton, Krug and whoever gets called up.

There are three questions:

  1. Is it a short term injury or a long term injury?
  2. If its long term, will he return at all?
  3. What type of replacement should the team go for in the medium to long term?

Currently the Boston Bruins say he’ll be out four to six weeks with no surgery needed. That means December, early in the month if things go well. But given all the complications possible in joints that endure much less stress than a 24 minute a night nearly seven foot tall bruising NHL defenseman, the probability it will take Chara more than six weeks to return is very real.

But, given that the man has played through broken fingers to the point where he no longer has feeling in two of them, he might not even have felt the injury given all the other damage to his body over the years. That monstrous hit he laid on John Tavares could just be the last time he’s seen on the ice until his jersey is hoisted into the rafters. Let’s not forget that while he’s a physical fitness freak, two weeks after the trade deadline he’ll be 38 years old. While the evidence shows Father Time does play favorites, being a top player in a physically demanding collision sport means everyone leaves the sport younger than they want to.

A laundry list of the Boston Bruins prospects in college or in the minors won’t turn up anyone who can contribute even 75% of what Chara does. Rob O’Gara is tantalizing, Linus Arnesson has more than a few admirers, and Joe Morrow was actually taken just a few picks after Dougie Hamilton. One or more of those young men may have to be part of a package to bring back a viable top three defenseman to fill in for any period longer than seven or eight weeks.

The list of who might be both useful and available isn’t that long. Marc Staal has been supplanted by Ryan McDonagh on the New York Rangers depth chart, but he’s still a pretty damned effective defenseman. He’s also a UFA on July 1, and the Rangers will likely not have room to sign him. As a pure defensive defenseman, Mark Stuart might just be the answer. Like Chara he plays over three minutes a night of short handed time on ice, he is familiar with Claude Julien’s system, the Boston fans and media, and he’s a leader, he’s not a top three defenseman but given the market for defensemen, he might be a good fit.

Luke Schenn is another intriguing possibility. The Flyers season isn’t going any better than Boston’s and while the Fyers have less in the way of young building blocks they also have a new general manager who has yet o really put his stamp on the team. With another year on his contract, and then a raise due after that he’s more than a rental. He’s only slightly older than Hamilton and Krug but has more NHL experience than both put together. The Arizona Coyotes might be convinced to part with Zbynek Michalek. He’s a solid 21 or so minute a night guy who plays hard and reliably.

Whatever the Boston Bruins do, short, medium or long term the post-Chara era must be planned for, and planned or now.

Boston Bruins Development Camp has come and gone. There were over a dozen returning players, new draftees and invitees. While I do wonder how it is they failed to invite any goalie prospects, and had Malcolm Subban filling in for Adam Morrisson, and University of North Dakota star, and Fargo Force alumni Zane Gothberg. There  are literally dozens of colleges within driving distance of Boston, and if the goals of camp is to coach, develop, and protect the health of prospects then it makes perfect sense to have additional prospects in camp.

That said, camp was as always engaging.  The progress some players made over the years is notable. No players stood out as not belonging, but trying to watch two dozen players at once is foolish. Below are the players who stood out most for one reason or another.

Cole Bardreau, of Cornell University stood out among the forwards showing great speed, lateral movement and hands.

Anton Blidh had a hard shot that was a little bit high at times.

Oleg Yevenko was the largest, and oldest of the prospects. The UMass Amherst defensemen didn’t exhibit great skating but was in the right place to use his stick well.

Billy Sweezey of Hanson, Ma was the youngest player in camp and it didn’t seem to mean much. Solid positioning, good skating, respectable size and still a year of high school to go.

Rob O’Garra clearly is an athlete with high level conditioning. The day camp opened when some of his campmates were flagging, he looked like he might be warmed up. The rest of week he never looked like he broke a sweat.

Wiley Sherman, more poised, more precise and clearly having filled out more than a little.

Colton Hargrove, the improvements in Hargrove’s game are pretty obvious, I’m willing to bet if the 2012 entry draft were redone the son of Rockwall Texas would go before 205 this time.

Kyle Baun, after Bardreau arguably the most impressive forward in the group. Good hands, good speed.

Matt Benning was hands down the most impressive player in camp. Not only was his positioning excellent he used stick, body, and skates to separate opposing players from pucks. Northeastern has itself a good looking young defenseman right now.

David Pastrnak seemed to have a bit of trouble keeping his skates on the ice and his uniform ice free, possibly new skates, possibly the sheer pace of camp, or possibly an ongoing skating issue, its hard to say in just a few viewings. I won’t be shocked if he’s invited to camp in September, but given that he’s still under contract to Soldertalje he likely will not break camp with either the Boston or Providence Bruins.

Of all the differences between this camp and years past, is how strongly management curtailed physicality. In years past no scrimmage was complete without double digit numbers of hits by players trying to make sure they remembered by management and each other. This year, there a scant handful. While development camp focuses on skill and athleticism, elusiveness is a skill and leadership may be doing the organization a disservice  not to keep the players on their toes. And on the other end, physicality is a big part of the tool set of many players.

While several of the young men look really great among their peers, it is no measure of how they will perform against the AHL or NHL. Among the forwards, I don’t see anyone among the forwards I would project above the second line. Among the defensemen, assuming their trajectory continues at the same level two or three who could land in the second pairing in most NHL cities, and depending on circumstances you could see a top pairing player or two.

Since arriving in Boston Peter Chiarelli has made moves that rewrote the franchises future history, and others that merely changed the roster. Today the Boston Bruins extended their general manager for another four years. With seven seasons behind him, there is more than enough to look at to evaluate him as general manager and hockey mind.


The Bad:

Upon landing in Boston Chiarelli’s first verifiable move was to pill the bench bosses job. For that position he picked arguably the worst coach in Boston Bruins history. Dave Lewis came in, glued the gloves on Zdeno Chara, left him on the ice too long, and designed a defensive scheme that led to the worst GAA in the Tim Thomas era. Fortunately for Bruins fans, and likely several players this would prove to be a mistake that lasted just one season.

Power play coaching. The Boston Bruins powerplay has been a disaster for years. Not since before Matt Cooke nearly killed Marc Savard has the team had a viable powerplay. The team has shuffled several (recent) 30 goal scorers through the power play including Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton to little or no effect. It has used guys with enormous slap shots like Chara and Boychuk, and guys who zip around the offensive zone like Marchand, Kessel and Seguin. There hasn’t been any change in this area, and it reflects one of the fundamental components of Peter Chiarelli’s personality.

The Good:

Claude Julien has been one of the best coaches in the NHL for the last several seasons. He’s rehabilitated guys like Rich Peverley and Daniel Paille. He’s taken rookies like Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, and David Krejci and given them a chance to play up to their full potential while bringing them along slowly. He’s also recognized who the teams core guys are and used them to the teams best advantage. His campaigning for Patrice Bergeron’s inclusion on the 2010 Canadian Olympic team was notable, his support of Zdeno Chara for Norris candidacy and wins likewise. Further he’s show the ability to adapt as needed and make the right calls in the playoffs.


The Bad:

There hasn’t been much good to come out of the 2007-present drafts. Tyler Seguin failed to live up to the hype, and is now gone. While Tommy Cross’s injuries were not something anyone could predict, the rest of the 2007 draft was horribly unimpressive. Zach Hamill has all of the NHL games to date for the Bruins that year. Denis Reul played just five AHL games, Alain Goulet hasn’t escaped the ECHL for the past two years, Radim Ostrcil hasn’t played a minute in the Boston system at any level, and lastly Jordan Knackstedt departed the system almost before anyone learned who he was. Most subsequent drafts have been little better. The 2008 draft saw two NHL games in return for more than a years labor, one to Jamie Arniel and the other to Max Sauve, no one from that draft is in the system any longer.

The Good:

Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton. That’s pretty much it. Yes, I and others hold out hope that Jared Knight, Zane Gothberg, Colton Hargrove, Alexander Khokhlachev, Ryan Spooner, Rob O’Gara, Malcolm Subban and the several others will turn into legitimate NHL players, but that’s all we can do at this point. O’Gara, Hargrove, Grzelcyk, and countless others are college kids who will be a long time getting to the NHL, if ever. If you’re feeling optimistic you can count Jordan Caron in the “win” column, if not ad the 25th overall pick in the 2009 column to the other end of the ledger.

Free Agents:

The Bad:

Derek Morris counts as possibly the biggest miss of the Chiarelli era for free agents. He wasn’t a horrible Bruin, but he was not what was needed. From the same year if one must nitpick there is Drew Larman. While Josh Hennessy and Steve Begin weren’t unmitigated successes, they hardly grew legions of fans. The second tenure of Shane Hnidy.

The Good:

Torey Krug is the most recent player who has worked out, at least short term in the system. Remaining open to Jarome Iginla is another one that has to count as a win. Shawn Thornton is one the very quiet successes that no one ever talks about as a good free agent signing. The late season signing of Miroslav Satan was a master stroke. He didn’t have to be great, but he made people feel he was in being pretty good.


The Bad:

Manny Fernandez wasn’t picked up for a bad price, but between his various injuries and Tim Thomas solidifying his hold on the starting goalies job, he was paid about $290,000 per game. Brandon Bochenski was brought in for Kris Versteeg. Versteeg would go on to be a contributor to the Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup win and remain a valued NHL commodity, Bochenski would have trouble sticking to the NHL and end up in Europe. Vladimir Sobotka for David Warsofky, the Saint Louis Blues got the guy who led them in playoff scoring and hits last spring, and Warsofsky has yet to see a single NHL game.  Traded Petteri Nokelainen for Steve Montador who along with Wideman would eventually help cost the Bruins a playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Good:

Moving good guy with bad luck Chuck Kobasew for Alexander Fallstrom, Alexander Khokhlachev and Craig Weller. Kobasew was on the roster as part of a sluggish team and the Bruins would then flip Weller along with Bitz for Seidenberg and Bartkowski. Dennis Wideman and a 1st round pick were traded for immediate help, and possibly attitude in exchange for Gregory Campbell and Nathan Horton, Florida would jettison Wideman for glass trinkets, the Bruins would win the Cup with their new boys. Picking up Danile Paille for essentially nothing was one of the sneakier good moves in his tenure. Adam Mcquaid and Johnny Boychuk were picked up in similar trades.


Phil Kessel for the picks that turned into Seguin, Knight and Hamilton. Seguin was on a cup winning squad but hardly a huge factor, Hamilton was displaced for AHL callups, Knight has yet to have a healthy season. It is hard to say Chiarelli had a choice in trading Kessel, but the direct return has yet to be better. The Tomas Kaberle trade might count as win, but the Bruins gave up a 1st round draft selection, Joe Colborne, and a pick they would eventually trade. Kaberle failed to distinguish in his tenure, was not extended, and actually hurt the already woeful Bruins powerplay arguably making their path to the Cup harder than it would have been without him.

The two biggest hallmarks of the Chiarelli era to date have been his loyalty to the people he picks, and being more comfortable with low and midlevel deals than the franchise shaking ones. Those less charitable than myself would count conducting media availability as if each word he spoke cost him a $5 deduction from his salary as one of those hallmarks, but given the mental perambulations of certain elements of the local media, it is hard to be surprised this happens. With a Cup win, and a second team that took a juggernaut to six games despite being hobbled by injuries it is hard to call his tenure anything but a success.

Today was the third day of Bruins development camp and started off with puck handling drills. Griffith, Grzelcyk and Blidh stood out, but the drills weren’t all that easy. Three on one drills were another big part of the morning. Three forwards russing the net against one defender. The goales were all sharp, and the three defensemen who did the best at containing the forwards were O’Gara, Casto and Grzelcyk.

Zane Gothberg in net  Brian Ferlin beside the net.

Zane Gothberg in net
Brian Ferlin beside the net.

Malcolm Subban’s athleticism is pretty impressive, I’m hard pressed to thnk of any goalie who exceeds him by a wide margin. Subbans’s explosiveness is much like Jonathan Quicks, if lacking several years of NHL polish.

Malcolm Subban in net Casey Bailey taking the shot.

Malcolm Subban in net
Casey Bailey taking the shot.

Anthony Camara has shown the same sort of ability to be a complete player that landed him a spot on the Canadian World Junior team this year.

I ran into the parents of one of the campers after the scrimage, nice people, family can tell you a lot about a person.