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

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

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

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

Peter-BS

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

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

For more read here.

The Boston Bruins have cut almost another dozen players from the roster.

Here’s the breakdown.

  1. Bracken Kearns was released from his PTO. He never looked great, but was shifty in traffic.
  2. Chris Casto, as a defenseman he was a long show, especially with high draft picks ahead of him.
  3. Jared Knight, ill luck in previous years made this his best camp, and he honestly looked good enough to make some NHL teams.
  4. Matt Lindblad, with three of the four left wing spots locked down and the fourth probable, he never had a good shot at making the team.
  5. Joe Morrow I like what I see, but the blueline is very, very deep.
  6. Seth Griffith, possibly the most surprising cut from camp. He looked great with Bergeron and Marchand, really nice hands.
  7. Brian Ferlin, good wide body. Not surprised he was cut, will be less surprised when he’s called up at some point in the future.
  8. Alex Fallstrom, didn’t show me much at camp.
  9. Tyler Randell, has to clear waivers, but not likely to be picked up.
  10. Ben Sexton, didn’t distinguish himself.
  11. Zach Trotman, again a victim of depth, and possibly lack of hope.

There are players on this list who are better than Gagne or Leino, I’m pretty amazed that both are still in camp, particularly Leino.

The best news is that just about all the guys were healthy. Adam McQuaid not only moved without restriction, he lacked the pain lines and strain fans had grown used to seeing on him. Chris Kelly looked to be not just back to preinjury form but possibly a half step faster. Dennis Seidenberg held nothing back and looked in one viewing to be back to preinjury for as well.

The pair skated together for at least one drill at Bruins training camp.

The pair skated together for at least one drill at Bruins training camp.

The good news is I think all the guys battling for a job in the NHL this year who were with the club last year, look like they came to win the job now. Brian Ferlin and Seth Griffith showed up and looked good, Jared Knight looks to have slimmed down and no longer looks like an NFL free safety, perhaps most surprisingly Simon Gagne looked not just healthy, but like he was still capable of holding down a top six position, at least with one viewing.

#54 is six foot five or so

0 #54 is six foot five or so

Perhaps the biggest positive surprise other than Gagne looking good was Matt Fraser. During one on one battle drills he was paired up against a reinvigorated Zdeno Chara and held his own both taking and receiving checks, while staying with the puck, or pressuring Chara when the Captain had the puck.

Bergeron and Julien plotting, planning and talking hockey,

Bergeron and Julien plotting, planning and talking hockey,

The bad news is who wasn’t on the ice; Greg Campbell. He was watching from rink side. Torey Krug and Riley Smith are somehow still unsigned. And at the bottom of the list was the unsurprising lackluster performance of two players; Jordan Caron and Ville Lieno. About the only positive to Leino being there was he did manage to get off a few shots from the seat of his pants or knees, which he ended on pretty regularly as everyone including Caron seemed to drop him with ease. Caron for his part looks to have lost a good deal of muscle, and was moving poorly, as in Recchi in his last three months before retirement poorly, short choppy steps and all.

#44 Showing all signs of good health.

#44 Showing all signs of good health.

One heartening bit for long term prospect watchers is that Tommy Cross looked the most quick and agile I can recall seeing him. While he’s got a whole mountain range to climb before getting a sniff at the NHL, he’s moving well enough not to be an instant liability when he hits the NHL stage.

#50 Knight and #52 Lindblad, two of the Providence Bruins competing for a Boston roster spot.

#50 Knight and #52 Lindblad, two of the Providence Bruins competing for a Boston roster spot.

The Los Angeles Kings were cheated of much of their time in the limelight by the dragging, soul sucking lockout. They made their return to the ice with a strong regular season. Finishing seventh overall in the NHL, in a very top heavy western conference. To the surprise of no one Anze Kopitar again led the team in scoring. Jeff Carter racking up 26 goals in 48 games was eye opening and clearly signals good things to come. Dustin Brown played his usual game popping in 18 goals and dishing out 156 hits. Slava Voynov garnered further attention leading the blueline in scoring, and Drew Doughty erased the last of the viable criticisms of his defensive game.

The post season saw them and the Saint Louis Blues batter each other to bloody and bruised ruin for six games. When the first round ended it was time for a dance with the San Jose Sharks. This back and forth series sent the rivalry to a new level, and went seven games. In the western conference finals they faced the retooled Chicago Blackhawks, and were dethroned in double overtime. Very little has changed for the Kings. Jonathan Bernier was traded away while Dustin Penner and Rob Scuderi were lost to free agency.

The first five games for the Los Angeles Kings don’t contain any juggernauts, there aren’t even any trap games. They’ll open up in Minnesota against the Wild, then fly north to face the Jets. The next two games are at home against the Rangers and Senators, and they finish the opening five with a trip to Raleigh to square off with the Carolina Hurricanes. No back to back games anywhere in the opening set, and only one team with a fair chance of winning their division this year.

Number of days 1-5:

Number of cities:

Best opponent: Minnesota Wild

Weakest Opponent: Carolina Hurricanes

Home games: 2

Projected points: 7

The Kings don’t have a particularly difficult October schedule. If they can integrate the new additions quickly, they have a better than even chance of leading the division when the month is over. Tyler Toffoli had his baptism by fire late last season and in the playoffs, but with Simon Gagne gone, and Dustin Penner elsewhere as well, he Matt Frattin, and anyone else who can earn a roster spot in camp will have an open door to making themselves a fixture of the game time roster.

 This is a feature that will run about every two weeks (during the regular season)with improbable stats and situations in the National Hockey League.
The off season’s changes restack the decks for teams and make forecasting each season equal parts intriguing and infuriating. With the NHL draft and the bulk of NHL free agent signings done, we have a passable idea who 15 or more of the names penciled into the opening night lineup of each team will be.
Players:
  • … that Daniel Alfredsson would leave the Senators, and not go to one of the top contenders at the deadline but to the once again division rival Detroit Red Wings in free agency, even knowing Bobby Ryan was being traded to the Sens.
  • … that of Simon Gagne, Nathan Horton, and Rick Dipietro, right winger Nathan Horton would be the one set to begin their season late due to major injury.
  • … over two weeks into free agency Thomas Hickey and Dustin Penner would be signed to NHL deals and Mikhail Grabovski would not.
  • Matt Duchene who has won nothing, would sign a contract for more than Dustin Brown who has his name on the Cup.
  • … Tuukka Rask who coughed up a lead in the dying minutes of a Stanley Cup Final game seven would sign a contract making him the highest paid goalie in the NHL.
  • … Seth Jones would actually get passed on by three different general managers at the NHL entry draft.
  • Tyler Seguin‘s twitter problems and eviction from the Boston Bruins locker room to the Dallas Star’s would be eclipsed so quickly by the exit of Ilya Kovalchuk.
  • … Sam Gagner would be headed towards arbitration with the Edmonton Oilers who has only been their best center the last four seasons.

Teams:

  • … on July 22nd the Columbus Blue Jackets would have the 8th highest cap hit of an NHL team.
  • … after years of saying that Jonathan Bernier was a big part of their team for years and years the Los Angeles Kings would trade him for an unproven Ben Scrivens, and a fringe NHL’er in Matt Frattin.
  • … the Toronto Maple Leafs would be retaining portions of two salaries, and have bought out two new players in addition to the ones they entered the year having b
  • ought out recently and the general manager who did all four of those things would still have a job.
  • … the Colorado Avalanche’s off season accomplishments would include, passing on a consensus franchise defenseman at the draft, waiving the defenseman who lead their team in TOI last season, and only ‘improving’ their defense with the importation of Cory Sarich.
  • … The Winnipeg Jets, a Canadian team, who have the most cap space would also have the most players elect arbitration.
  • … that with the additions of Andrew Ference and Denis Grebeshkov and the addition by subtraction of others the Edmonton Oilers would have the NHL’s most improved blueline.

Ilya Kovalchuk’s retirement is the start of a new era for the weary franchise. It is also another severe blow to a team that lost Parise two years ago, and will likely lose the teams living avatar Martin Brodeur in another year or two.

For this season with a paltry passel of players on the left wing remaining, they may want to look within or to a trade to add some sort of replacement there. Stop gap measures might include two time evil Alexi Ponikarovsky, Danny Cleary, and Vinny Prospal. Each could help offensively but all are good for no more than two season. Kaspars Daugavins might be a solution for a depth winger, and Steve Begin has at times been an excellent penalty killer.

When it comes to acquiring offensively gifted forwards, the Devils are handicapped a bit by being in the same division as three of the NHL’s top six spenders. Of them Columbus probably doesn’t have the NHL ready talent to spare if they are serious about a playoff spot, Philadelphia can only rely on its forwards this season to get fans into the building. Pittsburgh is a wildcard though. The Penguins are very slightly over the cap with 12 forward 7 defenseman and 2 goalies signed. With as much money as the team will be spending on Malkin, Crosby and Letang starting in the 2014-15 season, they might get proactive and move a player for prospects and or picks. Moving Neal would be a blow to the teams offense, but would free up five million in space to add much needed defensive depth.

Out west, the Canucks are slowly edging towards the end of the Sedin era, and with Hovart likely to make the roster this fall, one or two players on that team might see themselves moved for chips. Ryan Kesler is a versatile two way forward who played college hockey, which Lou Lamoriello is known to like. The Dallas stars have shown they are willing to move some of their older players, Erik Cole could probably be had fairly cheap, and possibly Ray Whitney.

In their own system last season’s most productive AHL forward was Joe Whitney.  Whitney is a Reading, Ma native listed at five foot six, 165lbs and is two years removed from a four year stint with Boston College. 26 goals, 25 assists for the Albany Devils last season. After departing the Sarnia Sting, Reid Boucher put up five points in 11 games last year, after putting up 95 points including 62 goals in his OHL campaign. That’s about the extend of their systems depth.

The best forward left on the market who are not left wings include Grabovski, Jagr, Kyle Wellwood, Damien Brunner and Brad Boyes. If they want to roll the dice on success Max Sauve has always had nice hands if poor luck, Anthony Stewart is a first round pick who never managed to get into the right lineup, Chuck Kobasew shows up for every game with his hardhat and work boots, Simon Gagne has skill of poorish health and Nathan Gerbe is one of those Hockey East guys.

Overall this free agent class lacks depth, the left wing is perhaps the shallowest for top six pickings.

Vinny Prospal at 38 is had a productive year for the putting up .63ppg for Columbus after a stop in the Czech league. His numbers were pretty consistent through out the season. He clearly contributed to the Blue Jackets push towards the playoffs int he last half of the season. The 1993 entry draft 3rd round selection has 65 games of NHL playoff experience.

Victor Stalberg, with stops in the SHL (SEL) and KHL during the lockout, Stalberg may have played more professional hockey last year than any other NHL player with 72 regular season games, then 19 more in the playoffs for the Blackhawks. A middle or bottom six player on elite teams, Stalberg may just have the tools to play further up on some teams, at 27 there’s more tread on the tires than most of this UFA class of left wings posses.

Simon Gagne at 33 this injury prone but undeniably talented winger has played for Tampa Bay and Los Angeles while spending the bulk of his career with the Flyers. Any team looking for a potential impact player fairly inexpensively should look at Gagne, he might be this years Brad Boyes.

Nathan Gerbe is a one of the smallest players in the NHL, which has never stopped him from playing a physical game above his weight class. A depth forward who has played in all situations, he also has better playoff points per game than regular season. The former Boston College Eagle, and River City Lancer (USHL) may be a victim of Buffalo’s apparent clean sweep program.

Alexei Ponikarovsky is one of those wingers who played his best hockey early in his career and has bounced around the league trying to find his niche again.  Clearly there is something there other wise Lou Lamoriello wouldn’t have added him to the roster twice in the past few years, but maybe that something takes vacations from time to time.

Watching the media is frequently dismaying, you can always be sure that the only peoples words who mean exactly what they they say they mean are the media themselves. Everyone else no matter how simple, transparent or obvious what they’ve said is has their words twisted twelve thousand ways. This makes it so much fun to watch people play the media. Some times it is players, general managers and coaches Allan Walsh (@Walsha) has a reputation for using social media and the press in pursuit of his clients benefit.

Dean Lombardi may have just won the media manipulation award for the year. After picking up one part of Party Inc from Philadelphia over the summer the world was treated to a barrage of “dry island” stories. They went on and on. The fact that the other half of Party Inc went to another city was seen or at least spun as indicative of how bad they were in the locker room. Of course these story’s only got attention after the trades, so one has to wonder how much was Philly management directing attention where they wanted it.

This week when Lombardi staged the biggest on ice reunion of the season by adding Jeff Carter to the LA Kings to go along with Mike Richards and the rest I’m sure several thousand rehashes of the dry island stories were two thirds written before the paperwork was dry in the NHL offices. Then an odd thing happened. A well liked, well respected, player who’s averaged 27 goals over the last four seasons, plays physically and is engaged in the community was heavily rumored to be available. This happened quite quickly after they acquired someone to help their 30th rank offense. In the same trade they gave up a former 1st round pick, and a first round selection. Somehow things got focused on this trade potential.

For several hours Dustin Brown (@DustinBrown23) became the most interesting man in the universe. No one was talking about Rick Nash and why the Kings settled for Carter or didn’t get both. No one was talking about dry island. No one was talking about the Kings residing in 10th place with less regulation or overtime wins than anyone but the Anaheim Ducks, Minnesota Wild, Edmonton Oilers, or Columbus Blue Jackets. By some strange coincidence no one managed to get any attention for pointing out Jeff Carter’s having been just slightly healthier than Simon Gagne this year.  But hey, its not like the media is easily led or will take whatever easy story falls in their laps.

They say that in order to win a war you need to prepare in peacetime. For NHL franchises, this is that peace time.  Every year it seems we see some truly baffling moves, some shrewd ones and a few that just seem to be shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic. This year has been no different. What is surprising is the extent some of the teams have gone to blow themselves up.

No team has gone to greater lengths to revamp themselves than the Philadelphia Flyers. Jeff Carter was the first to be jettisoned. Whatever else can be said, Holmgren didn’t sell the man who posted 115 regular season goals in the past three campaigns cheaply. In return, they landed Jakub Voracek, and a first and third round pick from the Columbus Blue Jackets that turned into Sean Couterier (once the consensus #1 pick) and Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds leading goal scorer Nick Cousins. When they traded Captain Mike Richards to the LA Kings some were shocked. I was only surprised it took this long after the arrival of Pronger for one of the two to land elsewhere. When the haul they got in return was totaled up you had to wonder how desperate the Kings were for this deal. Holmgren pulled in Brayden Schenn, frequently regarded as the best prospect in anyone’s system, in addition they got Wayne Simmonds a young winger with some attitude and physicality.

Most importantly the Flyers addressed their Achilles heel. They finally went out and got a top shelf goalie. Ilya Bryzgalov has been, at least in the regular season, one of the best in the game the past three years. The no more Brian Boucher, he along with Carcillo, O’Donnell, Versteeg, and Powe were swept out much like the team was during the playoffs. One thing of note, is that I don’t think the Flyers are done with their moves. With Simmond and Talbot (after a voided contract) yet unsigned, they have twenty players under contract and just over five million in cap space.

Verdict: Winner, long term but I’m not sure they are better next season.

The first major shot in the summer arms war was the exchange between Howson and Holmgren. Jeff Carter’s presence alone should make Rick Nash breathe easier. Carter is expected to carry a large part of the offensive load.  Columbus GM Howson was not shy about following this up with the big money signing of James Wisniewski. To do this he traded away a late round pick for a couple days of negotiation time. In that time Wisniewski was signed to one of the NHL’s increasingly infamous front loaded deal that will see him paid more next year than any of the last three Norris Trophy winners. His total cap hit will be less than $40,000 below that of Duncan Keith who is likely the most complete defenseman of his generation.  Having the fifth highest scoring defensmen of last season, and the 7th highest goal scorer in the NHL last year should make a difference for the team that was 24th in goals scored.

Verdict: Winners, short and medium term. Neither of these two have unmanageable cap hits, and could help attract quality free agents if they thrive.

If someone can explain the free agent moves  and trades of the Colorado Avalanche in anyway other than that the leadership is either incompetent, or they wish to draft in the lottery for the next several seasons feel free to comment or email. Chief among their baffling moves is flushing a first and a second round draft pick on a goalie who’s not only streaky and fragile, who has threatened to Russia if not handed the #1 slot in Washington, but who has never played more than 27 games in a season. The other half of their apparent goalie tandem is Giguere. Five years ago Giguere was a top shelf goalie, its hard to tell how much of his fading is his own fault an how much is the fact that the Ducks and Leafs weren’t that good the last few seasons.

On the bright side, a team that had a super concentration of its fighting majors in three players, added a whole lot of toughness and solid skill sets in the bodies of Gabriel Landeskog and Duncan Siemens. Fleischmann’s addition should add some versatility up front.

Verdict: Huh, draft well, trade poor, free agent meh?

The Washington Capitals are probably the second biggest recipients of a gift by the rest of the NHL’s general managers this off season. I’d rate the sighing of Vokoun for peanuts behind only the slide of Dougie Hamilton into the laps of the Boston Bruins in terms of collective brain farts since the end of the playoffs. Well before that they picked up Nashville playoff hero Joel Ward, former Chicago Blackhawk Troy Brouwer (as yet unsigned), added Roman Hamerlik from the Montreal Canadien’s as well.  With all the new faces, and all of them with solid playoff resumes its clear that the Caps have continued their refocus on playoff success.

Currently they have thirteen forwards, seven defensemen and two goalies signed with just over half a million in cap space. Given that neither Carl Alzner nor Troy Brouwer are signed, I would be shocked if they don’t make one or two more moves over between now and opening night. At a guess Mike Green or Dennis Wideman will be gone as they are high similar players with the largest difference being the formers ability to skate well.

Verdict: Winner. They could still screw it up by not signing Alzner or trading a piece away for pennies on the dollar. I’d also consider letting Hannan sign elsewhere when he was such a big part in the teams learning to play defense a negative.

The Kings appear to be in win-now mode. With the addition of Mike Richards via trade and fellow former Flyer Simon Gagne via free agency their offense promises to be better. These two moves are on top of the addition of Dustin Penner at last years deadline. They also shipped Ryan Smyth to Edmonton in exchange for a penalty killer, and a pick. At the draft they picked up one of the top rated goalie prospects in the second round. They do still have to sign young defeneen Drew Doughty and Alec Martinez, but have the space to do so.  Given that they were 25th in goals for last season, I’m a little surprised they failed to lockup any additional offensive talent. Smyth was a 25 goal scorer, they also haven’t addressed their left side weakness.

Verdict: Huh?

More Win, Lose or Huh? coming soon.