The announcement has been made and it has done no more than tell us what we already knew; The Bruins brass have further messed up the blueline. Don Sweeney, Cam Neely, and Charlie Jacobs failed to address a serious concern at the time Kevan Miller was resigned, and for months on both sides of that curious moment.

While no one can fault the heart, work ethic, commitment to the team, or pure bloody minded perseverance of Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller. You just can’t do that. We’ve seen both of them time, and time again come back from injuries earned putting themselves on the line for team and logo. You can’t question them for that, you just can’t do that.

What you can question is the need to keep both of them. They are just about the same guy. They are both physical, fit, imposing when they need to be, defensive first and second and a great example of “toughing it out” for the locker room. But on twenty NHL teams either of them is a bottom pairing guy, and any team that has both of them playing semi-regularly isn’t a playoff team. You can’t have two guys who will never top 8 goals and 30 points. You just can’t do that.

Today they took one of the most dynamic scorers in the AHL last year and threw him away. Seth Griffith is a smooth skater, a slick passer, and a bonafide goal scorer. They put him on waivers. You just can’t do that. You just can’t excuse that. They have been weak at right wing since the departure of Phil Kessel, they had one who two preseasons ago showed great chemistry with dynamic duo Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. They not only flushed talent, they flushed chemistry. You just can’t do that. Seriously, Reilly Smith has likely been the best fit at right wing for the team since Kessel left.

Over the summer, they look oodles of talent on defense get away. When goaltending and defense are what kept you out of the NHL playoffs; you just can’t do that. Tukka Rask isn’t going to get enough better to carry this team into the third week of April. David Backes is more a Boston Bruin before his first game in the jersey than hundreds of jamokes and jobbers who have wandered down Causeway and been forgotten by everyone except the people they got fired. I don’t think anyone can even complain about the contract except for that fact that they could have used that money and cap space to acquire an upgrade or two in their greatest weakness.

I respect the hell out of the player Don Sweeney was. He was hard working, he used his body and brain to the best of his ability to play a long time for a guy with a limited offensive toolkit, and a lack of championship pedigree. He was a great guy to watch play. But I’m not sure he is the right man in the right job now.

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.

Have you ever seen a magic show? David Blaine, Siegfried and Roy, or one of the others? A lot of how they do what they do is through distraction, misdirection, and convincing you what you are seeing is what they say it is. Often magicians will use smoke, mirrors, magnets and other inanimate props to direct your attention to what you think is the point you should be paying attention to. Other times they’ll have an inevitably attractive assistant parading around right where you can see and fixate on while the action is elsewhere.

That’s what’s going on with the Boston Bruins. In this case the lovely assistant is David Pastrnak. The surprise first round draft pick of the Boston Bruins was picked for his position, right wing, a slot the Bruins currently have zero point zero players who have succeeded at in a Boston uniform. First round picks, especially late round ones get hype all out of proportion with what they usually accomplish in the first two or three years post draft. In most cases that’s a trip back to juniors (like Hamilton), frequent injuries do to physical immaturity (see; Ryan Nugent-Hopkins), frequent time missed due to off ice issues (see Tyler Seguin), or as will likely be the case with Pastrnak, more time in Europe (see; Carl Soderberg).

So what is Pastrnak, who couldn’t do a single pull up at development camp three months ago, here to distract Bruins followers from? How about a summer where the most impacting actions the team took were chipping in to collectively grow Peter Chiarelli’s mustache. I mean its an impressive flavor saver given that he didn’t have it when the boys were ushered out of the playoffs by the Montreal Canadiens. But it doesn’t make up for the fact that one of the teams two 30 goal men from last year couldn’t even be tendered an offer. It doesn’t cover up the fact that the best offensive defenseman the team has seen in over a decade isn’t signed. Torey Krug not only led the whole team in playoff scoring he tied Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara in regular season scoring.

Reilly Smith who is hands down the best right wing that Patrice Bergeron has played with possibly since he teamed with Boyes and Sturm as a line is also not signed. If you’ve looked at the statistics from last year you know as well as the front office does that with Reilly Smith and Torey Krug unsigned and Jarome Ignila departed for the Colorado Avalanche, three of the top nine playoff point producers from last year are not on the roster. And let’s not forget the camp invites, Simon Gagne who has missed more time over the last four season than he’s played and Ville Leino who last year averaged 14:26 of TOI an didn’t net even a single goal in 56 games he found his way onto the ice. Neither of these guys can stay healthy and productive. How are they a benefit?

Who is going to replace their production? Are Kevan Miller and or Adam McQuaid going to morph into 10+ goal defensemen? Is Pastrnak really going to come in and put up 20 or more goals under Claude Julien as a rookie? If so he’d be the first to do it in a Bruins uniform. Seguin had 11 as a rookie, Kessel had the same number his rookie year. Unless I’m missing someone, the only rookie to crack 20 goals under Claude Julien is Blake Wheeler, who as a college player was older, larger, and more physically and mentally mature than Pastrnak.

Essentially this was a wasted summer. Neely and Chiarelli did their Rip Van Winkle impersonations while their cap crisis festered. Instead of moving players for value at the draft or early in free agency, they remained wedded to a stagnating roster. When finally they roused from a months long siesta they signed a guy with a full year left on his contract who has publicly stated that he wanted to stay in Boston more than once. They’ve also been very careful to tell us everytime they get near a microphone that Pastrnak could be on the roster opening night.

I’m not sure anyone paying careful attention believes that though. With Kessel, Seguin, Hamilton we were told over and over ‘… be given a chance to earn a spot’. The difference being, Peter Chiarelli and Cam Neely were trying to temper expectations and hence the follow on pressure for guys they were in excess of 90% certain were going to make the roster. They aren’t doing that, and one of the tell tales he’s unlikely to be on the roster this fall is the number on his jersey. He’s playing with 88 right now. In Europe he played as 96 Sodertalje SK. Eighty-Eight isn’t his year of birth, and is unlikely a preferred number as when Seguin came in wearing his preferred number.

The next clue is the number of prospects who are less expensive, more mature and seasoned in the North American style of hockey. To name a few those players are Fallstrom, Spooner, Griffith, Sexton and Knight. Those are just the right wings or guys who have gotten extended looks.  Not only has Pastrnak only played 47 games professionally in the last two years, he’s not played hockey at any level with the level of physicality to be found in the USHL, CHL, US college hockey or the AHL/NHL. He also hasn’t played a season anywhere near as long. With conditioning a definite negative, the team can either look forward to a series of penalties that are the result of being to tired to play the system or sitting him in the pressbox on a regular basis.

Not only does the evidence not add up to Pastrnak being locked into the roster for the Bruins, it does not point to the idea being even average in quality. So this year Pastrnak will likely play the lovely assistant, and maybe by next year he’ll have his own show.

As things stand right now, the Boston Bruins are a quarter million dollars over the cap having gone out and signed Jordan Caron to another NHL contract. If you allow for the Marc Savard contract being put on the long term injured reserve day one of the season that leaves about $3,700,000 to spend. Torey Krug and Reilly Smith are unsigned and there is no sign the players will be members of the Boston Bruins in October when the season opens.

Assuming no trades, major injuries or retirements before the season lets look at each line and pairing.

The Bergeron could see the steady tandem of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand check in for another season together with the right wing who scored the most goals for the Providence Bruins; Seth Griffith. Griffith put up 20 goals in 69 games as first year pro for Coach Cassidy last year.

The Krejci line, or given time on it arguably the Lucic line, would see the return of left wing Milan Lucic and center David Krejci, with yet another winger to work with. This year it would at least be a player familiar with the Boston system. Loui Eriksson is the only logical choice for this spot.

The third line becomes a writhing knot of enigmas, questions, and mysteries. If we assume Chris Kelly is healthy enough to start the season does he go back to center? For now, lets put him at left wing. Carl Soderberg looked his best last year as the season tipped over into the playoffs, at that point he was paying center but could get shuffled back to wing. For now we’ll write his name firmly in the center spot. That leaves the right wing open. With a look at maturity, size and a ability to play a third line checking position in the Claude Julien system, one of the best picks for the open position is Brian Ferlin.

The former Merlot line has lost something, but retains Daniel Paille at left wing, and Greg Campbell at center. Jordan Caron is the likely right wing. If Caron fills in more of the penalty killing duty, this would allow Campbell and Paille to take extra shift with other lines in the event of injuries, illness or under-performance. The Sangria Line is likely set.

At defense we’re looking at a first pairing that has Zdeno Chara and a rotating cast on the other end of the blueline. If it is Hamilton, that puts the best offensive defensemen on the same pairing, for now Seidenberg can be penciled in.

If we put a second pairing of Hamilton and Boychuck we’ve got a solid, if unfamiliar pair would can certainly be counted on for 19-22 minutes a night.

The third pairing will become a rotation of Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller and Matt Bartkowski. Thanks to the deep affection the injury bug holds for the Bruins defense, either here or in Providence the three have a working familiarity with each other, and as parings that will see 12-17 minutes most nights, it isn’t as important as upper pairings.

Now for the problems:

  • The most experienced right wing on the team, has never played that position consistently in Claude Julien’s rigorous system.
  • The other three right wings have all of their NHL experience concentrated in Jordan Caron. This is the same Jordan Caron who has been displaced in the lineup over the years by Zach Hamill, Brian Rolston, Carter Camper, Jamie Tardiff, Craig Cunningham, and never showed more value head to head than Shawn Thornton.
  • The defense as a whole is slow. Hamilton is hands down the swiftest, and then its a question of Miller versus Chara. Given how speedy teams like Montreal, Tampa Bay, Detroit, and Carolina are this strikes anyone with a lick of sense as disastrous.
  • With the offense taking a step back, and the defense taking at best, a step sideways it is unlikely the team is as strong overall as last year.

The observant will have noted I didn’t mention a 13th forward. Given that promoting Ferlin and Griffith brings the team to $2.1m short of the cap, and the fact that their will be injuries at some point, there needs to be some flexibility to bring up one or two players to fill those injuries. Despite the front offices’s seeming love of David Pastrnak, he also isn’t here on the roster for a number of reasons. One is simply that his cap hit is higher than any of the other wingers who are currently signed and at his size, its questionable if he’ll make it through camp onto the roster on merit.

There is a case to be made for putting Pastrnak on the roster this fall that has nothing to do with how he does at camp, but that isn’t the point of this article. Realistically, even allowing for higher speed than Griffith or Ferlin, Pastrnak has arguably not played at a level as high as the AHL, he certainly hasn’t played anything like the length of an NHL season. Having played 36 games last year, the jump to an 82 game season is likely to hit him harder than it does most college players who leave school larger and stronger.

If a thirteenth forward is carried, Ryan Spooner, is likely in the mix, or might entirely displace whoever might otherwise win the 3rd line wing. If Spooner plays there pushing Soderberg to one wing and Kelly to the other, seeing him get reps with wingers from the top two lines wouldn’t be a big surprise. You could also argue for a more physical presence in the lineup and slide Bobby Robbins into the space vacated by Shawn Thronton and possibly pushing Caron to the third line or more likely the pressbox.

When the season opens if all goes  according to the master plan of Peter Chiarelli and Cam Neely, the Boston Bruins will look less like they did last season, and more like they did when they ran the table and collected Lord Stanley’s Cup. In the past two seasons the Boston Bruins had a clear split between the top two lines and what they contributed, and the second six and what the contributed.

Despite Daniel Paille burring tha line, and playing up and down the lineup as injuries and inconsistency crippled top six effectiveness at time  you don’t need to look much further than average time on ice for the forwards to see who did what and match up their scoring contributions. Chris Bourque failed to lockup a roster spot despite an extended stay in the lineup, he just couldn’t make the leap to the NHL. In what many expected to be his final dance with the Boston Bruins, Jordan Caron showed heart, commitment and little of the finishing that the team so desperately needed throughout the season. Of Lane McDermid, Jay Pandolfo, and Kaspars Daugavins the best that can be said of them is that the tried. Both Ryan Spooner and Carl Soderberg get a pass as their appearances were so curtailed, they spent as much time going over the boards as on the ice.

This year, the goal is a different composition. Adding Soderberg late last year, bringing in Iginla and Eriksson this year, and pushing prospects like Ryan Spooner, Jared Knight, Alex Khoklochev, Matt Fraser, Seth Griffith, and Alex Fallstrom to come to camp ready to compete for a Calder trophy. It is likely two of these players will fill in the third line, and extra forward slots.

A potential opening night third line (left to right)  is Chris Kelly – Carl Soderberg – Alex Fallstrom/Jared Knight. Its equally possible one or more of these young men will be traded before the puck drops for real.

Depending on how Claude Julinen wants to build the top two lines, and given the versatility of both Loui Eriksson and Brad Marchand, the lines could look very different from last year. Both Jarome Iginla and Loui Erikssn have mentioned a desire to play with Patrice Bergeron.

It is entirely possible we could see lines like:

Eriksson – Bergeron – Iginla

Lucic – Krejci – Marchand

Those trios would provide lines similar to the formerly successful grouping of Lucic, Marc Savard and Phil Kessel with speed and a willing shooter on the right, an offensive minded center, and Milan Lucic’s raw physicality and willingness to go anywhere and take the puck. The Bergeron line above would give Iginla and Eriksson the ability to go full steam  offensively at will, and leave the most defensively responsible forward on the roster to aid the blueliners. Regardless of how the top six shakedown, the Boston Bruins have five guys who either have or have the potential to score 30 goals. The only one of the six who hasn’t come close to 30 or passed it is Krejci and counting defensemen and powerplay time, he has a legitimate shot at 60 to 65 assists this season.

Last year Boston Bruins slipped from near the top of the NHL in scoring, to middle of the pack. A little more depth, a little more finishing ability, a touch more hunger, and maybe more maturity might have taken them past the Chicago Blackhawks and on to their seventh Stanley Cup. Clearly fans were not the only ones to notice the drop, and equally clearly the Boston brain trust believe  they’ve addressed the issues.

A quiet camp session with a few drills and scrimmages. The players had shuttle runs before getting on the ice. Some of the players seemed sharper today, a few others seemed to be wearing.

Adam Morrison had his best day in the net today, controlling rebounds along with the rest of his game.

Matthew Lindblad shows some smooth movement, made a couple real nice cross ice passes and is well aware of where other players are on the ice.

#85 Mitchell Dempsey #79 Matthew Lindblad #72 Chris Casto

#85 Mitchell Dempsey
#79 Matthew Lindblad
#72 Chris Casto

Zane Gotheberg, as he reminded me this was his fourth development camp, the first happening when he was just 17 , is best described in two words: crisp, consistent. Early in the camp or late, the beginning or middle of a session and its the same story.

#80 Brian Ferlin #83 Seth Griffith #88 Matt Grzlecyk

#80 Brian Ferlin
#83 Seth Griffith
#88 Matt Grzlecyk

Matt Grzelcyk showed more physicality than last year, also scored on a nifty backhand roofer.

Wiley Sherman hustles up ice

Wiley Sherman hustles up ice

Chris Casto reminds me of defensemen like Matt Greene of the Los Angeles Kings and Dennis Seidenberg of the Bruins.

#81 Malcolm Subban in goal #82 Alex Cord #68 Colton Hargrove #90 Casey Bailey

#81 Malcolm Subban in goal
#82 Alex Cord
#66 Colton Hargrove
#90 Casey Bailey (Number obscured)

Wiley Sherman is a raw big body who will probably project to be about 225-230 for regular NHL play.

#50 Linus Arnesson #79 Matthew Lindblad

#50 Linus Arnesson
#79 Matthew Lindblad

Malcom Subban addressed the low points of his game between last year and his visibly in camp, and even more so in the jump in his stats. Interestingly he had three assists in the regular season, and one in seventeen playoff games and you don’t hear much about his puck handling ability.

Linus Arnesson apparently no one told him European defensemen aren’t supposed to play physically, or if they did he probably knocked them down three or four times.

Development camp is fun to watch because you get to see what the coaches and scouts see in players that might never show on the ice. Having been to camp the past several years I like larger groups than this better. With the larger groups there’s a wider spectrum of talent, and you can point to individual standouts much easier. I also find it is easier to concentrate on players. I also think that with the larger groups the players go at it a little hard trying to stand out.

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.