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.

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.

Coaches:

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.

Drafting:

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.

Trades:

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.

Draws:

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.

If there’s one thing that Boston Bruins fans have learned in the past decade or two it is that former players can come back to bite you in the backside. Here’s where some of the past wearers of Black and Gold are now:

The Vancouver Canucks seem to be putting together a collections. Andrew Alberts has been in town for parts of two seasons, he was traded from the Bruins to the Flyers after two and a half seasons in a Bruins uniform. From there the former Bruins.com vlogger made a pit stop in Hurricanes country before moving to the pacific northwest. Early in the off season they scoffed up Patrice Bergeron’s former linemate Marco Sturm. The longest tenured German in NHL history was a victim of the cap crunch and the solid play of others when he was sold down the river to the LA Kings for not quite a bag of beads and trinkets, he was later shuffled to Washington where he rode the playoff wave with the Capitals picking up a goal and two assists. He’ signed to a one year deal. Former fourth liner Byron Bitz who was part of the Dennis Seidenberg trade is also a recent acquisition of the Canucks. All three, along with any other shades of Bruins past the Canucks pick up will be in town January 7th.

Brian Rolston was today traded to the New York Islanders from the New Jersey Devils. The now 38 year old Rolston put up 31 goals for the Bruins in 2001-2. No doubt he’ll be filling some of the leadership void left by Doug Weight. Who knows, with him, a healthy Mark Streit, and their rather plucky group of young forwards they might sneak into the playoffs this season. Last year despite only playing 65 games he had just three points less than the previous seasons 80 game total. He’ll be skating with another former Bruin in depth center Marty Reasoner who played just 19 games for Boston.

Speedy winger Sergei Samsanov is still without an NHL team. Last season in time split between the Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers he put up his second best point total since leaving the Boston Bruins. At thirty two, the small Russian is arguably one of the top two or three forwards left on the UFA market.

Also without an NHL contract is former Bruins grinder Steve Begin. After departing the home dressing room on Causeway he spent just two games in the NHL last season and played less than forty in the AHL. Begin is best known in for breaking a vertebrae in Marc Savard’s back when he played for the Canadiens.

Three former Bruins blueliners are also without a place to hang their skates as of yet. Nick Boynton perhaps best remembered for his contentious relationship with the then Bruins front office has spent time with five different NHL teams since leaving town after the 2005-6 season. Paul Mara who was traded to the New York Rangers for Aaron Ward, has since spent time in Anaheim and Montreal.   Shane Hnidy the twice a Bruin defender who rode to the Cup with Boston this year, is still available. Given how little he played in his stay here in Boston he may end up flashing his badge in some sort of development or scouting role in the near future.

 

One of the many interesting contrasts of these two teams is that while they are both built around goalies as pillars, the other superstar on their team isn’t in the same position. For the Canucks, their superstars are at forward, and the Bruins have theirs on defense. The Canucks arguably have multiple #2 and #3 defensemen, the Bruins also arguably lack a true elite forward. One big difference you’ll not is that the top four defensemen in Vancouver are split in ice time by less than four minutes from first to fourth. in Boston the spread is almost eight minutes.

Bruins:

Zdeno Chara is the largest athlete ever to play in the NHL, he’s also been called the best conditioned man in the NHL. At 6’9 even without his stick he can reach as far as some players can with theirs. His stick is taller than more than one player in the NHL. Strong, good skater and willing to use every tool available to him to win he’s won a Norris Trophy already, and is nominated for a second this year. While not the fastest man in the league in the first stride he’s been seen to go stride for stride down the ice with smaller, ‘faster’ men like Ilya Kovalchuk to name one and manage to break up their shots. Plays in all situations.

Dennis Seidenberg, the Bruins German defenseman has been having an amazing year. He had a career high in goals and points in the regular season, and is currently leading all Bruins in time on ice. Also plays in all situations, blocks tons of shots, and works well in a tandem with Chara.

Johnny Boychuck, third in ice time he’s got a shot that’s been measured over 100 MPH, is know for stunning hipchecks and won AHL defensemen of the year his last year with Providence.

Andrew Ference, the former Calgary Flame and Pittsburgh Penguin has been healthy this year for the first time in a couple season. He had a personal high in +/- at +22 in the regular season. The smallest and fastest of the Bruins top six, he’s intimidated by no one and cracked the orbital bone of an opponent who dropped the gloves with him in a game against the Dallas Stars.

Tomas Kaberle, recent Maple Leafs transplant and billed as a powerplay guru. Was rather shaky in the early parts ofthe playoffs and late regular season has settled in the last seven or eight games. Was originally brought in to put the defibrillator on the Bruins powerplay.  Solid skater, not above average in his own zone.

Adam McQuaid. Nicknamed “DarthQuaider” for his powerful hits both body and fist (as needed), this rookie has a very quiet +5 in 18 games and zero PIM despite an unabashed physicality. Better in his own zone than the other two he has been utterly reliable. A -1 in game 1 against Tampa Bay is his only minus game in the post season.

Shane Hnidy has gotten into three games this post season and played a limited number of minutes. A defensive defenseman.

Steve Kampfer, like many college players turned pro he hit the wall towards the end of the season and his play tapered off a bit. When in the lineup the fastest Bruins defenseman with a very solid shot, has not played in the playoffs.

Canucks:

Kevin Bieksa is the leading light of the Canucks defensemen. Physical, defensively sound and able to contribute offensively. Has been limited by injuries in his career but is having a strong post season. Had a fight with San Jose Sharks enforcer Patrick Marleau in the last round.

Dan Hamuis was the hot potato of the waning hours of last June and involved in three prefree agency trades before eventually signing in Vancouver. Is second to Bieksa in TOI, like Bieksa was limited by injuries during the regular season. Leads all Canucks in shorthanded time, had more points than Bieksa in less games in the regular season.

Alex Edler, third in ice time big offensive threat on the blueline, has struggled slightly in the post season has no powrplay goals and just two powerplay assist in the playoffs. Not the most sound defensively, but good speed.

Christian Ehrhoff is the biggest offensive threat from the blueline. Like his countryman Seidenberg set personal highs in points and assists, with 14 regular season goals, six of them on the powerplay. While he is first in points for defensemen, he is fourth in TOI, has good speed but is not defensively sound. Has only played 16 of the Canucks 18 games due to an injury against the Sharks, but according to the Canucks website is expected to play in game 1.

Sami Salo, another of the Canucks blueliners to spend a lot of time on the shelf this year. He got two of his post season goals in one game against the Sharks, has played in only 14 of the post season games. -2, with 3 points and averaging 18:43 in TOI, is the largest of the  Canucks defensemen who are likely to see game time this series at 218.

Aaron Rome, also expected to return tonight Rome sees very little special teams time and plays just over 13 minutes a night.  Has bounced back and forth between the AHL and NHL for years, with injuries this season creating room for him to set personal highs of 56 games and 5 points. Despite only playing 11 games and about the same amount of minutes as McQuaid has the second most PIMs on the Vancouver blueline.

Keith Ballard, Andrew Alberts, and rookie Christopher Tanev have filled in when injuries require, but have zero points, 4 PIM’s and not much special teams time between them.

Final comparison:

While the Canucks defense clearly has more speed and is more offensively gifted they are also notably lacking the heavyweight defenders that can standup to and impede the larger Bruins forwards. The Bruins defense is as sound in their own zone, and do have the ability to simply grind opposing forwards down.

 

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

A special post season edition of my favorite feature, If I told you in September:

  • Shane Hnidy and Andrew Alberts would both be on teams playing in the Stanley Cup Finals
  • Joe Thornton would be recognized as a having a great post season
  • going into the Stanley Cup Finals Tim Thomas would have the most post season three stars points
  • Brad Marchand would have the best season of all the Bruins prospects and rookies
  • the Nashville Predators would live to see the second round for the first time in team history
  • the San Jose Sharks would go further in the playoffs than the Detroit Red Wings
  • going into the Stanley Cup Finals that of the three series sweeps, the President Trophy winners would be involved in none of them.
  • David Krejci would notch more goals through three rounds than Daniel Sedin
  • of the two teams in the Stanley Cup Finals one would have three players in the top five for +/-, including one and two, and the other would have only one.
  • Joel Ward would emerge as a post season powerhouse for the Nashville Predators
  • The Washington Capitals, Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, New Jersey Devils, and Chicago BlackHawks would all fail to get to the Conference Finals
  • the Boston Bruins under Claude Juline would be in the Stanley Cup Finals
  • the Boston Bruins would be in the Stanley Cup finals and have scored more goals than their opponent in the second season
  • one of the two finalists would enter the series with their top five a combined -4 and the other a +36
  • the most hate mail I would get all day would be for insulting Clay Aikens butchering of the National Anthem

If I told you all these, or even any of these things in September would you have had me locked up?

With the series shifting back to Boston one has to wonder if they Bruins can keep their recent home dominance in effect. Aside from Thomas and two or three others it would be hard for them to put in a worse effort than they did in game two. The Flyers had a great effort in the early reaches of the first, van Riemsdyk seemingly generated chances at will and the Bruins just survived aside from that critical minute in overtime, and the two minute span in the first when they tied the game.

In, out and how much. With the status of Pronger, Carter, McQuaid and Hnidy wrapped in tighter secrecy than the raid that brought down Osama bin Laden, who is in and how much time they see could be very telling. McQuaid only played a few minutes in the last game before getting injured, and Hnidy played a handful of shifts in the second game against Montreal when Chara was out. For Carter and Pronger the injuries seem to be sever enough to mean they should only play in must win.

Goalie roulette, which goalkeepers will the Flyers employ tonight and will they prove the chamber that has the bullet or not? More importantly if they prove potentency is the barrel aimed at their bench or the Bruins bench?

What will the first 15 minutes look like? Last game saw all but the game winner scored before fifteen minutes had ticked away, will we see four goals in that time again?

Which Bruins team shows up? Which Flyers team?

 

Back on June 2, I tossed the gauntlet out at the hockey blogging world.  Create a team off the UFA list, pick the first players to resign, keep it under the cap for next year, and keep the deals realistic. In other words no 65 year deals for a certain Russian winger. And no $200,000,000 payrolls.

So here we go.

1st Domino:

Defenseman:

Anton Volchenkov. I just can’t see him making it long if his demands are at all reasonable with the number of teams that need a strong defensive defenseman.

Forward:

Matthew Lombardi, too many teams from the Flames to the Wild and the Canes need a good center right now.

Goal:

This is the pick i have the least confidence in, but I’m picking Dan Ellis.

Team UFA $57.4m All dollar figures in millions, $.400 would be $400,000

F

I. Kovulchuk $8.8m M. Lombardi $2.75m  B. Guerin $2.5

A. Frolov $4.25    M. Cullen $2.9  R.Torres $2.8

A. Ponikarovsky $2.8  K. Wellwood $1.5m C. Armstrong $2.5

M Satan $1  G. Metropolit $1.5  E. Artyukhin $1m

J Shelley $.800

35,100,000

Defense:

A Volchenkov 4.2m  D. Morris 3.5M

J. Leopold 3.2m   D. Hamuis 3.7m

A. Lilja 1.85m    S. Hnidy .850

T. Conboy .750

18,050,000

G:

D. Ellis 2.5M

M. Biron 1.75

4.25

Part 3 Worst Contract:

Ordinarily one could just flip a coin and insert the Rangers or the Canadiens, but since both are so cash strapped I’m going to go with a team desperate to make the playoffs.

The Panthers.

Part four Where’s Ilya:

Since this is my pick to make the Western Finals this season, with or without him and they have  a good chunk of cap space available too, I’m going with the sexy pick:

The LA Kings.

If you’re gonna take part, remember I need to get a link to your post tweeted or emailed to me by noon ET on June 30.

Follow this conversation on twitter with #nhlufachallenge