Today the Boston Bruins traded about six weeks of an expiring contract for two first round picks (one past, one future), and an additional conditional pick.  One of those first round picks was used to pick Joe Colborne, billed as “Jumbo Joe”, he has a similar although not as polished skill set as Joe Thornton. The other first rounder could be anyone, the only thing we know about them today is that whoever that pick is, they will be strengthening a division rival. Admittedly, as far as the Maple Leafs have to climb, it could take a while before they can threaten to take the division title.

In a separate trade, Blake Wheeler, the under performing former first round pick but undeniably talented forward picked up as a free agent, and first round draft pick Mark Stuart were sent to hockey exile in Atlanta where they will play in front of AHL sized crowds. In return Atlanta dumps a failed defenseman in Boris Valabik who’s sole claim to fame is having fought to and lost to countryman Zdeno Chara, and their forward with the second worst +/1 on the team, Rich Peverly.

So in exchange for four first round level picks today, the toughness and leadership of Stuart,  the Bruins get back a puck moving defenseman who’s goal scoring has dropped steadily for years in Thomas Kaberle with no guarantee he will be here past July 1st, an undrafted forward that doesn’t appear to know anything about the defensive zone, who is yet another center, and a guy who couldn’t stay on the Atlanta blueline when they were among the worst defensive teams in the entire NHL. They also got to strengthen a division rival, and remove two top penalty killers.

This is a colossal role of the dice, in the unlikely-in-the-extreme event I’m wrong, and Chiarelli and Neely are right I’ll be overjoyed at the Stanley Cup parade. As it stands now, that’s unlikely and I suspect more than a handful of general managers around the league are laughing out-loud over these trades.

Yes ladies and gentleman, the NHL trade deadline is less than two weeks away. NHLNumbers,  CapGeek, Kuklas Korner, and Spectors are all buying extra bandwidth, other sports outlets are using these days to set their advertising prices on hockey pages for the year, and many players have probably carefully drown their phones to avoid texts, tweets and calls about rumors circling them.  But lost in the shuffle is how much of what is said, hinted at and is speculation at best and pure self serving lies at worst.

The Lecavalier to Montreal rumors swirled in the bowl for years, and refused their rightful deserts of a good flush despite all the statements by Lecavalier and the various suits at the Tampa Bay Lightning. Less persistent, but of equally odoriferous were the Malkin to the Kings rumors. More recently Ilya Kovalchuk was linked to the Kings, the Islanders, his former team the Atlanta Thrashers, half the KHL and Santa Clause over the summer, as we all know the New Jersey Devils were his destination.

For at least the last three years Thomas Kaberle has been “linked” to the Boston Bruins. Aside from being the “puck moving defenseman” that every team wants. Admittedly he’s been linked to other team, but not nearly as frequently. The radio silence some parties involved have asked for has been as easy to find as back to back sell outs for the Blue Jackets. At one point it was Phil Kessel for Kaberle, at draft picks, prospects and roster picks have rotated through the other half of the equation (and sources tell me that The Bruins refusal to include  a hockey puck autographed by Bourque and Orr for Burkes mantle was the drop dead point on one trade deal) and all of these deals have been close very close, or done deal.

I love speculation on potential trades as much as the next fan. I just prefer to get all my fantasy bound in a book and clearly labeled as such.  The rumor mongering surrounding the Kaberle deal and the Boston Bruins is coming from the same sources it always does. I’m not saying they are 100% wrong, or even that it’s malicious, but don’t forget they are all paid to generate traffic on their websites and viewers on their shows. I’ll listen on other deals, but for now I’d rather find out what it’s like to live in a city of werewolves in my own personal flesh, or maybe encounter an invisible dragon in a patch of dark woods than read one more headline about how the Kaberle deal is done until it is done and announced on the Maple Leafs website and wherever he lands.

The eastern conference is deeper than the west this year, and I can’t really see any of the top six in the east falling out. Carolina and Atlanta may have a dog fight until game 82 is in the books, and the New York Rangers just need to stay healthy. The new wild card will be the Pittsburgh Penguins, with Malkin likely out for six month they could buy, sell, or do nothing. Any of the three could set off an avalanche of movement.

Carolina Hurricanes, they have a bit of a history of movement around the deadline. With the most goals allowed of any team currently in the eastern conferences top 8, it’s a no brainier what they should add. Where they are going to add a solid blueliner is a mystery, but one they probably need to solve. With Staal, Skinner, and Ward pulling the train they are unlikely to to get embarrassed in the playoffs. With less than a handful of others making an impact it’s hard to see them getting to the promised land.  Sending off one or two of their forward prospects for an NHL roster defenseman might be the best way to tighten up the back end and provide a mentor for Jamie Mcbain.

Atlanta Thrashers, despite their improvements on defense, their defense is still worrisome with 178 goals allowed, only the last place Edmonton Oilers have allowed more goals. It is highly unlikely they can somehow morph into the best defense in the league through any possible combination of trades and promotions between now and the playoffs. The good news is that with the tenth best offense in the NHL they probably don’t need to. With even a slight upgrade and the firm ministrations of coach Craig Ramsay, a better defense is more than just possible it’s highly likely.  The other area the team is lacking is in commitment. People just aren’t in it to win it. This can probably be traced back to a game against the Bruins in which they had their mojo broken over their heads. They need to get it fixed or see if they order some on Amazon or Ebay.

Despite the disappointing year for Ryan Miller and company they are just five points out of 8th place, and have four games in hand on Atlanta, and two on Carolina.  With new ownership, a ton of cap space and a great goaltender anything is possible. Trading Connolly to say Pittsburgh or Calgary or another team needing a center for the post season might be a good thing long term. If it could bring them back a solid pick, if a trade and sign deal could be worked a deal that exchanged him for Ottawa’s Karlsson might serve both teams well. This may just be the most interesting team to watch over the next three and a half weeks. Tweaking either their offense or defense a little probably gets them over the hump and in but not very deep, so it becomes a question of long term vs short term strategy.

I bet you didn’t know the Florida Panthers were 11th best in goals against right now. If you did, see the man at the door for a gold star. Sadly they are also 19th in goals for. The question of what this team does is anyone’s guess. Dale Tallon has shown a willingness to make moves that could lead just about anywhere. Maybe he swings a deal to send Vokoun out west to the San Jose Sharks, or goes digging for some former BlackHawks in Atlanta or Toronto. It’s even conceivable a team with enough injuries might decide they need Denis Wideman.  The team hasn’t made the playoffs in a very long time and was conversely widely criticized for holding on to Bouwmeester too long when his contract was ready to expire just a short time back. With little to offer but prospects and depth forwards, trades might be pretty hard to come by.  A little judicious movement could see the team slide back into the lottery where they could land next years Jeff Skinner or Kevin Shattenkirk.

New York Rangers need only stay and get healthy to stay in a nice spot. The with Fedetenko set to be back before the deadline, and Christensen having just climbed off the IR, they could be movers at the dead line upgrading here and there. With 3 million and cap space and a few movable assets, the blue shirts are in a position at least a dozen NHL teams would like to be occupy. With the part-time demotion of Michael Del Zotto to the AHL, one can’t help but wondering if he’d be available to teams shopping for a mobile blueliner.

Coaching B+, the Bruins are first in an admittedly thin division. They are six points out of first in the east. The two biggest areas of opportunity on the ice as far as pure execution are the powerplay, and the shootout. True, any game that’s decided in the shootout might as well be decided by a coin toss, but it still important to the standings. The powerplays biggest failures this season have been: Marc Savard when both absent and on the ice and  David Krejci. Neither has a powerplay goal this season.

Relatively speaking Savard has been the better of the two on the powerplay putting up his two assists in his 19 games, while Krejci has played all 41 and accumulated the same two assists. Savards weaknesses have been clearly recognized and addressed. In recent years he’s been a part of the penalty kill on a regular basis, this season he’s not seen more than a couple minutes of time short handed. Krejci on the other hand spent most of the first half between Horton and Lucic while they lead the team in goals, and still didn’t manage many goals of his own even with those two drawing a lot of attention.

For comparison, Milan Lucic who hardly saw the powerplay units from anywhere but the bench before this season has 2 goals and 4 assists with the man advantage this season. Michael Ryder, has been leveraged and is the powerplay stud, seven goals and four assists while fifth in PPTOI isn’t too shabby for someone who was expected to be in Providence or bought out.

Even as weak as the powerplay has been for stretches this year, its been incomparably better than last years edition, while Savard’s injury was bad for him and the team then, I’m not sure it’s as bad for the team now as it has been for him. Last year when Savard went down, no one knew how to be the powerplay general. In the past several months, Bergeron, Recchi, and Ryder of grown into the role, and currently stand as the top three in powerplay points for the team. Even with all the criticism one can level at the powerplay, it is still clicking along better than last years edition.

Goaltending has been handled very well, the current consensus pick for the Vezina and Hart candidate, has had the lions share of the work  and been spelled by a guy who has played in fits and starts, getting more play in denser parts of the schedule and less in lighter runs.  Not surprisingly the Bruins once again own the goals against category.

Goal scoring. Last season the Bruins were dead last in this category, for most of the seasons they’ve been in the low teens, and today sit in tenth.

Management: C+, not a lot done during the quarter. Good soldier Marco Sturm was shipped out for the cost of several pieces of fax paper and in return the Bruins received only cap space. Two young defensemen were called up, and it looks like both trades from late last year are working out well, as Kampfer has probably earned his way into the top six even if everyone is ever healthy again, and Bartkowski didn’t look out of place against the high flying Penguins.

They also made a pair of minor league moves shuffling off players who will clearly never make the Boston Bruins for a couple players who may never make the Boston Bruins and a draft pick.

In the case of the Mob vs Reality docket number PS/12282101RIDIC-CJ we have the case of the “embattled” Bruins head coach Claude Julien. The charges are listed with all evidence included. Decide for yourself.

He’s been here three years and hasn’t won in the playoffs.

This is only partly true, the first year they lost in the first round, going to six with a loaded Montreal team. In that campaign, Bergeron was lost early on leaving Glen Metropolit, Peter Schaefer, Jeremy Reich with rookies David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Petteri Nokelainen, and to provide breaks for Marc Savard (who had a vertebrae broken in his back just before the series), Glen Murray, and P.J. Axellson. On defense were Bobby Allen, Matt Lashoff, and Andrew Alberts.  Clearly that was a roster with Stanley Cup written all over it.

The case in 08-09 is actually slightly better, except they won a round. They went into the playoffs and embarrassed the Canadiens, and going to the mat with the Hurricanes. The goaltending and defense were solid, any case that can me made against a 1.85 and .935 isn’t worth writing down, listening to or responding too. The two issues were goal scoring, and what I can only hope was a communication break down that led to Wideman and Montador being on the ice, together, in the defensive zone, in overtime. Add in Recchi having a kidney stone removed between games six and seven, Kessels shoulder injury, Krejci’s hip injury, and Chuck Kobasew having as many goals as the entire defense. On top of this, Bitz and Yelle, were getting ice time because there was no once else.

Then there is last year. The previous years Vezina winner is quietly on the shelf with a hip injury that no one was talking about.  Savard had his brains scrambled then lied his way back into the line up, half of the top four defensemen entering the post season were on the shelf, the previous seasons top goal scorer was on the shelf with a knee injury. During the brutally physical Buffalo series Vladimir Sobotka has his shoulder separated. Mike Richards tosses a sixth roster player on the scrap heap with an open ice hit that cracks Krejci’s wrist.  Mean while, back on the ice, Trent Whitfield, is playing big time NHL minutes, Milan Lucic is nearly recovered from a high ankle sprain that limits the mobility of someone who’s never been a great skater and is one of the best two physical presences left on the ice. Zdeno Chara has finally removed a cast he’d worn since October. Behind Chara are, Hunwick, rookie Boychuck, and the ever reliable Denis Wideman. Adding depth to the addled Savard and the singled out by survival Bergeron are Steve Begin, Miroslav Satan, and the NHL’s elder statesman Mark Recchi who led all Bruins in goals in the playoffs last year.

He plays veterans too much and doesn’t give young players enough time.

Not really an operative complaint on a team that’s not failed to reach the playoffs and have a winning record in his tenure. Are other rookies getting more time than Seguin, yes absolutely.  Among rookie forwards, Seguin is ranked 13th with none of the twelve players ahead of him having played less games. Of the players ahead of him, Logan Coture, Mark Letestu, Bryan Bickell, Jake Dowell, Mikael Backlund and Tyler Ennis all played in the NHL before this season. Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, and Magnus Paajarvi represent an unfortunate percent of their talent given that two of them are one and two in goal scoring for their team.

Of the other true rookies there is David Stepan, Jeff Skinner, Alexander Burmistrov and at the start of the season, none of their three teams were expected to make the playoffs back in September except possibly as bubble teams.  The Rangers have had a lot of injuries up front with Drury, Gaborik, Frolov and others spending time on the shelf, giving more ice time to a player two years older. Jeff Skinner looks like the steal of the draft, but let’s face it, on his team anyone who could skate, and show up who ended up playing part of the season with Eric Staal was going to look pretty damned good. Skinner has worked hard to be second in scoring on his team no doubt, but how much of an accomplishment is that on a team that’s 16th in goals for, one point out of last in their division, and two points out of the lottery?

But he skated Wideman, and Ryder when they #$%&\@!.

Yes, as the coach he did. Look at the AHL stats for the Providence Bruins last season, hint hint, they did not qualify for the playoffs. Look now, Wideman is gone, Ryder is third in scoring and has gotten much less time and far more linemates than the two men ahead of him.

He doesn’t develop young players!

You mean like David Krejci, Johnny Boychuck, Tuukka Rask, Milan Lucic, Blake Wheeler, Brad Marchand who have all stuck with the club in his tenure? Or do you mean guys like Matt Lashoff, Byron Bitz, Vladimir Sobotka, Phil Kessel who were all traded away for building blocks? Yes, I can see your concern, I have a great microscope.

But Chicago fired their coach last season and went on to win the Stanley Cup!

The Chicago BlackHawks were incredibly loaded, with the exception of their goaltending there wasn’t a single position on that team that didn’t make other clubs drool with envy. The cap sodomization they inflicted on themselves ensures they will be lucky to even make the playoffs this year as half their roster turned over. They were also lucky enough to have all their key components reasonably healthy all at once.  More importantly as this years New York Islanders amply demonstrate, just dumping a coach doesn’t always improve things, not that it saved Macleans job.

He’s lost the lockerroom! They aren’t showing any emotion! Their powerplay sucks!

I’m pretty sure it hasn’t been moved on him. I’m also pretty sure that a team that goes out and beats down Atlanta, when the only guy on the on the ice who is a well respected fighter is the one who got the cheap shot in the first place, and the rest have combined for less NHL fights than Lucic has had in one season is “showing some emotion”. Also, I’d be hard pressed to explain a powerplay that has essentially the same personnel as last year jumping from 23rd to 13th in the NHL if the players have stopped listening to the coaches.

The defense rests.

Thanks to @ScottyHockey for the fact check.

With Marco Sturms tenure with the Bruins laying firmly in the crosshairs of the salary cap, injuries and the surprising play of others, it was only a matter of time before the trigger was pulled. Before you get overwhelmed by the Bruins not so many woes, let’s take a look at some of those woes.

Woe 1) The Bruins need better defense.

Sure, being the best in the NHL, in a conference with five (six if you count Lucic) of the top goal scorers, and six of the top goal scoring teams is clearly a sign of faulty defense. I’m not sure why any mobs haven’t already strung up Peter Chiarelli, Claude Julien, Geoff Ward and the rest of the Bruins management, Cam included. Atrocious.

Woe 2) The Bruins want a puck moving defenseman.

Well, so do 29 other teams in the NHL, and probably every other team in every other hockey league on the planet. Every little girl on the planet wants a pony too, that doesn’t mean they need one. With very few exceptions, puck moving defensemen (once called two way defensemen) are the streaky wingers of the blueline. Of the defensemen who were in the top five for points last season, none are currently in the top five, and only Duncan Keith is in the top ten. He’s a -7 on the year. The Chicago BlackHawks have scored about one eighth of a goal more per game, and allowed just under a goal per game.

Woe 3) The Bruins aren’t scoring enough!

This is nearly legitimate. When the Penguins last won the Cup, they headed into the post season having scored twenty three goals more than they allowed. In other words they had a +23. Today, right now the Bruins sit with a +25. With their top play-maker Marc Savard having spent time on the shelf, and not back to full capacity yet, and with David Krejci missing time being 11th in the NHL with just a few percentage points separating them from ten is a nice place to me. I can’t imagine guys like Lucic, Bergeron, Chara, Savard being complacent and not wanting to get into the top ten, or even the top five before the end of the season.

Woe 4) Why aren’t they doing anything with all the cap space?

Even with Sturm gone, the Bruins are still pretty tight to the cap. The reason for moving him, and not the salary of a slightly higher paid winger was that they didn’t want to rock the boat. You may not have noticed, but the Bruins have scored more goals, and allowed less than anyone in their division. This is considered by a few people to be a winning formula. While Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe reports, there were Dallas Stars scouts at the Philadelphia and Buffalo games, I’d be surprised to see anything huge come out of it. The west is so tight this year, that I’ll be amazed if we know anything more than which teams won’t make the playoffs before the final week or two of the season. If something does happen I wouldn’t be surprised if it was something like C, D to Dallas, W, Pick to Boston.

With perhaps the most complete team in the NHL, and a team anyone who knows anything about the NHL, penciled inked into the top five teams in the league back in September, one must wonder how we all got it so, so wrong.

Is it Marty? Is Sean Avery’s favorite goalie melting down faster than Mel Gibson? While it’s true that his .901 SV% is not just the lowest of any full season in his career, but is well below his .914 average, and his 2.74 GAA is .40 higher than his career average, he’s not the only goalie who has flown high who is now looking up at the pack. Hiller, Khababulin, Kiprusoff and Anderson all have a worse GAA than Broduer. His SV% is exactly what Jeff Deslauriers finished last season with. True, we’re a mere seventeen games into Broduers season, and we don’t really expect the guy at the top of the goalie stats to stay there, so maybe, MB30 will climb back into familiar territory.

Is it Ilya Kovalchuk? The $100,000,000.00 man is also, hands down having the worst season of his career. In twenty five games this year, he’s got a line of 5-6-11 -15, after his arrival in New Jersey last year he played twenty seven games and had a line of 10-17-27 +9. In his career he’s averaged 3.65 shots on goal per game. This season, the Tver Russia native is down to 2.96 shots per game.

What about Langenbrunner? The 35 year old team Captain is on pace for just 11 goals, not surprisingly this would be the least goals he’s scored since the lockout. In fact to find a goal total lower than that you have to go back all the way to 2003-4 season where he scored just to in 53 games.  He’s also got the worst plus minus of his career a -12, of the teams forwards only Kovalchuck is worse. This is a shocking development in a guy who last year was a plus six, and the year before was a +25 to go along with a career +60.

What about the defense you say? Well, that’s just ugly. As if Broduer’s slippage wasn’t enough, bearing in mind that he’s played just half their games, and has more shutouts and a better GAA than either man to substitute for him, it isn’t terribly surprising to learn that the Devils have allowed a sixth worst 2.96 GAA on the season.  Even allowing for the turnover, and better goalie play in Boston this year as a team they went from 2.27 GAA defense to 2.96 seemingly overnight.

At least the offense is pitching in right? Um, if by pitching in you mean contributing to their chances of taking the first overall pick in the upcoming NHL entry draft, you’d be right. As of today, they have a 1.78 GF/G average, lower than 29th place by about a third of a goal per game.

Has anyone been injured? At this point it is probably just as sensible to ask who hasn’t been injured. Of the 29 skaters to suit up for the Devils this season, in just 27 games, only seven have played all 27 games. Among those to miss time are defensive defenseman Anton Volchenkov, Langenbrunner, Parise, Fraser, Rolston. When you consider that Volchnkov was brought into be their defensive workhorse and is tied for the team lead +/- with a +2, you have to wonder how much less bad the team would be had he been on the ice all season. Not to be overlooked is that the Devils have played nine rookies to date this season.

If all those things are so bad sure it’s gotta be the coach! Ah, well maybe not. True John MacLean‘s a first year coach who’s only previous head coaching experience was as head coach of the New Jersey Devils AHL affiliate. It’s interesting to note that the then Lowell and now Albany Devils had both their longest losing streak, and their best points total in his season as head coach. One factor working against the coach is how different his style is from both the previous coach of the Devils, and that of the coaches of the off season and trade deadline acquisitions not to mention rookies making the double adjustment of new team and minor or amateur ranks to the NHL.

With all these factors playing a part of the huge equation that is the success, or lack their of, of a NHL team, there is one huge integer, or possibly exponent that I’ve not seen covered anywhere.  Buried under all these injuries, and worst seasons ever, and first seasons ever is the fact that there has been a lot of turnover not just on the roster, but in team philosophy.  Since the year started about half the roster has turned over, much of it on defense. On top of that there has been a redefining of roles among the forwards and team as a whole.

Prior to this season, when all else failed, when the opposition beat five skates dead to rights and came to the crease with blood in their eye, Martin Broduer could be counted on to stonewall them at a ridiculous rate. Before this spring Zach Parise as the guy who scored goals when you needed them. Langenbrunner was the leader. Zajac was the well rounded forward who did what was asked in all three zones. With the acquisition of Kovalchuk before the trade deadline, you get a guy who was team captain for years, has had a better goal scoring career than any of his new teammates, and who knew his job was to get open and bury the puck. That’s it, two jobs, no backchecking, no looking off the defense with a pass to someone else who owned a legitimate scoring shot, no plays drawn up on the board that didn’t feature use as the primary weapon in the powerplay.

As respected as Zajac, Parise, and Langenbrunner were, none of them has ever been a superstar. If they had been the face of the Atlanta Thrashers in Kovalchuks place, the team would have been packed off to Winnepeg, Quebec City, Ontario or parts unknown years ago (assuming the ownership group could agree on the color of money) and they’d probably have been scapegoated. MB30 has been the face of the New Jersey Devils, even he is overshadowed by Kovalchuk. Number 17 even has his own feud going with Elisha Cuthbert’s most pesky ex. When you look at the top performers in the NHL, every single one of them, regardless of their position knows the style of play expected of them, and where they are supposed to be on the ice and what they are supposed to be doing there. Draw up any play, in any situation you like, abduct Mike Babcock and staff from behind the Red Wings bench, and I’ll bet you Oprah-bucks that Lidstrom, Rafalski, Datsuyk, all know which X is them without anyone saying a word. Hop on I-94, rinse and repeat with Toews, and Keith and get the same result.

While it’s certainly not the only problem, I think giving the team time to settle into place after the roster and religious upheaval of the last season or so is only reasonable. Take a look at last seasons Montreal Canadiens, everyone laughed themselves sick at the assembly of Smurfs and the no-name defense lolling passively along behind them. Now (years too late for some) the entire NHL knows their names.

A couple times in the last two or three weeks I’ve heard people say that teams take on the personality of their head coach. Specifically they were saying this in an effort to criticize Claude Julien. I just don’t think I can agree. The coach is on a day to day basis the most influential member of club management, but that’s about where it ends.

The general manager on the other hand not only selects the coaches, and the players, but selects the scouts, the assistant general managers, and trainers. They also set the priorities of personality, and physical attributes they value. It is also the GM who (in most organizations) has the final call on trades, draft choices, and what players are assigned to and recalled from a minor league affiliate. On top of that, they have the final say what free agents are pursued or resigned.

Bearing those things in mind, let’s look at two general managers that have been appointed recently, and the types of players they have brought in, made captain, and attempted to move.

First Brian Burke, Toronto Maple Leafs:

  • Dion Phanuef, aggressive, hard skating defenseman who has drafted high and has a reputation for playing on or over the edge. Has not had his defensive game flattered much in the last couple seasons. Also has a reputation for not having his head in the game for long stretches of time. He was brought into the Maple Leafs via a trade with the Calgary Flames. After twenty six games of tepid play last season, he was named captain in the off season, a position that had been vacant since the departure in 2008 of Leafs icon Mats Sundin.
  • Phil Kessel, was acquired from the Boston Bruins in exchange for two first round draft picks  and a second round pick (Tyler Seguin 1st 2010, Jared Knight 2nd 2010, and upcoming 1st 2011). Kessel was and remains widely praised for exceptional speed, and a shot release that puts him in the top ten or fifteen players in the league in both. He’s also got a well documented history of failure to perform against top teams, isn’t gifted with an impressive work ethic, and probably accumulates almost as many hits her year as Tim Thomas. He’s not shown a willingness to play through pain for the good of the team.
  • Mike Komisarek, picked up after he earned himself a one way ticket to anywhere but the Bell Centre. He’s a defensive defenseman, who plays with an edge, engaged in a very one-sided feud with Bruins winger Milan Lucic where he lost a couple fights, including one where he spent months on the shelf as a result of an injury sustained during the fight. He gouged the eye of the much smaller Matt Hunwick and hasn’t covered himself in glory as a Leaf.

Now a look at some of the key free players Peter Chiarelli has brought to the Boston Bruins.

  • Zdeno Chara. Has responded well to both coaches he’s played for a Bruin, his former Islanders General Manager’s lone complaint of him is that he wanted to much money. He came into a town with a history of elite defensemen and earned himself a Norris trophy. Has, been a fixture of the team, played the 2009-10 season with a dislocated finger. Soft spoken off the ice and willing to give time to fans.
  • Marc Savard. Came in a point per game player with a reputation for soft play, and defensive nonexistence. In the time he’s been in Boston, his points total has dipped slightly, but he has also been a large contributor to the penalty kill, and has led the team in scoring three of the four plus seasons here. By nearly any conceivable measure, he signed a contract extension well under his fair market value to remain a member of the Boston Bruins.
  • Mark Recchi. As the NHL’s elder statesman by more than two years, on the surface it’s an interesting question as to why he’s on the roster at all. That is until you remember he’s one of the handful of players to hit over 1000 games, 1000 points, and 1000 penalty minutes. Also, certain minor stars of the NHL like Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos credit him with helping them hugely. Add that to the Bruins pretty young roster, and the upcoming talents and he’s a very, subtle element in the developmental progression of several players.

When you look at the rosters of both teams, see interviews with the core players, and look at who’s wearing the letters on the front of their jerseys you’ll notice that for the most part the Bruin’s players are soft spoken, introverted, and even if they play a very physical game, lean towards the cerebral thinking mans player. If you look at the Maple Leafs roster, you get one dimensional, high risk high reward style players who are more emotionally driven. I don’t think you could watch five minutes of footage of both GM’s and come away with any impression other than that these are the men who have crafted their teams.

The Boston Bruins seemed set to close out the game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Tim Thomas was doing his best to convince the world he could leap tall buildings in a single bound. Greg Campbell and Nathan Horton had given the team a 2-1 lead. The team had returned the physical play of the home team at every turn.

Then the tide was turned. The teams top penalty killer, best three zone forward and emotional epicenter was sent to the box with two and half minutes left. The Leafs leaped forward peppering Thomas with shot after shot and eventually pulling Giguere to skate six on four. Moments later Kris Versteeg, once traded by the Bruins to Chicago for Brandon Bochenski, sticks in a sweet feed to tie it up. Not content with the previous substandard call, the officials proved they could scrape the bottom of the barrel a little more and allow a Toronto player to draw a call in overtime by stuffing Boychucks stick into his shirt.  We go to overtime.

The first goal against Thomas was indisputable, even in a league with the “intent to blow” rule. The Phil Kessel goal has been ruled both ways any number of times. The puck was not in sight, no angle showed the puck anywhere before the officials raise their hands.

Sadly, as bad as the officiating was, and it would need to improve greatly just to be putrid, I can’t blame them entirely for the loss. For the first time this season the Bruins hung Tim Thomas out to dry. In all three periods of regulation, and in overtime the Bruins were outshot. The Leafs had 26 hits and 21 blocked shots to the Bruins 22 and 17. Despite Bergeron going 60% in twenty five faceoffs, the Bruins barely held even with the Leafs in that stat. Complacence, overconfidence, or just lack if commitment, those things will fuel a loss regardless of the individual play of even as skilled and important a player as Tim Thomas.