The Boston Bruins are desperately in need of experienced right wings to balance their lines and get their top six to look like it. What’s needed is right wings who have playoff experience, play the right wing naturally, and be on teams either trending towards a rebuild or at most not considered centerpieces of the teams future. That means the injured Evander Cane who plays left wing and center is out, Jordan Eberle is not even worth thinking about, and players who bounce between positions are suboptimal.

Here’s three reasonable names.

Alex Semin

If there’s any guy hungry to prove himself, and who knows how to find the back of the net it is Semin. He’s got top shelf hands, passes well, and while he’s not the best skater in the league is still above average.  The cost would be high, and so is his salary, but with three season more on his contract, it would allow for drafting and developing replacements.

Brad Boyes

Yes a retread, and yes he’s not a long term solution, but he’s managed to put together solid numbers the last two seasons despite playing on sub-par teams. With a low salary, a familiarity with the teams core, and two years of good health, now might just be the time to bring home a former fan favorite.

Blake Wheeler

Another familiar name, but at 28 he’s the youngest name so far, he’s a great skater, turned in 28 goals last year on a not great team. He’s consistent, a great skater, has a well rounded game, and most importantly did well as a young player under Claude Julien.

For some interesting names that are a bit of a reach, but might still work.

Colton Sceviour a Dallas Stars prospect who has done a lot of scoring in the AHL.

Wayne Simmonds of the Philadelphia Flyers, is arguably the best fit, and probably the hardest to pry loose from his current team.

Jarome Iginla, see Wayne Simmonds, and also Brad Boyes.

Vladamir Taresenko while he might be squeezed free from the St Louis Blues, its questionable if he’d make enough impact to push the team where he’d want to go.

For the second year in a row, the Metropolitan is the weakest division in hockey and it isn’t even close. Some teams are better than last year, others are worse, and anyone who tells you what the others will do is just a bit out of their mind.

Top shelf:

New York Rangers

The Rangers are a safe bet for the playoffs and likely for the division title as well. Lundqvist will be entering the season with a quality backup, and most of the key players in front of him healthy. Despite an injury to top center Stepan that will keep him until around Halloween, the Rangers have otherwise good health up and down the lineup, McDonaugh, Staal, Girardi on the backend, St. Louis, Nash, Brassard and Hagelin up front will do the heavy lifting for the team again.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Like the Rangers, the Blue Jackets have a high quality goalie, this one who just happens to be in a contract year. They also have an underrated defense group. Jack Johnson, Ryan Murphy, James Wisniewski and the rest will contribute at both ends of the ice. The forward group is unheralded as well, Brandon Dubinsky rarely gets the recognition he deserves, Scott Hartnell is a legitimate scoring threat who should be entering the season with something to prove. If Johansen can be signed, and retained, and Horton can have a healthy season, this team is going to be more than a handful.

Wild Cards

Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins have a lot of chaos factors to contend with this year. A new coach is one. Their putative number one goaltender is on an expiring contract and unlike Crosby, Malkin, and Letang was not extended early. They lost two of their top four defensemen from last year. Matt Niskanen was their top points producer and Brooks Orpik led the team in short handed time on ice. To replace them they brought in Christian Ehrhoff. Aside from the top 3-4 names, it would be hard for an observer to guess where the rest of the forward group sits as most of them look a lot like bottom line players.

New York Islanders

The Islanders actually made some smart moves this summer. They picked up and locked up Grabovski giving them a compelling one two punch at center. Their defense is a whole lot of young and learning with Visnovsky and Carkner for contrast. On the backend they have two goalies new to the system, the up, then down, then sideways Jaroslav Halak and the surprising Chad Johnson. I will be equally unsurprised if this team is in the playoffs, or in the bottom five in the league.

Washington Capitals

The Capitals are the east coast equivalent of the San Jose Sharks. On paper they’ve had the talent to win the Cup at lest once in the last decade, on ice, not so much. They too have a new coach, and possibly more importantly they have a coach who recognizes what he’s dealing with. Barry Trotz did what was probably the smartest thing a Capitals coach has done in several years and put Ovechkin back on left wing where he is most comfortable and had several pretty good seasons. The defense could shake out into pairings of Carlson-Greene, Niskanen-Orpik, and Alzner-Erskine, which as top six defense units go, is better than many can boast.

The Rest

Philadelphia Flyers

Even allowing for the Pronger/Timonen money once the season starts and he can be placed on LTIR, the Flyers are still in cap trouble. The roster genuinely looks like the team is trying to tank but just doesn’t know how. Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, and Jacob Voracek are all top end players, the rest of the forward group and much of the rest of the roster feels like the punchline to an inside joke that you’re not quite inside enough for. That said, this is largely the group that managed to make the playoffs last year.

New Jersey Devils

On the plus side the added Mike Cammalleri and finally admitted who their number one goaltender is. On the other side of the balance they added Martin Havlat who is generally good for one bizarre injury and twenty or more man games lost. The defense is rather bland, no one makes over Zajac’s $5.75m and yet they are still only three million from the cap, all without their seeming to have found a backup goalie.

Carolina Hurricanes

The season will kickoff on a sour note with Jordan Staal down-checked for an unknown amount of time with a broken leg. Even assuming Jordan Staal and he rest of the top six forwards were healthy and productive all season, Caniacs were still in for a long slog. The teams defense has high water marks that are merely average followed up by players who are at historical drought levels of talent. It would not be a surprise to see this team draft in the top three next June. The only real hope in season for this team is for the coach with the enthusiastic backing of management to go with whichever goalie is playing better and not with the one they’ve been trying to pass off a a franchise goalie for half a decade.

The City of Brotherly Love played host to three of the four horseman of the Apocalypse last season, or at least the Flyers locker room did. Players that weren’t injured were often ill, and despair cloaked the stands and fanbase days into the season. Four different goaltenders saw action during the season, and only one of those four, Steve Mason, is with the organization today. Ilya Bryzgalov was bought out as the end point of a debacle, the other two just went away.  Thirty-five skaters played for the team last year.  Thirteen of those skaters were defensemen and none of those played in every game. Of the 22 forwards, five were goalless, seven managed not even an assist. If you’re just tuning into hockey, it will not surprise you to learn the Philadelphia Flyers did not make the playoffs.

The off season saw Bryzgalov bought out, and also the wizrd of playoff points Daniel Briere. Thanks to a cap situation that looks like Medusa, the list of players signed in the off season reads like a who’s who of has beens and almost weres. Vincent Lecavalier was bought out by the Tampa Bay Lightning and yet it only took the Flyers days to decide he needed a five year contract with a no movement clause big enough to make him their second highest paid forward. In the 11 years since Kris Newbury was signed he has totaled no more than 11 games in the NHL in any season. Jay Rosehill possesses no qualities that don’t exist elsewhere on the roster, and where they do exist they come with more skill. While Mark Streit isn’t a bad player, he’s a +35 contract for four years at more than five million a year. This is a guy who is going to be 36 before the winter holidays, and owns very little playoff experience.

The first five games for the Flyers season aren’t all that bad as schedules go. They start the season at home hosting the Toronto Maple Leafs before jetting north to face the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs are the first half of a back to back that ends in Raleigh against the Carolina Hurricanes. Then the Broad Street Bullies head home for games against the Florida Panthers and Phoenix Coyotes.

Number of days 1-5: 10

Number of cities: 3

Best opponent: Montreal Canadiens

Weakest opponent: Florida Panthers

Home games: 3

Projected points : 3+

Players like Wayne Simmonds, Scott Hartnell, and the often injured Claude Giroux mean the Flyers have a chance to win any game on the strength of their offense. The depth of the defense, the adaptability of their coach Peter Laviolette, and the quality of play of netminders Ray Emery and Steve Mason will be the key points of the season. Youngsters like Scott Laughton, Nick Cousisns and Mark Alt will take aim at the heavens, but for this team to succeed they need good health and veteran contributions in their own zone.

The Canadian talent pool is deep enough to field two teams and have both of them medal most years. That said, some names being left off even the initial roster are baffling.

Forwards:

  • Jaime Benn is an enormously talented winger who was forced into the center slot last season and still came close to dragging his team into the playoffs.
  • Jarome Iginla is a head scratcher, unless he said he didn’t want to be there, or is going to be having a surgery that require a long recovery, he’s got all the tools anyone could want on their roster why he isn’t listed is at best curious and at worst an embarrassment.
  • Nathan Horton he was the leading Canadian scorer on the right wing in the playoffs, he’s won a Stanley Cup and even if he’s not due back from injury at the start of the season he’s still a big game force.
  • Pascal Dupuis, another talented right winger who led all Canadian right wings in goals in the regular season and plays in all situations. He’s never had a chance to play for his country, and has more than paid his dues in the NHL.
  • Matt Moulson is probably being snubbed for going to an American College and not playing Canadian Junior, but three 30 goal seasons in a row isn’t something you leave aside lightly.
  • Evander Kane if you want to upgrade the teams aggression without sacrificing skill there are few better names to insert.
  • Wayne Simmonds might just be one of those pugnacious wingers you take over Kane, but it’d be a close thing.

Defense:

  • Francois Beauchemin is a pure workhorse capable of playing gigantic minutes, staying disciplined, and willing to sacrifice his body for the team.
  • Cody Franson was third among Canadian defensemen in scoring this season, and fifth for the playoffs despite only playing one round. He’s young, talented and mobile.
  • Dan Girardi in any sane universe he’s going to be one of the first three names out of the mouth of someone reciting the list of the NHL’s best shutdown defensemen, apparently that isn’t good enough for Team Canada. He was also fifth total minutes played among Candian NHL defensemen last year. Go figure.

Goal:

  • Devan Dubnyk has played for the his country several times, including this years Spengler Cup, and turned in service that ranges from strong to exemplary. How he’s not invited at all is the single biggest mystery on of the whole years roster.

This is probably the most asked, least answered question in Boston sports. The answer is complex, and involves more than a few moving pieces.

Health:

The Bruins have certainly had less than average amounts of injuries, and unfortunately the two most prominent injuries have been to their top scorer, and their most important skater. Brad Marchand’s speed, ability to agitate, and his zero delay shot release are game changing. He is at this point one of the two or three best forwards in the division. Patrice Bergeron is the teams most important player. Not only is he the most skilled faceoff man in the NHL, he’s stunningly reliable, the number of non injury bad games he’s had in his career can be counted without exhausting one’s fingers, possibly without reaching a second hand. When both are out, the team is missing speed, scoring, puck control, leadership, and winning attitude. Chris Kelly’s  loss was crucial to the galloping inefficiency and creeping malaise, but that’s is something that has its real impact in the next section.

Depth:

When the Bruins won the Cup, they rolled four solid line, and had a defensive unit they could rely on. They were very much a Top 9 team with a fourth line capable of contributing at a level that many teams struggled to get their third line to impact the game at. This year they are very, very much a Top 6 – Bottom 6 team, and they have a similar issue with their bottom six to the year after Chicago won their Cup. Some pieces that are the same, but not having career years all at once, and some players who are either playing way under their expected level or who were out for an extended period.

When Chris Kelly went down, the already anemic third line flatlined. Chris Bourque, Jay Pandolfo, Jordan Caron, Ryan Spooner, Kaspars Daugavins, and Jamie Tardiff all trooped in and out of the line. Part of the problem is that when Peverley slid over to center he started trying to do too much in a year where he was already struggling. Part of it the problem is that the most promising players weren’t given legitimate opportunities. And part of the problem is just how many moving parts have been involved, especially as the lines were frequently shuffled trying to get players like Sequin, Lucic, Horton, and Krejci going as well.

Defensively, the team rushed Dougie Hamilton to the NHL before he was ready, this is a management failure, but speaks to a dearth of passable defenseman available in the off season. Hamilton certainly hasn’t been a disaster, but he’s experienced the peaks and valley’s of a rookie, and despite his size has been overpowered and beaten one on one for pucks. The question of if this would have been less serious in full season with more games and travel versus the current high compression is unanswerable, but either way another year of physical growth would have ameliorated some of the valleys in his play and freed up other defensemen from keeping an eye on him in addition to playing their own game. With McQuaid’s injury, Aaron Johnson was pulled into the lineup. While he’s possibly more skilled and a better puck handler than Mcquaid, he doesn’t have the raw aggression of McQuaid, and that means opposing players don’t slow up and look for support going to his corner.

Scoring:

When your top paid forward, David Krejci, has the same number of goals as a guy getting six minutes less of even strength time on ice a night and plays most games on the fourth line you have a genuine problem. There’s no doubt you have an issue. Nine goals isn’t a bad total for the season thus far but either of them is in the top four on the team.

Milan Lucic has gotten the most attention for scoring decline, and deserves it. He doesn’t look like himself most nights. But this dip in his scoring isn’t nearly alarming as Johnny Boychuk year over year decline since he spent his first full season in the NHL. In thirty nine games he has one more point than Shawn Thornton who has played less than half as many minutes. Part of the issue is that he’s just not shooting the puck much, Boychuck has just 64 shots to date, Thornton in the same number of games, and significantly less shifts has 46.

And yes, the powerplay is unenviable at just under 15%, but they haven’t been good at that in years.

Coaching:

Claude Julien has earned the right to a very, very long leash in his coaching tenure. But his fetish or veterans over rookies or young players is again strangling the teams creativity, and energy. Jay Pandalfo’s heart and professionalism are unquestionable. The rest of his body is not really fit for NHL action any more; and yet 18 times he has gotten the call to play over a younger, fitter, more skilled player who likely figures into the teams long term future. In those 18 games he is scoreless, based on his career total of 226 points in 899 NHL games, the expectations certainly were not high. Ryan Spooner, Jordan Caron, or Jamie Tardiff could just as easily have filled those games, and likely out performed him, Spooner and Tardiff were having very respectable years in the AHL at the time of their recall. For that matter when Chris Bourque was sent down his 19 game stint produced points, just four of them, but combined with his speed there was at least a going concern each shift for opposing defense to deal with.

And even on the veteran front, just as Corvo and Wideman and Ryder deserved to be scratched in favor of other players in the past, so too have several players this season. For all that he’s slowly starting to rebound in his own end, Ference could have used a breather, Boychuck likewise, and with so many healthy bodies circling the ice and the cap space the entire Krejci, Lucic, Horton line could and probably should have been sent to the pressbox more than once this season as there were more than a few nights all three were on the ice but not in the game.

Management:

One of the biggest issues with this team is complacency. This starts at the top. Players who know training camp is jut a formality and they can go on with the drudgery of the regular season don’t star the season in right state o mind. It isn’t just about having nothing to win with a good effort in training camp, and the off season leading to it, it is that the having nothing to lose in either time period.

This goes way beyond just this season. Part of it is a drafting tendency. The team has too many nice guys, and maybe two intermittent fire eaters. Regardless of what you think about his politics, you only had to watch one period of Tim Thomas playing to know he was one thousand percent in the game. It didn’t matter if it was policing his own crease, smashing his stick on a shot even he had no chance on, or skating out to check an opponent taking liberties with one of his team mates, he was all in from warmup until the game was in the books.

Who can you look at on the team and say that about? Which of the prospects likely to hit the roster in the next year or two does that describe? Does that describe Redden or Jagr? The same answer applies to all those questions; No and no one. This has been true for years, the last palyer to say anything not in the mold of generic athlete mutterings, or whatever the front office was saying was Steve Kampfer, and he was deported about as fast as the Brain Trust could find a dance partner.

Where’s this teams Wayne Simmonds or David Backes? Apparently the front office is either blind to that need of the teams, or doesn’t want it.

The Philadelphia Flyers have made no secret of their ability to spend money. They’ve made free with the funds for years. This year they are the top spending team, next year they are the top spending team. This is a problem because with 19 players signed for next season, and the cap set to decline sharply, they will have $2,225,119.00 to sign the needed bodies. As things stand, they will need to add two forwards and a netminder. Of course if if you can get all three for league minimum of $550,000 each, you can rest easy with three fourths of a million left over. Well, you can rest easy if there’s no injuries in an 82 game season, no one misses a game due to illness or personal issues and of course everyone gives their all skillfully everynight and no one needs the motivation provided by the view from the press box.

So what is the problem? They overpaid their goaltender. A guy who has won nothing, has a spotty playoff record, and who had never played in the more skilled Eastern Conference.  Yet they signed him to a nine year contract with a cap hit higher than the two most recent Vezina trophy winners at the time it was signed. To make matters worse they gave him a full no movement clause.

Chris Pronger’s contract is not only a 35+ contract, it has a full no movement clause. Sure, Chris Pronger was a top 15 defenseman at the time he was signed, but he’d had several injuries even then. His injuries include time off the ice due to; knees, wrists, ankles, shoulders. Those are pretty important parts of the body to any player. To a defenseman who relies on hard hits and bad attitude to patrol the ice, they are doubly important. Add to that his suspension history, and the fact he was over 35 at the time and you have to wonder what exactly Holmgren thought he was doing when signing Pronger to a seven year contract to a guy over 35.

Kimmo Timonen is a favorite of a lot of NHL fans and proud son of Finland. He’s been there and done that in his time in the NHL. Unfortunately Timonen will be 38 years old in less than three weeks. His goal scoring has already slowed down. And guess what? Even without Pronger and with a real and desperate need for defensive prowess, Timonen’s ice time is down year over year every year. Not surprisingly his goal production is down. Because I have such bright readers I’m sure you will have figured out that yes he to has a full no movement clause.

As Frank Seravalli let us know, Danny Briere has no interest in waiving his no movement clause. This despite interest from two teams with much better chances of winning the Stanley Cup in the next two years than the aggressively mediocre Flyers. Briere unlike Pronger who isn’t playing at all, or Timonen who is declining could contribute to another team and get a good return. With just two years left on his contract if he stays healthy he could be back in Philly in two years when whatever return he nets the city where his heart is cold be contributing to the lineup.

These four players all have or had at least the potential to be in the top 10 or 15% of the of players at their position in the league. If they were the only ones who could put the kibosh on a trade I wouldn’t be writing this post. Unfortunately Brayden Coburn who is overpaid by about 30% has a no trade clause. Grossmann who is overpaid by about the same amount also has a no trade clause, and he’s barely fourth in TOI/G for Flyers defensemen. Scott Hartnell who has highly variable contributions year to year has a no trade clause, Ruslan Fedetenko does as well. All of these add up to a staggering $37,385,714.00 in cap space this season. It does not take an astrophysicist to understand that’s over 50% of this years cap space in contracts that are either impossible to move or can only be moved by going back on your word.

Not only does this stratospheric stack of handicaps make the team harder to improve through trades for roster players, because of who doesn’t have no trade or no movement clauses you can either shuffle third and fourth line players and 6-8th defenseman, or deal important roster players like Giroux or Simmonds who you might not want to move, but who you might not have any choice but to part with. With the current roster configuration the team can’t even afford to call up players on entry level contracts to fill in. Ones things for sure, someone in the Flyers power structure is going to spend the next three or four years cursing these deals as they will almost certainly be left with two equally unpalatable choices; sit idly by and let time solve some of the problems, or trade away talent for pennies on the dollar and hope against hope the farm system can fill the voids.

The NHL Owners are set to end the greatest financial era of the NHL as a whole has seen in the modern era. They are doing that despite knowing the consequences. They earned money hand over fist despite an world wide economic recession. There are no grounds, other than greed, on which to base this lockout. Money is important, teams need it not just for day to day maintenance, or for covering the costs of new or upgraded practice facilities, and to compensate the owners for their work and investment, but to take care of the future.

Closing the door to players, denying millions of fans across the globe their addiction, that’s not taking care of the future. The owners claim, the NHL doesn’t need and shouldn’t have contracts longer than five years. Yet 9 of the last 150 contracts on CapGeek.com are for six years or longer. Among those signing long deals are Tyler Seguin in Boston, Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall in Edmonton, Shea Weber in Nashville, John Carlson in Washington, Wayne Simmonds and Scott Hartnell in Phily, and one or two others. Of them all, Simmonds is the least well known, and even he’s gotten some traction. How in the world do these deals, combined with the ownership statements convince anyone the NHL Owners are negotiating in good faith?

Just a few short years ago the owners were in a different position, teams like the Penguins were failing. Chicago hadn’t been good in years, the Kings were laughable, the Bruins were just bad, no big involved. League revenue was low because the teams in big markets were at the low ebb. Today that’s not true. The Penguins continue to draw at home and away. Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles have all won Stanley Cups in recent years and the fan bases are well engaged.

That won’t last through a lockout. No one in the world believes that if the NHL loses a season we’re going to get anything close to the quality product we’ve seen in the last season and two post seasons. The Coyotes and Kings leading up to the Stanley Cup final was tense, physical, emotional hockey, The Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers having a series long shooting gallery was thrilling to watch. The reason it won’t be as good is players will get out of sync with their teammates. Some players will opt to stay in the KHL or SEL, still more will retire.

Are their some bad deals handed out to NHL players? Absolutely. But the people authorizing those deals have no one to blame but themselves. Some of the NHL’s worst contracts amount to just short of stealing by the players. On the other hand, the simple truth is that those contracts amount to taking some extra pennies from the tray at the store, in comparison locking out for a season is lighting your own wallet on fire.

There are three things the Flyers should want back in any trade that removes their captain and best player:

  1. Skill. It doesn’t matter if it is offensive skill, or defensive it has to be a player who will get top six or top two minutes.
  2. Leadership, if the worst for the Predators does happen and they lose their Captain after having lost Suter already, there is no way the current team is going succeed without an infusion of additional leadership.
  3. Marketability. The loss of Weber to the Predators is greater than the loss of Sundin to the Toronto Maple Leafs, greater than the loss of Lidstrom to the Detroit Red Wings and greater even than the loss of Gretzky for the Oilers, Kings or New York Rangers. He is their first great star. He is the team identity, he has a solid shot at the hall of fame, and their is no one on the roster to fill that void.

Of the players currently under contract to the Philadelphia Flyers, there are some players who are highly desirable. Danny Briere is talented, a playoff wizard, hasattitude and might just be the perfect player to slide into the gap in the Post Weber-Suter era, having played in Buffalo when they were at low ebb he’s seen unsightly situations before and still gone on. If only he didn’t have non-movement special (aka The Calgary Special). Claude Giroux is almost certainly off the table from the Flyers standpoint. If he’s not, you have to take his two concussions in four seasons into consideration.

Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier are both young, dynamic and highly respected players. It is uncertain what they will be in the next two or three years. Schenn produced even in the playoffs, but might get less interest from the Predators for a certain lack of defensive prowess. Couturier on the other hand has a both offensive flair and defensive chops.

While recently added to the team, Wayne Simmonds could be a godsend to the Predators. He’s big, he plays a touch mean, he’s got skill and he put up 28 goals playing essentially third line minutes. The question with Simmonds is can he keep up or increase that production playing first or second line minutes? Hartnell is a bit older than any of the other forwards the Preds should consider except Briere, but there’s upsides. First he played in the Preds system before and knows what to expect from it and the fans. But, consistency is not Scott Hartnell’s thing. Over the last four seasons he’s scored 30, 14, 24, and 37 goals without having missed any time.

The Flyers don’t have an impressively deep prospect pool and any conversation for the Predators that doesn’t include Scott Laughton is probably a waste of time. Goaltending? Not the Flyers strong suit. Defense? The Predators might want a medium term fix like Coburn to hold things together until Josi, Blum, or someone else can step into the vacuum. I would, in the Predators shoes also take draft picks. Multiple second round picks are worthwhile, and even third, fourth and fifth round picks are common currency in trades and still able to produce solid NHL players. Weber himself is a second round pick, Chara a third round pick and both of the St Louis Blues goalies last year were ninth rounders.

In bringing players back to the Predators attention does have to be paid to what is going on in labor negotiations. If the owners succeed in shanking the NHLPA with the proposed radical reduction in revenue shared, the cap will drop severely. If that happens and they move too much money back to Nashville’s books, they might be forced to jettison dearly bought offensive depth.

I looked at the standings this morning. I’m willing to be the depression rate among Bruins fans will climb exponentially as more and more crack open their internet browser and do the same Given where things stand right now, the Bruins would be looking at the serious possibility of drafting first. Thanks to an hour of gong show hockey by the Flyers and Jets, coupled with their own continued sloppy play and what is almost certainly the best game of the year for Carey Price, the team finds itself in 29th place this morning.

Among the four teams that went to the conference finals last year, the Bruins made the least and least dramatic moves since. The Sharks booted Heatley and Setoguchi  and turned them into Burns and Havlat. The Lightning brought in a better performing back up goalie, allowed several free agents to find new homes, and are giving a hungry rookie his time to shine. The Canucks let some of their underperformers in the playoffs go, and brought in a legitimate (if slumping) power forward to help provide secondary scoring.

You can call it confidence or complacency but the Bruins most dramatic move of the off season was flipping a fourth round pick to a conference rival for defenseman who’s greatest claim to fame is having been arrested for punching a woman in a Boston bar. One of their top power play producers retired, the other, just as he was edging back into productivity was allowed to walk. They were replaced by a #4 draft pick who is the least skilled forward to play for the Bruins in the last half decade.

The powerplay is ranked 24th in the NHL. The team that finished the season with the best goals for to against numbers has given up more goals than they’ve scored. In the second period this season they have given up twice the number of goals they’ve scored. The only two players who appear to be trying their best for sixty minutes both wear masks.

Peter Chiarelli’s plan for creating competition for jobs in training camp was to bring in a 35 year old who’s best days are long, behind him, and to pick up a the twice discarded Pouliot. No signings during free agency of what might be legitimately considered a top six or even top nine forward, no trades to improve team speed or size or goal scoring. Not even a trade to pick up a draft pick or two. Not a single draft pick was kept in town to infuse hangover central with a little more enthusiasm. Khokhlachev, Spooner, Knight or one of the other skilled forwards could have been spark enough that even if eventually sent back to their junior teams the Bruins would have to have more points than the Winnipeg Jets, or the Ottawa Senators.

For that matter, picking up Wayne Simmonds as they Flyers struggled to get under the cap on the cheap would have added a very Bruins-like player to the roster and one who had a lot to prove. The Senators picked up Filatov for not a great deal, even with the questions that surround him and his former team, no one who has seen him and Pouliot play can doubt which of the two is more skilled.  Bergenheim had five goals in seven games against the Bruins in the conference finals, and Joel Ward was the Canucks own personal nightmare, both were available this off season if a complimentary piece is all that was wanted.

The Bruins do have some legitimate cause for putting up less impressive numbers than fans could hope. The inconsistency and lack of continuity on the ice is not something that can be entirely blamed on the short summer. Leadership has claimed their are constantly looking for ways to improve the team, and that they wanted to create competition for jobs at camp,. One free agent signing, a tentative at best promotion of a prospect and the brandishing of an injury plagued forward with less points than last seasons rookie number six defenseman don’t lineup with those statements very well.  I’m not sure when the media and fan backlash will begin, and while no small part of it should be aimed at the players it is no secret that organizations can only be as good as their leadership.