If the worst should happen and the Boston Bruins do get forced to trade the best young star the team has had in years not named Brad Marchand, then we need first need to stop blaming agents, stop blaming players, and go back to the truth; The Jacob’s family is not interested in retaining top talent. For some people that means dusting off the hate they carried around up until Tim Thomas and company won the Cup. For others it means finding a new team to cheer.

If you’re looking to see how David Pastrnak stacks up against Phil Kessel and Tyler Seguin, its pretty interesting to see. Kessel was on the deepest team at center in his first three years, and played opposite Milan Lucic in that time. Seguin rode some coattails to a Stanley Cup. Both of them had better defenses behind them than Pastrnak has seen. And of the three Pastrnak was the fastest to reach 70 points. Kessel has shown to be the best of the three in the post season (with more opportunities), Seguin appears to be the worst of the three. As far as three zone play Pastrnak outclasses the other two, even today, collectively or individually.

When it comes to trade value, not only are there more RFA years left for Pastrnak, he’s a more complete, more physical player who has shown coach-ability, not to mention both the physical ability, and the mental drive to get better. David Pastrnak may just be the most likable guy in the Boston Bruins locker room. That’s not something anyone has ever said about Kessel, or Seguin, or even Blake Wheeler who was also traded away young.

As it is beginning to look more and more like a suitable deal that will keep Pastrnak in the Black and Gold for the long term isn’t coming, you have to examine the potential return. Phil Kessel was traded for first round picks in consecutive drafts, and a second round pick. Tyler Sequin who has the key return for Kessel was part of an outgoing package that included Ryan Button (a late pick who has done nothing), and Rich Peverley a utility forward who played up and down the lineup. The return there was Loui Ericsson, Joe Morrow, Reilly Smith, Matt Fraser. Smith and Morrow were badly bungled, Fraser barely eclipsed Button.

I’m not sure even teflon coated owners like the Jacobs can get away with trading a popular, healthy, productive, two way, high scoring stud like Pastrnak without a hefty return without repercussions in ticket sales, merchandise, ratings, and public image. Three first, assuming someone would part with them might look good on paper, but you still have to draft and develop them, and that’s not something the Bruins have been noted for in the past decade. Two first and two seconds might be palatable, but how long will it take those prospects to fill a roster spot and contribute at a similar level?

For players with similar goal totals over the last two seasons you’ve got guys like Jonathan Toews, Adam Henrique, Nazim Kadri, Aleksander Barkov, Chris Krieder, Anders Lee, and Phil Kessel all putting up 49 goals in the last two seasons. Toews is a non starter for comparison, and a trade piece. Barkov is unlikely, Lee was just locked up for the Islanders. Henrique is a center, which the Bruins don’t need unless we’re talking something bigger than just Pastrnak leaving. Kessel will be thirty when the season starts and that’s nine years age difference with Pastrnak, even assuming Pittsburgh could fit Pastrnak into their cap situation, and they can’t.

The Columbus Blue Jackets own two comparables that equally interesting. The first is a pending UFA with just this season on his contract. The other is a RFA who will need a contract next year. The first would almost certainly mean more pieces going to Boston, and that’s the undersized dynamo Cam Atkinson. The second is the center/left wing Boone Jenner. Both are established NHL players who have put up similar numbers with lesser centers, if better defense. Both are older. Atkinson is seven years older, Jenner three. Jenner is riskier as he’s only had one season over 20 goals, and that was two years ago with 30, the other two full season have been 18 goals each. Atkinson’s consistency, and year over year improvement is worth noting as it has kept pace with, and likely pushed the team’s improvement over the last four years.

A player who is a good bet on availability, and will likely be less expensive than Pastrnak if he gets anything similar to Draisaitl is Evander Kane. I’ve discussed the value of Kane who was second to only Brad Marchand in even strength goals last year from his return to the end of the season. He’s older than either Pastrnak or Jenner, but younger, larger and more physical than Atkinson. There are downsides to an in division trade, but the Buffalo Sabres would almost certainly add more than just Kane to the return.

If a trade for prospects is on the table, the Florida Panthers need to make legitimate strides towards winning now. If they were to flip 10th overall pick in 2017 Owen Tippet and University of Denver standout Henrik Borgstrom to Boston, I can’t see much more being required for both sides to come out smiling.

Trading with someone out west makes sense in a lot of ways, and one of the teams that has transformed itself the most in the last year is the Arizona Coyotes. The have a wealth of young players, some interesting mid career players, and an arresting collection of prospects. The “you’re out of your mind” swinging for the fences is a straight up trade for Oliver Ekman-Larsson who would be a great successor to Zdeno Chara. A pairing of Pastrnak and Stepan gives you a line you can put up against anyone in the league if you’re behind the Coyotes bench.

But a more risky if completed, but also more likely is Pastrnak and one or more defensive prospects on the cusp of making Boston’s roster for Jakob Chychrun. Chychrun is injured right now, so picks coming back from Arizona would have to be conditional based on how many games he played in the 18-19 and maybe 19-20 seasons. But David Pastrnak and Matt Grzelcyk for Chychrun, Anthony Duclair, and a conditional pick in the 19-20 season might just work out great for everyone.

If Don Sweeney can exploit a team that has set itself up for massive cap problems, then the Edmonton Oilers are possibly the best trade partner of all. Slicing Ryan Strome and Darnell Nurse off the roster might be doable. Nurse is a fleet footed big man on the backend, Strome has yet to reach his potential and plays both right wing and center. Possibly the Bruins could unload Spooner in the same deal, Peter Chiarelli has demonstrated a fondness for players in his past organizations over and over again in his career.

If David Pastrnak is moved, many fans would say it’s time to impeach the president, this would after-all be the fourth big name youngster traded when his second or third contract was due. I think you could make an argument for moving the owners as well, and that’s even if the return is excellent.

You can find this week’s Two Man ForeCheck on the web, or on Facebook as well as iTunes, Google Play, and Tune IN.

The 2010 Draft had people talking about it’s top talent for almost a year before the young men ever arrived in the arena. Well before their names were called, and long before those two hundred young men had any idea if they would be ranked by the major scouting services, much less where, we were already hearing two names. Those names were on the lips and fingertips of everyone with a thought on hockey, and were eventually taken in the anticipated order.

While the Tyler vs Taylor debate will probably run at least another decade or two, as of right now if you want to define it by personal achievement, the winner is Taylor Hall. The difference in their points per game is small, but how they achieved they’re points is pretty clear. Tyler Seguin rode the coat tails of at least three future hall of fame players (Recchi, Bergeron, Chara)  to a Stanley Cup. He then got exiled to Dallas where he done not very much, and shown a complete lack of defensive acumen. Taylor Hall on the other hand has played with aggressively mediocre players for nearly all his career in Edmonton, and was far and away the best skater in New Jersey last year. Right now, Hall is putting up more points per game with less help, and while the difference may be just .001 per game, it is there.

The 2010 draft is also unusual for having two defensemen among it’s top ten for scoring. The more famous of the pair is Anaheim’s Cam Fowler, taken at twelve was most recently seen in the Western Conference finals putting up four points in six games against what is likely the only defense better than his own. Justin Faulk is less well known, and has spent his career toiling in the Carolina Hurricanes system. Don’t look now, but of the two, the one who has never played a layoff game is the one with the better career points per game. Faulk .4788 vs, Fowler .4392.

No goalie taken after the 187th pick of the 2010 draft has played a single NHL game. That’s not particularly surprising as there was only one netminder taken after Frederik Andersen. What is surprising is that the goalie to play the most games isn’t the well known Detroit Red Wings Petr Mrazek taken in the 4th round, or Jack Campbell taken 11th overall, nor is Calvin Pickard taken by the Avalanche, and no part of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights. It is Mister 187 himself. Frederik Andersen of the Toronto Maple Leafs has appeared in 191 games, and captured the win 110 times in the regular season.

Take a listen to this week’s Two Man ForeCheck.

Each player leaves a season behind in the form of another building block in their legacy. Last season was not a great year to be a Boston Bruin. Between management and players they cost a top tier NHL coach his job, and their showing in the playoffs was hardly encouraging. Among those players there are a handful with more to prove than most.

#5 Charlie McAvoy

His goal this year, in the NHL or the American Hockey League should be to prove that he does belong in the pros, and that he can be a consistent net positive contributor. In limited time in the NHL, with no one having the opportunity to scout him he failed to register a goal, was shutout in three games, including the final two, was a minus player in four of six games, and failed to even register a shot in three games.

#4 David Backes

While Backes contributes a great many hits, and a respectable total of blocked shots, his downward spiral is pretty sharp. In the 2014-15 season the former captain of the Saint Louis Blues tallied up 58 regular season points. In his first year as a Boston Bruin, he put found just 38 points to add to his career total. While it’s true he did suffer an injury that cost him eight games, and played for three coaches in two conferences, in twelve months, the fact remains he didn’t live up to expectations.

#3 Ryan Spooner

Spooner was drafted in the top half of the first round back in two thousand and ten. Since then he’s done a great deal of not very much. He has yet to play a full 82 games. He’s yet to crack the 50 much less the 70 point mark. He’s never crossed the twenty goal mark. His career faceoff win percentage is the lowest of any Bruins center to play 150 games since his draft year. In the playoffs he was hipchecked from the lineup by Sean Kuraly in the playoffs, and Kuraly, unlike Spooner managed to score in the post season. And, as part of a staredown on the way to arbitration he picked up a contract for one year that’s over what many thinks he deserves.

#2 Zdeno Chara

At 40 its not surprising that the Boston Bruins Captain had a dip in his offensive numbers. Given that he was tasked with even more of the defensive heavy lifting with the buyout of Dennis Seidenberg, one can account for some of the dip. That said, his twenty-nine point total last year was his second lowest full season total as a Bruin. This is also a contract year for him. While I can’t see him demanding or getting six or seven million as he has in the past, with that point total even with his continued remarkable defensive acumen, leadership, and the frankly staggering ability to average more than twenty-three minutes a night at an advanced age he’s going to struggle to get the four million he’s due this year in the future.

#1 David Krejci

This and one more season remain before Krejci’s no movement clause expire. Last year Krejci put up one of the lowest regular season points totals of his career. In addition to slowing down physically, he failed to connect on a higher percentage of passes than I’ve ever seen from him. Worse, he never managed to have one of those incredibly hot streaks that have typified his career.  In his 94th, 95th, and 96th playoff games he registered not a single point, just three shots, and had a faceoff percentage under 42. In many years Krejci has been free money in the playoffs, this year he was the worst we have have seen in total form October to April.

Don’t forget you can now find the Two Man ForeCheck podcast on it’s own site and Facebook page.

With the NHL Expansion draft looming, it’s time to take a look at who the Boston Bruins must and should protect. Anyone with an active no movement clause, must be protected. Anyone who has played under a certain number of games or is on exempt, so McAvoy, Kuraly, JFK are all safe from being dragged off to the city of sin.

For the Boston Bruins the must protect list includes David Krejci, David Backes, Zdeno Chara, and Patrice Bergeron. That’s a lot of salary, but it also includes a ton of minutes eaten every night. At least one goalie must be exposed, and three that count right now are Malcolm Subban, Anton Khudobin, and Tukka Rask. Of them Subban is due a contract sometime before games start to count, Rask has four more years with a cap hit of seven million, and Khudobin is entering the final year of his contract with $1,200,000.

I can’t see Rask not being protected, which means either Subban or Khudobin being taken is a real possibility. For youth, Subban might be the better pick for Vegas, but Khudobin has more experience and has played behind bad NHL defenses and still turned up solid numbers when healthy and focused.

At forward I can’t imagine anyone feeling the need to argue against protecting Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. Further, any argument to the effect either is worth giving up for nothing is nonsensical. After that you need to weigh the risk and reward of protecting Beleskey, Spooner, Hayes, Nash, Schaller, Moore, and Stafford. It is hard to find a reward to protecting Hayes. Schaller and Nash are decent bottom six players, but either can be replaced by half a dozen guys in Providence or UFA’s. Moore will be 37 when camp opens this fall, and while he had a career year last year, that just means he’s even more likely to slump. Nice player, probably the best of the bottom six, but still I’m not sure I protect him.

This brings us to three players. Ryan Spooner a Bruins draft pick with extraordinary hands and feet but who has failed to thrive. Matt Beleskey who was hindered by injury and saddled with Hayes as a linemate much of last season, and career Bruins killer Drew Stafford who has had just one twenty goal year in his last five and is now 31. Of them I think I have to protect Beleskey. In limited action he still provided a great deal of physicality the team needed. Spooner is younger with a theoretically higher ceiling, but he has shown zero consistency year to year.

On defense Torey Krug is a must protect. You simply don’t give away a guy who finishes sixth in scoring among defensemen, ever. McPhee would snatch him in a heartbeat and the Bruins would be set back years. The blueliners to keep track of left after Krug and Chara are John Michael-Liles, Kevan Miller, Colin Miller, and Adam McQuaid. Liles is aging and couldn’t crack the top six last year against very, very inexperienced competition, there’s no reason to protect him. Colin Miller has shown even less of the reasons he was acquired than Ryan Spooner.

In many ways Kevan Miller and Adam McQuaid are similar players. It isn’t until you look at the various stats you see the differences. McQuaid is simply better in his own zone, his on ice save percentage is better, his difference from team save percentage is better, and he plays more short handed time, and his even strength time is played against better opponents. Kevan Miller is noticeably better offensively (.20ppg vs .14ppg) but neither is anything to make note of, nor does it outweigh the other factors. Age, McQuaid is slightly more than a year older, and while both have health issues again it’s about even.

Unless Neely and Sweeney commit resume generating events in their protection list, I don’t expect the team will suffer anything from the expansion.

This years playoffs have so many interesting matchups it is going to be hard to call a best series even if you see every minute of ever game.

The Chicago Blackhawks vs the Nashville Predators

This is the western conference’s David versus Goliath matchup. While the Blackhawks aren’t quite as formidable as they were when Kane, Toews, Seabrook, and Keith first hoisted the Cup, they are still one of the strongest, best balanced teams in the NHL. If the Predators do win this matchup it will be because the team refused to be intimidated, and everyone grabbed the rope and leaned. The Preds do have the players to be dangerous, Subban, Ellis, Arvidsson, and Forsberg are more than a handful themselves.

Biggest Strength

  • Blackhawks: Explosiveness
  • Predators: Special teams

Biggest Weakness

  • Blackhawks: Special teams
  • Predators: Discipline

Ottawa Senators vs Boston Bruins

This is a first. The Ottawa Senators and Boston Bruins have never met in the playoffs. The Sens have been in the NHL 26 years, and they and the Bruins have never gone eye to eye. The Senators ran the tables on the Bruins in the regular season. Both teams will enter the second season with banged up bluelines. Both coaches are relatively new to their posts. Each team has some very gifted players. Marchand, Bergeron, and Chara will need to shoulder the load for the Bruins to have a hope. Karlsson, O’Reilly, and Anderson can just be themselves so long as the rest of the squad shows up. This could be the best series to watch from an “x’s” and “o’s” point of view. This matchup probably has the highest regular season PIM total.

Biggest Strengths:

  • Senators: The ability to triple the gravity in the neutral zone
  • Bruin: Team defense and penalty kill

Biggest Weakness

  • Senators: Special teams
  • Bruins: Wildly inconsistent goaltending

 

Washington Capitals vs Toronto Maple Leafs

Everything versus nothing. That is this series in three words. The Toronto Maple Leafs are at least two years ahead of projections. The Washington Capitals should have had at least one Cup in the last five years. Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Mitch Marner, and Kasperi Kapanen are all years from being able to drink (legally) in the US. Alex Ovechkin, John Carlson, and Nicklas Backstrom are all well into their second half of a decade or more chasing the last win of the season and not even coming close.

Biggest Strengths

  • Caps:  Total package
  • Leafs: Special teams

Biggest Weakness

  • Caps: Mental composure
  • Leafs: Defense

 

Predictions:

Boom or bust players are the players who’s performance have the ability to tilt the series.

Hawks vs Preds

For the Predators to win they need to stay out of the box they were penalized almost 50% more than the Blackhawks, for Chicago its pretty much a case of stay calm and be the Blackhawks. – Chicago in 6

Boom or Bust player of the series: Ryan Johansen

Caps vs Leafs

The Caps have more playoff experience, at least as good a coach, better performance at almost every measure. – Caps in 5

Boom or Bust player of the series: Alex Ovechkin

Ducks vs Flames

Goaltending wins championships, and the difference between Gibson’s season and either Johnson or Elliot is noticeable, but the Flames are not going to go down easy. – Ducks in 7

Boom or Bust player of the series. – Johnny Gaudreau

Penguins vs Jackets

Repeating is tough, if I were ever going to pick a team to do it, this might just be it. Jackets in 6

Boom or Bus player of the series. – Cam Atkinson

Oilers vs Sharks

This Oilers team is pretty compelling. How the defense of the Sharks is matched with McDavid and company will decide the series. – Oilers in 7

Boom or Bust player of the series. Milan Lucic

Wild vs Blues

This series is not as even as some people would have you believe. Wild in 5

Boom or Bust player of the series. Alex Peitrangelo

Habs vs Rangers

These teams have recent history, but one team is on the rise, and one of them has crested. Canadiens in 6

Boom or Bust player of the series. Derek Stepan

Sens vs Bs

This series will come down to how consistently the coaches can impose their will on their team and get them to execute the system. Sens in 6

 

Every year we look back at a team, bread down what their strengths and weaknesses were and how they can improve. The smallest component of any team is the player. Today each get’s graded.

Brad Marchand, A: Best goal scoring to date, led the team in scoring, still plays an unreal 200 foot game.

Patrice Bergeron B+: Leadership and defense were still there. Offensive production, and possibly engagement took a dip as well. Still the teams most important player, and likely to pick up his fourth Selke this summer.

David Krejci B: The good news is he managed to play in all 82 games, the bad news is he’s got a double digit drop in points with four years left on a contract that seems him taking up ten percent of the team’s salary cap space, and he will turn 31 in just a few more days. He seems to be healthy after early season woes, and that can’t do anything but help the team however long they last in the post-season.

David Pastrnak A: The jump in year over year production alone was exciting. The fact that he scored so much in a number of different ways is even more so. He did hit a flat spot around the beginning of March, but overall it’s hard to argue with what he did.

Ryan Spooner C-: Another double digit drop in production among the Bruins forward group. It’s arguable that he was held down by awful forwards in the second six, and I’ll listen to that, but he also didn’t step up when he got to play with better players.

David Backes C: While no one expected him to put up a 40 goal season in Boston, his offensive production was not good. He did lap the field in hits. His 226 made him 7th among NHL forwards who played 50 or more games.  He did end up playing for three coaches in less than 12 months which I think contributed to the dip, I suspect he’ll be better next year.

Dominic Moore A-: About perfect for a fourth liner. When playing with guys who understand the role, he’s impressive, especially at 36.

Frank Vatrano C: Not the year we hoped for from Vatrano, starting with an injury, and continuing with a season full of all the mistakes young players make but should make less frequently as time goes on.

Riley Nash B: Riley Nash is just about the prototypical depth forward in the NHL. He’s a very solid penalty killer putting in the third most minutes among forwards on the team, and on a top penalty killing unit.

Tim Schaller C: Very uneven season with interruptions due to health. While he tossed up his best offensive numbers, he’s not yet a known commodity, still a pretty solid season for someone who is essentially an undrafted rookie.

Drew Stafford Incomplete: 18 games, starting during the honeymoon phase of a new coach is hard to judge. Yes he had better production than his time in Winnipeg, but not spectacular. For a full season of this production he’d get a C to C+.

Matt Beleskey C-: I really like his effort, his offense was non-existent this season, he didn’t look good at all paired with Hayes and unfortunately played with him a lot this year. Despite playing only 49 games and limited minutes he was still second on the team in hits.

Jimmy Hayes F: His contributions this year were largest from the pressbox and possibly at Cuts for A Cause.

Noel Acciari Incomplete: Fun to watch play hockey, may well have a roster spot to lose when camp opens this fall. He produced as much offense in 29 games as Hayes did in 58.

Sean Kuraly Incomplete: Just a few games, nothing really wrong with them, but nothing really right about them.

Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson Incomplete: One game, a largely meaningless game in which most of the team was not doing well or feeling well. He played 8:25, had no shots, and was even.

Torey Krug A: Very near the top of the league in scoring, recovered well from his off season injury, eventually. He played more shifts than any other Bruins defesneman.

Adam McQuaid A: His best offensive season since 2011-12, and a career high in games played. Aside from his normal pairing with Krug at even strength and 2:23 of SHTOI a night, he’s also played a good number of minutes opposite Chara when Carlo was struggling.

Zdeno Chara A: There was a big dip in his powerplay time 1:33 last year to 0:33 this year that lead to a general reduction in his offensive numbers, despite having one more goal in five less games. His shorthanded time was tops among all NHL skaters, and at 3:46 was 1:10 more than the rest of the Bruins defensemen.

Kevan Miller C: He’s been unfortunate enough to play with genuinely awful players, but hasn’t shown the growth as a player one would hope for in the transition past the 200 game mark. He may or may not have peaked, but today he looks a lot like a career third pairing defensemen with decent speed and physicality.

Colin Miller F: He has a great demeanor, superior skating ability, top shelf shot and no signs of any understanding of how hockey at the NHL is played well.

John-Michael Liles F: I am entirely baffled how he still has an NHL contract. I saw nothing from him that couldn’t have been done at least as well by any defenseman in Providence. He is legitimately awful in his own zone, produced nothing offensively, and clearly made anyone he played with worse.

Brandon Carlo C: As a rookie he played with Chara against the best in the league on a regular basis. Overall he did pretty well, including playing a big part in the penalty kill. He had one major flatspot in his season, and he wasn’t alone in wretched play in that spot. Overall, I look forward to seeing how well he corrects the serial mistakes he made this year in future seasons.

Joe Morrow Incomplete: I would desperately love to know what he did or didn’t do that left him out of the lineup and has seen Liles and Miller play ahead of him.

Tuukka Rask D-: Rask is one of the most wildly inconsistent netminder to be considered a league star. He ended the year with 8 shutouts, he also ended the year with the year with a quality start number well under .500, and leading the NHL in starts with a sv% under .875 with 14. He undeniably has really good games, but this was his second year in a row leading the league in starts below .875 known as Really Bad Starts.

Anton Khudobin D: Not great numbers, but he played well down the stretch while Rask was ill, injured, and overworked. Unlike some goalies, he was willing to start games towards the end of the season where he was not feeling well and try to get the team a win.

Just days ago I wrote a piece on Torey Krug and how he should absolutely not be exposed at the expansion draft. Today we learn he is day to day heading into the playoffs. He is not expected to play in the season finale. Of the teams defensemen, no one does anywhere near as much to generate offense for the team. His penalty kill time this year is even contributing to better play in his own zone.

While the compact Michigan State alumni is hardly likely to turn to the dark side, his absence does indeed cast Vader’s shadow on a team where scoring among defensemen is pretty rare. At this point in the season Krug is tied for 5th in scoring among defensemen with 51 points, next is Zdeno Chara who with 29 points owns the 53rd rank. None of the other blueliners even make the top 100.

A next man up approach might slide Colin Miller into slot and bump him up a pairing. He’s a great skater, he’s a solid passer, a willing shooter, and already used to the NHL. Unfortunately those attributes haven’t combined to make him a good NHL player. He has less points than the other Miller who no one confuses with an offensive dynamo and who has played less games. For all his defensive prowess, Adam McQuaid has never gotten his point production into get close enough to his jersey number to be intimidating, so he’s probably not the answer. John Michael Liles has burned 52 games in a Bruins uniform, and racked up exactly the number of goals that the front office should spend in seconds deciding if they should offer him a net contract and giving him a line of 0-11-11 6PIM -6.

Joe Morrow has apparently been written off entirely by the organization. Which is sad, but not anything fans or writers will be able to do anything about. That brings us to guys currently in the AHL, and maybe players leaving college or aging out of juniors. Given the depth of defensemen in the system, I really can’t see an outsider being brought in. Sherman is unlikely to leave Harvard early, and isn’t an offensive guy. O’Gara did start the year with some time in the spoked B, but was eventually sent down for more minutes. Alex Grant is leading all Providence Bruins in scoring, but at 28 years old, the odds he’s even strongly considered are pretty slim.

Next up is Tommy Cross. At 27, he’s probably been consigned to the ranks of permanent AHL players. He did get a recall last year. He’s 2nd on the team in scoring for defensemen, with much of it at even strength. With 12 goals on the season and his well known mental acuity, even with less speed the Colin Miller, I can see him being at least as good offensively, and easily better defensively. Having played in the NHL already, I can see him handling playoff hockey better than most.

The player most similar to Krug in offensive abilities and projection is almost certainly Matt Grzelcyk who has 11 powerplay assists, perhals the area most likely to suffer without Krug. He’s speedy, he can handle the puck well in motion or holding a position, and can pass better than most. He’s nearing the end of this first professional season and aside from his offensive prowess can inject both speed and reasonable hockey sense into the backend.

While McAvoy is undeniably talented,  even if you’ve been there before. Making the jump when you won’t have the practice time to get comfortable with how other players communicate and play, or adjust to the pace of the game, sounds like a recipe for disaster at the toughest position to play.

This afternoon I had a discussion with a hockey fan who believes the Boston Bruins are tanking. Not just for this year, but for next year as well. I’m not saying I believe this idea, but with all the evidence it is certainly possible.

The Evidence:

  1. No one in the NHL, CHL, USHL, SPHL, AHL or anywhere else in first world hockey thinks that Bruce Cassidy is a better coach than Claude Julien.
  2. The resigning of John-Michael Liles and allowing him to play so much.
  3. The signing of David Backes who five years ago would have been the perfect pickup, but who now is only questionable without being outright wrong.
  4. Absolutely no upgrades at defense which many thought was their biggest need coming into the season.
  5. No additional scoring forwards
  6. Riley Nash was “added” to a team trying to get into the playoffs, when he couldn’t even stay in the NHL in an organization that wanted to be seen on the same page of the standings as the playoff teams.
  7. Allowing Jack Adams winning, Stanley Cup winning, World Cup winning Claude Julien, who knows any of the home grown players, and most of the rest of the roster better than anyone else in the league from having coached them for so long, go to the other half of the greatest rivalry in North American sports.
  8. Sliding a rookie defensemen onto the ice with Zdeno Chara to play against the best players on the other team.
  9. Failure to bury Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes in the minors or otherwise remove them from the roster to allow more talented forwards to fill the roster.
  10. Signing Anton Khudobin, who when healthy is a solid netminder to a two year deal, and who also hasn’t been healthy more than two months since the end of his first tenure in Boston.
  11. The entire fourth line. Seriously, Tim Schaller? Did marketing pick him because ratings were down in NH? Dominic Moore is, possibly, an accidental exception given that he’s having an above average goal scoring season. Or maybe he’s just in Boston because he’s a Harvard guy? Colton Hargrove, Noel Acciari, Austin Czarnik, and others could have done the job as well, and with more cap space left over to address very real needs in the theoretical top nine
  12. The fact that nobody is talking about this years draft, but that name for next year are coming up.

So here’s how this theoretical Rick-Rolling works: The Bruins were bafflingly in a playoff spot 50 plus games into the season, and that needs to change. Not just so the team has better draft position this year, but so there are lower expectations for next year when among other things the no movement clause on Rask’s contract becomes an NTC. Remember, this is Rask’s fourth straight year of sv% decline, and according to Hockey-Reference.com is a below average goalie already according to GSAA.

Also, for this theory to work you probably have to believe what 29 (going on 30) other NHL teams have thought of Bruce Cassidy for more than a decade; That he’s not a good NHL coach, assuming he’s one at all. He has never won at any level, when he was given the bums rush from Washington he belly flopped into the OHL. In his last 10 seasons as a head coach in the AHL, OHL, and NHL he as won just three rounds of playoff hockey. For comparison Ted Nolan who is not employed as an NHL coach right now won championships in both the OHL and QMJHL, and won a Jack Adams award for best NHL coach. That’s a stark comparison, and one would think if you’re trying to win, you take (or keep) a guy who has won, and who given the trends in the NHL, has done so with young players versus not at all.

So given that the Bruins are lacking top draft picks this season. What happens if they trade out of this years draft? What happens if they trade this years pieces for picks in the seemingly stronger 2018 draft class? They get high picks, and underdog status in the following season. Boston, all of New England loves an underdog. And in sports nothing, not even winning is sexier than hope. We know Sweeney loves draft picks. We saw him take three first round picks in a row in the low teens instead of trading even one of them to improve the team now. That’s unprecedented in the modern era. Think of trading one or more of those picks and bringing in Trouba or Dumba, but no, not the Sweeney way.

If you truly believe the Boston Bruins front office covets young men like Rasmus Dahlin or David Levin, or Joe Veleno and they might make people forget a couple bad seasons if they laced up and lit up in Black and Gold, I think it’s safe to say this idea might not be pure vapor. When you remember that there are articles and posts from people in the know pegging players at the top of the 2018 draft going back to more than 18 months before the draft, and look at other drafts where that happened like say in the 2009 draft one begins to wonder why the fan I spoke to had Rick Astley on the brain.

No team is perfect, even the cup winners. Some have more faults than highlights, and those teams end up drafting very high. That’s not quite the case with this year’s Boston Bruins. But they do have faults. Some of them are pretty obvious, some need a closer examination to uncover.

The Obvious Symptoms of their faults:

  • They have nothing like a viable backup.
  • They have issues scoring.
  • A powerplay that is wildly inconsistent
  • Incomplete top six
  • Poor offense from the backend
  • Lack of speed or physicality in some top 9 players

That’s the six problems. Some of this is covered up by some extraordinary strengths. The top six is graced by Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak who are speedy, and near the top of the NHL in scoring. That helps, but Patrice Bergeron is behind even the pace he set in the lockout shortened season, and is still thirteen points short of his 2008-09 season which was frankly dreadful by his standards.

David Krejci is scoring at a lower than expected, if still acceptable pace, but for just the second time in his nine full seasons on the Boston roster he’s got a negative goal differential. Part of this is his linemates, who have been varied and frequently very young. Part of it is that he’s never played the game at even average speed for the NHL, and he’s now on the down-slope to his 31st birthday. I’ve yet to see an NHL player who was faster at 31 than 21.

The defense is masked by Torey Krug who is 10th in scoring by defensemen. The next highest scoring defensemen are rookie Brandon Carlo who is currently at 89, and Zdeno Chara tied with the youngest player on the roster. The other guys are well over the event horizon. As a whole, they are quite good at limiting shot attempts, only two teams have allowed few shot attempts than the Bruins, and they are the Blues and Kings in the wretched western conference. They have also generated the most shot attempts meaning they are doing a reasonable job getting the puck out of their  own zone and keeping it in the offensive zone.

But their inability to score is undeniable. Only seven teams have scored less goals per game than the Bruins 2.52 per game.

  • The Buffalo Sabres
  • Detroit Red Wings
  • Florida Panthers
  • Vancouver Canucks
  • New Jersey Devils
  • Arizona Coyotes
  • Colorado Avalanche

You can’t win games that way, you just can’t. And as Tuukka Rasks non-contact groin injury proves, he’s not physically capable of playing so much of an NHL schedule. Despite the low number of shots per game, they all add up, and so does the time in the crease. Neither youngster has seized the backup role, and Khudobin is not the guy who was in Boston a couple years back.

So what do we know about the Bruins?

  1. They have an efficient, orderly defense that has performed its primary duty well, even though only one player (Krug) has played in all games.
  2. They aren’t getting scoring from anywhere not named Marchand or Pastrnak in enough weight to push them from “hurting themselves by making the playoffs” to “let’s show the youngsters the second round”.
  3. The coach must be being listened to or the defense would be worse and with the current offense it would have them well outside the playoffs.
  4. Backup goaltending is spotty at least this year with McIntyre still learning the progame, Subban rediscovering his balance in net after his throat injury, and Khudobin likely playing through an injury.
  5. They can probably spare a defenseman or two to help secure a good forward because scoring wise after Krug the difference between next and worst is minimal, and as a whole they play well, even through injuries and illnesses.

What are the biggest issues:

1: They need an offensive contributor in the top 6 who is a legitimate top line winger.

2: They need to find a way to compensate for the lack of speed of Krejci and Backes (or move on from one or both).

3: They need to get the powerplay settled so that it continues (as it has the last 5-10 games) to look like a top unit, and keep everyone’s head on straight.

3a: They need to get a backup who is going to get the team to play for him (and themselves) and who will in turn put in a respectable performance.

4: They need to remove guys from the roster/system who can either net a return to solve #1 or 3a (Budaj might be available soon).