No Big Z…no chance?
Well, one may argue that the Bruins had no chance BEFORE Zdeno Chara got hurt yesterday, based primarily on Peter Chiarelli’s lack of activity this past offseason. Ok, no chance may be overstating it a smidge…or a ton. Admittedly, Pete’s moves (or non-moves, mind you) since the end of last season do leave a lot to be desired. And the early season performance of the squad has been kind of putrid as well. But let’s not go overboard. The Bruins should still have a very competitive roster. And with the reigning Vezina trophy winner in net, that should give them a fighting chance, barring unforseen catastrophe. It’s too early to go nuts about anything.
Is Chara’s injury that unforseen catastrophe? I actually do not think so. Love the Big Guy, but it has been no secret I have proposed dangling him in trade talks over the past couple of years. Not that I want to unload him for a bag of pucks. Don’t be silly. The fact is though, Z is 37 (38 in March). He is on the hook for 7 mil a year through 2016-2017 and then another 4 mil in 2017-2018. Claude insists on playing him upwards of 25 minutes a game in meaningless regular season games, which many feel has caused him to wear down in the playoffs the last two years. He would have trade value and it wouldn’t be so bad to take advantage of that before he really starts to decline. Etc. Let’s see what is out there. I’ll say the same thing this upcoming offseason.
But back to now. Chara being hurt can’t ever be considered a good thing. But one good side effect of it is that Claude will not wear him out early in the season, as referenced above. Hopefully the team will take it’s time bringing him back and then get him ready for the stretch run. Of course if they fall too far back in the standings, then that is another issue entirely. But I don’t expect that to happen.
The truth of the matter is that having 9 NHL-caliber D-Men should help ease the sting of losing Chara. Oops. Make that 6 now…in Pete’s eyes, that is…he said it originally, not me. Chara and Kevan Miller are hurt and Johnny Boychuk is on Long Island. Of course, part of Pete’s 6 that are left are 2 offensive d-men that have questionable D skills (Torey Krug and David Warsofsky…and who knows even what Warsofsky’s offensive skills are, in reality). The 6 also include a 3rd pairing defenseman at absolute best in Adam McQuaid. And a probable 3rd pairing defenseman at best, who has had a number of defensive lapses already in his brief NHL career in Mark Bartkowski (not to mention Pete has tried to deal him more than a few times…telling you his true value). So that leaves Dennis Seidenberg and Dougie Hamilton as theoretically their only reliable D-men…as I see it.
As an aside, to revisit the Boychuk trade since I’ve never commented on it…I would not have made it. Of course it is easy for me to say now with what has transpired. But what was the need to make the trade? Pete said he had 9 NHL caliber D-men. But with all the question marks listed above (plus Seidenberg coming off major injury), why not keep a Top 4 guy around? Especially if you think your team can make a run at a Stanley Cup? Salary cap? There were other ways to clear salary. Some combination of McQuaid, Bartkowski, Chris Kelly, Greg Campbell or Daniel Paille should have been enough. Those guys are all replaceable. Especially with all the “kid” forwards that are supposedly on the cusp…Ryan Spooner, Seth Griffith, Justin Florek, Matt Fraser, Alexander Khokhlachev, Matt Lindblad, etc. For a team that is based on defense, keeping Boychuk and integrating a few of the kids on the 4th line made all the sense in the world. Plus when you factor in the return for Johnny, the measly pair of 2nd round picks…that’s the best they could do? Unnecessary.
Of course now they need a guy like Griffith on the first line, in place of a real goal scorer, since they couldn’t re-sign Jarome Iginla, or someone of that ilk…but that’s another story. Hey, Jack Edwards said recently that Griffith had 100 goals in 190 games in juniors…then another 20 in Providence last year…so I guess they have that going for them. That being said, even with the loss of Iginla, they should have enough “firepower” on the top 3 lines, that on a team based on defense and goaltending should be able to make a run deep into the playoffs.
Truth be told, as much as I am interested in giving some of the aforementioned forwards a chance, I’d like to see some of the kid defensemen as well. I’m sure Zach Trotman can be just as average as McQuaid or Miller. And this Joe Morrow kid. Let’s have a look-see. I believe that this dude was the true key to the Tyler Seguin trade. Everyone wanted to focus on Loui Eriksson…even though he was like 7 years older. And Fraser and Reilly Smith are nice pieces. But Morrow is a 21 year old former first round pick. Had a feeling he was the real prize. Of course I have absolutely no proof and am completely guessing. But regardless, let’s see what he has.
The Bruins are off to a slow start, no question about it. But take a look at the stats. Chris Kelly leads the team in points. Does anyone expect that to last? The Patrice Bergeron line with Reilly Smith and Brad Marchand is a combined minus 8. Does anyone expect that to last? Tuukka Rask’s goals against average is 2.91 and save percentage is .880. Yikes! But does anyone expect that to last? We are 9 games in folks. And it hasn’t been pretty. D-men are going down. But give it time. It will all come together. Hopefully Chiarelli will provide better in-season acquisitions than Corey Potter and Andrej Meszaros this year though. Then Big Z will come back later in the year with less wear and tear. And the team will be on it’s way.
At least that is my wishful thinking…
Posted on October 24, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged Adam McQuaid, Boston Bruins, Chris Kelly, Claude Julien, Dougie Hamilton, Johnny Boychuk, NHL, Patrice Bergeron, Peter Chiarelli, Torey Krug, Tuukka Rask, Zdeno Chara. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.