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Are They Contenders?

In a league where it’s seemingly the Tampa Bay Lightning and everyone else, maybe that’s not exactly an easy answer no matter what NHL team we want to talk about.  Tampa is close to 20 points better than the second best team in the entire league.  So maybe it’s only the Lightning that is contenders?

We all know better than that though.  Anything can happen in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  That, of course, has been proven time and time again through the history of the NHL.

So do the Boston Bruins find themselves truly in the mix for the Cup?

My answer?  I don’t know.

Good one!

My initial reaction is…no.  Not right now anyway.  The simple reason?  Once you shut down their top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, who else scores on this team?  Are we really going to rely on the WAK line (Chris Wagner, Noel Acciari and Sean Kuraly)?  I think not.

Sure, Jake DeBrusk has been lighting it up lately.  And David Krejci has been pretty consistent this season.  But this rotating group of kids and/or 4th liners and/or bums parading through that third spot on the line leave a lot to be desired (more on these dudes later).  Then forget about the “3rd line”, which is really the “4th line”.  People continue to insist the Acciari line is still the 4th line, but they really have elevated to the 3rd line recently.  I guess we are basically splitting hairs here since neither of the lines will be full of consistent scorers…ever.

No one is talking much about the Pastrnak injury now either.  How long does that thumb injury keep him out?  Two weeks they are saying…at least.  Then the doctors reevaluate.  How long after then?  And how will that affect his play going forward from there?  Pasta was on pace for 40+ goals when he went down (literally…as he fell in a parking lot after a sponsorship dinner.  Hmmmmmmm…nothing curious there).  What can we expect when he returns?

Danton Heinen has played well on the top line since Pasta’s injury.  But as an allegedly wise man recently said (why do they call this man “Keo” anyway?), “he (Heinen) actually has been decent with 37 (Bergy) and 63 (Marchy), credit to him.  But then I think we could put 69 on your back, stand you in front of the goal and a few would bounce off you too.”

Fair point by Captain Obvious…other than putting any number on my back and letting me on the ice in any capacity.  But you get the point.  Plus…Heinen was borderline terrible on any other line he previously played on this season.  That doesn’t help.

In any event, a fully healthy forward set of lines that includes…

  1.  Marchand/Bergeron/Pastrnak
  2.  DeBrusk/Krejci/Heinen
  3.  Wagner/Acciari/Kuraly
  4.  David Backes?/Karson Kuhlman?/Peter Cehlarik?/Joakim Nordstrom?/Trent Frederic? (the options currently here)

…simply does not cut it, in my opinion.

But wait!  The trade deadline is Monday.  General Manager Donnie Sweeney will make some moves, no?!

Probably.  But are we excited about his track record with deadline deals?  Nope.  Not even a little bit.  We could go through the Jimmy Hayes’, the John Michael Liles’, the Zac Rinaldo’s, etc.  But I’ll spare you the gory details…which are likely embedded in your brain already anyway.

I mean, it looks like he has already brought back “Suitcase” Lee Stempniak…a failed acquisition from 2 seasons ago.  Stemp was in camp with the B’s on a tryout basis and then who the hell knows (or even cares?) where he has been since then?  Until he showed up for two Providence Bruins games last week.  Will this be Donnie Hockey’s big deadline move?

Well, I guess the answer is no, seeing that he pulled off a deal on Wednesday.  The B’s obtained Charlie Coyle from the Wild for Ryan Donato and a fifth round pick.  That Donnie, always needing to throw picks into deals!

I’m not going to lie to you, I don’t know a hell of a lot about Coyle.  But what I do know is that he sounds like a bottom six guy.  Not opposed to acquiring one of those types, since as you can see above, they need better bodies there.  But I also can’t say I am very inspired by the move.

I will also say that while Sweeney has stockpiled “prospects” over the past few years, how many of these guys can actually play?  Some of these dudes have gotten some decent run up in the NHL.  And, as of now, only DeBrusk and I suppose Heinen look like keepers.

Donato, Cehlarik, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Anders Bjork, Anton Blidh, etc.  The jury is probably still out on Frederic and Kuhlman.  Zach Senyshyn can’t even get a sniff up in Boston.  How bad was that first round pick?  We can go back to Frank Vatrano and Austin Czarnik if you like.  And some of the D-men, including what could be another wasted first round pick in Jakub Zboril.  I have no problem trading some, if not all of these guys for established, and good, players.  But Donato showed some scoring ability at least last year.  He may have been the last guy on this list to ship out of town.

I’m not sold on this one…yet anyway.  But I also feel like Sweeney will do more.  He’d better.

As for the defense and the goalies, we don’t think he has to do anything there.  Solid 7 D-men as we speak, 8 if you count Stevie Kampfer, but I don’t.  Kampfer is on quite a roll worth mentioning, however.  He hasn’t suited up in almost two months.  Not easy being the 8th defenseman when only 6 dress.  But I suppose it’s better to collect an NHL salary than an AHL salary.

In any event, even though Zdeno Chara looks like he is skating in quicksand more often than we all like, even though Torey Krug still looks lost on defense more often than we all like, even though Charlie McAvoy misses more games than we all like, I can’t say I am too worried about the D as a whole.

Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak are plenty capable in net, though that pains me to say about Tuuks cuz most know how I feel about him.  But this is a pretty good tandem for the regular season anyway.  The big question is, who is the #1 guy for the playoffs?  It’s not like they will rotate when the time comes.  Well, they could, but that kind of thing is pretty much unheard of in the postseason.  Both netminders have had their bad stretches.  But they have also had stretches where they have stood on their head.  It will be interesting to see how that plays out…even though I imagine it will be Tuuks at the end.  After all, he’s the one that makes a gazillion dollars…

Ssssssoooo…are the Bruins true contenders or not?  My real answer?  Kind of.  They can be.  But ask me again on Monday night…

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New England Patriot Roster Projection-Defense

Moving right on to the defense…

DE (4):

Locks:  Trey Flowers, Derek Rivers, Deatrich Wise

In:  Adrian Clayborn

Out:  Keionta Davis, Eric Lee

Way Out:  Frank Herron

Comments:  I’m putting Flowers in the Shaq Mason category.  Trey is in the last year of his deal and may command big money next year.  Money I don’t think the Pats will pay.  Now, he may not command “Chandler Jones money”.  He hasn’t had the start to his career that Chandler had.  But he may still be too expensive for Bill’s taste.  I think if a trade made sense, Bill may do it.  I probably wouldn’t, as you can see the depth is a little thin at this position.  But I’m not ruling out the possibility.

Hopefully Wise can build on a decent rookie year and that Rivers can show something after missing last year due to injury.  Clayborn is probably a lock due to the contract…a surprising one at that…with like 2/3 of his sacks coming in a single game last year.  But again, every year there is a long-time veteran that just doesn’t fit in the Patriots’ system.  For some reason, I think it may be him.  Just a hunch.  It’s probably wrong though.

Lee flashed after being claimed on waivers last year…in the regular season anyway.  So he probably has a chance.  Davis always seems to be around when I write these projections, but not sure he is any type of answer.  I’ve never heard of Herron, so he will need to make some noise in camp for me to take him seriously.

DT (5):

Locks:  Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy, Danny Shelton

In:  Adam Butler, Vincent Valentine

Out:  None

Way Out:  John Atkins, Trent Harris

Comments:  One more guy I put in the “possible trade” category is Brown.  His contract is up after this season.  And he may require an investment.  The acquisition of Shelton could grease the skids for that…though Shelton’s contract is up after the year too.  Seeing that they just made the trade to get Shelton, a trade of him seems unlikely.  But maybe with the other guys around, Brown can be shopped.  Again, I do not think this will happen, but I am not overlooking the possibility.  Guy has his fat contract and played well enough last year I guess, so he’s in.

We had Butler as “way out” in the initial projection last year.  Smart.  But of course, he was someone we never heard of and he needed to catch the eye to improve his standing.  And he certainly did it appears.  I think with a year of development, he sticks again.  Valentine missed all of last year.  But if he is healthy, he stays.  Because he is also young and cheap.  And Bill likes his fat guys.

This years’ “never heard of dudes” in this category are Atkins and Harris.  So we will follow their camp progress…or lack thereof.

LB (5):

Locks:  Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy

In:  Marquis Flowers, Elandon Roberts, Ja’Whaun Bentley

Out:  Harvey Langhi, Christian Sam

Way Out:  None

Comments:  Once again, an absolutely putrid group here, especially if Dont’a can’t stay on the field…which is bound to happen.  A stud when healthy, unfortunately, that almost is never the case.  They love Van Noy and gave him a ton of dough…still trying to figure that one out.  Flowers and Roberts stink, simple as that.  But who else is there?  And the team likes these guys too.  Bentley makes my team because some of the draft picks have to make it, don’t they??  (My team has the three first and second rounders and fifth rounder Bentley making it and the five sixth and seventh rounders on the outside looking in).  Sam, as a sixth rounder, may sneak on, who knows?  And Langhi showed some promise last year as an undrafted free agent, made the team, played sparingly, then had that horrific car accident.  Who knows how well he has recovered?  If he has fully, he will get his shot, since again, this is a sad linebacking corps.

CB (5):

Locks:  Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones, Jason McCourty, Duke Dawson

In:  None

Out:  Cyrus Jones, Ryan Lewis, Keion Crossen, J.C. Jackson

Way Out:  Jomal Wiltz

Comments:  Gilmore is the clear #1 now, but who plays the other spots and in what order is anyone’s guess right now.  The staff seems to like Rowe.  And also Jonathan Jones, who got more time at corner as the year went on before he went down with an injury late.  Some people think Jason McCourty may not be quite the lock some think he is.  We’ll see, but that’s where I’m leaving him now.  Dawson clearly makes it as a second round pick, but how much he plays is up for debate.

Lewis had some buzz in the spring and was on the practice squad most, if not all, of last year.  But then the team signed McCourty and drafted Dawson.  So much for that.  Crossen was a seventh rounder and I’m not sure who Jackson or Wiltz are, so let’s leave them where they are for now.

Cyrus Jones?  Interesting case.  Is he worth keeping around and trying to salvage?  Perhaps.  He looked a little better in the preseason last year before being lost for the year with injury.  But a ton better?  I don’t think so.  I don’t think he fumbled on returns anyway.  Has Bill given up on second rounders before?  Yup.  Bill actually has taken several bad second round picks during his tenure.  But he will get some kind of shot this summer, I will bet you that.  Perhaps Cyrus or one of the others can play safety?  They could also try to trade him, but what the heck are you going to get for him with how his career has gone thus far?  It will be interesting to watch, since I have a feeling he may stick around.

S (4):

Locks:  Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon

In:  Jordan Richards

Out:  Damarius Travis, A.J. Moore

Way Out:  Eddie Pleasant

Released:  David Jones

Comments:  Locks are easy…then we get to Richards.  Another dude who I think is atrocious.  But another dude I think the staff loves for some reason.  I don’t know if one of the corners can convert to safety and knock him off.  Or one of these other safety characters can do it either.  Jones spent last year the practice squad and was then dumped before camp.  Travis was around on the practice squad last year too, but no one is chatting him up now.  Moore?  No idea.  I do know they signed Pleasant the other day, so that seemingly leaves him out of the mix, barring a miracle.  Right now, looks like Richards will be around.  Sad to say.

Specialists (8):

Locks:  Stephen Gostkowski (K), Joe Cardona (LS), Matthew Slater (ST), Nate Ebner (ST), Brandon King (ST), Brandon Bolden (ST), Nicholas Grigsby (ST)

In:  Ryan Allen (P)

Out:  Corey Bojorquez (P), Geneo Grissom (ST)

Way Out:  None

Comments:  It’s amazing that with Gostkowski’s inconsistency the past few years the team has not brought someone in to at least challenge him a little bit.  It just doesn’t make much sense.  But with Stephen and Cardona facing no competition, they are locked in.  The fact that another punter is in camp this year means Allen’s job is not safe.  He probably holds the kid off, but we shall see on that.

The rest of the locks basically do not play another position, so they are listed here.  And since Bill loves his core special teamers, they all stick with the exception of Grissom.  But Geneo will be back.  He’s a guy they can bounce on and off the roster and no one else wants him.  So he will always be available.  And perhaps even break camp with the squad as well.

That’s about the size of it.  I’ll wait until later in camp to project the practice squad and IR/PUP/NFI and other lists.  Looks like Slater, Ebner, Britt, Cyrus Jones and Jonathan Jones are starting on the preseason PUP list.  Bolden is on the non-football illness list apparently as well.  Some of these dudes starting on the regular season PUP list will open up roster spots for others.  Let’s see how that all goes.

Week Seventeen…

Another (somewhat) abridged (but not so last-minute) holiday edition.  Tough sledding here, as plenty of teams will be resting guys for the playoffs, shutting guys down period, playing some young kids to see if they are worth hanging on to for next year and any other scenario in-between.  We will see what happens.  If we go 1-15, we finish the year over .500 still.  So that’s good enough for me anyway.  Happy New Year!!

Cleveland at Pittsburgh (-13.5)

Cleveland is shooting for 0-16.  I think they can do it, even though the Steelers are apparently not playing any of their key guys…well, Big Ben and Le’Veon Bell anyway…with Antonio Brown still out too.  Landry Jones and Stevan Ridley anyone?  Sure.  They could (and should) probably still beat the Brownies.

Pittsburgh 17, Cleveland 13.

Green Bay at Detroit (-7.5)

The Lions actually should win this one going away…but of course they won’t.

Detroit 20, Green Bay 17.

Chicago at Minnesota (-12.5) 

I believe Minnesota still has to play its way into the second seed and the bye over in the NFC.  Therefore…

Minnesota 30, Chicago 10.

Dallas (-2.5) at Philadelphia

Philly is apparently going to play their starters for a bit.  Which Nick Foles will show up?  Who cares?

Dallas 27, Philadelphia 17.

Houston at Indianapolis (-3.5) 

Speaking of “Who cares?”, 7-23 between these two squads.  The only intrigue will be after the game to see if either of the two coaches keep their jobs.  They both honestly probably should, based on their respective teams’ injury concerns this season.  But I’d keep O’Brien and fire Pagano.  Then again, Billy O’B and the Houston GM apparently despise each other.  Kind of thinking both are going, right or wrong.  Oh, I have to make a pick?

Houston 13, Indianapolis 10.

New York Jets at New England (-15.5) 

It’s apparently going to be 50 below in Foxborough Sunday.  The Jets are likely ready to hit the offseason, despite their competitiveness this season.  Because the Pats still need to win (or have the Steelers lose) to sew up the #1 seed, I’d say that they will probably just try to do enough to get the W and get the hell outta there unscathed.  But they may only have Dion Lewis and Brandon Bolden at running back…and I’d prefer not to give Lewis 30 carries on the eve of the playoffs.  Maybe Pro Bowler (?!) James Develin gets some carries too.  I’m starting to think the Patriots come out throwing and take a little bit of a lead and then ride Bolden to victory in the second half!

New England 27, New York Jets 16.

Washington (-3.5) at New York Giants

The brand new Giants GM said he is leaning towards keeping Eli as the starting QB next year.  Yeah, until he finds someone better this offseason…likely with the #2 overall draft pick.  The Giants owner also seemingly wants to bring cornerback Eli Apple back too, because you “don’t give up on talent…” or some nonsense like that.  That should go over well in the locker room.  Not to mention the Giants interim coach is playing Eli Sunday “start to finish”.  Why?  He says they already know what they have in third rounder Davis Webb…despite Webb getting zero game experience this year.  All of the above is kind of irrelevant for Sunday…even Eli playing the whole game…but it does make me laugh.

Washington 14, New York Giants 13.

Cincinnati at Baltimore (-9.5) 

The Bengals winning on Marvin Lewis’ way out?  Nah.  The Ravens need this one.  Though the spread is probably too high.  I’m still doing it.

Baltimore 27, Cincinnati 17.

Carolina at Atlanta (-3.5) 

This may be the one game worth watching.  The Falcons need this one more.  That of course makes me nervous…but I’m still gonna do it here too.

Atlanta 27, Carolina 20.

New Orleans (-7.5) at Tampa Bay

The Bucs are bringing back Dirk Koetter next year?  Yaaaay!  Wait, what happened to all those Jon Gruden rumors?  Anyway, the Saints should roll here either way.

New Orleans 37, Tampa Bay 23.  

Kansas City at Denver (-3.5) 

The Chiefs are resting everyone and the Broncos are starting Paxton Lynch (I think).  I should be taking the Broncos defense here, but I’m not.

Kansas City 17, Denver 13.

Jacksonville at Tennessee (-3.5)

This may be the second best game of the week…if the Jags play their regulars…which their coach said they were going to.  But we will see, since the game doesn’t mean anything to Jacksonville.  Other than to get revenge on a Week Two beating the Titans handed to them.  Since that point was mentioned specifically by Dougie Marrone, I’ll take my chances with the Jags this week.  The Titans have continuously underwhelmed and I really don’t expect anything different here…even with a playoff berth staring them in the face.

Jacksonville 31, Tennessee 20.  

Arizona at Seattle (-8.5)  

The Cards are 7-8?  Hard to believe.  The Seahawks have been inconsistent, but still have a chance.  Based on their inconsistency, laying 8.5 seems aggressive, but the feeling here is that they come out ready to go.

Seattle 34, Arizona 23.

Buffalo (-2.5) at Miami

Two times in three weeks for this marquee matchup, with the Bills winning by eight in the first one in Buffalo.  The Bills are still remarkably in the playoff mix and therefore need it more.  Despite the Bills not actually being very good.  Throw in the fact that Miami isn’t good either, I am not expecting the ‘Phins to go all out to knock the Bills from the playoff chase.  I don’t know…

Buffalo 27, Miami 17.

Oakland at Los Angeles Chargers (-7.5)

The Raiders actually gave the Eagles a game last Monday.  Both teams were kind of inept though.  Chargers have a chance.  Raiders do not.  That’s all I can say really.

Los Angeles Chargers 24, Oakland 13.

San Francisco at Los Angeles Rams (-2.5) 

The oddsmakers apparently have not been watching the Jimmy G show.  Of course the Rams are the better team, but when your coach has already said your best players aren’t playing and the rest of the starters aren’t playing much, one wonders how the Rams could still be favored in this game.

San Francisco 27, Los Angeles Rams 16.

Week (against the spread):  6-10

Week (straight up):  13-3

Season (against the spread):  128-112

Season (straight up):  163-77

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