Blog Archives

Oh So Close…

…so it’s been a little over two weeks.  Have we recovered?

Not particularly.

That will explain the delay in writing about it…or should anyway.

Yup, the Boston Bruins’ loss in the Stanley Cup Final is what we are referring to.

But we won’t spend a lot of time rehashing the past.  No sense in doing a whole lot of that.  With the start of NHL free agency coming up on July 1st, it is about time to focus on the future of the team.

That being said, what a massive, MASSIVE missed opportunity for the organization.  HUMONGOUS.

The road was cleared.  Tampa Bay, perhaps the best regular season team in NHL history, got swept away in the first round.  Washington, the defending Stanley Cup Champions, also ousted in the first round.  Pittsburgh, who always seem to be scary, done in the first round.  Toronto may have been the toughest matchup of them all, and the Bs beat them in the first round.

Out West, Calgary had the second best record in the league and yes, they were dropped in the first round also.  Did San Jose scare you?  They did me.  And the supposedly lesser St. Louis Blues took care of them in the Conference Finals.

So there were the Blues.  A last place team in early January.  That’s all they had to beat.

Then, seemingly true to form in this years’ Cup playoffs, the Blues took home the Cup.

Were there injuries?  Of course!  You don’t play 100 plus games in a season and not get banged up.  Especially after 20 plus games in the grueling playoffs.  But the Blues most assuredly had theirs too.

Cheap shots by the Blues?  Bad refs?  Check.  Check.  But they needed to overcome that.  It’s the Stanley Cup Finals for Chrissakes!!

I sssssoooooo want to pin the entire blame on goalie Tuukka Rask.  But I cannot.  That kind of pains me.  But although he did not play as well in the Finals as he did in the first three rounds, he didn’t exactly have a lot of help.

The first line was invisible.  I know, they were all hurt.  But still.  Injury did not cause Brad Marchand from trying to get off the ice with 8 seconds left in a period for a shift change when his guy then went down and scored.  Or when Marchand had half of an empty net to shoot at to give them an early lead in Game 7 and he fired it right into the goalie.  Or when Joakim Nordstrom just had to lift the puck a few inches over Jordan Binnington’s pad to score into a wide open part of the net and he couldn’t do it.

I could go on, but I won’t.  The Blues were the better team in the series.  Simple as that.

Let’s try to move on…

What are the Bruins going to do in the offseason?  Well, what CAN they do?

I’ll tell you one thing:  Do not expect an all-out pursuit of a marquee free agent, such as the run at John Tavares last year.

They simply don’t have the cap room to do so.  It looks like they have about 12 million in cap room to maneuver.  Can they create more?  Of course!

Although we won’t get into as much detail as we did with each the players on the Boston Celtics’ roster, we will take a look at all the players on the Bruins’ roster as of right now.  We will just do it by positional group instead.  Per usual in these types of exercises, I will give my thoughts on what I think they SHOULD do in each group, as well as what I think they WILL do.

Starting with my favorite:

Goaltenders:  The Bs played all of last year with the two goalies, Tuuks and Jaroslav Halak.  They have a couple of kids in Daniel Vladar and Kyle Keyser, but we don’t care about them.  Why?  Because every time the organization has a “goalie of the future”, they end up elsewhere.  The most recent example will be Zane McIntyre, who has been in the system for like 100 years it feels like, but is now a free agent at age 27.  Good luck Zane!

Well, I think you know what I would do.  I would shop Tuuks as fast as possible, hoping that someone overpays for his Cup run.  With only a modified no-trade clause, this is indeed possible.  Then take Rask’s 7 mil salary and sign another veteran similar to Halak, who makes 2.75 mil.  Then, both your goalies make less than 6 mil combined and you can use the savings in part to acquire another, I don’t know…SCORER?

We also know what will happen.  These two will be between the pipes again next season.  No sense in going much further here now.

Defense:  The Bruins used 12 defensemen last year.  Ok, Jakub Zboril and Urho Vaakanainen only played two games apiece, so really they used 10.  So having some depth here helps, especially with a 42-year-old Zdeno Chara and a tremendously injury prone Kevan Miller still in tow.

Still makes me wonder why they signed journeyman Steven Kampfer to a two year extension though.  Kampfer spent most of the year as the teams’ 8th defenseman and pretty much ended it as the 9th, as Connor Clifton seemed to leapfrog him on the depth chart.  With Zboril and Urho getting closer, along with Jeremy Lauzon (16 NHL games last season) in the mix as well, what the hell did they need Kampfer for?  It’s not like they can send him down to Providence.  He would have to occupy space on the 23 man game day roster every day, even if he doesn’t suit up on the 20 man active roster.

Hmmmmmm…

Are they thinking about moving one of the top 7?  Entirely possible.

The most popular name?  Torey Krug.  Krug makes 5.25 mil in the last year of his deal next season.  Though I would still consider him a “specialist”, in particular, a “power play specialist” because of his physical stature, I will admit he has improved on defense over his career.  But if he wants like 10 mil a year as a free agent, then see ya!!  Some national writers have kind of anointed him as a first pairing d-man.  Really?  But if that is the perception, the team may be better off moving him.

Problem is, Krug has supposedly been quoted that he wants to play in Boston “forever” and that he hopes “something can be worked out soon”.  So what if he takes a hometown discount, similar to what we believe Brad Marchand took when he was up for his current deal?  May be tough to then move him.

I have a second name to throw out:  Brandon Carlo.  He is a restricted free agent, along with Charlie McAvoy.  Chaz was a first rounder and has some offensive upside to boot.  He is largely considered the heir apparent as the franchise defenseman when Z finally at least slides back in the pecking order.  Carlo was a second rounder and is an excellent defenseman.  Really took a step up this past season.  But he is no offensive threat whatsoever.

If the Bs cannot get something done with either before the onset of free agency, are they expecting to match McAvoy’s presumably monster offer from another team and let Carlo walk?  If Carlo wants 7-8 mil a year, I expect that he may be the one to go.

Just a hunch, but something to look out for anyway.  Would at least partly explain the quick re-signing of the veteran Kampfer.  Who could serve as good depth, certainly during the regular season.  All while the kids get more seasoning in the AHL.  Kampfer also can sit for long stretches on the inactive list, while you want the kids at least playing to develop more.

John Moore and Matt Grzelcyk round out the rest of the 12 and I expect they will be going nowhere.

Forwards:  Let’s revisit how the lines went for the majority of the playoffs:

  1.  Marchand/Patrice Bergeron/David Pastrnak
  2.  Jake DeBrusk/David Krejci/David Backes
  3.  Marcus Johansson/Charlie Coyle/Danton Heinen
  4.  Nordstrom/Sean Kuraly/Noel Acciari

Of course, Karson Kuhlman finished up in place of Backes and Chris Wagner kind of split with Acciari before he got hurt.  That was pretty much it for the Cup run.  Several other jamokes played a bit during the year and maybe we will cover them, maybe we won’t.

Of the 14 dudes above, Johansson and Acciari are unrestricted free agents and Heinen is restricted.  Johansson had a 4.6 mil cap hit last season.  I liked his play when healthy, but if that is the area he is looking for in free agency, best of luck to him!  Acciari was a nice 4th line piece, but I imagine that someone will give him something like 3/11 or something silly like that.  Similar to what previous bottom six (three?) players like Riley Nash and Tim Schaller got when they performed well in their roles here.  Good for Noel, but the Bs would be foolish to keep him at that pay rate.  They have enough guys that could step in for cheaper.  Like…Wagner…

As far as I’m concerned Heinen can go too.  But I imagine he will be back.  The team LOVES him.  In their defense, there was some crazy stat I heard during the Finals.  I wish I can remember what exactly, but it was something along the lines of that the opposing team simply did not score any goals when Heinen was on the ice.  There is admittedly some value in that…even though there are 4 other guys on the ice with him…plus the goalie.

The “elephant in the room” here is Backes.  He is completely useless.  But on the books for 6 mil (and a modified no-trade clause) for each of the next two years.  The simple answer is “buyout” as in, BUY HIM THE FK OUT!!!  But General Manager (as in “General Manager of the Year”) Don Sweeney has basically said they will not do that.

My question is…WHY???!!

Yes, I believe they would be stuck with half of Backes’ salary on the books still.  But three mil is better than six mil.  And that three could be used for better purposes.

If he stays, where does he go?  The ninth floor with Kampfer most nights?  Ok, fine.  But that seems like a waste.  Nordstrom/Kuraly/Wagner is a fine enough 4th line.  And I’m not putting him on the 3rd with Coyle and Heinen.  Certainly not back with Krejci.

Ugh…

Maybe they can package Backes and a kid or two and a draft pick or two to an NHL team that needs to hit the salary cap floor.  That way they get rid of the whole salary.  We can hope for that anyway.

In any event, the major need is that top six right wing spot.  I assume you have heard that tune before.  Whether you want to break up that first line or not is your decision.  There has been talk locally of moving Pasta with Krejci and Jake and finding a bigger dude to play with Bergy and Marchy.  Ok, fine.  But you need to pay that guy too.  With what?  After you pay Chaz and some others, there may be nothing left?

Kuhlman?  Maybe.  But that’s a little underwhelming.

Peter Cehlarik (restricted), Anders Bjork, Trent Frederic, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Zack Senyshyn?  Well, JFK retreated back to Sweden before the playoff run even ended, so that is not an option.  Wasn’t a good one anyway…as the rest would appear not to be either.

Move Krejci?  I’d absolutely consider it.  But good luck with that at his 7.25 mil price tag.  And, oh yeah, his FULL no-trade clause.

The solution?  Find that other top six winger somehow and then just mix and match the bottom six.

Easier said than done.  But that is really the only thing I think the Bruins will attempt to do.

And I really don’t think they will be able to get anyone good, seeing they have to spend money on keeping McAvoy and trying to keep Carlo.  Unless they can move Krug, and/or Backes and/or Krejci, it just doesn’t seem realistic.

But I’ve been wrong before…so we will see starting in a few days…

Advertisements

Offseason Chatter…Already?! Conclusion…

We’ve covered the pitching, let’s move on to the rest of the roster.  I promise, this one will be a lot shorter!

Catchers (3):

Here:  Sandy Leon, Blake Swihart, Christian Vazquez

None of these guys hit a lick this past season.  I think Swihart can hit a little, but it’s unlikely he will ever get enough at-bats here to prove it.  Leon was particularly putrid this year.  .177 average with a .511 OPS.  Wow.  That’s hard to do.  In almost 300 plate appearances no less.

But you know what?  I completely expect Vazquez and Leon to be the catching tandem next season.  They are good defensively, the pitchers love them, the manager loves them and with this overall lineup, the catchers do not really have to hit.

Swihart will most assuredly be dangled in trade talks once again.  But also once again there will likely be tepid interest.  I’m not sure the Sox will keep trying to groom him on the “super utility role”.  I suppose we will find out this winter.  If they want to truly make him that versatile, wouldn’t he play winter ball and play all over the diamond?  That would make too much sense though.

Infielders (9):

Here:  Xander Bogaerts (SS), Rafael Devers (3B), Marco Hernandez (UT), Brock Holt (UT), Tzu-Wei Lin (UT), Mitch Moreland (1B), Eduardo Nunez (UT), Dustin Pedroia (2B), Sam Travis (1B/LF)

Free agents:  Ian Kinsler (2B), Steve Pearce (1B), Brandon Phillips (2B)

Minors:  Tony Renda (UT)

The last of the World Series “heroes” to talk about?  Steve Pearce.  Love what he did.  But he’s Steve Pearce.  There are 1,000 guys that could play his role next year.  If he wants a one year deal for short money to match the one year left on Moreland’s contract, I would do it.  Then in 2020 maybe the team can get a real first baseman that can play every day instead of this platoon nonsense.

Who really thinks Dustin Pedroia will be ready to go Opening Day 2019?  Besides Dustin Pedroia, that is.  Pedey, you may be done.  That knee injury is supposed to be no joke.  He’s 35 years old.  At this point, I’d cut him loose.  But with 41 mil and 3 years left on his deal, that ain’t happening.  Not to mention that the manager loves him.  And he has some sort of untouchable status in the organization for whatever reason.  So he’s here…unless he really cannot play.  We will see.  At least Holt will be here to back him up, for whatever that is worth.

Hopefully Devers takes another step forward next year, especially defensively.  Nunez locked in his 5 mil player option, so he ain’t going anywhere and will likely take at-bats away from Raffy at third.

Marco missed the whole year and hopefully, he has minor league options so that he can get himself back up to speed and be organizational depth, along with Lin.  I can’t imagine Kinsler will be back, but congrats to him on the Gold Glove!  His career could be done, along with Phillips’.  I think we’ve seen the last of Sammy Travis.  Still only 25 years old, but had a poor year at AAA and his prospect days are essentially over.  Renda?  He was on the roster a few days this summer, scored the winning run as a pinch runner in a Sunday Night game against the Yankees as his only major league action this season.  And got himself a ring because of it.  Not bad.  But all of this and then being outrighted to the minors after the World Series does not bode well for any future major league prospects in Boston.

I’d say that a right-handed bat for first base, either Pearce or someone else, would be the only thing the Sox address this offseason.

Here’s another thing to consider as well:  Bogaerts is a free agent after the 2019 season.  He is coming off his best season.  26 years old, right in his prime.  He is going to want to get paid,  Several other Red Sox will want to get paid.  Scott Boras is his agent, so that means X will want to be unreasonably paid.

Would it shock anyone if Bogaerts is dangled in trade talks?

Not me.

Outfielders (4):

Here:  Andrew Benintendi (LF), Mookie Betts (RF), Jackie Bradley (CF), J.D. Martinez (OF/DH)

Speaking of guys that want to get paid, J.D. can opt out after 2019 and Mookie is a free agent after 2020.  So you have these two, Bogaerts, Sale and I suppose Porcello all looking for big money within the next two years.  Again, the Sox can pay them all if they want.  But they won’t.  So are there some trade talks this offseason?  I think there might be.

And out of all these guys, I’d start with…Bradley.  Jackie has two arbitration years left before free agency.  He will be looking for over 10 mil in arbitration this year for sure.  I’d try to snow some dumb teams into overvaluing the Gold Glove and the ALCS MVP.  If you don’t want to play Benny or Betts in center on a regular basis, you can find some other guy that can’t hit and play a decent center field for a fraction of the cost.

Sure, if we want the Sox to spend 500 mil on their payroll, we keep JBJ.  And everyone else.  But you know that just isn’t happening.

Good thing that they did win the World Series this year.  Because there’s going to be some tough decisions made over the next couple of years whether they have the money to spend or not or whether we like it or not.  Be ready for some of those decisions to be made as soon as this winter.  And when you have a barren farm system, letting some good players go at the major league level because of money and contracts…well, that might not be a good combination.

Rest assured, the Sox will remain competitive, maybe even for championships.  As noted previously, they have plenty of money to spend and will spend a great deal of it.  But there could be more bodies going out the door over the next few years than we care to accept…

Draft Musings…

…NBA AND NHL!  Nice…although is there really a ton of interest in the NHL draft?  I don’t know…

But since the NBA draft is like an hour away, let’s start there.

The Boston Celtics have the 27th pick.  Quite a change from previous years where they had the #3, #3 and #6 picks in three of the last four years.  #16 in the other still is better than #27.  The players?  Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier, respectively, in the order of the above list.  Not a bad haul.

#27 doesn’t really excite me…or anyone else really.  But hey, Kyle Kuzma went #27 last year.  So maybe there is hope.

In any event, what do I expect “Trader Danny” Ainge to do?

Actually, nothing.

I know, there have been a gazillion rumors out there the past couple of weeks.  Ranging from Danny moving up in the draft by “only” giving up Rozier, Marcus Morris and all 4 (potential) first round picks in 2019.  To involving Jaylen Brown in a trade to move up.  To moving Brown as part of a package to San Antonio for Kawhi Leonard.  To trading Kyrie Irving to just about anywhere because of questions of Kyrie’s commitment to re-signing in Boston after next season.  And many more.

So I expect the C’s to stand pat at #27, or even possibly trade down and get more picks.  Gotta love second rounders!!

BUT…what do I WANT them to do?  Not exactly sure.  We here at the Blowhard love a good “splash”.  But I don’t want that “splash” to involve Tatum, Brown or Gordon Hayward.  Although, despite Danny’s reputation on trading anyone if the deal is right, I wouldn’t expect him to do so with Hayward regardless.  Gordo signed here the last offseason as a free agent, more than likely in large part due to his college coach, Brad Stevens, being in charge here.  Then he plays 5 minutes the whole year while suffering a major injury and then Ainge deals him?  I doubt it.  Then again, Danny traded Isaiah Thomas with his bum hip, after IT helped breathe some life back into basketball in the city and had a LARGE fan base.  Though…different circumstances, I will allow.

I would be ecstatic if someone overpaid for Rozier.  I like the guy, but we’ve been through this before.  I look at Terry as no more than a third guard.  He probably looks at himself as a max contract player.  This will eventually be a problem.  Not to mention that if Kyrie does indeed play for the C’s next season and then Smart also comes back, how many minutes is Rozier going to get?  That could be a problem as well.  Trade him while the value is high…and maybe highest it will ever be.  Here, for sure anyway.

I wouldn’t mind trading Morris either.  Not sure you will get much for him.  And although he will be cheap next year at 5.375 mil, what happens when he doesn’t get his minutes next season as well?  This guy is liable to go off the deep end.  Never know with him.

Now, I am not packaging Morris and Rozier to move up from #27 to say, #15.  But I am sure Ainge has investigated some options.

And I don’t necessarily want to trade them regardless either.  Especially since Rozier is cheap too, at a shade over 3 mil for next season.  But I am investigating realistic options for trades.  And also considering that these two players are going into the last season of their respective contracts.  And if everyone comes back, their minutes (and therefore, their value) will markedly decrease.  And you ain’t re-signing either after next year to a fat contract that they will likely demand…unless some things change (ie:  Kyrie actually does leave).

That being said, I am not opposed to bringing the whole gang back next season.  With everyone healthy, can they compete for a title?  I think so, while also adding a few minor bench tweaks.

The problem is, I strongly believe there is another shoe to drop with Ainge.  I really do think he has one more big move up his sleeve.  It may not be tonight.  But I believe it is coming.

Kyrie?  Sure, if he says he is taking off somewhere after this season.  Absolutely in that case.  We all understand why he isn’t re-upping this offseason.  But he is noncommittal on his future.  Now, that could be because he has a few screws loose (the Earth is flat?).  No one knows what he is saying privately.  Hopefully, Danny does know.

Kawhi?  I don’t know.  He has the one year left on his contract too.  How last year went down with him individually seems a little mysterious.  I doubt he would re-sign here, but I guess I don’t know.  Worth the risk?  Not sure for me.

As usual, I think Danny’s big move will come out of nowhere.  Guess we just have to wait.

So please stay tuned…

As for the Boston Bruins, not sure the draft is anything exciting to talk about.  I mean, they don’t have a first-round pick.  And who knows anything about hockey first rounders anyway?

It’s not like the B’s have the #13, #14 & #15 picks like they had in the 2015 NHL draft.  Where they took D Jakub Zboril, LW Jake DeBrusk and RW Zachary Senyshyn.  Although DeBrusk may become a stud, that haul may end up being somewhat underwhelming.  Ok, the other two are still developing.  But let’s consider they are 2 of only 3 first rounders from that year that have yet to log a single minute of NHL action.  Let’s also consider that the dude that went #16, Mathew Barzal, just won the Calder Trophy last night as NHL Rookie of the Year.  Sigh…

In any event, rumors are that Don Sweeney wants to perhaps trade back up into the first round.  I don’t know.  They have enough kids in the pipeline, do they need to give up assets to get another?  Maybe if that prospect is in the top-5 and is a potential first pairing defenseman.  But otherwise, I am not sure it’s worth it.  And I don’t even think that the above scenario is realistic anyway.  Allegedly, the B’s had tried to trade those aforementioned 2015 picks into the top-5 that year and nab defenseman Noah Hanifan.  That clearly didn’t work.

What can Donnie Hockey do?  He can certainly trade some veteran assets, as discussed in the last Blowhard piece.  But good luck with that.  They all have some sort of no movement clauses it appears.

Heard a great rumor today.  Unload David Krejci and David Backes.  Then sign John Tavares to a mega deal.  And either Ilya Kovalchuk or Rick Nash to a shorter, but likely still lucrative, deal.

Pipe dream?  I think so.  Who is going to take Backes’ and Krejci’s salaries?  And they have no-movements.  They can be convinced to waive those?  Maybe there are certain teams they can be moved to, I honestly don’t know the details.  But getting rid of those two contracts would seem to be far-fetched.

Another popular one is now moving Torey Krug because the team just re-signed Matt Grzelcyk to a new deal and the two of them have similar skill sets.  Let’s not forget Krug has a full no-trade clause.  So how is that all going to work?

Sweeney should do something…even involving the draft.  But I simply do not see how he can pull it off.  We’ve been through all this in detail before too.

I’d be shocked to see anything come of certainly draft night for the B’s.  And even through free agency, other than losing some pieces and signing some small pieces to replace those players.

But then again, I don’t work in the front office for the B’s…there’s probably a good reason for that, I guess…

%d bloggers like this: