Mailbag: In The Crease

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There are 53 days left until the 2015-16 season officially kicks off, meeting that time of the offseason where there’s very little to no hockey activity. It’s the most painful part of the calendar year for diehard hockey fans as the players have yet to hit the ice, and the management has secured most of their roster for the upcoming season. Speculation is all we have in the month of August, so I’m using this as an opportunity to start a forum answering any Boston Bruins, NHL or any hockey questions readers may have. Using the tweets and mail I’ve accumulated the past week and a half, let’s get the ball rolling with the first installment of In The Crease.

 

What should Pastrnak’s role be on the Bruins this upcoming year? 

It’s important to note that the Bruins may have caught lightning in a bottle last year with the sudden emergence of David Pastrnak. He was selected 25th overall in the 2014 draft, and was only one of three players in that draft that saw the NHL ice. This being said, David Pastrnak has proven to be a very valuable asset to the Bruins and will undoubtedly be seeing a good amount of ice time.

He played a lot of ice time last year with Ryan Spooner and Milan Lucic. Though this line did not play the “heavy” minutes against other teams, they saw a very good amount of ice time, especially in the offensive zone, where all three players are best utilized. I do not see any reason why the Boston Bruins would rush his development and throw him on one of the top two lines when he has established chemistry with Ryan Spooner. He fits the third line role perfectly for the Bruins right now.

He has established chemistry with Ryan Spooner. Because we have a lethal 1a and 1b combination of Bergeron and Krejci, Spooner gets the third line by default. Another reason is the minutes he’ll be getting. The Boston Bruins under Claude Julien have rolled four lines for years, and there is no sign of it stopping. There is such an emphasis on balance on this team. Distribution of the scoring and the quantity of minutes are crucial to the way this team is managed. On some NHL teams, playing third line minutes means a significant drop in ice time, whereas on the Bruins, it’s no so reflective on the amount of minutes each line plays, but the competition that each line plays against. Pastrnak is not yet offensively equipped to make a huge impact against opponent’s top lines, and he certainly does not have the defensive ability to stop it.

He will play a lot of power play minutes, and will be a legitimate scoring threat on our third line that gives opponents headaches. Someone in the top-six will most likely go down with an injury this year, and Pastrnak will be ready to answer the bell.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42MbMOVL9PI

 

Why haven’t we made a move for a defenseman yet?

The Bruins have undergone one of the biggest makeovers the franchise has seen in over a decade. There are too many question marks going into the season right now to make a deal for someone that may not end up in our long-term plans. The Bruins need to hit the ice and evaluate their situation. Yes, the blue line looks absolutely shaky, however, this gives players the ability to step up and make a name for themselves when the team needs it the most. Someone on that blue line is going to surprise an entire fan base with his stellar play. Said player may not have gotten the chance to do so if a Cody Franson, or Marek Zidlicky were slotted into their spots.

We also have a limited amount of cap space. Don Sweeney has done a phenomenal job shedding some of it, however the Bruins are still roughly only $4.7 million away from the ceiling. Next year we have free agents Torey Krug, Chris Kelly, Loui Eriksson, Brett Connolly, and Zach Trotman to sign, and this extra space is important. On top of signing our own players for next year, the free agent class is going to be extremely heavy on defenseman. Right now premier players like Brent Seabrook, Keith Yandle, Dustin Byfuglien, Justin Schultz, and Luke Schenn are poised to be free agents in 2016 and the Bruins, with Chara and Seidenberg aging need to look at this opportunity to significantly improve the looks of their blue line.

Signing a defenseman now when the market value is too high, there are too many question marks, and plenty of kids knocking at the NHL door, it only makes sense to wait it out, work with the inevitable growing pains and take the bad with the good before snagging something great off of the open market.

 

What trade could the Bruins make that seems fair for both teams?

I could play this game all day… Assuming the Bruins are taking the opportunity to make them better in the immediate future and not tanking the season I would propose something along these lines:

BOS sends: Dennis Seidenberg, Malcolm Subban, conditional BOS 2016 1st round pick.

NYR sends: Keith Yandle, Jesper Fast, NYR 3rd round pick.

Why it works for Boston?

The Bruins need to jump at an opportunity to upgrade their blue line. Dennis Seidenberg is only getting older, and is not a top pairing defenseman anymore, Massachusetts native Keith Yandle, being the centerpiece in this deal would be slotted in our top four immediately. Unfortunately he is a left handed shot, so he would probably play left side on the second pairing, but once Chara’s age really begins to eat away at his on ice abilities, Yandle would be more than efficient enough to take over this role. Jesper Fast is ironically very fast. It provides the Bruins depth at forward, and he is capable of playing on the penalty kill. He conditions on the first round pick going to New York would be tied to whether or not the Bruins were able to resign Yandle after this season.

Why it works for New York?

The Rangers acquired Keith Yandle last year from the Arizona Coyotes with hopes that the defensive depth would propel them to a Stanley Cup. It did not work. He was slotted as a third pairing defenseman with Dan Boyle, and it wasn’t pretty. There were constant breakdowns in coverage, which led to many untimely goals scored against the Rangers in last year’s playoffs. Yandle is also set to become an unrestricted free agent next year, and likely will test the market (unless he find his home in his native area in Boston and resigns). Seidenberg fits that third pairing role for the Rangers perfectly.

He can still shut down players, will sacrifice the body and is extremely defensively aware. The Rangers already have McDonough, Boyle, and Staal to carry the offensive load from the blue line; Seidenberg can help shore up the defensive side of it. Having Seidenberg and Girardi on the same penalty kill is terrifying to the opponent’s power play. The Rangers also parted ways with Cam Talbot this offseason who was highly regarded as one of the best backup goalies in the league. Henrik Lundqvist is getting old, and will soon need a capable backup to take some games. Malcolm Subban, a former first round pick could find his way in a Ranger sweater, especially with mentoring from the King himself. The Rangers also have one of the worst prospect pools in the league and could use the conditional first round pick to add to it.

 

What will the Atlantic standings end up looking like?

This is very hard to predict because this team has yet to touch the ice, and evaluating a team on paper never seems to work out for the Rangers. This being said, there is no possible way the Toronto Maple Leafs finish anywhere but last. They may be the worst team in hockey next year, and are in full rebuild mode. They will place 8th.

Ottawa is going to bust this year. They got hot at the worst time for the Bruins last year with Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone taking the league by storm. Do not expect that this year. Erik Karlsson is the best offensive defenseman in the league, and is capable of great things, but the inconsistency of star forward Bobby Ryan and the overachievement of Stone and Hoffman last year are going to leave Ottawa believers scratching their head. They will place 7th.

Buffalo is going to experience the biggest turnaround of any team in the league. Add Ryan O’Reilly, Evander Kane, Matt Moulson, Robin Lehner, and Jack Eichel to your lineup and it’s hard to imagine they finish in the bottom half of the division, though they were the worst team in the league last year and a turnaround of playoff contention magnitude is unlikely. They will place 6th.

Florida has gone though one of the slowest rebuilds in recent time, and all of it under the radar. Nick Bjugstad, Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov and the legend Jaromir Jagr are going to continue trending upward. They need a significant piece on the blue line to be a true competitor, but the development of this young team is something people should watch for this year.

They will place 5th.

This is where I see the Bruins fitting in. They will spend most of their season getting to know each other, testing out line combinations, and enduring their fair share of disappointment. They will spend most of the year finding consistency and will probably be constantly fighting for a wildcard spot. This is assuming the Bruins lose a forward or a defenseman for a small stretch over the season. If the Bruins can’t stay healthy, they have no shot at these years’ playoffs. They will finish 4th.

The Red Wings will be without head coach Mike Babcock for the first time since 2005. He has been highly regarded as one of the best coaches in the game, and will be surely missed by a Red Wings team that hasn’t missed the post season since 1989. They are thinner than past years, but they have always found a way to push into the post season and this year will be no different. They will finish 3rd.

It hard to go against the defending Eastern Conference champions, but this year I believe they will take a small step backwards. Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and Alex Killorn came out of thin air for the Lightning last year, and it propelled them to their first Stanley Cup appearance since 2004. Stamkos, Hedman and the emergence of Kucherov and Drouin will keep them in the hunt for top seed in the east. They will finish 2nd.

This year, the Montreal Canadiens will top the Atlantic Division. Carey Price is coming off a hall of fame caliber season, and will look to repeat his phenomenal play. Max Pacioretty and PK Subban anchor their respected sides of the ice, and they have added complimentary players this offseason in Devante Smith-Pelly (acquired last trade deadline), Alexander Semin, and Zack Kassian. They will be tougher to play against, and Alex Galchenyuk is posied to be a breakout allstar his year. They will finish 1st.

 

Any questions for next week’s installment of In The Crease should be tweeted to @RustyBoJangles_