I’m a baseball fan; a BIG baseball fan. And as I continue to watch the Red Sox battle through a multitude of injuries this season, I continue to find myself thinking, “Haven’t I seen this before?” Well, as a matter of fact, I have…while watching the Bruins last season.
Watching the Red Sox play a good chunk of games this season without guys like Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Victor Martinez and Josh Beckett is similar to watching the Bruins play without Marc Savard, Milan Lucic, Mark Stuart and Andrew Ference. It has instilled the same “wait until we get healthy” mentality that I seemed to have while watching the B’s drop the gloves with the injury bug last season.
The Red Sox have probably been more affected by the injuries. After all, they may miss the playoffs entirely because of them.
But injuries also played a significant role in the eventual playoff downfall of the Bruins. Savard didn’t look the same, Dennis Seidenberg’s blue line presence and Sturm’s speed and athleticism were missed, and the Bruins were essentially escorted out of the postseason by David Krejci’s dislocated wrist.
Injuries are simply a part of the game. It’s cliché but true.
There are few measures that teams can take to avoid such a lack of luck, but as NESN.com’s Douglas Flynn points out, spending a little extra money on fourth-liners could go a long way towards easing the pain when injuries or fatigue begin to take a toll – which is almost a certainty throughout an NHL season.
Flynn discusses the Bruins’ likely fourth line this season of Shawn Thornton, Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille, and their just-under $3 million cap hit combined. None of these guys are going to light up the scoreboard or be highly regarded throughout the league as prominent players, but they comprise a formidable fourth unit that undoubtedly fits the “tough to play against” mold that Peter Chiarelli has constantly preached.
Paille even saw time on the first line last season, showing the confidence that Chiarelli and Claude Julien have in him. Throw in the penalty kill reputation of both Paille and Campbell, and Thornton’s ability to wear down opponents, and it’s clear why Chiarelli preferred to go a little bit beyond the NHL minimum to round out the Bruins roster.
Rather than boast a top-heavy team salary-wise, with veteran minimum salaries and entry level contracts filling the final spots, the Bruins are going against the NHL norm and taking on what Flynn called a “more balanced approach.”
Hey, if you can put quality players on the ice every shift and minimize the team’s weaknesses, it certainly sounds like a solid recipe. However simple or logical such a strategy sounds, it is often overlooked. But by giving a few extra bucks to players outside of what could be regarded as the “nucleus,” the Bruins should be –as Chiarelli puts it – tough to play against this season, no matter how they end up resolving their current salary cap issues.