After 39 years filled with crashing dreams, the Stanley Cup again belongs to the Boston Bruins. One desired problem to have for every GM is a shortened off season by a lengthy Stanley Cup run.
Now that our celebration is are over and the relentless questioning about what the hell is going on with Brad Marchand is becoming stagnant, we shouldn’t forget that the future of the Boston Bruins will be on display this year.
With a lot of chatter from mainstream media about the potential for the Bruins to repeat, the elephant in the room is the Bruins offense and no one is talking about it. Just two years ago Boston finished 30th in overall offense which is forgotten by most because of this past year’s 40 goal improvement. This shouldn’t be expected again in 2011-2012. Last year we saw four of Boston’s forwards have career highs or tie career highs in goals. The offseason brought us the loss of Mark Recchi and Michael Ryder, and no surefire improvement has been made in acquisitions.
GM Pete Chiarelli is hoping that the homegrown heroes such as Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand will excel in natural progression and pray that last year’s trade acquisitions Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley score a bit more often as well. If either one of those pairing falter in the offense department it is likely that Boston will return as bottom dwellers in the “Goals For” category.
As usual, Boston will still be a top defensive juggernaut, despite the likelihood that Tim Thomas will not repeat his excellent season from the year before. When Tuukka Rask won the starting job two years back, the Bruins were number 2 in total defense. It wouldn’t even be surprising to see Thomas fall off pace and Rask to take over the starting job midway through the season.
With the defense stable and excelling, it might be wise for Chiarelli to start looking in other clubs for potential additions to his organization, as the remaining free agents are free agents for a reason. An interesting move would be to snag Brad Boyes from Buffalo. The Sabres need to trim salary desperately and Boyes could be stolen at minimal cost.
The Bruins might also be preparing to play without the services of Brad Marchand. Fans should not forget that Marchand’s agent Wade Arnott, is Phil Kessel’s agent. A few years back Arnott was able to get Kessel a big deal by finding a taker for him on the trade market. Unless a team needs to reach the league minimum in salary and will overpay for Marchand, it isn’t likely that Boston would facilitate a way out of town for the “pesky” forward.
Instead, the key negotiators are probably looking at the recent deal/extension between Logan Couture and the San Jose Sharks as a point to start all over. Couture’s deal is for two years $5.75m. It has been originally thought that Marchand was worth about $4.5m over two years. A quick comparison finds that Couture is one year younger and had 15 more points than Marchand, but Marchand had a much stronger showing in the latter half of last season into the playoffs.
While we don’t know if the snag in contract talks is money, years, or both – Marchand will get a big pay raise to earn about $2.5m-3.0m per year.
Chiarelli doesn’t have a leg to stand on in the farm system for this year, so he shouldn’t bet on trying to “out-wait” the Marchand camp. The only names that matter on the Providence Bruins are that of Jordan Caron and Zach Hamill, but neither will win a spot over Marchand. They may be primed for the NHL but they constantly show why they might not be ready to make a full time jump with the big B’s.
Caron spent 23 games last year with the Boston Bruins and the rest with the minor league affiliate. He is likely the only player that will make the roster of the Boston Bruins with regularity this season but has yet to complete a season at any skill level without some sort of substantially time consuming injury. He will have to shake this in order to stay out of the minors. Caron has a big body and knows how to use it effectively. He boasts plenty of scoring upside despite being a decent defensive forward. If he hopes to maintain his presence on the big B’s roster, even as a healthy scratch, he will need to improve his decision making when in possession of the puck if he truly wants to maximize his scoring potential in the NHL. If he can avoid the injury bug consistently, he has the potential to be the next big two way forward for the Bruins, similar to say – Cam Neely?
Hamill has a smooth stride and powerful acceleration. He is able to create space for himself and his teammates. He is small by unwritten league standards for being a recognized solid physical player standing at 5-11, and before he gets a chance to establish himself in the NHL he will need to be stronger on the puck in the AHL. A stronger effort could put him centering the Bruins third line. However, barring an injury to one of the Bruin’s many talented centers Hamill is headed for another year with Providence.
There are only two weeks until training camp when we find out if Chiarelli’s quiet patience will pay off.
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