Well folks, two weeks removed from a stinging first round exit, and I am finally able to resume acknowledging these playoffs. Though I have desperately tried to avoid checking in on the NHL, my love for hockey is too strong, and there are quite a few good stories out there. This years first two rounds have shown how much parity there is in this league, every team neck and neck and playing tight hockey. (Well except for the recently swept Blues who forgot what got them to that number 2 seed.)Though I am sure you can tell by the picture at the top of this article who I am rooting for, I will not be doing any predictions. For two reasons. The first being that my two picks to be playing for the greatest championship in sports were both eliminated in the first round. This proves that though I am not alone, I am obviously not that good at predicitions. The second being there are only 5 teams left and that is like cheating. Like my Boston Bruins, all I can say is next year!
Since we last checked in we have seen a 25 game ban to Raffi Torres. (I would argue not enough). We have seen Claude Giroux suspended for a elimination game in which Philly came up short and have now hit the links. The Kings swept the Blues and became the first eight seed to knock off both the number 1 and 2 seeds since the current playoff format was instituted. Martin Brodeur has found some 40 year old magic, Mike Smith has stolen Dwayne Roloson’s good juju from last year, and Washington is currently fighting off elimination and trying to force a game 7, up 2-0 at the end of the second.
We are left with quite a few team roster questions as well. Will Jagr come back? Do the San Jose Sharks blow it up and build around a few young guys? What do Presidents Trophy winning Canucks do? Two years in a row they have accomplished this without the big hardware to show for it. Oh, and I hear there is a bit of a goaltending issue out there with Louie reportedly being willing to waive the no trade clause for a small list of teams, including the Northeast division Maple Leafs. I must admit, I would love to hear “Louie, Louie!!” 8 times a year. But really, we are mostly concerned with our boys in the Hub.
Have we seen the last of Tim Thomas in a spoked B? Who do they resign? Who do they let go? Will we address this dreadful power play, as it does not appear Marc Savard will be making a comeback. First thing is first, let’s clear one thing up. This team finished second in the East, won their division, and were top 5 in both goals scored and least goals given up. Looking around a lot of public forums, we have, shall I call them, not super bright individuals who want this team blown up because of a less than promised first round. We do not need to do this.
I am all for a trade of a big player for the likes of a Parise, but the trade Lucic, trade Krejci, trade Marchand stuff is just crazy talk. I especially like when people cannot even spell their names correctly. This first round loss sucked, but maybe it will clear some space on the bandwagon and move some folks off. Let’s go ahead and take a look at our free agents.
Benoit Puoliot. He played pretty decent, and mostly consistent hockey once he got the system down. He put up 16-16-32 totals in 74 games. This was a much better showing than his days in Montreal. You must remember this guy was a number 4 overall pick. He made $1.1 million last year, and I do not see the Bruins offering him much more as a 3rd line winger. For that price, I like his upside. I think he is a good depth guy with speed, toughness, high offensive ability and a huge upside. I say yes.
Brian Rolston. Rolston played alright hockey for us in the 15 games totalling 3-12-15. He may have been a solid guy in the locker room, but produced very little in the playoffs, and that is where he would have had to have earned his next contract. He was on the books for $5 million last year, and that is way too much money. My heart wants to say yes, but my brain says no. I think he has a shot if he is willing to take a huge paycut. I do not think he will and I think he will get offered more elsewhere. That is just fine by me.
Chris Kelly. Arguably the biggest need to resign, besides I guess Tuukka. Kelly set career highs last year 20-19-39 totals and played in all 82 games. The veteran was also awarded the A on his sweater for half the games. He was pulling in $2.25 last year and his career high ouput certainly sends that number north. He is a solid player in all three zones, good in the circle, and his work ethic and energy are top notch. He has already expressed a strong desire to stay in Boston, but also said he will listen to all suitors, as he should. I say Chris is a top priority and I hope he is brought back, and soon.
Daniele Paille. This is a tough one. They say energy guys are a dime a dozen, and I know they are right, but I enjoyed watching Paille in Buffalo and was really excited when he came to Boston. He was on the team that won the cup, and his effort is second to none. He is fast, is a tremendous penalty killer, and sacrifices himself numerous times every game without a thought. His 9-6-15 totals (in 69 games) do not do his overall game any justice. He has also been a mainstay on our Merlot line with Shawn Thornton and Gregory Campbell, and that line almost single handidly turned the tide last spring against Vancouver as well as generated many game changing momentum swings this year. At $1.075 million, he is not hurting us. However, will he want more? Will the Bruins give it? Will he get more on the open market? This one is too close to call with any certainty. My thought is he resigns without too much of an increase in pay, partially due to the current lack of calling for grinders without a knack for offense.
Gregory Campbell. Campbell is almost the same player as Paille, take away a little speed and add a lot of grit. His 8-8-16 totals are one point better than Paille, but Soupy brings that blue collar, hard work, never back down attitude that is Boston Bruins hockey. Campbell was on the books for $1.1 million last year. Though Thornton got his contract last year, and took a hometown discount I believe, to have a fourth line of this caliber for under $5 million is pretty good. I would like them both, but if I could only choose one, it would be Campbell. I think he stays.
Greg Zanon/Joe Corvo/Mike Mottau. I put them all in one line because I think they all end up in the same place, ANYWHERE else. I like Zanon, he just simply is not that good. Mottau did not even really play for us. After the first two months of the season, everytime Joe Corvo was on the ice, swear words soon followed. The numbers do not matter. The pay does not matter. These guys are gone. Corvo did a halfway decent job of keeping Dougie Hamilton’s seat warm, and though I wish him nothing bad, good riddance.
Then we have this interesting little goaltending situation. Everyone, including the two involved, claim this is not an issue and the competition is friendly and good for both. I personally believe that to be true as well, but we have a few added dynamics to the story. The first one being that Tuukka is a restricted free agent. He also happens to be a goalie that has been a starter and believes that he could be a starter on any of the 30 teams. He has said all the right things, and says he would love to stay in Boston. However, watching from the side is not what any proffessional athlete wants, let alone one who feels he could be starting. He is coming off an injury, but one all parties feel he will make a 100% recovery from.
Tim Thomas. Conn Smythe winner. Two timer Vezina winner. Hero of the Stanley Cup run. 38 years old. Tim Thomas did not play as he did in the summer of 2011, but he did not play all that bad. Add to this the White House debacle and a few comments Thomas made after some bad playoff games concerning the effort of certain teammates. There was talk, according to Peirre McQuire he heard first hand, that some of Timmys teammates were not too happy with him. Now, he also has a no trade clause, making it an even more interesting process. If the Black and Gold brass try to trade him and he says no, what does that do to the relationship? Will Tim Thomas be receptive to the idea of trading places with Tuukka and letting him be the 1A? At the end of the day, I think Tuukka gets resigned, as he is the future of the franchise. I think Tim Thomas returns for the last year of his contract. I also feel healthy training camp competition yields Tuukka as the number one.
Then again, do you ever want to count out Tim Thomas?
Thoughts? How do we fix the power play? Do we go out and get a pure scorer?