The Boston Bruins have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to their defensemen. Peter Chiarelli knows that will be an outstanding advantage when it comes to those last minute trades when the Black and Gold tighten up their roster before October 7th. The organization has nine NHL-ready players on the roster now, and it will certainly lead to some interesting questions before opening night.
Who will be the Bruins top pair? – That is the easiest question of the lot to answer. Dennis Seidenberg is healthy and will be ready for training camp. He’s completely recovered from his torn ACL/MCL that took him out of the line-up (and his injury was the biggest reason the Bruins weren’t able to have a dominant performance in the postseason). He will be on the top line with Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. While it was obvious the Slovakian captain was a little slower than he was last season, he was working with raw talent with little or no NHL experience beneath their belts. This year, a lot of those rookies were tempered in a very unforgiving crucible.
Who will be the Bruins second pair? - This question will be harder to answer. Short of a last minute surprise trade, we should expect to see Johnny Boychuk covering half of the second line. His partner will likely be decided during training camp. At the moment, the safe money would be on Dougie Hamilton ending up on the other side of the second pair. He had a great season last year, and the kid’s learning curve is as good as we’ve seen in Boston in quite some time.
Chara, Seidenberg, Boychuk and Hamilton are essentially locked in for the Bruins. Barring a jaw dropping trade or a soul crunching injury, these four men will be the faces of the Bruins blueline next season.
Who will end in the final Bruins defensive pair? That answer can only be answered through a process of elimination regarding the remaining five NHL caliber defensemen. It’s going to be a tough choice for the organization to make the best possible call with the personnel available to them.
So, we have to narrow down the list. First, let’s remove David Warsofsky. He’s a good player with a size and skill set that is very similar to Torey Krug. He would bring speed and a surprise boost to the B’s special teams. He signed a two-way contract with the organization, and that’s Peter Chiarelli telegraphing his plans to the organization. He wants him to have a good training camp, go to Providence and be ready to put on the ‘B’ when injuries occur.
Of the four remaining players, we have to figure who the Bruins really want to keep, and who they really want to trade. The organization tried to pass off Matt Bartkowski to Calgary in 2013 in the botched Jarome Iginla trade. Peter Chiarelli still seems keen to him, but talk has been going around that makes it sound like Chiarelli’s looking to deal and Bartkowski figures he would be first on the block. In his defense, Bartkowski isn’t terrible. He just happened to be the young blueliner who picked the worst times to have stupid penalties or made bad plays. He’s not loved by the majority of the fan base, and I can’t see him on the final line in October.
That leaves us three. I want to say Adam McQuaid will be on the line next year, I really do. While his injuries have healed, he’s gotten ‘that’ reputation as being easily injured. I like his tenacity, and his desire to stand up for his team. His willingness to scrap against Bobby Robins during the last NHL/AHL scrimmage shows what a fighter he is. (If he remains, he’ll likely be the closest thing we’ve got to an enforcer.) At the moment though, he may end up being the seventh defenseman on opening night.
Torey Krug has been one of the better surprises the organization has seen. He’s got speed, he’s got power. He’s outstanding on special teams, and has the ability to make big plays. He’s not afraid to get into the dirty areas and battle with people half a foot taller and fifty pounds heavier. He’s a determined scrapper who has all the gumption of Brad Marchand and does it without being the pest the Little Ball of Hate is. Kevan Miller is a California Mack Truck that worked his way up through the Providence squad like Krug. Miller filled in the roster due to injuries and earned himself a two-year contract through his skill. He’s earned his spot on the roster. (I doubt the Bruins would go through all the trouble of a Bear Tracks episode if they were that keen to deal him away or have him ride the bench.)