The immediate future of No. 2 overall draft pick Tyler Seguin is one of the biggest issues on my readers’ minds, as evidenced by the multitude of questions about whether the forward will be on the NHL roster and where he will play.
Here’s a mailbag installment that deals with Seguin, Boston’s other rookies, Milan Lucic and David Krejci.
Brad R wrote: My question is about the lines. If Tyler Seguin makes the team out of camp do you think they will make him the third-line center rather than putting him on the wing with a mentor such as Mark Recchi? I think Patrice Bergeron would be able to make the transition to wing much easier and I kind of want the Bruins to take a page out of the Avalanche’s book and how they handled Matt Duchene. They started him as a third-line center, at his natural position, and now he is one of the best players on that team, and was my offensive rookie of the year. What do you think?
MK: The Duchene comparison is a solid one, with two major differences: the ’10 Colorado Avalanche weren’t overflowing with center talent like the ’11 Bruins, nor were they considered Stanley Cup (or even playoff) contenders at the outset of last season. The group of pivots the Avs featured, led by Paul Stastny, at the start of last season paled in comparison to Boston’s Big Three of Bergeron, Marc Savard and David Krejci.
While Bergeron would probably be able to adapt to a shift back out to wing, his rookie-year position, you don’t want to be the Bruins if they move a Selke Trophy-worthy center to the outside and then struggle. The move of Seguin to the wing makes the most sense because it protects him from getting overwhelmed with too much responsibility as a high-profile rookie, and it’s also the safe move that won’t garner much criticism should it not work.
Bob wrote: I would agree with you that there is no way Seguin is being sent back to junior hockey. Having said that, what are the chances of one of the two other heralded first-rounders making the team (Joe Colborne and Jordan Caron)? Would the B’s dump Gregory Campbell if “Jumbo Joe Part Deux” outplays him in camp?
MK: The battles this fall for spots on the bottom two lines are going to be fierce. Both Caron and Colborne will be in the mix with Campbell, Daniel Paille and Brad Marchand, among others. The salary-cap crunch might make it difficult for Colborne or Caron to be on the opening-night roster without really blowing the other guys out of the water, because the two rookies have a lot of bonuses in their deals and the Bruins don’t have much room under this year’s cap or the bonus cushion for next year.
That being said, Campbell is not guaranteed a spot. And, as has been documented repeatedly, Boston’s easiest way to create cap space for guys like Seguin, Colborne and Caron would be to demoted Michael Ryder to Providence (AHL) should the veteran winger not show signs of life after his dismal ’09-10 campaign.
M. Chafe wrote: Just how fit and ready is Milan Lucic? His play, in my opinion, will be a huge factor for his linemates, as he can be an extremely physical force with a serious scoring upside. I am particularly worried about that high ankle sprain. Those types of injuries can have lasting effects. Milan will have to have his maximum speed in effect to play with the elite and younger Bruins players, as skating was not exactly his strong point.
MK: Let’s face it, Lucic’s skating will never be his strongest point. Nonetheless, I think that the high ankle sprain had a two-pronged effect on Lucic. First there was the physical aspect, as he learned how to play when not exactly 100 percent. The second was mental, as he found out how far he could push himself and also play his brand of hockey without worrying about a reoccurrence of injury. Considering the way his season went, you couldn’t blame Lucic if he thought any false move would result in another injury.
Lucic’s maturity and smarts have always been in ample supply since making the NHL as a teenager, and I think if anyone can apply the lessons of a season like last year and build off them it’s the bulky winger. I don’t think last year’s health issues will be a factor this season. Lucic’s only concern will be sticking to his game – physical forechecking and forming a net-front presence – and blending with a pair of linemates that suit his game. He could wind up anywhere from the first line to the third. He could be on the power play or watching it. This fourth year, the first of his second contract, will be a huge window on what Lucic’s future holds as far as role and potential.
BK wrote: I think one of the more exciting things to look forward to this year is the play of Krejci. I am hoping that this is the year he makes the jump from an above average centerman to an elite player. However, my question to you is will Krejci ever be the player the Bruins dream of if he continues to play with Ryder and Blake Wheeler? I feel like they hold him back and we saw this when he was centering Miro Satan.
MK: Krejci’s brief stint of success with Satan last spring aside, it was pretty obvious that Boston’s centers were all going to be held back by their lackluster load of underperforming wingers. That’s not to say that Krejci wasn’t partially to blame for his dip in offensive totals. Like Lucic, Krejci had to learn about playing through pain and coming back from injury. And there was also a dose of complacency that set in after Krejci’s breakout season in ’08-09. If Krejci can get back to working hard all the time and playing with determination, he should be able to make his wingers better rather than being held back by his linemates.
Whether Krejci will be back between Ryder and Wheeler this season remains to be seen and will be determined by so many different factors. There are ways that trio could work again. You start with Wheeler picking up his game and adding some semblance of physicality to his play. On the penalty kill, Krejci and Wheeler have always flaunted fantastic chemistry, and there’s no reason to believe they couldn’t find that 5-on-5 again.
As for Ryder, he needs to get back to basics and play with the fire that left him last season. His ability to get open and get off a shot seems like a perfect fit to play alongside a center of exceptional vision like Krejci. No doubt, you’ll see many different permutations of line combinations this fall and the Wheeler-Krejci-Ryder might be given another chance to find its ’08-09 form.