At the risk of relishing in misery, I think it’s always more fun to do a mailbag when the Bruins aren’t playing well.
Every reader has his or her dander up and the questions become more panicked and pointed. Obviously, this edition of the mailbag has those characteristics with Boston headed into Philadelphia Wednesday having lost four of its last five games.
So, without further ado, here’s the mailbag:
PCL wrote: I know that this is just speculation and not a great source as it’s found in his “30 Thoughts” column but Elliotte Friedman has something pretty interesting at No. 6 this week: “Interesting: a few GMs are expecting to see Marco Sturm on waivers pretty soon.” I know it’s on people’s/everyone’s minds and has even been mentioned here in the comments, but what’s your thought on it?
MK: First off, Elliotte Friedman’s “30 Thoughts” column is a great source for any info. Elliotte is one of the most connected and hardest working reporters out there.
As far as Sturm’s concerned, he’s one of general manager Peter Chiarelli’s favorites and I doubt that the Bruins would risk doing this and either losing him for nothing or sending him to Providence (AHL). That being said, I would throw sentimentality out the window and do it.
If someone claims him, well you’re going to lose him as a free agent in a few months anyway. And if he clears, you send him to Providence to get up to game speed. Should you want to recall him and lose him on re-entry waivers, that half cap hit only counts for a few more months. It’s the same thing with Michael Ryder. Losing him on re-entry waivers wouldn’t do much to tie Boston’s hands, the Bruins would just have to be willing to pay the cash for a guy to go play elsewhere the season’s last few months.
Jim wrote: Do the Bruins have enough offense to be considered a championship-caliber team? If not, should they use whatever assets they currently have and “go for the gusto”? Or, should they be patient and continue to improve through drafting and player development?
MK: The Bruins are never going to challenge the Washingtons of the world for offensive supremacy, but that’s never been their goal. Considering how far they got last year with such little offense, they definitely have enough this year – when fully healthy – to get by on their goaltending and defense.
Of course, fully healthy means Marc Savard being vintage Marc Savard as a No. 1 center and everyone falling into place behind him. As we’ve seen, David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron can’t quite hold down the No. 1 center spot consistently for long periods of time. And that affects the whole lineup. The problem with shopping for offense is that the Bruins don’t have much cap room and their top need is a better defenseman. They just have to hope that Savard and Sturm can return to form when healthy and that they get enough hot streaks from Nathan Horton, Blake Wheeler, Ryder and others.
Steve wrote: I realize that switching up lines can help get the message across that the players need to step it up, but recently it seems like lines are changing almost game to game. How can Claude Julien expect any chemistry when guys don’t play more than two games together?
Also, is it just me or does Wheeler seem to be playing a more physical and consistent game as a center? I know as a team overloaded at that position, he probably won’t be there for long, but I would rather have Seguin at wing and Wheeler at center until Savvy comes back and Krejci is 100.
MK: Steve, I definitely agree on the Wheeler situation. It seems that the added responsibility and skating makes him more active and physical, and he’s also more aware of what’s happening around him. I wish he’d done more of it in training camp because he has been pretty awful on faceoffs. There’s no doubt the Bruins will be better off this year with Seguin on the wing, and if it means playing Wheeler in the middle, I’d do it.
As for the line juggling, some of that has been caused by injury and illness. Plus Julien’s dealing with problems, like last year, with ineffectiveness by key players and the fact that often his fourth-line players are often his most active and productive. The night he juggled the lines most – in the win at Florida – he really had no choice. I think with Krejci and Jordan Caron back, you’ll see more stability now.
Digger wrote: The Bruins defensive corps seem to have trouble with the transition game and get easily hemmed in their own zone. Opposing teams are taking advantage of it with a strong forecheck. Is it the system or the personnel?
MK: We know the system this year was supposed to involve the forwards dropping down lower to help out the below-average puck-carrying and passing ability of the defense corps. For whatever reason, that has stopped the last 10 or so games. A lot of it just has to do with effort that’s not strong enough to lead to execution. When the likes of Horton, Ryder and even Milan Lucic aren’t playing their best, they’re not there to help out the D. And this defense corps clearly misses a Dennis Wideman-type blueliner that can move the puck and get the transition game going when he’s on. We knew that coming into the season and it could be the thing that costs this team, especially if the Bruins were to meet up with a Tampa Bay, Montreal or Atlanta early in the postseason.
JD wrote: I believe once Savard and Sturm are back, the B’s will be positioned quite well for a long playoff run. They have plenty of quality forwards, and two very good goaltenders. The one spot I think they need to add is one more top-four defenseman. I don’t think they need an All-Star, but just another solid, Dennis Seidenberg-type guy to pair with him, with Johnny Boychuck and Zdeno Chara forming the top pair. That would allow them the make Stuart and Ference the third pairing, which is a great spot for both of them. Some of the potential targets that I thought of were Bryan McCabe, Keith Yandle, Tomas Kaberle, James Wisniewski, Ryan Whitney and Robyn Regehr. Thoughts?
MK: Well, JD, obviously some of the guys you mention are All-Star-caliber and mostly unattainable both because of the salary cap and the price the Bruins would have to pay in terms of personnel to acquire them. I think the Bruins aren’t a Stanley Cup contender until they get a player like that, but that really cannot occur until the offseason unless Chiarelli strays from his approach and makes an in-season blockbuster deal.
Now, if they want to sure up the D with a non-All-Star type, they might be able to do that. It’s still a little too early to determine which teams are going to be sellers, but for arguments sake I would look toward Buffalo (Jordan Leopold, Shaone Morrisonn, Steve Montador), Florida (Mike Weaver), Anaheim (Andy Sutton) and Minnesota (Greg Zanon). The Boston Globe’s Kevin Paul Dupont even Tweeted something tonight about Matt Niskanen of Dallas. Maybe none of these guys excite you, but typically these are the types of guys available with defensemen at such a premium and so many teams in the playoff race (thanks to the three-point games) even right up to the trade deadline.