With trade deadline just four weeks ago, there’s no telling what the Bruins’ roster will look like at this time on Feb. 28.
Readers of TheBruinsBlog.net have plenty of questions about those already on Boston’s roster and those who might be around down the road.
So without further ado, here’s my January mailbag:
Spencer wrote: Milan Lucic seems to be playing less physical and hasn’t fought in almost three months. Although he has reached a career high in goals, what makes him valuable are his unique power forward abilities in being able to hit, fight and score. Is this a reflection of the coaching staff telling him to focus on scoring or has he lost that mean streak? Is he healthy?
Matt Kalman: I just don’t see the same lack of physicality in Lucic’s game that others see, Spencer. Sure, there have been some quiet nights for the rugged winger. But I think that has more to do with his linemates than his own play. So many nights Lucic has been the only one on his forward line that’s shown up on the forecheck and along the walls.
When it comes to fighting, I wouldn’t be concerned. As long as he’s playing a power game, Lucic doesn’t have to fight on a Bruins team featuring Shawn Thornton, Gregory Campbell and Adam McQuaid. The fact is, players are shying away from challenging Lucic. So he has no reason to drop the gloves.
Keith Silva wrote: Why do the Bruins keep playing Daniel Paille instead of Jordan Caron, who has a much higher upside and is a better hockey player who contributed more [earlier this season]. Paille gives you nothing.
MK: Well, if we’re just talking Paille/Caron, the simple answer is Paille makes north of $1 million and requires waivers to go to the AHL. Caron is on an entry-level deal and doesn’t need waivers. It also shows how high Boston’s hopes are for Caron because they don’t want him spending his first pro season on a third or fourth line in the NHL when he can be in Providence playing in all situations. As far as a fourth-line winger, Paille plays his role fine. He’s not meant to be out there sniping. He’s responsible and a solid penalty-killer. The “Merlot Line” with Thornton and Campbell hasn’t suffered that much from having Paille instead of Brad Marchand.
PCL wrote: I know that he’s under contract for a few more years, but do you see any chance that general manager Peter Chiarelli returns to Ottawa once the inevitable [Bryan Murray’s removal] happens there at the end of this season, as has been rumored a bit this week? Do you see Cam Neely filling the GM void, or Jim Benning?
MK: Obviously, anything is possible. And a return to Ottawa would have to be attractive to Chiarelli. But I think Chiarelli has really grown to love Boston and unless the Jacobs men or Neely decide to make a move, they’re committed to Chiarelli as their GM for the long term. There would have to be compensation involved if Chiarelli is still with the Bruins, and it’s doubtful the Senators would want to go to those lengths.
As for Neely, as president of the team he already has enough hockey power and it’s doubtful he’d want to do all the grunt work of a GM (making calls, scouting, etc.). Benning is definitely a future GM and has been rumored as a possible candidate in Buffalo after the Sabres sale goes through.
Ryan wrote: I know the injuries have hit this year, and the lines have been juggled to account for that , but sometimes it almost seems Claude Julien juggles the lines too much rather than letting the chemistry develop. Any thoughts on this?
MK: Ryan, I disagree with this notion. I think injuries are the No. 1 reason the lines have been flipped. When Julien finds a combination that clicks, like Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Mark Recchi, he sticks with it. Sometimes when the team is struggling within a game, he’ll make some moves in the third period. But more often than not he goes back to his base lines, as he did from the Los Angeles loss to the Florida win. If anything, the only problem I have with Julien’s alignment of his forwards is the decision to go with Tyler Seguin at center instead of Blake Wheeler in Marc Savard’s absence.
Jim wrote: Picking up on the “Bruins need more speed up front” theme, does the answer lie in Providence with someone like Max Sauve, or do they need to deal from another team before the deadline?
MK: As expected, Sauve has gone through hot and cold streaks in his first pro season in Providence. He was also briefly injured. There’s no doubt that when he’s healthy he can fly and finish. In a perfect world, though, the Bruins would leave him to keep getting seasoning in the minors. If the trade deadline comes and goes without help from outside, Sauve will be among a few candidates (along with Jamie Arniel, Zach Hamill, Joe Colborne) to come up from the farm team and help for the stretch run. But depending on what happens with Savard, the Bruins could shop for a veteran winger with speed.
Boise Bruin wrote: Will the Bruins make any major moves before the trade deadline? Assuming Savard is out, will the B’s try to get a notable player using the cap space? Which available players would help the Bruins the most?
MK: The question of how long Savard is going to be out will determine what the Bruins do. And they might not know the answer to that question in time. Before the Savard injury, obviously Boston’s No. 1 target would’ve been an offensive-minded defenseman. Then maybe they’d also have looked for a depth forward too.
Considering their depth down the middle, the Bruins don’t have to change those wishes even if they operate as though they won’t be getting Savard back. That said, a forward that could help out at center or the wing, like Florida’s Cory Stillman, could help. While the Boston Globe speculated Boston might be interested in Atlanta’s Nik Antropov if Mark Stuart catches the Thrashers’ eye, I’d be more opt to talk about Nik Bergfors in a swap of Stuart.
As for that high-end, back-end player, I don’t see one coming available that the Bruins could fit onto their team without taking a major risk of ruining what they’ve built as far as chemistry and depth. Tomas Kaberle is never going to happen because Brian Burke cannot make another deal that might help Boston. If Erik Johnson in St. Louis or Robyn Regehr in Calgary ever became available, the asking price would be too steep to make a swap in-season. If the Bruins were to deal Stuart, they’d probably look more for a depth defenseman in the mold of Buffalo’s Steve Montador.