In a little more than three weeks, the 2010-11 regular season will be over.
By then, the Bruins might actually have scored a 5-on-4 power-play goal. Or maybe not.
This March mailbag will touch on several elements of Boston’s so-called power play, Tyler Seguin, Tomas Kaberle and some potential summer moves should the Bruins not win the Stanley Cup this spring.
And away we go:
Mike Linskey asks: I know you’ve opined on this in the past, but have you seen any further evidence of what contributions Chris Kelly brings to the table that you didn’t already have on the roster? Kelly doesn’t score, he doesn’t win faceoffs (at least not enough), he’s not particularly fast – he’s an energy guy. Didn’t you already have a better-than-average energy-line center in Gregory Campbell? It seems like tweaking the top six forwards at the deadline might have been a better idea than tweaking the bottom six.
Matt Kalman: Here’s how I look at Kelly. If Campbell and Daniel Paille merged their abilities, they’d produce Chris Kelly, including his inability to finish or make a legitimately threatening offensive move. But he does the little things. Of course, so does Campbell. And the Bruins needed an offensive upgrade and opted for Kelly.
Kelly is faster than most players the Bruins already had and he’s winning 52 percent of his faceoffs with the Bruins. But I really think that if they thought they were going to land Peverley, this was a waste. As far as upgrading the top six, that would’ve been easier said than done. Of course, months ago I outlined how they could’ve done that. They could’ve made a package of picks and prospects that would’ve knocked someone’s socks off.
If they were just looking to fill that No. 3 spot, there were other players they could’ve added with a little creativity. As it turned out, Brad Boyes and Jason Arnott were also moved for similar packages and would’ve been better fits because of their offensive skill sets in addition to their ability to take care of their own end.
Matt Kalin asks: People are all over Kelly for his play and lack of production, but it seems Kaberle is the real dud of the trade deadline. Since he has shown up, the power play has been extremely unproductive. He made a few nice plays in his first few games when we were overanalyzing his hands, but the early return is that we got smoked on that trade with Toronto. I thought the Bruins were going to get something close to what Sergei Gonchar brought when they traded for him back in the day. Actually, the offense has arguably been worse since his arrival. How do you feel about Kaberle’s play so far and is what he has done what we can expect going forward? Also, why is he receiving no criticism?
MK: There’s no arguing. The offense has been worse and the power play has been non-existent. I’m not going to declare that the Bruins got smoked just yet. They have 12 regular-season games to get the power play going. At even strength, he is what he is – a solid passer with not much in the wheels department. The problem is, when the guys he’s feeding the puck to – at even strength or on the PP – can’t finish, what good are his passes? That’s why the Bruins couldn’t just add Kaberle and expect such a huge boost in their scoring. But they opted to just fine tune the front line and hope Kaberle would work magic on the club.
It’s obvious he could still be a good fit here, as long as he’s surrounded by the type of talent that can make him worthwhile. That means over guys picking up their game and skating harder.
As for criticism, he’s definitely in a honeymoon period here. But if he doesn’t pick up, you better believe he’ll hear it. He’s already had some ugly defensive-zone shifts that would’ve brought the boo birds had they happened at home.
David asks: Given the recent events for the Bruins – a seven game win streak followed by a four-game (which should’ve been five) losing streak, and a third line that looks worse than the fourth line, how do you see the Bruins adjusting to make a deep playoff run? Do you think they can make a deep playoff run at this point?
MK: Like most teams, the Bruins need a lot to go right just to make it three rounds deep, and I don’t think they have the horses to go all the way. Sorry to disappoint you. More than anything, the Bruins are going to have to grind out enough goals to support what should be air-tight goaltending once the playoffs open. And their defense corps is going to have to be almost flawless.
Head coach Claude Julien, who has made some adjustments to his own coaching style by benching some players and even scratching guys, might have to take the next step to shorten his bench earlier and more often in playoff games. There are legitimately only two lines on this team that are a consistent threat to score, and you could argue there’s only one. While the third and fourth line might consist of quality players, the odds aren’t in favor of the Bruins scoring when those guys are on the ice. And they need to play less when the stakes are raised.
Zach asks: Now that we are three quarters of the way through the season and we have seen the same type of timid play by Seguin all season, why hasn’t the Boston coaching staff done anything to help him out in his deficiencies. Maybe they are and the general fan base doesn’t know it, but are they helping him to learn how to take a hit and how to use his body?
MK: Here’s one thing I will give Seguin tons of credit for. Despite his lofty draft status and the fact this season definitely hasn’t gone the way he dreamed his first NHL year would go growing up, he seems to be working pretty hard in practices. He’s routinely one of the last guys off the ice. Whether he’s working on the right things, it’s tough to say.
There’s no doubt there has to be even more focus on using his body and protecting the puck when he does extra work with the assistant coaches. And hopefully he’ll take the initiative to get that help and the coaching staff will both tell him what to do and then make him put that knowledge to work by making other guys go at Seguin harder during drills. But when it comes down to it, more than anything he has to show up and decide he’s going to get his nose dirty and erase all the criticisms.
Eugene Mannarino asks: Just wonder what are the Bruins plans for Seguin heading to the playoffs.
MK: Unless he really finds his stride, Seguin will probably be a healthy scratch for the playoffs unless there’s an injury. I can’t see Julien putting Seguin in the lineup in place of any veteran, even if he was trying to discipline someone.
Luke Meleney asks: With Marc Savard again out indefinitely how does it impact the Bruins offseason moves? How do you think the Bruins are going to approach their cap situation given the uncertainty that Savard returns?
MK: Obviously things can change once the team gets a clearer picture of Savard’s future from the doctors in the months ahead. What we know is that general manager Peter Chiarelli isn’t afraid to spend to the cap, use the overage allowance in the offseason and then make cuts when necessary once the team is at full strength. I’d anticipate him taking that tactic this year as well if there’s no definitive answer on Savard’s status going forward. That might make an upgrade at center something he’ll have to look at.