Here’s your nightly dose of the mini mailbag:
Mike Linskey wrote: What position do you think Tyler Seguin plays this year?
I mean, if the Bruins drafted him to be their No. 1 center of the future, they pretty much have to play him in the middle, don’t they? And on top of that, don’t they have to give him substantial minutes, to make sure he’s progressing as they hope? Given the fact that David Krejci is an RFA after 2011-12, don’t the Bruins have to conclusively find out whether Seguin is ready to be a top-two center? If so, don’t they have to send someone like Chris Kelly packing before the season starts and then hope that Seguin develops a real chemistry with someone like Jordan Caron? I’m just afraid if they leave No. 19 as a wing on the third line this year, they’re not going to know if he can make the leap, which has long-term ramifications in terms of re-signing and/or trading either Krejci or Bergeron, down the line.
Matt Kalman: First off, Seguin will definitely get more minutes this year and get every chance to establish himself as at least a top-nine, if not top-six forward. And I think he’ll start out as the third-line center, but that could change. If you think that over the course of 82 games, with injuries and ineffectiveness playing a role, that the Bruins are going to keep the same lineup all year, you’re dreaming.
In fact, wouldn’t it be interesting to see if Seguin and Nathan Horton could forge some chemistry? Obviously, Krejci, Horton and Milan Lucic will being the year as the Bruins’ top trio again. But the Bruins love balance, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see someone like Benoit Pouliot, if he has a strong training camp, move into that right wing spot next to Lucic and Krejci and see Horton join Seguin and maybe someone like Chris Kelly or even Brad Marchand. When you roll four lines, you can afford to separate your top players sometimes.
The only way Seguin winds up on the wing this year is if he shows in training camp that he’s still not ready, which would be doubtful considering the Bruins’ ability to surround him with responsible, veteran wingers with experience as centers.
As for Krejci being an RFA, you have to figure that will the Bruins’ philosophy of building up the middle, they’ll do everything they can to retain Krejci – whether Seguin emerges as a star this season or not. Even if the cap comes down, the Bruins would be more likely to spend on centers and defensemen than anything else. But obviously, best-case scenario is Seguin emerges as a complement to Patrice Bergeron and the Bruins could use Krejci as a trade chip or his cap space to fortify another position (not to mention retain other free agents).
Mike Kenyon wrote: I think general manager Peter Chiarelli did a great job making moves this past year, recognizing that the Penguins were having a down year with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the shelf.
If the Pens are healthy, do you see them as the team the Bruins have to go through to get back to the Stanley Cup Final? I think it gets lost on some that Crosby was having an incredible year before he went down last January. While I do think that having those two players healthy changes the dynamic of the Pens forwards corps, I just didn’t feel as though they were tough enough last year or improved enough over the summer (so far) to beat the Bruins in a seven-game series.
MK: Well, let’s see. The Pens lost Mike Rupp and Max Talbot, but they still have Arron Asham up front, some rugged D men and they’ve signed Steve MacIntyre. Their back end is pretty deep, and Steve Sullivan is an excellent addition to their scoring and their dressing room. The jury’s still out on the goaltender (Marc-Andre Fleury) – and my opinion on him fluctuates like the wind – but there’s no denying that over stretches he can be an elite-level netminder.
Yeah, I’d say that if healthy, they’re definitely one of the key teams the Bruins will have to go through in their attempt to repeat. Even if you’re underwhelmed by the supporting cast, you can’t overlook what effect having two elite talents like Malkin and Crosby has on a lineup. Those two guys make everyone around them better and make it so hard to game plan against.
As much as Chiarelli has put the Bruins in a great position salary-cap-wise, his Pittsburgh counterpart Ray Shero has done the same with his club. The Bruins and Pens could be a great rivalry for the rest of this decade.
Will wrote: With all the rumors around draft day of Boston possibly making a deal for Ryan Ellis, do you think he is a player they will continue to pursue or was this trade only up for grabs because of the pick the Bruins had?
MK: I don’t have any inside info on this one, Will, but here’s my guess: until Dougie Hamilton dropped to the Bruins, they were thinking a defenseman closer to being NHL-ready like Ellis was more attractive than what they were going to get in the draft. I think this deal is completely off the table now with the Bruins’ back end pretty crowded and Nashville possibly needing Ellis to fill in should they have to clear salary to retain Shea Weber.
Digger wrote: Why hasn’t Bobby Orr’s No. 4 been retired across the NHL? He is considered the greatest hockey player to ever play the game by a majority of people and those who disagree usually have him at No. 2 behind Wayne Gretzky, who has his No. 99 retired. What can be done to get the No. 4 recognized and retired by the NHL?
MK: First thing you can do is not let me opine on this topic. I don’t agree with having any number in any sport retired by the entire league.
If the NHL wanted to suggest to people that No. 99 be out of circulation, in particular with the teams that retired it after he played for them, then I was on board. But it’d be even better if players worthy of No. 99 could wear it to honor him. So as far as Orr, I like that guys like Michael Del Zotto can wear it in tribute.
I would guess the league has to draw the line somewhere. If they retired Orr’s number to go along with Gretzky’s, then what do they do about Gordie Howe, Maurice Richard and Patrick Roy? It’s a slippery slope, as they say.