Luckily for Dennis Seidenberg, he has one more season left on his contract with the Bruins.
Because without even hitting the ice in the Bruins’ Eastern Conference Semifinals series with the New York Rangers, the defenseman’s value has dropped in the eyes of many observers.
The Bruins are ahead 3-0 in the best-of-seven series and will go for the sweep Thursday night in New York. They’ve built up their lead not only without Seidenberg, but also without Andrew Ference and Wade Redden, as Torey Krug, Dougie Hamilton and Matt Bartkowski have performed liked grizzled vets and not NHL postseason novices.
So there’s a growing population of subscribers to the theory that if the Bruins aren’t broke, don’t fix them – as in even if Seidenberg returns to full health you leave him on the sidelines until Hamilton, Krug or Bartkowski cost the Bruins a game.
This, as they say, is hogwash.
Right now, it’s obvious there’s no dilemma. Despite the Bruins’ secrecy policy on injury, in playoffs or regular season, it’s clear Seidenberg, who has been skating for several days, isn’t ready to play in a game. This is a guy who only missed two games this season and three games total the prior two seasons. If he’s sitting out playoff games, then medically he’s being held back for good reasons.
That the Bruins have marched ahead and pushed the Rangers to the brink of elimination without Seidenberg is a credit to the organization’s long-bragged-about depth finally being realized. The team’s success is not a slight at Seidenberg. If anything, the young defensemen’s play has given Seidenberg and the medical staff some breathing room to get him ready to play without rushing. However, there’s no way the Bruins can afford to hold him back just to see how far they can go with three rookies on their back end.
During the regular season, Seidenberg was the team’s No. 2 player in overall and shorthanded ice time. He led the club in blocked shots and was tops among Bruins defensemen in hits. You don’t forget about all that just because of an injury and the emergence of capable fill-ins.
With Hamilton settled into the right-side partner for Zdeno Chara, it’ll be easy to supplant the 19-year-old rookie with Seidenberg, who against the Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins or Ottawa Senators could again form a shutdown pair with Chara for the Bruins. This would not be a knock on Hamilton, who exceeded expectations in the playoffs so far the way he did in the regular season. It’s just a case of both seniority and an advantage for Seidenberg in every department except one: power-play performance. Losing Hamilton on the power play could be a slight blow to the Bruins (if they ever get another power play), but the Bruins would have either Seidenberg or the suddenly-hot hand of Johnny Boychuk to pair with Krug at the points on the Chara-less power-play unit.
The Rangers might be out of time to make the significant alterations necessary to make the Bruins’ young defensemen pay for their inexperience. Future opponents will certainly figure the kids out. Seidenberg’s a proven workhorse that the club can rely on in all three zones and is the type of quiet leader every team needs to lean on now and then when there’s adversity. It’s been more than a week since Boston had to deal with anything less than success.
So the Bruins have a game or two to make sure Seidenberg’s fully ready to play, if they choose to use their 3-0 cushion in that manner. And we can all dream of a blue-line corps with populated by the likes of Bartkowski, Krug and Hamilton making short work of the rest of the league in the near future.
But for the here and now, the Bruins are a better team with a healthy Dennis Seidenberg suited up. That’s why as soon as Julien gets the green light, he’ll re-insert the veteran and there’ll be no reasonable argument to second guess that decision.