Defenseman Joe Morrow was assigned to Providence of the American Hockey League on Saturday.
In 15 games, the 2011 first-round pick of Pittsburgh had one goal and a plus-3 rating. For reasons only coach Claude Julien knows, Morrow was a healthy scratch for seven of the Bruins’ past eight games. The one game Morrow played in that stretch, at Arizona on Dec. 6, the Bruins prevailed. They have won once in five games since.
Morrow’s demotion might be temporary. Or the Bruins might believe the 22-year-old needs to play more often and extending his current absence from game action beyond two weeks wouldn’t be wise. Of course, the demotion also flies in the face of the notion that the Bruins divvy up playing time based on merit. Like all young defensemen, Morrow had some downs to go with his ups. But Morrow was solid and showed plenty of self confidence even after mistakes, as opposed to Matt Bartkowski, who seemingly lets every error grow into a catastrophe.
Zach Trotman also remains on the Bruins’ NHL roster. He’s been decent in his stints in the lineup, but a team grasping for offense like Alice grabbing at the walls as she falls down the rabbit hole could probably use a poised puck mover like Morrow.
General manager Peter Chiarelli and Julien’s compiling of a roster this season has been baffling since Day One. It all started with keeping around Bobby Robins to play the first couple games of the season despite the hard-nosed player’s lack of requisite skill to play any role in the NHL. Ryan Spooner also made the NHL roster, because of Gregory Campbell’s injury, despite Spooner’s poor play in training camp. Then, only because David Krejci got hurt, Craig Cunningham opened the season in the NHL.
Cunningham was then buried in Providence until Simon Gagne’s father unfortunately became gravely ill. Had Gagne not had personal turmoil to deal with, the Bruins would still be trotting out Campbell, Gagne and Daniel Paille as a fourth line which is Example 1 of the old John Wooden adage “Don’t mistake activity for accomplishment.” Despite providing occasional energy and getting the rare fortunate-bounce goal, that line was a mess. Cunningham has since proven his worth to the NHL club, even though Julien keeps limiting the forward’s ice time and sticking him with Campbell and Paille as shackles … I mean linemates.
These aren’t the only issues with the Bruins’ play and the lineup/roster selection these days. Somehow Milan Lucic played his way off the power play. Instead of going for extra net-front presence to supplement Zdeno Chara, Julien has opted for the Munchkin duo of Seth Griffith and Brad Marchand on the wings to dangle the puck and give it away. I would rather see Lucic and Chara cycling the puck and screening the goalie for Torey Krug and David Krejci’s shots from the point.
And then there’s the whole problem of casting Griffith as the first-line right wing. In the second half of the third period Friday in Winnipeg, Julien went to Loui Eriksson on the line with Krejci and Lucic. That line has to stick together. Sure, Eriksson, Carl Soderberg and Chris Kelly have been a strong line. But no one’s afraid of them. Winnipeg continually put its third pair out there against Soderberg’s line. The way that line plays, anyone that plays a straight-line game can plug into the right-wing spot (except maybe Matt Fraser). Griffith might even be a fit there, or Cunningham could get some extra ice time by playing there. Eriksson can’t continue to be cast on the third line and opposing defenses might finally have a line other than Patrice Bergeron’s to worry about if Julien moves the improving Eriksson to the right of Krejci and Lucic.
Griffith’s play has regressed to the mean of what he was supposed to be as a player. He was never projected as a top-line forward, especially this season when he was supposed to be getting more seasoning as a second-year pro in Providence. He’s a middle-six forward that still has a lot to learn and needs more strength. You have to give Krejci and Lucic a NHL winger to have any chance to looking like the type of line they’re supposed to form.
♦I have a couple thoughts on the T. J. Oshie rumors:
1. The idea that St. Louis is trading him for Eriksson straight up is nuts. The Blues might be looking to get out from the extra year on Oshie’s deal. That doesn’t mean they want to make their team softer for competing in the Central Division and the Western Conference. Oshie isn’t a superstar, but Eriksson clearly has taken a step or two down the star chart. I would think the Bruins would need to sweeten that pot. If Chiarelli can get that deal done straight up, then maybe he’s a wizard.
2. Oshie is a good add if the Bruins could hoodwink the Blues and not touch any core players to add him. He has speed and some hands. But he also has never scored more than 21 goals in a season and has only scored 20 once.
In fact, it’s funny to see the similarities between Oshie and Lucic’s career statistics, including their scoring of seven goals each in the 2013 lockout season.
The Bruins’ cap situation would make it very difficult to add Oshie without moving a key player. If they somehow expanded the deal to make an Oshie-for-Lucic blockbuster, including other pieces on both sides, the Bruins would be getting softer and probably wouldn’t get the offensive lift they’re looking for. Trading Lucic for Oshie would be like buying one of those “new car smell” air fresheners for your old Studebaker. It’s still an old clunker, it just smells different.