With captains’ practices just two short weeks from commencing, WEEI.com will be looking at the questions facing the defending Stanley Cup  champions in the 2011-12 season.
Today’s question is whether Joe Corvo will be able to replace Tomas Kaberle  on the Bruins’ blue line. Corvo isn’t nearly as talented, but he’s definitely capable of doing what Kaberle did in a so-so stint in Boston. When you look at the fact that Corvo is in the last year of a deal with a $2.25 million cap hit, while Kaberle got a three-year, $12.75 million deal in Carolina, the exchange looks good for the Bruins.
Though it became trendy to give Kaberle a big pat on the back during the Cup finals for his improved play, the fact of the matter is that things had gotten to the point where Kaberle was getting less ice time than he’d ever gotten in his career (he actually played less than 10 minutes in Game 7 of the finals). Not to compare two different players in two different situations, but as a point of reference, Corvo averaged a little under 25 minutes per game last season (Kaberle had 21:15 with the B’s), but Corvo is sure to get less than that, assuming he becomes one of the six regular defensemen in Boston.
For the sake of comparison, Kaberle is a little bigger than Corvo, while Corvo is a better skater. (While Kaberle’s passing skills were as-advertised, one thing that stood out here with the Czech blueliner was how poor a skater he was). Corvo’s 40 points last season tied a career-high, while Kaberle had 47 points in a season that was close to on par with his recent output, but far from the 67 he had in the 2005-06 season.
One player with plenty of perspective on the matter is Dennis Seidenberg . He’s played with both defensemen, as he was teammates with Corvo in Carolina in the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons. Seidenberg, who occasionally played on a pairing with Corvo (Corvo was usually paired with Tim Gleason, while Seidenberg skated with Joni Pitkanen), gave his new and former teammate a glowing review this week.
‘[He’s] a very, very good skater,’ Seidenberg said of Corvo. ‘Good hands, good passer. Very fast. I like playing with him like I did in Carolina. I’m looking forward to it and I think he’ll fit in really well.’
But can he replace Kaberle? Seidenberg seems to think so.
‘He’s an offensive guy and I’m sure he likes to shoot the puck, and that’s what we need ‘ guys getting the puck to the net and creating rebounds,’ Seidenberg said. ‘I think he’s been doing that in the past and I’m sure he’s going to do it again.’
The Bruins certainly did their offensive defenseman to shoot the puck, but that was not part of Kaberle’s repertoire. It is that area in which the Bruins are in luck. Corvo had 191 shots on goal last season, which would have placed him behind only Zdeno Chara  (264) amongst Bruins defensemen. Kaberle had 130 over the course of last season, including 31 shots on goal in 24 regular-season games with the B’s.
There’s also the fact that Corvo will need to stave off Steven Kampfer, who hasn’t gone anywhere. On paper, it would seem that Kampfer could start next season in the role Adam McQuaid filled early last year as the seventh defenseman, but one shouldn’t count out Kampfer now that he’s healthy. Based on experience, though, it would seem a spot would be Corvo’s to lose.
In the end, Corvo can meet, exceed, or fall below expectations when it comes to replacing Kaberle. Ultimately, that could come down to whether people are talking about the pre-Boston Kaberle or the one who underwhelmed in black and gold. If it’s the latter, Corvo is certainly capable of doing what Kaberle did for $2 million less this year.