Archive for May, 2012

Looking back and ahead: Adam McQuaid

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

With the Bruins’€™ season in the books, WEEI.com will take a look at each player on the roster one-by-one to provide some perspective on what went wrong this season and what the future holds for the 2011 champions.

Adam McQuaid

Age: 25

2011-12 stats: 72 games played (career-high), 2 goals, 8 assists, 10 points, plus-16

Contract status: Signed through 2014-15 season ($1.56 million cap hit)

Looking back: After starting the 2010-11 campaign as the Bruins’ seventh defenseman and earning a full-time job on the Bruins’ lineup, McQuaid entered his second full campaign with far more assurances of where he stood. He was entering the final year of his contract when the B’s locked him up with a three-year extension to keep him in Boston until at least 2015.

With his future with the team secured, McQuaid continued to serve as a third-pairing defenseman for the B’s in the 2011-12 season. He spent the vast majority of the season skating with Andrew Ference, making for a reliable third pairing that also had plenty of grit to it.

Though McQuaid played in five more games in 2011-12 than he did in the 2010-11 campaign, his fighting major total was actually half of what it was a year earlier. McQuaid finished the season with six fighting majors (he had 12 in 2010-11) and his seven total major penalties ranked him tied with Milan Lucic for third on the Bruins, behind Shawn Thornton (20) and Gregory Campbell (10). That seventh major penalty came when he kneed former OHL teammate Nick Foligno on Dec. 14 against the Senators. The play was certainly questionable and deserving of a look from Brendan Shanahan, but he was only fined $2,500 rather than being suspended.

In addition to missing the season-opener with an illness, McQuaid dealt with multiple head injuries during the season, as he missed three games with one and later saw a hit from Jason Chimera late in the season keep him out of the playoffs.

Looking ahead: McQuaid said he was “feeling like [himself] again” at the team’s breakup day following their first-round exit against the Capitals, so unless his concussion symptoms are severe, he should be able to make the necessary preparations in training camp on time for the B’s. If the symptoms continue and his offseason and/or training camp is disrupted, the Bruins will obviously have a bigger problem on their hands.

Assuming McQuaid is fully healthy and good to go next season, the Bruins know what they’re getting out the Prince Edward Island native. He won’t produce much at all offensively, but he plays his role well as a big, tough defenseman whose best asset is his careful play. If he sees a hit he doesn’t like or he feels he needs to swing momentum, he’s as willing a fighter as the B’s have.

With some turnover anticipated on the blue line (Joe Corvo, Mike Mottau and Greg Zanon are all unrestricted free agents and Dougie Hamilton should make the team out of camp), don’t expect McQuaid’s spot to be in jeopardy any time soon. Extending him at as low a cost as the Bruins did was yet another smart move for the blue line by Peter Chiarelli. He may have overpaid a bit on Johnny Boychuk‘s new deal, but give the GM credit for the value he’s been able to get out of both McQuaid and Dennis Seidenberg (four years, $13 million after the 2009-10 season).

Looking back and ahead: Dennis Seidenberg

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

With the Bruins’€™ season in the books, WEEI.com will take a look at each player on the roster one-by-one to provide some perspective on what went wrong this season and what the future holds for the 2011 champions.

Dennis Seidenberg

Age: 30

2011-12 stats: 80 games played, 5 goals, 18 assists, 23 points, plus-15 (career-high)

Contract status: Signed through 2013-14 season ($3.25 million cap hit).

Looking back: Seidenberg followed his best offense season (career-high seven goals and 73 points) with another solid campaign for the B’s, playing on the second pairing for the Bruins once again and posting the best plus-minus of his career.

Seidenberg’s rating didn’t come close to that of his postseason partner (Zdeno Chara had a plus-33), but consider that Seidenberg spent most of the season paired with Joe Corvo, who struggled in all areas of the ice but was especially turnover-prone, leading to scoring chances for opposing teams.

The German defenseman enjoyed his second straight healthy season, as 2011-12 was the second consecutive campaign in which he played at least 80 regular-season games and every playoff game.

In the playoffs, Claude Julien reunited Chara and Seidenberg to make a shutdown pairing, much like he did with great success in the Bruins’ 2011 Stanley Cup run. Seidenberg had a modest plus-1 rating in the Bruins’ Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Capitals, but was arguably the best player on the ice for the B’s in the first round. Given that the pairing played against Washington’s first line, Seidenberg got to know Alexander Ovechkin very well through a series of big hits and collisions.

In the end, the Bruins didn’t get a chance to see how the Chara-Seidenberg pairing would fare against other opponents, and while there was plenty of blame to go around for the Bruins’ first-round failure, it would be hard to place any on Seidenberg.

A productive 2011-12 season goes down as the latest piece of evidence that teams didn’t fully understand what was there when Seidenberg remained unsigned as training camp for the 2009-10 season began.

Looking ahead: Seidenberg has two years remaining on his deal, and given what a well-conditioned athlete he is and the fact that he’s gotten better with age, the Bruins won’t want to see him leave.

He’s an absolute steal at $3.25 million annually, making his contract signed following the 2009-10 season easily one of the best deals Peter Chiarelli has pulled off since coming to Boston. The trade to get him certainly worked out for Boston too, as Chiarelli got Seidenberg and Matt Bartkowski for Byron Bitz, Craig Weller and a second-round pick.

Next season, Seidenberg will likely remain on the second pairing during the regular season, separated from Chara until the postseason. The question is who he will have as his defensive partner. The Bruins figure to have a different mix of blueliners next season, as Greg Zanon, Corvo and Mike Mottau are all free agents and Dougie Hamilton should be a safe bet to make the team out of training camp.

If Hamilton shows early on that he can handle the workload, perhaps the Bruins could trust the former ninth overall pick with Seidenberg. Hamilton projects to at the very least be a top-six defenseman, and once he gets comfortable in the NHL after a season or two, the idea of having Chara, Seidenberg and Hamilton (plus Johnny Boychuk) would make the Bruins’ defense stellar regardless of who else is there.

Bruins sign Swedish goaltender Niklas Svedberg

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

The Bruins announced Tuesday that they have signed Swedish goalie Niklas Svedberg to an entry-level contract.

Svedberg, 22, stands at 6-foot-2 and 176 pounds. He played the last two seasons in Swedish Elite League for Brynas IF Gavle. He had a 2.47 goals-against average and .912 save percentage in 29 regular-season games this past season, with a 1.70 GAA, .947 save percentage and four shutouts in 13 playoff games.

The Bruins did not indicate whether Svedberg will be present at this summer’s rookie development camp, but if he is he will join a group of goaltending prospects that includes Lars Volden and Zane Gothberg, both of whom were sixth-round picks in the last two drafts.

What the Chris Bourque/Zach Hamill trade means

Sunday, May 27th, 2012

The Bruins drafted Zach Hamill eighth overall in the 2007 draft. They never even got a goal out of him.

The Bruins finally ended the Hamill experiment Saturday night, as they shipped the forward to the Capitals in exchange for left wing Chris Bourque (son of some guy named Ray).

The trade is certainly a minor one, as both players have spent the majority of their professional careers in the AHL (they have played just a combined 53 NHL contests), but both Hamill and Bourque were names that fans of struggling teams once learned in hopes that they could help turn around their respective organizations. The teams swapped what once were big names, but are now players simply trying to catch on in the NHL.

As far as what the Bruins got, Bourque provides the organization with a fringe NHL winger who, if re-signed (he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1), could find his way onto the B’s roster should Daniel Paille elect to sign with another team. The former Boston University Terrier (he played there in 2004-05 but left after his freshman season) is now on his third NHL organization, as he has played in both the Washington and Pittsburgh systems before Saturday’s trade. In 33 career NHL games, Bourque has one goal and three assists for four points.

Bourque stands at 5-foot-8 and 180 pounds. His last NHL action came in the 2009-10 season (20 games for the Penguins), and he spend the 2010-11 season between the Swiss League and KHL before returning to the Capitals organization this season. In 73 games for Hershey in 2011-12, Bourque scored 27 goals and had 66 assists for an impressive 93 points.

Ultimately, the trade might say more about Hamill and his selection than it does about Bourque. While Bourque also failed to live up to the hype that once surrounded him, this is the case of the Bruins giving up on the player they hoped could be a No. 1 center when they took him following a last-place finish in the Northeast division.

The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Hamill’s career with the Bruins was underwhelming from the get go and never saw a particularly noticeable improvement. Though he scored 32 goals for the Everett Silvertips of the WHL in his draft year, he never scored more than 14 goals in four seasons for Providence and only scored 10 goals twice.

Hamill began the 2011 postseason as one of the Bruins black aces and practiced with the team, but left in a later round. He was not with the team as they celebrated their Stanley Cup victory in Vancouver, though the rest of the black aces — including Matt Bartkowski and Anton Khudobin – were there to raise the coveted trophy.

Last offseason, the newly named Providence head coach Bruce Cassidy called Hamill out for not taking the strides expected of him.

‘€œAt the end of the day, when you’€™re in your fourth year in the same organization, it falls upon yourself just to push people,’€ Cassidy said of Hamill. ‘€œI think the individual has to recognize what’€™s going on around him. A few people have passed him and it’€™s time for him to start passing a couple of younger guys that have come in the last couple of years. And whether he’€™s ready to do that, we’€™ll find out in September.’€

Cassidy and the P-Bruins moved Hamill to wing, and they saw improved play as a result. In fact, Hamill played well enough to take Jordan Caron’s spot on the NHL roster in January. A month later, they placed him on waivers and he went unclaimed. After it all – 16 contests this season 20 career NHL games – Hamill is still looking for his first career NHL goal.

It won’t come with the Bruins.

Bruins named SportsBusiness Journal’s Team of the Year

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

The Bruins were named the Sports Team of the Year at the SportsBusiness Journals’ 2012 Sports Business Awards Wednesday.

Other teams nominated for the award included the Texas Rangers, Dayton Dragons, Sporting Kansas City and Stewart-Haas Racing. The Bruins are the fifth team to win the award.

The award covered March 1, 2011 through Feb. 29, 2012, covering their Stanley Cup victory on June 15 last year. In addition to their victory in the finals over the Canucks, the Bruins’ “involvement in numerous charitable contributions to the Greater Boston community” was also recognized, according to a press release.

Looking back and ahead: Zdeno Chara

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

With the Bruins’ season in the books, WEEI.com will take a look at each player on the roster one-by-one to provide some perspective on what went wrong this season and what the future holds for the 2011 champions.

Zdeno Chara

Age: 35

2011-12 stats: 79 games played, 12 goals, 40 assists (career-high), 52 points (career-high), plus-33 (tied career-high)

Contract status: Signed through 2017-18 season ($6,916,667 cap hit through 2016-17 season, $4 million cap hit in 2017-18)

Looking back: Chara had the best offensive season of his career and was once again one of the most dominant defensemen in the league. He averaged 25 minutes a night, which is right around his average over the last three seasons.

What was uncharacteristic for Chara, however, was his midseason slump. Though the Bruins as a whole were not playing their best hockey, the B’s captain didn’t look like himself in many of their losses. From Feb. 8-19, Chara finished with a negative rating in five of six games and was an overall minus-9 in that span. He was a minus-3 on three separate occasions in February and March after only having a rating worse than minus-2 once in the previous season.

Despite some bad nights from the captain, the 2011-12 season marked the second consecutive and third overall campaign in which Chara finished with a plus-33 rating. That was tops amongst NHL defensemen and third amongst players, and he had a lot to do with the fact that the five best ratings came from Bruins this season (Patrice Bergeron led the league with a plus-36, followed by Tyler Seguin‘s plus-34, Chara’s plus-33, Chris Kelly‘s plus-33 and Brad Marchand‘s plus-31).

After skating with Johnny Boychuk in the regular season, Chara was paired with Dennis Seidenberg for the playoffs. Though he was beaten a couple of times and finished the postseason with a minus-1 rating, Chara teamed with Seidenberg to limit Alexander Ovechkin for the most part and keep the games low-scoring.

In the end, it wouldn’t be surprising if Chara’s season earns him his second Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman, but in the interest of full disclosure, my top vote went to Nashville’s Shea Weber. While there’s no denying that Chara is the best defenseman in the league, his midseason struggles made it tough to say that this was truly a full campaign of vintage Chara.

Looking ahead: While other players get plenty of accolades too (Tim Thomas‘ save percentage record, Seguin’s points, that Selke Trophy that should finally be making its way to Bergeron this summer), there is no doubt that Chara is the Bruins’ best and most important player.

Chara may be getting up there in age, but he is truly one of the few players in the league a team should be happy to have signed through his 30s and into his 40s. There might not be a better-conditioned player in the league, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a player more dedicated to his training, both from a work and diet perspective.

With Boychuk re-signed, you can assume that Claude Julien will continue to play Chara with Boychuk, at least to start next regular season. The guy who has the best chance at breaking up Chara and Boychuk might be youngster Dougie Hamilton, but don’t expect that to happen next season. Hamilton needs to show he can handle 20-plus minutes a night before he can be paired with a guy like Chara, but the idea of a Chara-Hamilton pairing could really put the Bruins’ blue line over the top. Hamilton could be the offensive presence on the back end that the team has been seeking for years.

Getting back to Chara: The offensive numbers may go up and down, but he’ll be the first to tell that while he likes to score, he prides himself on not letting the other team score. In a nutshell, that’s what he is. He’s the guy who will play close to half the game, be a nightmare for opposing teams’ offensive stars, and keep opponents off the board. Then there’s that slapshot.

Looking back and ahead: Shawn Thornton

Monday, May 21st, 2012

With the Bruins’ season in the books, WEEI.com will take a look at each player on the roster one-by-one to provide some perspective on what went wrong this season and what the future holds for the 2011 champions.

Shawn Thornton

Age: 34

2011-12 stats: 81 games played, 5 goals, 8 assists, 13 points, minus-7

Contract status: signed through 2013-14 season ($1.1 million cap hit)

Looking back: The Bruins’ fourth-line enforcer was coming off a career year (10 goals, 10 assists) as he entered the 2011-12 season, and he returned with his usual linemates of Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell.

Thornton’s offensive production wasn’t nearly what it was a season ago, but after failing to reach the 10 goal plateau until he was 33, the expectation wasn’t exactly for him to produce 10 goals a season. The expectation for him was to serve his role as a fourth-line energy player and to drop the gloves to help swing the game’s momentum in the Bruins’ favor. In the case of the latter, Thornton came through big time, tying Brandon Prust for the league lead in fighting majors with 20.

Thornton dropped the gloves with many of his common dance partners this season (Eric Boulton, whom he fought for the eighth time in his career, Krys Barch twice, Jody Shelly, etc.), but one of the Bruins heavyweight’s more interesting bouts of the season came when he squared off with former longtime Bruin Mark Stuart on Jan. 10 after the Jets defenseman threw him down at the end of a play. Thornton won the battle of similarly sized former teammates in a game the Bruins would go on to win.

When the playoffs rolled around, the Bruins were forced to scratch Thornton in Games 6 and 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Capitals. The scratch was more out of necessity than performance, as the B’s needed to get Jordan Caron into the lineup in case the injured Patrice Bergeron had to leave either of the two final games.

Looking ahead: Thornton was one of many Bruins set to become unrestricted free agents in the offseason, but the team took care of him by giving him a two-year extension worth $1.1 million annually.

While it is far from big money and keeps him as one of the Bruins’ lowest-paid players, Thornton’s new pact means that for the first time in his career, he will be paid at least $1 million in a season for the first time in his career. He made $800,000 last season and $825,000 in 2010-11 as part of a two-year deal that had an $812,500 cap hit and $25,000 signing bonus.

While anything close to a repeat of Thornton’s 2010-11 season offensively would be a pleasant surprise for the Bruins and make him a steal at his cost, the B’s shouldn’t be counting on Thornton to be a source of scoring. They should count on him to police the ice, get shots on net and keep the puck in the offensive zone. If history is any indication, he shouldn’t let them down. What you’ve seen is what you’re likely to get with Shawn Thornton.