WILMINGTON – Earlier in Adam McQuaid’s NHL  career, the book on him fairly apparent: He was a tough-as-nails right shot defensemen whose responsible style made him a good fit on a third pairing, but he couldn’t be counted on for 82 games. That, and he could fight like a maniac.
McQuaid suffered smaller injuries here and there as he missed two playoff games in Boston’s 2011 Cup run, 10 games in 2011-12 (and then all seven playoff games with a concussion), then missed 16 games in the lockout-shortened 2013 season.
Last season, however, was a different animal. A quad injury hindered him through multiple attempts to return to the lineup, and when all was said and done McQuaid got into only 30 games, the last of which was Jan. 19. When it became clear that the quad had ended his season, the decision was made for him to get ankle surgery to heal another issue that had been bothering him.
Now, with the Bruins and other local skaters taking the ice in preparation for the season, McQuaid is at full health and trying to find his feet again. The biggest physical hurdle remaining for him is conditioning, as it’s tough to be in optimal game shape when you’ve been off the ice for seven-plus months.
“Just getting strength and endurance,” McQuaid said of where he stands in his comeback. “It’s been a bit of a layoff, so getting back into situations, making plays and reading plays and understanding your position on the ice, which probably everyone will have a bit of an adjustment but it’ll be a little more for me. So just need to make those areas that I focus on.”
Injuries aside, McQuaid’s biggest problem might be that he is returning to a Bruins defensive picture that is much different than the one that he left. When McQuaid initially suffered his injury on Nov. 13, he was locked in as Boston’s third-pairing right defenseman, playing regular minutes alongside Torey Krug.
When he went out, Matt Bartkowski got more NHL  experience, while Kevan Miller emerged in McQuaid’s spot on the third pair. Now, the 27-year-old McQuaid is just one of nine NHL  blue liners trying to get on the ice for the B’s.
“I guess it’s a good situation to have for the team,” McQuaid said. “Luckily, we’ve put ourselves in this position as an organization. I think everyone, just same old saying: control what you can control. I want to come out and give out my best effort. Hopefully that’s enough. We’ll see how things go. Just focus on your job and the other decisions will be left to the people that make those decisions.”
When Miller initially established himself and then signed a team-friendly two-year contract with an annual cap hit of just $800,000, it looked like McQuaid could become expendable. Trading McQuaid now would be unwise for the Bruins, however, as the more logical move would be to let McQuaid re-establish himself with an extended stretch of healthy playing time and then re-assess where the team’s back end stands.
“You just focus on your job and at the end of the day, you don’t make those decisions,” McQuaid said. “Other people do. You try to put yourself in the best position to succeed and that’s really all you can do.”