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A closer look at what rocky Norris voting has meant for Zdeno Chara 10.08.14 at 1:56 am ET
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The following is a complementary piece to today’€™s feature on Zdeno Chara. To read the full piece, click here.

Zdeno Chara's lone Norris win came in 2009. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Zdeno Chara‘s lone Norris win came in 2009. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Last season, Chara finished a distant second to Duncan Keith for the Norris Trophy, which is voted on each season by members of the Professional Hockey Writers’€™ Association (full disclosure: I am a voting member who gave Chara my top vote last season).

Intended to go to the league’€™s top defenseman each season, the Norris is perhaps the most up-for-interpretation award on which the writers vote.

Voting, in the eyes of the players and at least this member of the media, is out of control. Either more specific criteria should be set for voters or writers shouldn’€™t determine who wins. The Vezina Trophy, for example, is voted on by NHL general managers. They mess it up sometimes, too, but general managers are (for the most part) smarter than writers.

“A lot of times, it’€™s like a political campaign,” Ray Bourque, a five-time Norris-winner in his day, told WEEI.com.

Defensive metrics are becoming more widely available, but as they become fine-tuned and the hockey world slowly begins to accept them, the statistic that voters continue to look to first remains points. Lunacy.

In 2012, Erik Karlsson won the award, while Chara finished third. The year after that, P.K. Subban won. Both Karlsson and Subban’€™s Norris wins were based exclusively on points; Karlsson did not kill penalties for the Senators and Subban was 12th on the Habs in shorthanded time on ice the year he won.

Yet Subban, after tying for the lead among NHL defensemen in points in his Norris-winning season, finished fifth in points last season but dropped all the way to 14th in voting, receiving a single third-place vote and a single fifth-place vote. So is the award about playing defense or putting up points? If it’€™s the latter, why were Subban’€™s points ignored last season? And why, then, were Mike Green‘€™s 31 goals in Chara’€™s Norris-winning season not enough to wrest the trophy from Chara?

It’€™s that inconsistency in voting that each year brings Chara closer to finishing a Hall of Fame career with just one Norris to show for it.

“You kind of feel like, ‘€˜OK, is this going to ever happen again or is this going to change or are they going to look at it differently?’€™” Chara said. “Because every year they tell you, ‘€˜He didn’€™t get it because he had a lot of points, a lot of goals, but he’€™s not an all-around defenseman.’€™ Then the next year they’€™ll be like, ‘€˜Hey, he’€™s an all-around defenseman but this [other] guy got 25 goals as a defenseman,’€™ so it’€™s like every year it’€™s almost like it swings, the way they look at it. How do you know really [what they want]?”

Over the last 10 seasons, Chara has been a top-three finisher in Norris voting six times and finished in the top five eight times. His only win came in 2008-09, and while both Niklas Lidstrom and Keith have won the award multiple times in that span, no defenseman has finished near the top with Chara’€™s consistency in the last 10 years.

Translation: Chara comes up short a lot.

He loses because of points. In fact, he even understands that though he was the best all-around defenseman in the league last year, his 17 goals (10 of which were on the power play, where he mostly played forward) were probably as big a reason that he got as many votes as he did as his defensive dominance.

Winning the Norris is important to Chara, but he shouldn’€™t expect to win it again. Last season he was as deserving of the award as he usually is –€“ Chara’€™s performance was backed up well by both advanced and old-fashioned stats (his plus-25 rating was tops among the top 10 vote-getters; Shea Weber, who played tougher minutes, was a minus-2) — but he was blown out of the water by Keith, a well-rounded defenseman who was used on Chicago’€™s second pairing to maximize his offensive output. That meant a sensational 61 points (second among defensemen) but it came against easier competition than Chara faced.

A usage chart for the top-five Norris vote-getters last season, courtesy of HockeyAbstract.com.

A usage chart for the top-five Norris vote-getters last season, courtesy of HockeyAbstract.com. X-axis: Offensive zone start %. Y-axis: CorsiRel Quality of Competition. Bubble size: Time on ice. Bubble color: Corsi On

The Blackhawks’€™ usage of Keith was brilliant, but it should have done more for Joel Quenneville’€™s Jack Adams (top coach; voted on by broadcasters) candidacy than it did for Keith’€™s Norris odds. Regardless, the voting wasn’€™t close. Keith finished first in votes with 1033 points and 68 first-place votes. Chara was given 667 points, receiving less than a third of Keith’€™s first-place votes with 21.

“I’€™m not mad about Duncan or anybody who is winning the trophy,”€ Chara clarified. “€œI just feel a little bit disappointed at times that I’€™ve really felt I had a strong season, I really had an all-around season and I would deserve it, but it’€™s voting. It’€™s in the hands of writers, and [that] is obviously something that only [writers] who have votes can change and make a difference, if that’€™s something you guys feel should be different.”

Bourque’€™s five Norris seasons give him the fourth-most in NHL history behind Bobby Orr (eight), Doug Harvey and Nicklas Lidstrom (seven apiece). Keith, who won the award as a shutdown defenseman in 2009-10, is now in the exclusive club of players with multiple Norris wins (12 players).

It’€™s very easy to argue that Chara should be in that club, but both he and anyone who has seen how the votes have fallen over the years should be wise enough to not hold their breath.

“If you want to get me started talking about the Norris Trophy and who should win it and how that all comes about in terms of who wins it in certain years,’€ Bourque said, ‘€œ’€… I think that Karlsson in Ottawa is an incredible offense player, but I think that when you look at the Norris Trophy and the position of DEFENSE-man, and I put an emphasis on DEFENSE-man, it’€™s incredible to me sometimes, the voting and how it all happens.

“Believe me, I’€™ve been there,”€ Bourque added. “I’€™ve been in his shoes many, many times. I won it five times, but it was very frustrating at times, not saying that I’€™ve won it more times.”

Read More: Duncan Keith, Ray Bourque, Zdeno Chara,
Jordan Caron sent to Providence as Bruins set roster (for now) 10.07.14 at 6:02 pm ET
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Jordan Caron

Jordan Caron

The Bruins made multiple moves to trim their roster to 23 players prior to Tuesday’€™s 5 p.m. deadline, but general manager Peter Chiarelli cautioned beforehand that the moves made Tuesday might reflect a different roster than the one that takes the ice Wednesday against the Flyers when the regular season begins.

As Chiarelli said, the team would be doing some “€œroster manipulation”€ in order to get as much cap space as possible from using the long-term injury exception to the upper limit of the cap.

The moves included assigning Jordan Caron to Providence, recalling Brian Ferlin and Malcolm Subban from Providence, placing David Krejci on injured reserve, placing Marc Savard on long term injured reserve and putting Gregory Campbell and Anthony Camara on non-roster injured reserve.

The team had sent David Pastrnak to Providence earlier in the day.

That leaves the following roster, which, again, will probably be different from Wednesday’€™s:

FORWARDS (13): Patrice Bergeron, Craig Cunningham, Loui Eriksson, Brian Ferlin, Matt Fraser, Chris Kelly, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, Daniel Paille, Bobby Robins, Reilly Smith, Carl Soderberg, Ryan Spooner

DEFNESEMEN (7): Matt Bartkowski, Zdeno Chara, Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller, Dennis Seidenberg

GOALTENDERS (3): Tuukka Rask, Malcolm Subban, Niklas Svedberg

Read More: Jordan Caron,
David Pastrnak sent to AHL, Matt Fraser, Ryan Spooner, Bobby Robins make Bruins for now 10.07.14 at 1:09 pm ET
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David Pastrnak

David Pastrnak

Though Peter Chiarelli said that there is still some “roster manipulation” to be done on the part of the Bruins between now and the start of the season for the purposes of maximizing cap space, the Bruins’€™ roster became more clear leading up to Tuesday’€™s 5 p.m. deadline.

Right wing David Pastrnak has been sent to Providence of the AHL for the time being. The 2014 first-round pick is there in order to further acclimate himself with the North American game while the Bruins continue to evaluate him. Pastrnak suffered a shoulder injury in his second practice of training camp and missed all but two games of the preseason.

Chiarelli said that the B’€™s will likely take “€œtwo to three weeks”€ to assess what they have in Pastrnak at the AHL level. The B’€™s can play him in the NHL for up to nine games before burning a year off his entry level contract. If Pastrnak plays the season in the AHL, his contract will slide to the next season, meaning that his first NHL season will count as the first of three seasons on his entry level deal.

Matt Fraser, Ryan Spooner and Bobby Robins have made the team for now. Fraser seems like a sure thing to earn a full-time spot, while Spooner’€™s play late in the preseason helped his case to begin the season in Boston.

David Krejci missed Tuesday’€™s practice and is questionable for Wednesday’€™s season-opener against the Flyers.

For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.

Read More: Bobby Robins, David Krejci, David Pastrnak, Matt Fraser
David Krejci questionable for season-opener 10.07.14 at 10:42 am ET
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David Krejci and Gregory Campbell were absent as the Bruins held practice Tuesday in anticipation of Wednesday night’€™s season-opener against the Flyers.

David Pastrnak was sent to Providence, so he was also missing.

Campbell, who did not play all preseason due to a core injury, is not expected to play Wednesday. Krejci left Saturday’€™s preseason finale with what Claude Julien called a “very, very minor” and is questionable for Wednesday’s season-opener.

The Bruins’€™ lines in practice were as follows:

Lucic – Spooner/Caron – Fraser
Kelly – Soderberg – Eriksson
Marchand – Bergeron – Smith
Paille – Cunningham – Robins/Gagne

Chara – Hamilton
Seidenberg – McQuaid
Krug – Miller

Bartkowski

Looking at Bruins’ candidates to replace Johnny Boychuk 10.06.14 at 12:18 pm ET
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Kevan Miller may be the eventual replacement for Johnny Boychuk. (Getty Images)

Kevan Miller may be the eventual replacement for Johnny Boychuk. (Getty Images)

The trade of Johnny Boychuk left a tough hole to fill on the right side of the Bruins’ second defensive pairing. Not only was Boychuk a dependable player alongside Zdeno Chara on the top pairing for years, but his work in anchoring the second pairing without Chara in the postseason is what allowed the B’s to team Chara and Dennis Seidenberg with success in the 2011 and 2013 postseasons.

Prior to Saturday’s trade, Boychuk had been skating with Seidenberg on the second pairing. That leaves Seidenberg, who is still shaking the rust off after not playing since last December, without a partner. Assuming that the B’s opt to keep Dougie Hamilton alongside Chara on their top pairing and Torey Krug remains on the third pairing, here are the internal candidates to replace Boychuk:

MATT BARTKOWSKI

Bartkowski is a terrific skater who makes the game exciting for both the right and wrong reasons. He was given a top-4 spot (and then had it taken away, and then had it given back, and then had it taken away, etc.) last season when Seidenberg went down, but that doesn’t mean he’s a shoo-in to return to the second pairing.

Playing Bartkowski on the second pairing would mean that Seidenberg, a left shot who plays the right side when teamed with Chara, would need to move to the right-side to accomodate the left-shooting Bartkowski. Seidenberg and Bartkowski were paired together at points prior to Seidenberg’s injury and again on Saturday night and have not looked good together. By my count, the two played were paired together for eight games last season, with Bartkowski posting an even rating in four of the games, a minus-1 in three of them and a plus-1 in one to combine for a minus-2.

It’s been a weird tenure for Bartkowski in Boston thus far. After being stolen from the Panthers in the hilarious trade that also sent Seidenberg to Boston for Byron Bitz, Craig Weller and a second-round pick, Bartkowski was the final cut on the Stanley Cup-winning 2010-11 team, spent three years in Providence, was(n’t) traded to the Flames for Jarome Iginla, started last season as the seventh defenseman and eventually was Seidenberg’s replacement.

He was sick to begin last postseason and was a scapegoat of sorts as the Bruins were upset by the Canadiens in the second round, though the Bruins taking him in and out of the lineup in that series in favor of Andrej Meszaros probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do for his confidence.

ADAM MCQUAID

McQuaid is a solid third-pairing blueliner who is both responsible in his own and end extremely mean wherever he is on the ice. Yet to assume he can be a top-4 defenseman for a full season and postseason would be irresponsible on the part of the Bruins.

Last season was the most frustrating season of what’€™s been a frustrating NHL career for McQuaid. Since taking Mark Stuart‘€™s job during the 2010-11 season, McQuaid has dealt with injury after injury, with last year being doomed by a quad injury that limited him to just 30 games. When it became clear that he wouldn’€™t be able to return at any point of the postseason, McQuaid got surgery on an ankle that had been bugging him as well.

So, like Seidenberg, McQuaid is trying to regain his form after a long time out of game action (his last regular season game was Jan. 19).

If the Bruins attempt to trade for a top-six forward, McQuaid could still be a candidate to be moved. His $1.56 million cap hit would allow the B’€™s, who figure to have $3.1 million in cap space going into the season, to add a player who makes decent money provided they also move other assets such as draft picks (they have their first-round pick and have four second-rounders in the next two drafts) or prospects. The Bruins’€™ depth on D ‘€” Zach Trotman is in the AHL because of it ‘€” would still make them able to overcome another blueliner, albeit one outside their top-4, being moved.

KEVAN MILLER

If all goes well, this is the guy who eventually replaces Boychuk. Miller is a right shot and the strongest player on the Bruins under 6-foot-9. His skill set is the closest to Boychuk’s of any of the players in this group, but he has a long way to go.

Though he got some minutes with Chara and an opportunity to defend a 6-on-5 against the Penguins, the Bruins generally sheltered Miller as a rookie. As a third-pairing player, the Bruins were careful with his matchups (his -.901 CorsiRel quality of competion was the second-lowest on the team; only his partner in Krug player easier minutes). Krug was also the only player with a higher offensive zone start percentage than Miller.

Claude Julien did not shelter Boychuk last season. The B’s put him out against whatever was leftover for opponents after Chara and Patrice Bergeron‘s line discarded the team’s first line. Boychuk had a .385 CorsiRel quality of competition; only Chara (1.5) and Hamilton (.386) played tougher minutes.

This isn’t to suggest that Miller can’t handle an uptick in competition now or won’t be able to later in the season. It just means that if the Bruins are going to give him the opportunity to replace Boychuk, they can’t hide him like they did last season.

————–

The Bruins mix and match with their pairings throughout the season, and the guess is that they’€™ll probably do that again as they audition Boychuk’€™s replacements. With three legitimate candidates, don’€™t assume that whoever’€™s teamed with Seidenberg Wednesday night will be there all season. The money here is on Miller to be the last man standing.

Read More: Adam McQuaid, Johnny Boychuk, Kevan Miller, Matt Bartkowski
Report: Jordan Caron, David Warsofsky, Craig Cunningham clear waivers 10.05.14 at 4:13 pm ET
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According to Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada, forward Jack Skille was the only player on waivers to get claimed Sunday, meaning that Bruins Jordan Caron, David Warsofsky and Craig Cunningham all cleared.

Warsofsky will be assigned to Providence, while Caron and Cunningham will remain with the Bruins. The B’€™s waived Caron and Cunningham so that they would have the flexibility to send the players up and down between the NHL and AHL early in the season.

All three players can now go up and down between Boston and Providence for the next 30 days without risking waivers, unless they play in 10 NHL games in that span.

Bruins react to Johnny Boychuk trade and its ‘reality check’ impact going forward 10.05.14 at 10:41 am ET
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With the season opening at home Wednesday against the Flyers, the Bruins don’t have long to be upset about the loss of one of their best teammates.

Still, even coach Claude Julien said after Saturday’s preseason finale that the team will take a little time to get over “the sting” of losing Johnny Boychuk ($3.37 million) to the harsh realities of today’s salary cap NHL.

Torey Krug, just 23, now understands just how important managing the salary cap is for each team after spending most of the summer without a contract because GM Peter Chiarelli couldn’t fit him under the cap. Krug and Reilly Smith had to wait all summer and through most of camp to sign their $1.4 million deals because the team couldn’t sign them.

“[It's] another lesson in the business for me,” said Krug. “I learned a few things this summer for sure, and it’€™s always going to be part of it forever as long as this game exists and the cap situation exists in this sport, so it’€™s tough to see him go for sure.”

Several defenseman will have to pick up the slack for Boychuk and will have the opportunity to step right in play a bigger role for the 30-year-old who was considered one of the heart-and-soul parts of their Stanley Cup run in 2011 and their finals appearance in 2013.

Adam McQuaid, Matt Bartkowski and Torey Krug are all younger than Boychuk and all will likely get chances to play alongside Dennis Seidenberg on Boston’s No. 2 D-pairing.

“I mean it’€™s been like this the last few years so it doesn’€™t really change anything,” Seidenberg said. “For me, it’€™s just trying to play wherever they put me and trying to do it well.”

“I didn’€™t know that’€”there was some talk about different things and stuff but I was pretty much shocked,” McQuaid said in reacting Saturday. “I don’€™t know, I guess maybe we all just kind of had that hope in the back of our minds that somehow we could all stay. He’€™s a guy that’€™s a huge part of this team and for me a guy that always put a smile on my face every day. Always came to the rink in a good mood and was cracking jokes. I think I’€™ve played seven pro seasons and six have been with Johnny so we’€™ve been through a lot together. He’€™s a guy that’€”I don’€™t think it’€™s really sunk in quite yet’€”but a guy that will be sorely missed.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Adam McQuaid, Boston Bruins, Dennis Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk
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