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Don Sweeney: Nobody blocking young defensemen from making Bruins 09.15.16 at 3:14 pm ET
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Brandon Carlo

Brandon Carlo

BRIGHTON — The Bruins’ top two priorities this offseason were “IMPROVE THE DEFENSE” and “DON’T FORGET TO IMPROVE THE DEFENSE.” They went 0-for-2.

So what do you get when you don’t fix a blue line that was the worst it’s been in years? A room full of prospects smiling ear-to-ear on the first day of rookie camp because they think they’ve got a shot at playing in the NHL this season.

Boston has seven defensemen signed to one-way contracts, but the team will be better off if younger players show they have more to offer than one (or more) of those seven. It helps that there’s maybe only two top-four defensemen on the roster right now (Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug), so the opportunity is there to push someone out.

“I told them today, the best players will play,” Don Sweeney said. “If they [outperform] the guys that are here, the incumbents that are here, then they’ll have that opportunity [to make the team]. There’s no blockers from this standpoint. We’re in a situation where we need to get better. I’m adamant in saying that, and if that player’s better, he’ll play.”

The Bruins’ rookies will spend the coming days playing in a prospect tournament against the Sabres and Devils in Buffalo. While Boston’s rookies include some high-ceiling defenders such as Jeremy Lauzon, players like he and Jakub Zboril might need more junior seasoning before legitimately pushing for an NHL job.

One player who could be pushed out is Adam McQuaid. The Bruins opting to sign Kevan Miller (a similar player making less money) made that a possibility anyway, and the Bruins are high enough on Brandon Carlo that it wouldn’t come as a major shock to anyone if the 2015 second-round pick ended up going straight to the NHL in his first NHL season. Plus, being that McQuaid is a legitimate NHL defenseman whom other teams would conceivably want, the B’s could probably get something for him.

While the 6-foot-5, right-shooting Carlo might have the best chance of Boston’s current rookie camp players to make the NHL out of main camp, the rest of the defenders are taking the possibility just as seriously.

“There’s an opportunity and the guys realize that,” first-year pro Rob O’Gara said. “Everyone’s working their tails off to make the most of it and see if they can make an impact because they need guys to make an impact. From the top to the bottom, everyone has that pressure on them to perform. It’s very exciting and you can feel it in there. The guys are ready to go.”

Read More: Adam McQuaid, Brandon Carlo, Don Sweeney,
Adam McQuaid thinks he and Kevan Miller can both improve 08.08.16 at 8:35 pm ET
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Adam McQuaid

Adam McQuaid

Last summer, the Bruins signed Adam McQuaid to a four-year extension and seemingly left the writing on the wall for Kevan Miller. Both right-shot third-pairing defensemen with similar strengths (read: toughness) and less than a year apart in age, it seemed unlikely both players would get new contracts.

Then the Bruins signed Miller to a four-year deal a year later. The move reflected how desperate the Bruins were to stop the bleeding on defense, even if it meant having something of a positional redundancy signed up for a combined $5.25 million against the cap.

Of course, the signing could have meant that they didn’t intend on keeping both players, so when the Bruins signed the 28-year-old Miller in May, it was natural to wonder if perhaps McQuaid would be on the move. Though he skated in 64 games last season (his most since the 2011-12 season), McQuaid wouldn’t figure to fetch much in a trade because of his cap hit ($2.75 million), but the team could have opted to move his money and spend it elsewhere. Speaking at Shawn Thornton’s golf tournament Monday, McQuaid said he didn’t take the Miller signing as an indication he might be moved.

“Those are the questions that everyone asks and people are wondering about, but at the same time, I think there’s a chance for both of us to continue to improve our game and hopefully be more well-rounded and grab the opportunity to play bigger minutes against tougher opposition and stuff,” McQuaid said.

As for his reaction to the contract itself, McQuaid seemingly felt differently than the many who assumed the Bruins might have let Miller walk in free agency.

“I’m not really surprised by anything,” McQuaid said. “You’re not sure how things will play out in different ways, but I wasn’t surprised. I think in my opinion, Millsy’s underrated in a lot of ways. [He’s] a guy that continues to improve and a guy that you appreciate having on your team.”

Though McQuaid has two inches on Miller, both weigh around 210 pounds and rely on physicality as stay-at-home defensemen. Injuries to one or the other has limited the time the Bruins have had to build their six-man D group relying on both being in, but last season saw both players both dress in at least three quarters of the season’s games (Miller played in 71).

As the following usage chart from Corsica Hockey indicates, the Bruins gave Miller and McQuaid similar assignments regarding their quality of competition and zone starts, though Miller fared better in terms of puck possession.

Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 6.43.03 PM

Both players spent most of their even-strength minutes with Torey Krug and had Zdeno Chara as their second-most common partners. Miller had better possession metrics with both Krug and Chara than McQuaid did, though the Bruins did better in terms of goals for per 60 when Chara was paired with McQuaid rather than Miller.

Of course, the goal should not be to have either player paired with Chara. Given the Bruins’ current roster, it would appear that either McQuaid, Miller or Colin Miller will be heading into the season. None of those situations are ideal, as the Bruins need a budding top defenseman to pair with Chara as Boston’s captain continues to regress. Right now they don’t have that. What they do have is a lot of OK right-shot defensemen.

Read More: Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller,
David Krejci rejoins Bruins in practice, Adam McQuaid still not skating 01.18.16 at 10:43 am ET
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WILMINGTON — Monday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena saw a familiar face return, as injured center David Krejci practiced with Bruins teammates for the first time since suffering an upper-body injury on Dec. 27.

Krejci was wearing a green jersey, which is often worn in practice by players who are either injured or not on a line. Also in green was David Pastrnak, who has missed the last three games with an upper-body injury.

Both Krejci and Pastrnak will travel to Montreal for Tuesday’s game against the Canadiens.

With Krejci and Pastrnak on the ice, Boston’s practice lines on Monday looked like this:

Bergeron-Marchand-Connolly
Beleskey-Spooner-Eriksson
Vatrano-Kemppainen-Hayes
Rinaldo-Talbot-Ferraro
Randell-Krejci-Pastrnak

Krejci said he has been skating since last week. He took limited contact in Monday’s practice and said that he has felt better with each passing day but is not yet comfortable enough to play.

“I need to feel 100 percent skating and 100 percent shooting,” Krejci said. “I’m getting there, but it was a good today.”

The Bruins have gone 4-4-1 without Krejci. Given that he was having the best regular season of his career (33 points in 35 games), they could certainly use him as they try to claim one of the top three spots in the crowded Atlantic Division.

“I’d like to play as soon as possible, but this kind of injury, at this point in time it’s kind of day-to-day,” Krejci said. “We’ll see how it feels tomorrow — hopefully better — but we’ll see how it feels tomorrow in warmups.”

In other injury news, Adam McQuaid has yet to take the ice as he remains out with an injury suffered on a Jan. 5 hit from Capitals forward Zach Sill.

Read More: Adam McQuaid, David Krejci, David Pastrnak,
Adam McQuaid feels for Pascal Dupuis 12.11.15 at 6:54 pm ET
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PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 19: Pascal Dupuis #9 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates on the ice against the Colorado Avalanche during the game at Consol Energy Center on November 19, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)

Blood clot issues caused Pascal Dupuis to announce his retirement this week. (Matt Kincald/Getty Images)

Adam McQuaid doesn’€™t know Pascal Dupuis. All he’€™s heard from mutual friends is what a great guy he is. He does, however, know Dupuis’€™ current situation better than most hockey players.

A longtime Penguins winger and Sidney Crosby linemate, Dupuis announced this week that he was retiring from hockey because of issues with blood clots that date back to January of 2014. McQuaid had his own scare with a blood clot during the 2012 lockout, when his right arm suffered massive swelling in the fall. The blood clot, which was under his collarbone, required surgery that involved removing a rib and part of his neck neck muscle.

For the grounded yet oft-injured McQuaid, his experience with the blood clot made him feel more grateful for his health. Asked about Dupuis Friday, McQuaid expressed both disappointment in the player’€™s on-ice fate but optimism for his off-ice future.

“I think he said it himself, that his priority is his family and his health and [his longterm] health,” McQuaid said. “Any time anyone’€™s health gives out on them, you feel for them. I’€™m sure that they’€™ll miss not having him in the lineup.”

Dupuis returned at the start of last season from both a knee injury and blood clot issues, but was diagnosed with another blood clot in his lung of November of 2014, ending his season. The 36-year-old returned again to play in 18 games this season before shutting it down for good.

Dupuis’€™ condition was both more serious and more recurring than McQuaid’€™s. The Boston defenseman was assured at the time of his blood clot and subsequent surgical work that aside from months spent on blood thinners, it “wouldn’€™t be an issue going forward,” as it hasn’€™t. As such, McQuaid was quick to note that though “a blood clot’€™s still a blood clot,” he wasn’€™t comparing his misfortune to Dupuis’.

“It’€™s not quite the same thing, but I can relate,” he said. “Mine was a little more short-term, but I know what it’€™s like to go through the whole process. It definitely makes you reevaluate things and appreciate things and realize how lucky we are to do what we do, and to have your health ‘€” mainly, having your health.

“I’€™m sure that as disappointed as he is, staying on the protocol [means] he’€™ll have a long and happy life, so you take the positives and look at all the great things that he still has to look forward to.”

At the time of McQuaid’€™s blood clot, its silver lining was that it came during the lockout and didn’€™t require him to miss games. Looking at how much worse things could have been, McQuaid said he considers himself blessed that it proved to be a speed bump rather than the major roadblock blood clots can be for athletes.

“It’€™s one of those things where you can think of it as, like, ‘Why is this going on? Why am I having to do this?” McQuaid said. “Then you look at it like, ‘€˜Well, I’€™m lucky that it’€™s just a short-term thing, too.'”

Read More: Adam McQuaid, Pascal Dupuis,
With great paycheck comes great responsibility for Adam McQuaid 09.18.15 at 4:32 pm ET
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Adam McQuaid

Adam McQuaid

When asked Friday if the Bruins’ new emphasis on defensemen supporting the attack would boost his offensive numbers, defenseman Adam McQuaid smirked and replied, “There’s only room for improvement there.”

Then, as McQuaid got more serious, he added, “I never put numbers on things.”

Fairly or unfairly, a number has been put on him, and it’s a high one — 2.75 million, to be exact. That’s McQuaid’s cap hit for the next four seasons, a substantial raise from the $1.566 million he averaged over the course of his previous contract.

McQuaid’s four-year, $11 million contract has widely been viewed as an overpayment on the part of the B’s. An intangibles player who comes with as mean a streak as any defenseman in the NHL, McQuaid is a player any team would love to have on its third pairing. With the way he’s being paid however, coupled with the fact that frequent partner Torey Krug makes $3.4 million for his offensive contributions, the risk that the Bruins run is that McQuaid will either be overpaid for a third-pairing defenseman or potentially out of place as a top-four defenseman.

Though the news of his contract came out after the Bruins traded Dougie Hamilton, McQuaid actually had agreed hours before the trade was made. So, in a matter of hours, the 28-year-old went from returning to the same defense group he knew to potentially picking up bigger minutes. McQuaid wants to be a key piece of the defense, but he doesn’t want his contract to dictate his role.

“I think you have to earn those things, obviously,” he said Friday. “I’d like to play a bigger role, but it’s got to be something that you earn and you show that you’re able to do. I think you can tell that we have a lot of depth on the blue line this year. It’s going to be competitive and every day you’re going to need to show your worth or there’s going to be somebody else who can step in and do it.

“At this point in my career, I’d like to continue to improve and get better and play a bigger role, but I’ve got to prove I can do that and work towards that.”

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Read More: Adam McQuaid, Torey Krug,
Brett Connolly arrives at Bruins practice, Adam McQuaid given maintenance day 03.03.15 at 10:58 am ET
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WILMINGTON — Brett Connolly has arrived in Boston, as the recent trade acquisition joined his new Bruins teammates in Tuesday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena.

Conolly will wear No. 14 with the Bruins. With another practice day before Thursday’s game, the Bruins seemingly eased Connolly in by skating him as the fourth member of Boston’s fourth line. Gregory Campbell, who has been out since last week with an upper-body injury, returned to practice. Peter Chiarelli said Monday that Campbell was “very close” to being ready to return.

Adam McQuaid did not practice, with Claude Julien saying after the practice that the defenseman was given a maintenance day. Given that the Bruins did not practice Sunday or Monday, that’s an awful lot of maintenance.

Max Talbot, Boston’s other trade acquisition, was not on the ice. The lines were as follows:

Marchand-Bergeron-Smith
Lucic-Spooner-Pastrnak
Paille-Soderberg-Eriksson
Campbell/Kelly-Kelly/Campbell-Ferlin/Connolly

 

 

Read More: Adam McQuaid, Brett Connolly,
Adam McQuaid progressing, Bruins prepare for Predators 12.23.14 at 12:06 pm ET
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Adam McQuaid

Adam McQuaid

Adam McQuaid joined the Bruins for Tuesday’€™s morning skate prior to Boston’€™s last game before the Christmas break.

McQuaid, who has not played since breaking his thumb on Nov. 18, is not yet ready to return to the lineup but has been skating since earlier this month. Claude Julien said after the team’s morning skate that McQuaid’s rehab is “on track.”

The Bruins will keep the same lineup that they used for the second half of Sunday’€™s game as they look to head into the holiday with a win over the Predators.

The lineup in morning skate was as follows:

Lucic – Krejci – Cunningham
Marchand – Bergeron – Smith
Kelly – Soderberg – Eriksson
Paille – Campbell – Griffith – Fraser

Chara – Hamilton
Bartkowski – Seidenberg
Krug – Miller

Rask

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