|Looking at Bruins’ candidates to replace Johnny Boychuk||10.06.14 at 12:18 pm ET|
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:
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.
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.
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.
|Bruins react to Johnny Boychuk trade and its ‘reality check’ impact going forward||10.05.14 at 10:41 am ET|
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 defensemen will have to pick up the slack for Boychuk and will have the opportunity to step right in and play a bigger role in place of the 30-year-old who was considered one of the heart-and-soul parts of the B’s Stanley Cup run in 2011 and their finals appearance in 2013.
Adam McQuaid, Matt Bartkowski and Krug all are younger than Boychuk and all likely will 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.”
|At long last, Adam McQuaid returns to game action||09.25.14 at 1:10 am ET|
On Wednesday, Adam McQuaid did something he hadn’t done since January: He played a hockey game.
McQuaid, who has battled injuries throughout his career, was limited to just 30 games last season by a quad injury. When it became clear that he wasn’t going to be better to play at any point in the postseason, the team opted for him to have ankle surgery to correct another area that had been bothering him.
“It’s been a while,” McQuaid said after the game. “It definitely felt good to be out there and to be part of a win again. At times I felt pretty good; other times there was a little bit of rust here and there. I’m just trying to keep building on things and pushing forward.”
McQuaid spent the game on a pairing with Matt Bartkowski. The 27-year-old didn’t fight in the game, but he definitely played the physical style that helped him earn a job in Boston during the team’s Stanley Cup-winning 2010-11 season.
“I think he came out and tried to make a statement there that he’s ready to play, and he wants to be here,” Claude Julien said. “I thought he played a real strong game. I gave him high marks for his first game back, and how well he played for his first game back.”
McQuaid said during informal practices earlier this month that he was healthy, but that the biggest adjustment as he returned was going to be the game speed. He said he found that to be the case Wednesday.
“It’s a fast game and if you’re not making decisions quick enough, you’re going to get yourself into trouble,” he said. “I did that a few times, just not making decisions quick enough and moving the puck quick enough.”
Fortunately for McQuaid, any mistakes, including a turnover in front of the Bruins goal that led to a scoring chance on which the Capitals hit the post in the third period, won’t harm the B’s in the preseason. The priority is being healthy and feeling healthy, and McQuaid said the ankle feeling good made a difference.
“Quite a bit,” he said. “It had been a while, so I didn’t realize how much it was bothering me until I was able to get it taken care of and still continuing to see it improve. It definitely feels a lot better.”
|With future uncertain, Adam McQuaid happy to be healthy||09.03.14 at 3:51 pm ET|
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.”
|No practice for Bruins; Adam McQuaid has ankle surgery||05.04.14 at 1:40 pm ET|
Adam McQuaid, who has been out since Jan. 19 with a quad strain, is officially done for the season after getting arthoscopic surgery on his right ankle. McQuaid played 30 games this season, the last of which was Jan. 19 in Chicago before missing the rest of the season with a quad strain.
McQuaid was last seen skating on April 19. According to an industry source, the decision was made for McQuaid to have surgery on the ankle — an issue that he’d already been dealing with — once it became clear that he wouldn’t be able to play this season due to the quad injury. At that point, it made sense to take care of the ankle immediately.
It was obviously a very trying year for McQuaid, who initially hurt himself on Nov. 9 against the Maple Leafs and made multiple comeback attempts that didn’t take. He returned for three games in November before re-aggravating his quad injury and then came back in December to play 11 games before getting injured again. The team shut him down for over a month in March, but he never returned to game action.
“Every time I’ve come back, I’ve hoped that that was going to be the end of it, but it’s hockey and things happens,” McQuaid said in February. “So it goes in life.”
It could be tougher for McQuaid going forward, as Kevan Miller may have claimed the third-pairing right spot — McQuaid’s usual role — for good. McQuaid has one more year on his current contract after this season with a $1.56 million cap hit, while Miller is signed up for the next two seasons at $800,000 a year.
McQuaid’s teammates stayed off the ice for the most part Sunday as they have a two-day break between Saturday’s Game 2 victory in Boston and Tuesday’s Game 3 in Montreal.
On the ice for the Bruins Sunday morning were Dennis Seidenberg, Corey Potter, Justin Florek and Matt Bartkowski. Florek and Bartkowski were both healthy scratches in Game 2 against the Canadiens.
Potter’s presence on the ice is a good sign, as he suffered a shoulder injury between Games 4 and 5 of the first round against the Red Wings.
As for Chris Kelly, who has yet to skate since suffering a back injury late in the season, Claude Julien gave minimal update on Boston’s third-line left wing. Julien would only say that each day has been better for Kelly.
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|Dennis Seidenberg skates again, Peter Chiarelli says Bruins aren’t counting on his return||04.14.14 at 12:06 pm ET|
Dennis Seidenberg skated Monday at TD Garden as he remains ahead of schedule in his recovery from ACL and MCL surgery, but Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli cautioned against expecting Seidenberg to return at some point during the playoffs.
The B’s have not ruled out a postseason return for Seidenberg, however, after initially declaring him out for the season at the time of his injury in late December.
“We’re not counting on Dennis to be back,” Chiarelli said Monday. “We’re going to be very cautious with his injury. He has been skating and that’s pretty much all I can say on it.”
Adam McQuaid also skated Monday in his comeback from a quad strain that limited to 30 games this season. Multiple setbacks in his recovery led to the team shutting him down for about a month in early March. Chiarelli said there isn’t much clarity on his situation.
“Not really, no,” Chiarelli said. “‘¦ We want to be careful on it. It’s not a major injury; it’s a soft tissue injury. We’ve been doing OK with the D we have, so we want to be cautious with it.”
Given the emergence of Kevan Miller, it’s unlikely a healthy McQuaid would be needed unless a right-shot defenseman struggles or is injured.
Daniel Paille left Saturday’s game with what appeared to be a head injury, but Claude Julien told reporters Sunday that Paille was feeling “much better” and was day-to-day. Chiarelli said following his updates on Seidenberg and McQuaid that he hadn’t intended to give injury updates (common practice in the postseason) and as such did not offer an update on Paille’s status.
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|Report: Dennis Seidenberg, Adam McQuaid begin skating for Bruins||04.09.14 at 12:12 pm ET|
Seidenberg was ruled out for the season after tearing his ACL/MCL on Dec. 27 against the Senators, but he is well ahead in his recovery from surgery and the possibility exists that he could return late in the playoffs.
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli had told the Boston Globe last month that Seidenberg might begin skating later in the postseason, but Steve Conroy of the Herald reported that the veteran defenseman skated for 15 minutes and that “it’s not known just how well his knee held up.” It is also unclear when he will skate again.
“My guess is, if we go deep, he’ll start skating at some point and we’ll just see how he is,’ Chiarelli told the Globe on March 21. ‘We’ve been very cautious in the past with the injuries and coming back.’
McQuaid, meanwhile, has been out since Jan. 19 with a quad strain. The team decided to shut him down in early March after he suffered a setback in his attempted return. Conroy reported there is no timetable for either player’s return to the lineup.
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