|Andy Brickley on MFB: ‘Expect further moves to be made’ by Bruins||10.08.14 at 1:52 pm ET|
NESN Bruins analyst Andy Brickley made his first weekly appearance of the 2014-15 season Wednesday, hours before the Bruins drop the puck against the Flyers in the opener at TD Garden. To hear the interview, go the MFB audio on demand page.
Prognosticators think highly of the Bruins heading into the campaign, and Brickley explained there’s a good reason for that.
“I don’t know if they’ve gotten better in any one particular area other than a little bit more experience,” Brickley said. “I think they have the strengths that most teams that want to be an elite team have. You try to build teams from the goal line on out. So they have a goaltender that won the Vezina in the last year, obviously, Tuukka [Rask] is tremendously talented and calm and has that demeanor that everybody likes to play in front of.
“They have a real good defensive corps led by Zdeno Chara. They play a defense-first system. They play a backchecking formula that really, really pays off, which is one of the main reasons that they play four lines. The demand by Claude Julien and his coaching staff to have that back pressure to help out the team defense part of the game is almost unmatched across the league. And it really stands out when you break down tape just how committed the Bruins forwards are to get back and play defense and pressure the puck and try to turn defense into offense with turnovers and control the middle of the ice — that’s that straight-down-the-middle phrase that I use.
“And then try to have their offense be a balanced scoring attack along with quality special teams. They were the third-best power play in the league last year, that has a lot to do with the infusion of young talent that they got — like a Dougie Hamilton, like a Torey Krug, they both play power play on different units. Reilly Smith comes in in that deal for [Tyler] Seguin, he gives you a different element, a little bit more speed, a little bit more skill up front. It allows Chara to play the front of the net — whether you thought that was going to be a successful and productive experiment or not, it has paid off for the Bruins.
“So, that’s the formula for success. That’s why the Jeremy Roenicks and the Barry Melroses feel that the Bruins, relative to every other team in the Eastern Conference, that they’re right there at the top.”
Adam McQuaid probably hoped that he would have been a top-4 defenseman by the time he reached his fifth full NHL season. Now, he kind of is. Maybe. For now.
McQuaid, who has played on Boston’s bottom pairing throughout his NHL career, figures to open the regular season as Dennis Seidenberg‘s defensive partner on Boston’s second pairing, by the looks of morning skate. The spot was held by Johnny Boychuk throughout training camp, but Saturday’s trade of Boychuk left an opening to be filled by McQuaid, Matt Bartkowski or Kevan Miller.
The guess here is that it will eventually be Miller, but for now, McQuaid, who hasn’t played in a regular-season or playoff game since last January, is getting his shot.
“I did feel like [I could be a top-4 player] when I could get some consistency and play a little more,” McQuaid said Wednesday. “I think everyone’s always looking to continue to take steps, but it was kind of hard when I was in and out of the lineup so much.
“It is a great opportunity, but I just need to focus on what I do and not look at as any different as a situation. Whoever I’m playing against, play hard and be aware of who’s out there. That’s all you can do.”
McQuaid and Seidenberg have not played much together in the past. Seidenberg has typically played on Boston’s second pairing in the regular season before playing on the top pairing in the postseason. McQuaid has remained a third-pairing guy.
“We haven’t played with each other a ton, but it’s one of those things,” McQuaid. “We’ve had the same group here for quite a while, for the most part. Guys have been comfortable playing with one another, but we’ve got some shifts together in the preseason. I think he’s a pretty easy guy to play with, so I’m not too worried about that.”
Look for the Bruins to take their time as they try different players with Seidenberg in order to find a full-time Boychuk replacement. For now, it’s McQuaid. The first step to keeping the job will be staying healthy.
|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.”
|Claude Julien: Johnny Boychuk trade ‘stings for everybody’||10.04.14 at 11:06 pm ET|
“I don’t think my thoughts differ from anybody else,” Julien said after his team’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Red Wings Saturday night. “I think we’re all disappointed to see him leave. As I mentioned, Peter [Chiarelli] eluded to that in his press conference. It stings for everybody. He was a good player, he was a good person, very well liked.
“Unfortunately our game is in that position where sometimes we’re forced to make those unpopular decisions. For a coaching staff, we’ll miss him like everybody else. But we have a job to do, and we feel we have a lot of good players here that we can certainly overcome this. And that’s just the way it goes, and part of hockey, and part of a tough day. You hope we’ll be able to turn the page here and by the time we start the season we’ll be ready to go.”
That position, of course, is a result of a salary cap squeeze, brought on – in part – with the signing of David Krejci. Now, the 30-year-old Boychuk (due $3.4 million in the final year of his three-year contract) will head to the Islanders while Julien is left to find a replacement to pair with Dennis Seidenberg.
He has several options, starting with Matt Bartkowski. Adam McQuaid, Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug will also be asked to carry a bigger load.
“I think there’s no doubt that the experience those young guys got was valuable,” Julien said. “But at the same time, we’ve got to remember that we’ve got Seidenberg, we’ve got McQuaid back in our lineup, which is two more veterans. That certainly helps that youth maybe not be so young. So those are things. But the guys that got that experience ‘ you’re talking about Bartkowski, talking about Krug, you know Dougie Hamilton. I think those things will certainly pay off for us.”
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said Saturday that he traded defenseman Johnny Boychuk due to the team’s salary cap situation and because he found the return ‘ two second-round picks and a conditional third ‘ to be strong value. He did concede one point, however.
“This doesn’t make us better now, obviously,” Chiarelli said, “but it’s something that, when I look at it in a series of steps, I think we made the right move.”
Chiarelli mentioned “steps” throughout the press conference to discuss Saturday’s trade with the Islanders. When asked what his next move was, the B’s general manager said that there may be roster moves in the coming days.
Boychuk is a free agent at season’s end and figures to command big money on the open market. Chiarelli said that he did not attempt to sign Boychuk before trading him.
Moving Boychuk, while making the current roster worse, gives the team one less big name to sign before the start of next season. Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug and Reilly Smith will all be restricted free agents, while Carl Soderberg will be an unrestricted free agent. Though the salary cap is expected to go up from it’s current $69 million ceiling, the already have $49,897,857 against the salary cap committed to 10 players (not including Marc Savard) for the 2015-16 season.
“We’ve got a lot of people to sign,” Chiarelli said. “There’s a list of priorities and part of my job is to prioritize things. That’s a little bit of how it shakes out. I’d love to keep this team together player-to-player as long as I could if I felt it was prudent on the hockey front and the financial front. I’ve tried to keep the critical mass together and will continue to provide the right moves for the organization.”
|Bruins trade Johnny Boychuk to Islanders for draft picks||at 2:03 pm ET|
The Bruins have traded defenseman Johnny Boychuk to the Islanders for second-round picks in the 2015 and 2016 drafts and a conditional 2015 third-round pick. The B’s will get New York’s 2015 third-rounder if the Islanders trade Boychuk to an Eastern Conference team this season.
Boychuk, 30, was entering the last year of his contract. His deal carries a $3.36 million cap hit and he will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
Though the return for Boychuk provides good value, the trade comes as something as a surprise given previous moves. In signing Reilly Smith and Torey Krug to one-year deals worth $1.4 million on Monday, the Bruins positioned themselves to enter the season without having to shed a contract like Boychuk’s. With Boychuk likely to command big money on the open market next summer, the Bruins had the option of keeping him for this season and better their chances of winning this season.
The trade of Boychuk leaves a hole in the team’s top-4. Zdeno Chara and Dougie Hamilton figure to provide one of the best defensive pairings in the league, but Dennis Seidenberg is coming off a knee injury and two of the other team’s options for a spot on the second pairing — Matt Bartkowski and Kevan Miller — struggled when given key minutes last postseason. This could be a vote of confidence for both players, however, as the Bruins may believe that with another full season of NHL play, their young defensemen will be better suited to handle the NHL playoffs.
Adam McQuaid could also work his way onto the second pairing now, though injury concerns make it tough to count on him to last a full season.
After trading for Boychuk, the Islanders also swung a trade with the Blackhawks for defenseman Nick Leddy.
For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.