Bruins add defensemen, ignore offense

Every trade deadline there has to be a sense of anxiety around the league, as players contemplate how quickly their immediate future may change. Some welcome the change and are hopeful for a new start while others are wary of leaving their teammates behind.

The Boston Bruins were in a situation where management could have decided to take drastic action, especially when the team went on a horrific nine-game losing streak that threatened to derail the season. In those nine losses the team failed to score more than three goals in a game and scored just one five times. The worst offensive team in the NHL was in desperate need for scoring help at the deadline, and the players on the team had a feeling that things might change, according to Tim Thomas.

“I noticed it a little bit in
people’s body language [because Tuesday] was my first day back,” he
said. “Even the few days before the break, because they knew there was
going to be [movement], there was some nervousness. You can’t help it.

“You do your best not to think about it
but that doesn’t mean you don’t think about it at all.

“I just think it’s human nature. If you’re
on a team that’s hit a protracted losing streak like we did back then,
that makes you wonder. But then, if you’re on a team that is playing
really good, you’re wondering, ‘Is this team going to try to add
something for that Stanley Cup run and am I going to be the player that
goes?’


What was interesting was seeing Boston not only keep most of the team in tact, but to focus on the defense first. From the Boston Globe:

“I might as well get this right out there,” Chiarelli said in his
opening remarks, “because I know that a lot of the questions will be,
‘Why didn’t we get scoring?’ And those are very good and valid
questions.

“What you have to look at – at least, what we looked at – was firstly,
we wanted to change the composition of our defense. I can say that was
an equal priority to getting some more scoring. I put it as an equal
priority because I feel that if we change the composition, that will, in
itself, allow us to improve from the back end out. It should result in
better offensive production. It allows the defensemen to play in their
appropriate roles and positions.”

I understand the philosophy, but defense has not been the problem this season at all. Not by a long shot; the Bruins are 4th-best in the NHL with a 2.44 goals-against average and Tuukka Rask is 4th among all goaltenders with a .926 save percentage. Tim Thomas, who is having a ‘down year’ is in 15th. Not exactly a big worry here.

I’ll give them this: the Bruins are in the middle of the NHL in shots allowed per game. Well, that certainly spells reason for adding defense rather than offense.

I can understand the goal behind getting the defense into shape with the hopes that the offense will start scoring. Sort of. But is adding Dennis Seidenberg to your blue line suddenly going to fix the issue that the Bruins don’t have a scorer in the top 100 in the NHL? How is Seidenberg going to help Blake Wheeler, who has 3 points in his last 14 games? With crisp breakout passes and a big shot from the point?

If I were a Bruins fan I’d be pulling my hair out today. Says Stanley Cup of Chowder:

For a team that is last in the league in goal scoring that is still in
the playoff hunt not to land a goal scorer is inexcusable. Peter
Chiarelli and the Bruins brass sent a clear message: this is not “the
year to B here”. A Cup run this year was a bit of a pipe dream but I
figured the B’s would still want to win a playoff series to line Jacobs’
pocket with an extra couple games’ worth of concession sales. Peter
Chiarelli tried to spin it like they were trying to improve for this
year, but it is clear that this deadline was all about the future, not
the present.

The market for scorers wasn’t particularly hot this year and the Bruins did supposedly try. But don’t try and spin it by saying that adding Seidenberg and “changing the composition of the defense” will help scoring. You swapped out Derek Morris for Dennis Seidenberg, that’s it.

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    Who might be the next Artemi Panarin?

    LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 22:  Artemi Panarin of the Chicago Blackhawks poses after winning the Calder Trophy named for the top rookie at the 2016 NHL Awards at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on June 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Even in an information age where boundless information lies a few clicks away, talented players slip through the cracks.

    Jamie Benn won the Art Ross in 2014-15 and came in second place last season, yet 128 players were selected before him in 2007. No-brainer Vezina Trophy-winner Braden Holtby was selected in the fourth round.

    We haven’t even covered quality players who weren’t even drafted.

    Artemi Panarin stands as an especially mind-blowing example. He went from undrafted free agent to the 2016 Calder Trophy winner after developing – and eventually breaking through – overseas.

    As we learned from Vladimir Tarasenko‘s recommendations to the Blues, Panarin was readily available in the summer of 2015, making his 30-goal, 77-point season burn plenty of executives and scouts.

    While there are examples of players who fall through the cracks, Panarin feels pretty unusual. Still, NHL Tonight sets out to name a few international players who could make a Panarin-type impact … and, of course, one of those players could suit up for the Chicago Blackhawks:

    Interesting stuff.

    If you choose not to watch the video, two of the names highlighted were Michal Kempny of the Blackhawks and Nikita Zaitsev of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    As defensemen, both overseas signings aren’t likely to make a Panarin-type splash on the scoreboard, but they remain interesting names to watch.

    Not quite a Panarin parallel, but …

    Allow for a comparison that breaks the rules quite a bit: Alex Radulov stands as likely the biggest impact import of all.

    As the 15th pick of the 2004 NHL Draft and with a very high profile, he won’t slip in under the radar like Panarin did last summer.

    Still, this is a player who already has 102 points to his name at the NHL level (in 154 regular season games), and despite the playoff drama with Nashville, he also has 14 career playoff points in 18 NHL postseason games.

    Honestly, the Radulov signing might be the best move Montreal made during a turbulent off-season.

    If any other import can compare to Radulov or Panarin, that team should be very, very happy.

    Chances are, we won’t know who to expect, but feel free to name your own choices.

    Oilers sign defenseman Matthew Benning, nephew of Canucks GM Jim

    BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 23:  Matt Benning #5 of the Northeastern Huskies skates against the Boston University Terriers during the first period of the 2015 Beanpot Tournament Championship game at TD Garden on February 23, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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    Even with Adam Larsson added to the mix, the Edmonton Oilers’ organization is short on right-handed defensemen.

    It remains to be seen how long it will take for Matthew Benning to make the NHL jump, but the Oilers took a step in the right (right-handed defenseman) direction by signing him to a two-year deal on Saturday.

    In case you have some jokes at the ready … yes, Benning is related to Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning. The occasionally lampooned executive is his uncle. His father Brian also enjoyed an NHL career.

    *Nervous laugh*

    The Edmonton Journal’s Bruce McCurdy views the move as the equivalent to landing a “free draft pick.” It might be a nice perk for Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli to land Benning being that he was a 2012 sixth-rounder of the Boston Bruins.

    McCurdy indicates that Benning, 22, could rank fairly high among the Oilers’ defensive prospects right off the bat, even if scarce options play a role along with whatever the blueliner brings to the table:

    This is the fourth free agent signing of an NCAA player by the Oilers this off-season, though the first involving a defenceman. Previously, highly-regarded forward Drake Caggiula had signed along with right winger Patrick Russell and netminder Nick Ellis. All four are in age 22-23 and well-positioned to make an impact on the pro ranks in the near future, even as their NHL potential is an open book. But collectively they add some meat on the bones of a franchise whose organizational depth has been questionable. 

    Interestingly, McCurdy notes that the Canucks were in the running for Benning’s services.

    (Waits for a few more Jim Benning jokes.)

    Seems like the Northeastern University product received a decent deal, relatively speaking:

    Flames management enjoys a rare luxury: a clean slate

    CALGARY, CANADA - FEBRUARY 27: General manager Brad Treliving of the Calgary Flames address the media before the trade deadline prior to the team's NHL game against the Ottawa Senators at the Scotiabank Saddledome on February 27, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
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    This is part of Calgary Flames day at PHT …

    During the waning days of the Jarome Iginla/Miikka Kiprusoff years, the Calgary Flames ranked as one of the worst things a sports team could be: both expensive and uninspiring.

    There were a lot of bloated contracts connected to those days, but when you look at sites like Cap Friendly or General Fanager, the slate looks a lot cleaner heading into 2016-17.

    OK, so maybe you could also argue that there are still a few troubling deals to get rid of.

    Dennis Wideman‘s $5.25 million salary cap hit, Ladislav Smid‘s $3.5 million mark and Deryk Engelland‘s bewildering $2.917 million cap hit all expire after next season. Chances are, you have an issue with one or maybe all of those deals, so the Flames must be giddy to close in on all that extra breathing room.

    And, yes, there are some deals that Flames GM Brad Treliving may regret. Just consider today’s earlier post about Troy Brouwer.

    Still, the point is clear: whatever mistakes or strokes of genius that come, at least those moves will be Treliving’s to make.

    Consider some of the important calls that await:

    • Such as, how will they sort out Johnny Gaudreau‘s lingering RFA situation this summer?

    The easiest path might be to try to convince him to take a deal that is identical to the one Sean Monahan received, but one or both sides likely want something different.

    • Despite bringing in both Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson, the goaltending future beyond 2016-17 is murky for a simple enough reason: neither netminder is signed beyond that point.

    Elliott is receiving a bargain $2.5 million and is currently 31. Johnson, 30, barely comes in behind him at $1.7 million. It’s highly likely that Calgary will spend more money on its goalies in 2017-18, but who might be back?

    And how much will the Flames need to see from Elliott and/or Johnson before trying to hammer out extensions?

    The good news for Flames management is that they’re not saddled with a goaltending decision they might not have made. The scary part is that, if it doesn’t work out, it’s on them … and could cost someone a job.

    • The Flames ultimately have the power to determine who’s a marquee player and who is a part of the supporting cast.

    Gaudreau is key, but it’s unclear if he’ll sign a long deal like Monahan or opt for a “bridge” deal. In addition to Monahan, the Flames signed these players to fairly long deals: Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, T.J. Brodie, Brouwer and Michael Frolik.

    Yes, you can quibble with Brouwer and maybe another name, but plenty of teams would be jealous of that list overall.

    ***

    Many general managers must navigate minefields of someone else’s mistakes. There are a lot of challenges to the job beyond that, but Treliving & Co. get to make their own.

    It’s a luxury that is unlikely to last, but the Flames stand as an interesting team for armchair (and real-life) executives to follow.

    Yahoo’s fantasy hockey position tweaks signal end of a very specific era

    WINNIPEG, MB - FEBRUARY 11: Dustin Byfuglien #33 of the Winnipeg Jets prepares for the faceoff in second period action in an NHL game against the Boston Bruins at the MTS Centre on February 11, 2016 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Marianne Helm/Getty Images)
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    Few things deepen your hockey geekery quite like playing fantasy hockey.

    For sports haters and the sports-oblivious, it’s probably bad enough to see grown adults wearing hockey sweaters out in public. What about when someone is obsessing (and sometimes muttering profanities) about a team that only exists to about 8-15 people?

    Still, this is the Internet, where niche obsessions can go really deep. Just fall down a rabbit hole about Star Wars extended universe if you want to get a taste.

    Us fantasy hockey nerdy dorks got some understandable but still sad news today: it appears to be an end of an era for Dustin Byfuglien and Brent Burns being considered eligible as both right wings and defensemen.

    NHL.com trotted out a list of changes to Yahoo’s popular format on Saturday, and the tweaks generally make total sense.

    It’s a bit of a bummer, though, as being eligible for a forward and defensive position provided another example of the unusual natures of both Byfuglien and Burns. Luckily, there are about 1,000 Exhibits for each, especially true oddball Burns.

    (The debate regarding where either player should line up has largely died out, though.)

    Another thing of interest in NHL.com’s list is the most prominent players who can be placed in all three forward spots. That could be a good thing to keep handy if you’re the last-minute preparation type:

    The six tri-eligible players among NHL.com’s top 200, Joe Pavelski of the Sharks, Filip Forsberg of the Nashville Predators, Ryan O'Reilly of the Buffalo Sabres, Tyler Toffoli of the Los Angeles Kings, Patrick Sharp of the Dallas Stars and Jussi Jokinen of the Florida Panthers, have had their eligibilities reduced. Forsberg and Jokinen, who are now only eligible at LW, took the biggest hits from that bunch.

    Forwards Robby Fabbri (now C/LW), of the St. Louis Blues, and Sam Reinhart, (now C/RW) of the Sabres, are the two players who have gone from single to dual eligibility in Yahoo leagues.

    Check out the full article here.