By: Kyle Benson (OfficialKBenson)
On Sunday night, Bruins defenseman John-Michael Liles, made his return to the lineup after being out of action for almost two months due to a concussion. His first game back wasn’t a good one, as he quite literally gave away the game-winning goal. What made this more painful was the fact that young d-man, Colin Miller, was benched in favor of the returning veteran.
C.Miller has been impressive this season, developing his game with the B’s and excelling. He has put up six points in 33 games played, and it’s only a matter of time until he moves up from the bottom defensive pairing.
With the travesty that happened on Sunday, it is clear that Liles should not take C.Miller’s spot in the lineup anymore. Liles is not a garbage defenseman though and has many years of experience in the league. Since Liles has been out though, the team has really only used one set of pairings that looks like this:
Chara – Carlo
Krug – McQuaid
K.Miller – C.Miller
Claude Julien has gotten better with changing up the lines in recent years, but even the Krug-McQuaid pair has been together for a couple years now and could maybe use a shakeup. Realistically, based on play and stats, Liles could step in Adam McQuaid’s or Kevan Miller’s spot and play as well or better than the two. Liles does have more points than the two, with five on the season, but defense is not all about points. Other than this, there are two major problems with him trying to takeover the other two’s places.
Size and Physicality
It’s no secret that Liles is the least physically imposing out of himself, McQuaid, and K.Miller. Both the two have size and weight advantages on Liles, and they have been known to scrap as well. While both these attributes are good to have, the B’s have size on their first pairing and scraps/fighting are being phased out of the NHL faster than you know. This doesn’t mean having both these attributes is a bad thing.
Contracts and Money
Out of the three defensemen, Liles is making the least money and his contract is up at the end of the season. K.Miller and McQuaid both recently signed new contracts, K.Miller making $2.5mil this season and McQuaid making $3mil. After this season McQuaid is signed for another two seasons and K.Miller for another three. Believe it or not, these contracts give them some pull and will influence Julien’s decision to put them in over Liles, to make GM Don Sweeney happy, and to make sure his money is not going to waste.
Unfortunately for Liles, these problems will most likely keep him out of the daily lineup and he will have to wait for someone who needs rest or an injury. Liles had a horrid first game back, and that may have been the deciding factor to keep him out for now.