Bruins Blue Line Remains In Doubt

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PHOTO CREDIT: (Getty Images)

By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj 

It’s been a little over two weeks since the Boston Bruins traded away tough-guy defenseman Adam McQuaid to the New York Rangers in exchange for Steven Kampfer, a 2019 fourth-round pick and a 2019 conditional seventh-round pick.

There are two sides to every coin, (three if you count the edge), and there are two sides of the Adam McQuaid trade. On one side, McQuaid was loved in Boston. The fans and players alike commonly shared a continued love and appreciation for the tough, gritty, old-school Bruin that McQuaid represented. He played the game of hockey similar to the old Bruins. The Boston hockey club that would fight anyone at any time in any arena, especially if it was in the cause of defending a star player.

On the opposite side of the coin, the Bruins were placed into a situation where they almost had to trade away McQuaid before the season begins. With the free-agent signing of former New Jersey Devil defenseman, John Moore, the B’s had eight NHL-caliber defensemen under contract — at the beginning of September. If you happened to be unaware, only six defensemen play during the course of a game, meaning two of those defenders would find themselves watching from the press box.

While it seems like a disrespectful thing to trade such a humble, classy guy like McQuaid, especially because he was loved by nearly everyone in Boston, it was actually the opposite — it was out of respect. How?

Well, in today’s National Hockey League, fighting is not nearly as big of a factor in the sport itself as it was, say, a decade ago. In fact, in 2017-18, there were a recorded 280 total fights according to HockeyFights.com. Rewind one decade earlier — in the 2007-08 regular season, there were 664 recorded fights in the NHL. That number alone is incomparable to the fighting numbers that there would have been in the 70’s and 80’s.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Even without the exact numbers, it is clear by just watching one game from the 1970’s and one game from 2018. The results speak for themselves. Adam McQuaid was not the best defenseman when it came to preventing the puck from entering the zone or stopping offensive threats, making him one of the expendable players on that Bruins blue line.

The Boston organization knew that McQuaid would receive limited playing time when the B’s were healthy, as he would most likely be spending his time in the press box as previously mentioned. Out of respect, Boston shipped him to the Big Apple for a couple of picks, and a returning defenseman, who you can predict will play in the American Hockey League with the Providence Bruins for this upcoming season.

The return was quite surprising to many fans, including myself. McQuaid is on an expiring deal, and the belief was that Adam was going to simply walk come July 1st, 2019, giving him the ultimate freedom to play wherever he chooses for the then following campaign. Even with that idea, the Rangers gave in to the two draft selections and upgraded from Steven Kampfer to gain that tough guy defenseman.

This way, McQuaid nearly guarantees himself consistent ice time with an NHL team, as the Rangers are not as deep on the defensive core as the Boston Bruins are. That said, the trade impacted the Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada native, who spent the last nine years with the Massachusetts club. However, this league is a business, and sometimes business hurts. Yet, the Bruins still have questions regarding the blue line for the 2018-19 regular season.

As of September 21st, the Bruins currently have Torey Krug, Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, John Moore, Brandon Carlo, Matt Grzelcyk, and Kevan Miller on their confirmed NHL roster — but not all can have that confirmed, full-time ice time.

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PHOTO CREDIT: (nhl.com)

Initially, when the Bruins signed Moore on July 1, it made it seem like a possible Torey Krug departure more likely. Krug has seemingly always been in Boston trade rumors, even if they have no actual evidence behind the accusations. The team has also been rumored in the conversation for an Artemi Panarin trade or an acquisition for a scoring winger to play alongside David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk.

Clearly, the trade rumors were just that — rumors — but the thought still remains. In my personal opinion, Torey Krug should not be moved from the Bruins because he is quite possibly one of the most underrated offensive defensemen in the NHL today, and I enjoy the thought of keeping him on the roster moving forward.

With that said, it may not hurt for Boston to send off Krug to another team if they can acquire a player who can drastically help the Bruins in some way right now. Otherwise, I don’t see a valuable return for Krug if the team traded him for say, some first-round picks or prospects.

There are still seven, NHL-caliber defensemen on the Bruins roster and all are expected to have some ice time. Even though the McQuaid trade made more predictable, it is still a question to ask — who gets the majority of the time on the bottom pairing. To know what d-men may find themselves out of the picture, who exactly is guaranteed a spot for the majority of 2018-19?

As I said in my official 2018-19 Boston Bruins prediction article earlier this month, I see the likes of Charlie McAvoy, Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo, and Matt Grzelcyk on the full-time roster for the entirety of the season, not regarding the possibility of injuries. When the article was published, I mentioned that the trio of McQuaid, Kevan Miller, and John Moore were the uncertainties, with Miller getting the bulk of the minutes.

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PHOTO CREDIT: (Katharine Lotze/The Signal)

But, my views on this matter have changed over time, and I think that Moore and Miller will each get split times during the course of the season. Although, this can bring some negatives.

Many great sports franchises over the years have had one thing in common — chemistry. The Chicago Blackhawks dynasty of the 2010’s had the same similar faces — Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Corey Crawford, Brent Seabrook, and so on. The Los Angeles Kings had Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Quick, and Drew Doughty.

Sure, a bottom-pairing defenseman may not make that big of a dent when it comes to chemistry, but consistent faces on the power play, penalty-kill, or even five-on-five action can make a difference. Another argument is that having better players in the depth can lead to a stronger lineup. While that is true, it is also unfortunate to have a good defenseman that often finds himself in the press box.

Needless to say, the Bruins still have a few questions regarding the defense. Will they see who proves themselves the most in the early stages of the regular season and award that last d-man the majority of the ice time, or will they look to split the workload across all seven defensemen?

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