Boston Bruins Mailbag: Training Camp Edition

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By: Andrew Johnson | Follow Me On Twitter @justyouknowhyyy

Hockey is here!

After a few months of will-they-won’t-they and the hiccups along the way, the NHL’s training camps have opened! There has been so much news surrounding the Bruins side of things that I could not just stick to one story. Instead, I headed to Facebook, Twitter, and even Phantasy Tour again to answer the many questions you guys had. So let’s get started!

As usual, the questions here have been for clarity.

Why do you seem to hate Zdeno Chara? Why are you so happy that he’s gone? –
@Massachusetts_Patriot – Via Twitter

We are coming in hot with the big one off the jump!

My views about Chara’s decline have been well-documented, but it would be inaccurate to construe my feelings as “hate” What I feel is quite the opposite. For my money, Zdeno Chara is top-three with a bullet in the list of the best defensemen to ever play for the Boston Bruins. However, at 43 years old and an eye test showing diminishing returns even with decent underlying analytics. Were they propped up by his defensive partner Charlie McAvoy? That question is for another post.

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Though Boston likely did get worse in the short term. I will quote the great Leon Lifschutz here: “Which evil are you willing to deal with?” The choices are mistakes of exuberance or mistakes of decline. For the long-term health of the franchise and the capable hands that the room is in, I take the latter every time. I’ll miss Chara, and I can never hate him, as he is an outstanding human being. But it is time to move on.

What is your opinion on Zach Senyshyn? What are his chances of being a full-time NHL player this year or beyond? – @Bbruins – Via Twitter

Not great.

Zach Senyshyn is a player burdened with a toolbox that is stacked to the top with skill, but the toolbox is made out of soaked cardboard. With 2015 draft narratives in mind, Senyshyn can skate like the wind and shoot the puck, but in an attempt to shore up the other side of his game, his consistency from game-to-game has become a maddening slog in Providence. With these fits and starts in the minors and even two separate NHL stints showing flashes of tantalizing potential, his overall trajectory has been frustrating regardless of his draft position.

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With all things equal, I do not expect a spot for Senyshyn on this team past this year unless things vastly improve. He signed a one-year deal for the league minimum, so his ice is thin. Though I do not see him making it past this season as a member of the Bruins, that first-round pick pedigree may end up helping him land on his feet somewhere else.

Is Charlie Coyle the most undervalued Third-line Center in the league? – Dwayne_Zaccamore – Via Phantasy Tour

Since he became fully acclimated to Bruce Cassidy’s system, Charlie Coyle has become the perfect third liner, a possession monster that has become a fantastic fit and stabilizing force. Coyle is underappreciated for what he provides and is the type of player that can find chemistry with whomever he is skating alongside. He is easily the best third-line center in the NHL.

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Who would be the best fit on Carlo’s pair that is currently on the roster? – Gratefulphish41 – Via Phantasy Tour

Tough question because “best” and “who will end up with Carlo” are two entirely different answers. If one of the young prospects like Zboril or Lauzon ends up taking the reins enough to have the ability to divvy up the strengths of the defensive core, one player I would love to see paired with Carlo is Matt Grzelcyk. I believe that would provide a balance. But he is with McAvoy. A pairing that has started camp etched in stone.

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Unless there is a PTO, Carlo will be the shepherd for either Zboril and Lauzon. Your mileage may vary about how you feel about that.

Will the cohesiveness and leadership of the group slowly dissolve now that Chara is gone? – Danhalen – Via Phantasy Tour

I love this question, how does the leadership carry on without the Captain?

I was a guest on the Bruins Breakdown podcast this past Sunday (you can listen here), we brought up how that leadership core will have to be by a committee approach, and luckily it contains about half of the room. Patrice Bergeron will most likely get the C, Krejci, Marchand, Carlo, McAvoy, and even Kevan Miller will be looked to for inspiration and motivation. The Bruins are in good hands.

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As for the defense’s identity as a whole, that is much harder to parse until there is more of a handle on how Jeremy Lauzon and Jakub Zboril look. Cassidy has said he wants a lot more activation from the back end offensively and an improved transitional game. With much faster skaters that would not need such heavily sheltered deployment, this plan is more realistic than it may have been before.

Out of the prospects, I expect Studnicka and Frederic to crack the lineup. Any chance we see Lauko or Beecher as well?
@Deputydog890 – Via Twitter

I see Frederic having a great chance to crack the lineup after Cassidy’s comments during day-two of training camp. Frederic’s improved play-making combined with pugilistic skills in the AHL has made for a very encouraging development curve. For a team starving for the means to be harder to play against, this gives him the inside track.

Studnicka is skating with the top-line at the start of camp. With David Pastrnak’s injury, it is a safe bet that Studnicka will get the first chance to stick on top once games start.

Beecher is still in Michigan for the foreseeable future. After his COVID-19 setback during World Juniors camp put a damper on his development, I would think Boston wants to see him play for the Wolverines for at least one more full year.

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Jakub Lauko is still about three years away from the NHL. But he is in training camp after being left off of the roster on the first day. I am high on him. He is a lightning-quick skater with a hell of a shot and a ton of swagger. That is all very promising. We have to have a little bit of patience, however.

Who do you see as the Boston Bruins’ most improved player on defense? –
Danny H – Via Facebook

I have a very bold prediction here:

During the season, Jakub Zboril will be playing top-4 minutes off of merit instead of necessity. The development team led by Providence’s Head Coach Jay Leach has been thrilled with Zboril’s curve in the last two years. Zboril has earned the first crack:

The Bruins are giving Zboril every chance to stick

It is going to be up to him to put it all together. The faith that the team has in him was shown by signing him a non-waiver exempt deal. Boston has made it abundantly clear: it is his spot to lose.

Why should I feel good that the Bruins chose to go with the farm system on defense this year? – @BostonDigiorgio – Via Twitter

Because you probably do not want to be miserable for the next four months. That is no way to live. You must adapt or perish.

The team feels good enough to take the plunge. With enough promise in the younger players and stability in the top spots to help ease them in. Reframing the question this way might help: Do you feel better about the top guys like McAvoy, Carlo, and Grzelcyk having the keys? That may provide more optimism.

Bruins fans are hoping to see a lot more of this.

What is your honest assessment of Don Sweeney? Should he be the one to be the leader in this transitional period? – Various – At least five of you

But after getting the organization out of cap hell it was in when he was appointed, a steady improvement every year under his watch, a General Manager of the year award, and being a gnat’s breath away from a cup in his first five years?

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I would say that he has objectively earned a lot more time.

And that’s it! We are about a week and a half away from puck drop. Hopefully, this made you feel better about what’s coming up. I’ll see you all on the ice!


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2 thoughts on “Boston Bruins Mailbag: Training Camp Edition

  1. Bruins rookie prospect Jack Ahcan has been compared to Krug during their college careers. Actually, Ahcan has graded out a tad higher than Krug after college. Ahcan has surprised everyone with his game at every hockey level he has played at. How has Ahcan looked in camp and what are your thoughts on his future with the Bruins?

    • Good morning Sonny. Thank you for reading and your support!

      Ahcan has looked very Krug-like in the early going. I see a couple of differences though. 1st the not-so-good: I don’t see Ahcan grading out quite as highly offensively. He’s a good skater and can QB a power play. But I see a 3rd pair-2nd PP unit upside with him. He’s not as dynamic but his game is similar. The good: He is much more physical and willing to be an irritant in that way for more consistently than Krug is. Their games differ there. But honestly everything I have seen this far has really impressed me about him. He might need another couple of years to round out but this was a shrewd get by Sweeney for sure

      Thank you for the question, Sonny!

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