Is the left side the strong side? Bruins Defensemen Debate

(Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

By: Nathan Anderson | Follow me on Twitter @dairybeast

So, recently I posted a video on YouTube where I gave my wish list of defensemen for the Bruins to target in a trade. In the video, I wasn’t looking at who the B’s would have to give up. It was purely just an idealistic perspective without considering the return that would have to go the other way. You can check out the video right here.

I must admit that I was unaware that Oscar Klefbom might be out for this season or even his career with a shoulder injury. With that being said, I think the philosophy behind my choices is very valid. I was targeted bigger left-handed defensemen who I thought would fit well with Charlie McAvoy. Regardless, this article is taking a deeper look into something that was commented on in the video that I find very interesting.

The commenter explained that they believe the Bruins need to strengthen the right side of defense rather than the left because of the lack of depth on the right side. To me, this breaks down to a question of depth versus quality, and there really is no correct answer per se. With that said, I’m still going to take a look at both sides of the argument and explain which I think is a more necessary target right now.

Left Side

The Bruins made a few signings on the left side this offseason already, but none of them were very convincing signings, in my opinion. Going into the offseason, the Bruins had Matt Grzelcyk, Jakub Zboril, and John Moore as options on the left side. You could maybe throw Urho Vaakanainen in as an option since he’s had some NHL time, and Jack Ahcan made good progress in the AHL and even played a few NHL games.

Don Sweeney went out in free agency, re-signed Mike Reilly to a three-year contract, and gave Derek Forbort from the Winnipeg Jets the same deal. I appreciate Sweeney trying to look at the roster and what the team needs, but in my opinion, these are just two more guys that shouldn’t see ice time higher than the bottom four spots. All he did there was load up on the same level of quality the Bruins already have.

Here’s where I trigger some people and validate others. I don’t think any of the guys I just mentioned are better than a bottom four defenseman. Yes, even Matt Grzelcyk, in my opinion, shouldn’t be playing a role larger than the second pairing if you have championship aspirations as a team.

While I suppose you could make the argument that because of the volume of left-handed defensemen the Bruins have, they shouldn’t focus on bringing in any more guys at that position, I have to disagree. It’s great and necessary to have depth; I acknowledge that. At some point, however, you have to focus on quality. A team full of solid fourth-line guys would not beat a team with a solid first, second, and third line with a bad fourth.

If you look at the past three different Stanley Cup-winning teams (Lightning twice, Blues, Capitals), all three of those teams had excellent blue lines. We’re talking about the three-headed monster of Hedman, McDonough, and Sergachev. The Blues had an awesome duo of Parayko and Pietrangelo. You can throw Jay Boumeester into that conversation, as well as a solid guy on their blue line.

The Capitals rolled out John Carlson, Brooks Orpik, and Dimitri Orlov, who could all rip shots and nail guys in the corner. All these guys at the time of winning the Cup are well above any of the left-handed shots I mentioned earlier. That’s just my opinion, though.

Right Side

The right side of the defense for the Bruins has a different problem. You have Charlie McAvoy, who is emerging as a potential Norris Trophy candidate to watch for next season, and Brandon Carlo, who is one of the better shutdown defensemen in the league in my eyes. These two guys fit into that category of Stanley Cup-worthy blue lines that I was mentioning, but it drops off pretty significantly from there.

The Bruins lost Kevan Miller to retirement this offseason, and that leaves Connor Clifton as the default third option for the right side. While Clifton has been decent in the playoffs the last few years, he’s struggled to find a regular spot in the lineup during the 82-game regular season. He still, in my opinion, can be a serviceable third-pairing defenseman, especially if he’s given a regular opportunity with a regular partner, which in my eyes is what Derek Forbort could be.

Behind Clifton, there really aren’t many options for right-handed defensemen. The right side of defense shows the quality side of the quantity versus quality argument. There isn’t much depth at all, but there is a clear first-line guy in McAvoy, a solid second-line defenseman with Carlo, and a (hopefully) serviceable third-liner in Clifton. Compared to the left side with many guys who could be interchangeable, the right side has clearly defined roles with few reinforcements.

My Rationale

It’s probably pretty obvious that I think it’s more important for the Bruins and Don Sweeney to focus on improving the left side at some point before the team laces up their skates in the playoffs next season (if they can get there, fingers crossed on that). I can definitely understand the argument for improving the right side, however, so here is my rationale for my stance on this debate.

Ultimately, for me, it comes down to basic supply and demand. I think it’s a lot easier to find a depth signing for the right side either on waivers or in a cheap trade during the season. There aren’t many left-handed defensemen that are both good enough to play a top-two role on a Stanley Cup-winning team and are available to be acquired. Of course, this also explains why it’s been so hard for Sweeney to find a guy like that, but we can all dream, right?

My ideal scenario would be for Sweeney to pull off the challenging task of trading for a top-two left-handed defenseman early in the season. Then, once they have that role solidified, I would love if they went out and grabbed a depth defenseman for the right side. As I said, I think this is a much more manageable task. They pretty much did this last year with Jarred Tinordi, so I definitely don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility.

Whatever side of this debate you fall on, I don’t think anyone can disagree that the Bruins D-core needs some serious work to take the next steps once May and June come around. Eventually, you have to think that whoever is going to win the East will have to go through Tampa once again.

A lot of people are saying they love the defensive signings because the Bruins didn’t get worse on defense, but does last year’s team beat Tampa when the notoriously stingy defensive of the New York Islanders couldn’t? I personally don’t think so, and that is why I think Don Sweeney must continue making additions to this core. I don’t think this team is ready to contend for a title just yet, but I think they may be one or two pieces away from that point, which is more than I could say last year at this time.

Let me know what your take is! I love hearing other opinions on these things as long as they are done respectfully. As mentioned at the top of the article, you can find me on Twitter @dairybeast, and I’ll see any comments left on this post on the BNG website. Thanks for reading!

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