Question Marks Surround Left Side Of Bruins’ Second Defense Pair

(Photo: Brian Babineau / NHLI via Getty Images)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

With the Boston Bruins’ President’s Trophy-winning 2019-20 season now over, general manager Don Sweeney and the rest of the Boston brass head into the offseason with several question marks looming over the roster. How will management address the lack of depth scoring (again)? What will happen with the team’s restricted free agents? Or perhaps the most pressing question that snuck up on the Bruins: what will the left side of defense look like next season?

Admittedly, I did not have the foresight to take a look at the Bruins’ situation down the left side on the backend until recently. Prior to the pandemic, I had thought there would be no way that Boston would let Torey Krug walk or that Zdeno Chara would be without a contract heading into next season. Yet here we are — all signs point to Krug leaving to sign a big ticket elsewhere, and although Chara wants to return, he is still on the brink of unrestricted free agency.

In the most likely scenario, in my opinion, Krug walks and Chara re-signs at a reasonable cap hit and short term. If that is the case, Boston is still left with a gaping hole in the team’s top four at even-strength.

For context with some incoming advanced stats, courtesy of Natural Stat Trick, Corsi basically measures how much a player’s team controls the puck when they are on the ice, and anything below 45% is generally considered to be below average, while anything above 55% is typically seen as elite.

Chara still has value in a limited role. Sure, his even-strength numbers have dipped in recent season – the 43-year-old sported a Corsi-for (CF%) of 46.7% at even-strength during the regular season (down from 53.8% during the 2018-19 season), and a CF% of 36.8% during the playoffs this season (down from 40.4% during last year’s postseason). However, the big man can still provide value on the penalty kill – he was and still is Boston’s biggest workhorse on the kill – in a limited even-strength role, and in the room, of course.

What does this limited role for Chara look like? Presumably, it would be on the third pair next to a guy like Connor Clifton or Jeremy Lauzon. That leaves spots up for the taking on the second pair to Brandon Carlo’s left and on the top pair next to Charlie McAvoy.

Matt Grzelcyk seems like the clubhouse favorite to slot in next to McAvoy up top as of right now; the pair excelled in two years together at Boston University and have looked good together in a small sample size in the NHL. When together, the two boasted an insane CF% of 59.06% at five-on-five play, during this year’s playoffs, and a CF% of 59.69% at even-strength over the last three regular seasons. In short, when together McAvoy and  Grzelcyk are possession monsters for the Bruins, and with more high-end minutes with guys like Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, analytics darlings in their own rights, on the ice with them they should only flourish even more.

This all leaves Carlo without a defense partner on the second pair. While the Bruins have in-house options that might step up in Urho Vaakanainen, Lauzon, or Jakub Zboril, it remains to be seen if those guys would be ready to leap into such a key role. Lauzon proved that he is NHL-ready this season as he assumed a role on the bottom pair next to Grzelcyk during the second half of the season, and excelled for the most part, especially with his physicality, mobility and intensity.

Meanwhile, Zboril has slowly, but steadily, progressed in Providence over the last few seasons. P-Bruins head coach Jay Leach mentioned that the 23-year-old was “probably” the team’s best defenseman by the end of the year, and was one of the last cuts from Boston’s training camp before the season after having an excellent showing. He’s got some sandpaper to his game and can move the puck well; however, consistency is an issue, aside from whether or not he can make the jump. Another snag is that the left-shot d-man has been loaned to HC Kometa Brno in his native Czech Republic as a timeline for next season in both the AHL and NHL is unclear.

Looking at Vaakanainen, there is no question about the promise in his game, from the skating ability to the intelligence. In a very small sample size in the NHL, he did not look out of place. Again, the only concern with Vaakanainen, and Zboril, is whether or not a full-time leap to the NHL is in the cards this season. For Lauzon, the question is if he can shoulder the extra responsibility and tougher defensive matchups.

The Bruins may even be able to look to external options via free agency depending on how much cash is leftover from the re-signing period, whenever that happens. After a quick visit to CapFriendly to look at defensemen set to hit the UFA market, options like T.J. Brodie, Joel Edmundson, Erik Gustaffson, and Brenden Dillon stand out.

Who knows, maybe if, or when, training camp rolls around, one of the young defensemen is poised to seize the apparently open roster spot, impresses, and makes the team out of camp. Or perhaps the Bruins land a free agent that can plug the hole. Until then, all we can do is speculate about how the left side, especially on the second pair, will be addressed.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 193 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

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Boston Bruins HC Bruce Cassidy Wins 2020 Jack Adams Award

PHOTO CREDITS: (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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

Boston Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy has officially been named the winner of the 2020 Jack Adams Award, the trophy given to the best head coach during the 2019-20 regular season.

Cassidy became the bench boss of the Bruins back in the 2016-17 season following the departure of longtime coach Claude Julien. Prior to his hiring, Cassidy was the Head Coach for Boston’s AHL affiliate, the Providence Bruins, for five seasons – only missing the postseason once.

Cassidy coached only 27 games in ’16/’17, but with the change of coaching the Bruins went 18-8-1 and managed to claw their way into the playoffs, ending a two-year playoff drought. While the Bruins fell short to the Ottawa Senators in six games, it became clear Cassidy was the right fit for the organization.

In 2017-18, the Bruins won 50 games for the first time since the 2013-14 season and made it to the second round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs before losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning. In ’18-’19, Bruce Cassidy led the B’s to another near 50-win campaign, finishing the year with a 49-24-9 record. While the Bruins failed to secure the top spot in the Atlantic Division, they managed to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs, Columbus Blue Jackets and swept the Carolina Hurricanes en route to the Stanley Cup Finals, losing to the St. Louis Blues.

That brings us to this year. Boston was undeniably the best team during the course of the regular-season prior to the pause in result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Bruins finished as the only franchise to reach the 100-point plateau and as result, won the league’s Presidents’ Trophy. With a plethora of injuries throughout the campaign, Cassidy kept the train on the tracks and with the “Next Man Up” mentality, allowed the Bruins to remain contenders in the Eastern Conference.

Bruce Cassidy joins Don Cherry (1975-76), Pat Burns (1997-98), and Claude Julien (2013-14) as the only head coaches in Boston Bruins franchise history to be named the Jack Adams winner.

Philadelphia Flyers’ Alain Vigneault and Columbus Blue Jackets’ John Tortorella finished second and third respectively in the voting done by broadcasters across the league.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 193 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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Bruins’ Free Agent Options If Torey Krug Does Not Re-Sign

(Photo Credit: Radio | Radio.com)

By: Andrew Lindroth | Follow me on Twitter! @andrewlindrothh

The National Hockey Leagues’ free-agent market is scheduled to open on October 9th at noon ET, or at least seven days after finishing the Stanley Cup Finals, whichever happens first. The Boston Bruins’ General Manager Don Sweeney, has his work cut out for him this off-season, and his most significant task is deciding on re-signing Torey Krug, or let him walk and use that extra cap space on other free agents.

According to Cap Friendly, the Bruins have roughly $15M available in cap space, but Sweeney may want to leave around $2M-$3M leftover if injuries occur. With that being said, the Bruins will have approximately $13M available for re-signing players like Krug, Jake DeBrusk, Zdeno Chara, and Matt Grzelcyk.

Krug spoke to media recently and stated he is not interested in a one-year deal and wants to cash in on his value by signing a long-term contract. I predict the Bruins have a chance to sign Krug to a 5+year deal worth $7M-$7.5M per year, but the defenseman knows his value is worth more than that. If Krug doesn’t believe what the Bruins offer (if they even do) is enough, he will walk and get anywhere between $8M-$9.5M per year from another team.

As of this moment, there are a plethora amount of UFA and RFA players the Bruins could look at, many big names and even more depth-pieces. I’m not sure if Sweeney is looking to continue building by adding a few depth-pieces or make a big signing whether it be a forward or defenseman to replace Krug. For a complete list of all 31 teams’ UFA and RFA players, Sporting News has it covered here. Here are some free-agent options for the Bruins if Krug decides to walk.

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Evgenii Dadonov (F/UFA)

(Photo Credit: The Rat Trick | therattrick.com)

Evgenii Dadonov has shined the past three seasons with the Florida Panthers. Over the past three years, Dadonov has played 225 games, contributing 81-101-182 numbers, 25 power-play goals, and 47 power-play points.

The 31-year-old forward is set to become a UFA, and his last contract was a three-year deal worth $4M per season. I’m not an expert on predicting a player’s value in terms of AAV (average annual value), but the Bruins could make an offer worth $5M-$5.5M per season. Although he may be worth more in the open market, I do not see the Bruins over-spending on any player.

The Bruins could use Dadonov on the power-play and David Krejci’s’ or Charlie Coyles’ right-wing. Ondrej Kase began to create solid chemistry with Krejci and Jake DeBrusk during the Carolina Hurricanes series. Still, he is often injured and, before arriving in Boston, had only played a career-high 66 games back in 2017-2018. DeBrusk has also shown many potentials but has not shown consistency in his offense, so a player like Dadonov could help spark any of those lines.

Mark Borowiecki (D/UFA)

(Photo Credit: National Hockey League | nhl.com)

Mark Borowiecki could be a reasonable defensive option for the Bruins. If Krug decides to leave, I imagine Grzelcyk will pair with Brandon Carlo and split power-play duties with Charlie McAvoy. The Bruins’ third defensive-pairing isn’t solidified, but Borowiecki could be an option to consider along with Connor Clifton, John Moore, or Jeremy Lauzon. His last contract was a two-year deal worth $1.2M AAV, so he would not be a massive cap casualty to the Bruins.

The 6’1, 207-pound defenseman plays a very physical brand of hockey and isn’t afraid to stick up for his teammates. These are player attributes Sweeney has been looking for and was hoping Brett or Nick Ritchie could be that player, but they have not worked out so far.

Borowiecki also had offensive career-highs this past season, scoring seven goals and 18 points in 53 games played. He also averages over 200 hits per season, and just last season had a career-high 120 blocks. I believe he is a reliable option for the Bruins if Sweeney deems it necessary to sign additional depth defensemen.

Conor Sheary (F/UFA)

(Photo Credit: National Hockey League | nhl.com)

Conor Sheary would be a reliable forward option that could spark the bottom-six. The Winchester, MA native, first suited up in the NHL for 44 games during the 2015-2016 season and contributed enough to help lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to capture the Stanley Cup in 2016 and 2017. He also eclipsed his career-highs during the 2016-2017 season, scoring 23 goals and 50 points with a +24 rating.

The 5’8, 175-pound forward has a lot of speed to his game and could fit in well with either Coyle or Kuraly. Sheary just finished a three-year deal worth $3M AAV and is set to become a UFA.

$3M+ per year is most likely too steep for the Bruins, especially for a bottom-six forward, but he can also be utilized on the second line with Krejci in case DeBrusk doesn’t stay consistent. After achieving 20+goals just a few seasons ago, Sheary has shown the potential to be a productive middle-six/bottom-six forward.

Vladislav Namestnikov (F/UFA)

(Photo Credit: The Athletic | theathletic.com)

Vladislav Namestnikov is another forward the Bruins could consider in the free-agency. The 27-year-old forward is trying to find his offensive consistency and a team to grow with long-term. This past season, Namestinikov suited up for three different teams (NYR, OTT, COL), playing 65 games and contributing 17 goals and 31 points.

Namestnikov ended the season with the Colorado Avalanche and is set to become a UFA. He is finishing up a two-year deal worth $4M AAV. For a forward who has yet to hit the 50 point mark in his career, anywhere near $4M AAV is well out of the Bruins price range. If Sweeney could get Namestnikov to take a reasonable discount on a prove-yourself contract, we could see Namestnikov possibly reach his full potential.

Not only could Namestnikov be slotted onto any of the Bruins’ lines, but the team can also use him on the power-play and the penalty-kill unit. This past season, he also led the league in short-handed goals (four).

Brenden Dillon (D/UFA)

(Photo Credit: NHL Player Association | nhlpa.com)

Last but not least, if Krug does not re-sign with the Bruins, Brenden Dillon would be a reliable option to beef up the blue-line. The 6’4, 225-pound defenseman uses his size to his advantage and makes it very difficult to play against, especially in a playoff series. Dillon was traded to the Washington Capitals shortly before the 2019-2020 season paused, but is now set to become a UFA. His last contract was a five-year deal worth $3.27M AAV.

Dillon suited up for 69 games this past season, contributing 14 points, 74 blocks, and 194 hits. Before the trade deadline this past season, the Bruins were linked to having considerable interest in Dillon, so now that he is set to hit the open market, Sweeney will have his chance once again.

It’s important to note that Dillon is 29-years-old and may be looking to cash in on his value at full. Sweeney may not be keen on paying more than $3M+ per season but could use the winning culture argument to sign Dillon on a discount.

Overall, there are a plethora of options the Bruins could consider. There are also a lot of players who are RFAs that may not sign with their current team, giving the Bruins even more options. I also predict Sweeney will be attempting to make trades during the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. With that being said, the Bruins’ future is up in the air, but that is not necessarily a negative thing. I’m very excited to see what Sweeneys’ plan is to improve this team.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 193 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!

Predicting The Future Performance of the Bruins Veteran Core

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

By Leon Lifschutz | Follow me on Twitter @LeonLifschutz

Introduction

In Part One of this series we took a look at aging curves. We also determined who makes up the Bruins’ core group of players. Today, in Part Two, we will use that information to take a look at the trajectory of the Bruins’ veteran core which we have identified as Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, and Tuukka Rask. This group is made up of a number of iconic players for this generation of Bruins’ fans. These players have been part of an incredibly successful run in Bruins’ history including winning the ultimate prize in 2011. Each have also enjoyed individual success and they have all received votes for post-season league awards during their careers. However, the youngest player in this group is now 32 years old. Three have contracts expiring now or after next season. Sports are fickle and playing careers do not have the longevity of other lines of work. As a reminder, here is a look at a typical aging curve over several metrics.

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So what can we expect for each individual player moving forward? And how might their future performance as a group effect the Bruins’ chances to win it all in the coming seasons? David Krejci sure believes the window is still open.

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With those words in mind, lets break it down and see if Krejci is correct.

Patrice Bergeron

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Contract Status: $6,875,000 AAV, 2021-22

What We Learned: Bergeron, as everyone knows, is impressive. He has continued to play at a high level into his mid-30s. However, Bergeron is showing some signs of slowing down. While his goal scoring has actually gone up a little due to a strong shooting percentages he has seen some dips in first assists, total points, and shot metrics. His 5v5 play has also started to dip the last couple of seasons though it is still on par with his data from his late 20s. His possession metrics are still elite but not the absurd numbers from his late 20s. Being a key cog on one of the best powerplays helps keeps the numbers up.

Outlook: While Bergeron is talented, he succeeds based on his hockey IQ and attention to detail, items that age more gracefully. The following illustrates this perfectly.

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He should continue being an effective player for at least a few more years with contributions on the scoresheet and in many other key facets of the game. He is also the heir apparent to Chara whenever the latter decides to retire or move on. Expect Bergeron’s totals to start slowly decreasing though as his shooting percentage regresses and he slows down a touch. 30 goals and 60 points is reasonable to expect the next couple of seasons if he can stay healthy. Health though needs to be considered as Bergeron has not played close to a complete season since 2016-17. It may also be wise to continue decreasing the heavier matchups and defensive expectations against other team’s top lines as has already been the trend the last couple of seasons.

David Krejci

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Contract Status: $7,250,000 AAV, 2020-21

What We Learned: Krejci’s steady decline has already begun. With the exception of goal scoring, his numbers are down across the board. If you exclude a 2018-19 resurgence as an outlier the picture is worse. His numbers are also propped up by strong performance on the powerplay which offsets declining 5v5 production. Krejci has seen declining possession metrics though he still comes out on the positive end of the goals for battle.

Outlook: Krejci is no doubt still a talented player who contributes to the team. The silky passer has also not had a true scoring winger on his flank for a couple of years now and has played a lot of minutes with the enigmatic Jake Debrusk. Krejci will likely continue his decline. His defensive responsibility and powerplay contributions though continue to provide value until the expiration of his contract next season. Beyond that, he is likely better suited for third line minutes and the Bruins will need to sign him on a shorter term contract with a lower cap hit or consider moving on.

Brad Marchand

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Contract Status: $6,125,000 AAV, 2024-25

What We Learned: Marchand hit a turning point in his career in his late 20s. When most players are leveling off or declining, Marchand decided to get serious and turn himself into a top liner instead of a middle-6 pest. His career turn was impressive and welcome by the team and fans. In the past few years, Marchand has shown some signs of leveling off and in some instances slowing down. In particular, Marchand’s goal totals have begun to tail off. However he has redefined himself again adding a little more play making to his repertoire. It certainly helps playing with David Pastrnak when it comes to assists. He has also dialed down the physical stuff a bit over the last couple of seasons.

Outlook: The youngest of the veteran core, Marchand’s numbers should be steady for a couple more years. However, expect his goal scoring production to decrease as his straight line attacking game ages. He should remain dynamic on the powerplay but at even strength start to wane. Marchand can still be counted on for top line minutes but expect his numbers to drop slightly into the 25 goal and 50 assist range in the near future. That still puts him near a point a game pace for the next couple of seasons. His production will likely continue to dip further before the end of his lengthy contract which doesn’t end until he is 37.

Zdeno Chara

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Contract Status: UFA

What We Learned: Chara once had a stretch of 11 straight seasons receiving Norris trophy votes. Those days are long behind him. Chara’s offensive production has continued to nosedive, not a surprise given his age. However his possession numbers tanked this past season after remaining above average in recent years.

Outlook: It’s doubtful that Chara’s production or play driving improve moving forward and this past season is likely best case scenario moving forward. Chara obviously brings more to the team than just statistics. Having said that, Big Z should likely be relegated to third pair minutes along with penalty kill and closing out game duties. The latter two he continues to do quite well. Asking more of that from Chara is too much and a detriment to a team with Stanley Cup aspirations.

Tuukka Rask

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Contract Status: $7,000,000 AAV, 2020-21

What We Learned: Rask hit his peak at 25. He then had a steady decline before bouncing back a little at 30. He saw decreases in overall play and consistency over that time. Rask’s numbers the past several years prior to this one are slightly above league average. However, at 32, Rask had his best season in years en route to a number of Vezina trophy votes.

Outlook: It would be irresponsible to consider this season for Rask anything but an outlier. Players rarely have a career renaissance in their 30s and expecting another run at the Vezina is unlikely. However it would be fair to expect Rask, in the final year of his contract, to continue playing a little above league average. With the Bruins tight defensive structure, and Rask’s ability to occasionally steal a game, his presence should continue affording the Bruins a chance to win night in and night out.

Conclusion

The Bruins key veterans have generally performed better than the typical aging curve would suggest. Their performances were good enough to make the Stanley Cup final in 2018-19 and win the President’s Trophy in an abbreviated 2019-20. Even with normal aging curves, we can expect them to still be strong performers and potentially lead the Bruins’ on another playoff run. Bergeron and Marchand should generally continue their strong play though they will likely start slowing down in certain facets of their games. Chara’s role has already been redefined in recent years and that trend needs to continue. Krejci’s role may need to change as well, though he is still a dependable middle-6 center. Rask should not be expected to duplicate his Vezina nominated season but is a reliable starter.

There is no question that the window is narrowing and our conclusion is that 2020-21 will be the final hurrah this group. Between decreasing performances and expiring contracts it is a strong possibility that Chara, Krejci, and Rask all move on to retirement or other teams in 2021. It would be poor asset management for Sweeney and company to expect the current level of performance from the three and extend them for term and money into the twilight of their careers. In a flat cap world, if any of them want to stay Bruins they will have to do so on team friendly contracts. Having said that, these players deserve the opportunity to give it one more run before the band gets broken up.

It is also apparent that to be a true cup contender in the coming year the Bruins will need more support for their veterans from their young core. Beyond next year, the young core will need to step up and take control of the franchise’s destiny. With that in mind, join us for Part Three when we examine the Bruins young core and forecast if they are up for the challenge.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 193 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!

Predicting The Future Performance Of The Bruins’ Core Part One

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

By Leon Lifschutz | Follow me on Twitter @LeonLifschutz

Introduction

Since the Bruins second round exit, fans have already turned their attention to next season. This past week, my BNG colleague Mike Cratty looked at what a homerun offseason could look like examining some possible options for the Bs in free agency and the trade market. Much has also been made of what could become of the Bruins core. Will Zdeno Chara retire? It looks like not. Will Torey Krug move on in free agency? Sounds like there is a good chance. What of the rest of the veteran core, now well into their 30s and with lots of regular season and playoff miles? Colleague Matt Barry believes there is still some time for this group. David Krejci, who earlier in the year bristled at the question of the group’s age, agrees sharing the following sentiment.

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NHL front offices are tasked with a number of things including predicting the future. They do so every time they make their rosters whether it be player acquisition or doling out contracts. It is not an exact science. Players are human after all. They get injured, have personal lives, don’t always fit in a system, and sometimes get unlucky. The one thing that happens to every player though – they get older. Getting older can be a good a thing. Moving into their early 20s players gain strength, experience, and better decision making (well, most of us do). But at some point in time, as all of us adult league heroes know, age catches up with you and things are just a little harder than they used to be.

In this three part series we will do our best Don Sweeney impressions to try and predict what the future might have in store for key Bruins’ players. In part one, we will examine what aging curves can tell us about player performance. We will also discuss who makes up the current core and who could make up the next wave. In part two, we will look at the veteran core, players who have been around since the Bruins last Stanley Cup and continue to drive the bus. In part three, we will look at the players that make up the young core, supplementing the veterans and who have the ability to influence both the present and future of the storied original six franchise. For both groups, we will examine each players current trends and make predictions about their outlook and expected performance for the upcoming seasons.

Examining Aging Curves

There has been a number of studies on how aging effects player performances. The first significant study came from Hawerchuck in 2013 and look at points per game. More recently, the folks at Hockey Graphs and Evolving Wild have been using a comprehensive WAR (wins above replacement) stat to examine year over year performance. For our purposes, we are going to lean heavily on the work of Eric Tulsky who looked at agings impact on year over year scoring rates, goal scoring versus playmaking, and possession numbers. The folks at Hockey Graphs also looked at goalie aging curves . At the risk of oversimplifying, goalies have similar trajectories to skaters. Here is a visual of aging curves on a number of different stats.

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So what are our key takeaways from all this great research and the nice visuals? First, NHL players peak around 24. They stay at their peaks until about 28. At that point they start to slowly decline with the trend becoming more significant into the early 30s. By the mid 30s, players typically fall off a cliff. The effect of age is most noticeable on goal scorers. Playmakers can hang on for a little bit longer. On the powerplay, players stay at their peak a little longer with strong performances, though not peak, in the early 30s before falling off a cliff in their mid 30s. Possession numbers, generally speaking, mimic point production. Defenders and goalies may be able to hang on a year or two longer but generally follow a similar curve.

For our purposes we will look at Bruins’ players offensive numbers and possession numbers. I’ve grouped points into all situations for a couple of reasons. First, the Bruins rely heavily on their power play. Second it made the visuals look a little cleaner I will be sure to point out any situations where the numbers have noise, for example in the case of David Krejci. For offensive production I’ve chosen goals, total points, first assists, and individual expected goals. First assists are more indicative of player performance than second assists, which can be pretty random. For possession, I’ve chosen Corsi (shot attempts) and expected goals percentage. All player stats were converted to per 60 minutes rate stats to avoid discrepancies due to injury or average time on ice. For the goalie position I’ve chosen goals saved above average (GSAA) and quality starts. All stats come from Natural StatTrick and Hockey Reference.

The Bruins Core Players

Our first task is to decide who makes up the Bruins’ core. There is some debate over how many players make up a core. For Pittsburgh it’s been just three players – Crosby, Malkin, and Letang. For other teams its been more like five to six players that management has tried to build their team around. St. Louis last year had close to ten regulars who were long term parts of their team and core. For our purposes we will count a player as a part of the core if we anticipate they can have a strong impact on team performance and they will be a long term member of the team. Being a long term member means they are under contract or under team control with little expectation of being traded.

The Veteran Core – With those parameters in mind, our older core is made up of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Tuukka Rask, and Zdeno Chara. All five have been Bruins for more than a decade with three being draft picks and four never playing for another NHL franchise. Inclusion of Chara can be debated but with his recent comments its hard not to picture Big Z playing for the Bruins next year. He is still the captain and averaged over 20 minutes of ice time per game this past season. Torey Krug was considered for this list but he doesn’t have the longevity of the others on the list and there is a decent chance he leaves in free agency.

The Young Core – The young core was a little harder to determine but we ended up with David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy, Charlie Coyle, Jake Debrusk, and Brandon Carlo. David Pastrnak and Charlie McAvoy were easy choices. The two already lead the team in several statistical categories and are on team friendly long-term contracts. Charlie Coyle is the third player included on the list. Coyle is an all situations player trusted by the coaching staff to the point it’s not surprising to see him lead all Bruins’ forwards in ice time in some games. The 28 year old is also locked up long term team to a reasonable contract. The last two members of our young core are Brandon Carlo and Jake Debrusk. There was debate among my BNG colleagues over the inclusion of those two. However, they seem like two young players with the likelihood of staying power. Both are under team control for a number of years and already play in the top half of the lineup. It really seems like the Bruins coaching staff and management are hoping Carlo and Debrusk can keep growing and help the team in substantial ways.

Conclusion

We have examined aging curves and how they can help us in predicting player’s future performance. We have also decided who makes up our veteran core and our young core. With that in mind, please join us in part two when we examine how much tread is left on the veterans. We will follow that up with part three where we will try and forecast what the peak performance could be for the younger core of players. After our exploration of both groups we will do our best to draw some conclusions around how long this iteration of the Bruins’ has left in it’s Stanley Cup window.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 192 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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Chara: “I want to be a Boston Bruin.”

(Source: NESN via YouTube)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

With speculation running rampant over whether or not Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara played his last game in Black and Gold during the team’s season-ending 3-2 double overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 of the second round, the 43-year-old laid any and all retirement rumors to rest during his media availability on Thursday morning.

“I believe I can still play this game and contribute to the team and I want to stay in Boston,” Chara said. “I want to be a Boston Bruin.

“I want to continue to lead by example and share my experiences . . . that hasn’t changed. I’m committed. We’ll see what’s gonna happen next.”

Currently, Chara is a pending unrestricted free agent for the first time during his tenure in Boston as he and the Bruins are yet to sign a deal with his one-year, $2 million deal coming to a close. Over the past two seasons, the left-handed defenseman and general manager Don Sweeney have agreed to terms one one-year extensions prior to the playoffs, although the uncertainty amid the global pandemic undoubtedly proved to be an obstacle this year.

“I’m committed to the Boston Bruins,” the 6-foot-9, 250 pound giant said. “I’m committed to Boston fans and the city of Boston. I think I’ve expressed that a number of times. I’m excited about the future of this team. Like I said, we are going to whatever we can to win another Stanley Cup.

“I expressed to my agent that I would like him to meet with the management, and I make that my priority. The sooner the better, and see what the future holds.”

If Chara and the Bruins were to agree on a contract, there’s no reason not to believe that the two sides will not choose the same route as before: an affordable, one or two-year deal. Although the Trencin, Slovakia, native’s mileage may have become more apparent recenty, there is still value in a player, who was leaned on heavily in defensive situations, especially the penalty kill, and provides the type of leadership that Chara does.

“I am confident, but at the same time you know, you’ve been in the business and around hockey for so long that you know there are different circumstances and possibilities,” ,” Chara said of his confidence in getting a deal done. “But as of right now, I’m excited. I want to be a Boston Bruin. I want to play for the Boston Bruins.

“But, again, we will see what the decisions are going to be made and that’s something up to my agent and the senior upper management to kind of go over it.”

On Monday’s broadcast, the sense from NBC’s crew was that Chara’s career may have come to a close. In his postgame press conference, Chara said he had an “open mind” as far as his future is concerned, and he addressed the comments and rumors on Thursday as well.

“Yeah I mean I wouldn’t say I’m undecided. I was saying my mind was open,” Chara explained. “Obviously to be asked just a few minutes about my future after the double overtime loss, and the way we battled and how well we played in that game, I was still so sad about the outcome.

“I can’t really reflect on some of the rumors. I have not heard any of these rumors directly and I dismiss any kind of conversations and comments on these matters because it might just cause unnecessary distractions to my teammates and the organization.”

As for the possibility of if his decision came down to playing in Boston, or retiring, Chara seemed noncommittal, expressing that he has not considered that option yet.

“Well again, if it comes down to that, then again that’s something that we can talk about later,” Chara said. “But I love Boston. I love the city. I think we have the best fans in the world. I have no plans to move or kind of go anywhere else. So we will see what the future holds.”

Through 68 regular season games during the 2019-20 run, the big man put up five goals and nine assists for 14 points, in addition to a plus-26 rating and 60 penalty minutes. In 13 games in the bubble during the Round Robin and Stanley Cup Playoffs, Chara notched two assists, eight penalty minutes, and a minus-four rating.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 192 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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Bruins, Vladar Agree To Terms On Three-Year Extension

Photo: Steve Babineau / NHL via Getty Images

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney announced on Sunday night that the team has agreed to terms with goaltender Dan Vladar on a three-year contract extension with an annual cap hit of $750,000. The deal is a two-way contract for the first two seasons, with the third being a one-way contract.

In 25 games with the Providence Bruins, Boston’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, this season, Vladar led the league in save percentage (.936) and goals-against average (GAA) with a 1.79 marker. On the year, the 23-year-old posted a 14-7-1 record, including three shutouts.

In 68 games with the P-Bruins over four seasons, the Prague, Czech Republic native holds a 33-26-3 record to go along with a 2.35 GAA and .916 save percentage. In 60 games with the Atlanta Gladiators, Boston’s East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) affiliate over three seasons, Vladar posted a .902 save percentage and a 2.95 GAA.

The Bruins selected Vladar with the 75th overall pick in the third round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. With the departure of Tuukka Rask from the NHL’s Return to Play due to a reported family emergency, Vladar is currently serving as backup to Boston netminder Jaroslav Halak.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 190 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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Bruins Sign Forward Matt Filipe To Entry-Level Deal

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(Source: Northeastern University Athletics)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney announced on Sunday, August 16, that the team has signed forward Matt Filipe to a two-year, entry-level contract.

“Thrilled to sign my first NHL contract with the team I grew up idolizing. Huge thanks to everyone who has helped me get to this point!” Filipe said in an Instagram post. The Lynnfield, Mass., native was originally drafted in the third round (67th overall) by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.

Filipe spent the last four seasons at Northeastern University, where he recorded 31 goals and 44 assists for 75 points in 136 collegiate games to go along with a plus-25 rating and 109 penalty minutes. The 22-year-old served as an assistant captain during the 2019-20 season, where he recorded 9-13-22 totals in 30 games, all career-highs. While with the Huskies, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound forward helped the team to three-straight Beanpot titles, two NCAA tournament appearances, and a Hockey East Championship.

Prior to his collegiate career, Filipe notched 19-17-36 numbers to go along with a plus-five rating and 99 penalty minutes in 56 regular season games with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the United States Hockey League (USHL) during the 2015-16 season. In high school, Filipe registered 25-25-50 totals in 58 games over three seasons with Malden Catholic High School, serving as an assistant captain in 2014-15 and helping the team to two MIAA Division 1A, or “Super Eight,” Championships.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 189 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

User 568316199 · 189: The Bruins Winless In The Round-Robin Games And Get Set To Play Carolina In Round One

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Providence Bruins Announce Colby Cave Memorial Award

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(Photo via Providence Bruins)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

On Tuesday morning, the Providence Bruins announced, in collaboration with the Cave Family and the Boston Bruins Foundation, the establishment of the Colby Cave Memorial Award, honoring Cave’s commitment to helping those in need. The award will be presented annually to a Providence Bruins player “for their dedication to the community and charitable organizations.”

Originally an undrafted free agent, Cave spent portions of five seasons with the P-Bruins after inking an entry-level contract with the Bruins in April 2015. In 239 career games with Providence, the North Battleford, Saskatchewan native posted 43-72-115 numbers, often serving as an assistant captain.

Cave made his National Hockey League debut with the Bruins, and scored his first NHL goal on Dec. 17, 2018, in the Bruins 4-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens. Edmonton claimed him off waivers during the 2018-19 campaign.

In 67 career NHL games over four seasons with the Oilers and Bruins, Cave registered four goals and five assists for nine points. In 11 games with Edmonton during the 2019-20 season, he scored one goal. With the Bakersfield Condors, the Oilers American Hockey League affiliate, the left-shot forward tallied 11 goals and 12 assists for 23 points in 44 games.

Cave spent five seasons (2010-15 with the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League (WHL), where he served as team captain for two seasons from 2013 to 2015, skating alongside current Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk. During his career in the WHL, Cave notched 95-107-202 totals in 287 games.

“The Colby Cave Memorial Award is a special way to honor and remember Colby for his leadership qualities and humanitarian efforts,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said in a statement. “Driven and committed to be an NHL player, Colby was also uniquely unselfish with teammates and anyone that needed help!

“Emily, the Cave Family and the entire Hockey World lost a great person who was beloved by everyone that was fortunate enough to spend time with Colby Cave.”

“From the first day he stepped into the Dunkin’ Donuts Center to the day he left for the NHL, Colby Cave inspired each and every one of us with his diligence, selflessness and compassion,” Providence Bruins head coach Jay Leach said. “Always the first to help, both with his teammates, and throughout our community, Colby set the precedent that we aspire to uphold.”

 

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 188 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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Bruins, Bjork Agree To Terms On Extension

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(Photo: Brian Fluharty / USA TODAY Sports)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney announced today that the team has agreed to terms with forward Anders Bjork on a three-year contract extension that will keep him in Boston through the end of the 2022-23 season. The deal carries a cap hit of $1.6 million per season.

In 58 regular season games this year, a career-high, Bjork posted nine goals and 10 assists for 19 points to go along with a plus-5 rating, also career-highs. The 23-year-old has 14-20-34 totals in 108 games through his first three seasons in the National Hockey League.In 29 American Hockey League contests with Providence, the Mequon, WI, native has six goals and 16 helpers for 22 points.

Prior to becoming a Bruin, the 6-foot, 190-pound winger served as an assistant captain during his junior season at the University of Notre Dame, recording 21-31-52 numbers. During his three years with the Fighting Irish, Bjork registered 40 goals and 69 assists for 109 points in 115 games.

Boston selected left-shot forward with the 146th overall pick in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. With the deal, the Bruins and Bjork will also avoid a potential arbitration hearing this offseason as Bjork was slated to become an unrestricted free agent.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 187 that we recorded below on 7-26-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!