Boston Bruins: Is This Frank Vatrano’s Last Season With The B’s?

 

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Zdeno Chara #33 of the Boston Bruins directs Frank Vatrano #72 of the Boston Bruins during the second period against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on November 16, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.
(Nov. 15, 2017 – Source: Harry How/Getty Images North America)

By: Andrew Thompson                                                                      Twitter: @Godwentwhoops

 

Frank Vatrano is currently the odd man out with the Boston Bruins. Vatrano hasn’t seen much action with the Black and Gold this season. He’s only played in 22 games, and he’s spent most of that time as a fourth line grinder for the B’s. In his last five appearances, he cracked the ten-minute ice time mark only once.

Vatrano’s limited action is due to the strength of the Bruins rookies. The B’s youth movement have earned themselves positions on the roster, and that forced players like Matt Beleskey (currently playing in Providence) and Vatrano on the sidelines. Vatrano is only seeing action due to the B’s injuries and the suspension of forward Brad Marchand.

Vatrano’s never really been a full time player for Boston. He’s played in 83 games in the last two seasons. He’s been moving up and down the lines as the situation (or the injuries) required. For his part, the 23-year old Mass native is trying to stay positive. He’s doing his best to be ready for whenever he gets to see action on the ice.

“It’s always difficult when you’re not playing, you’re always trying to get back into the lineup,” Vatrano said. “But when the team is as hot as it is right now you’ve got to tip your cap to everyone in the room, even if you’re not in the lineup you’re rooting for the guys.

“You want them to win, you always want to win. You’ve got to be a good teammate, whether you’re in the lineup or out of the lineup. For me, I just have to have the same mindset night in and night out.”

Vatrano was a point-a-game player during his AHL time. (A situation he may find himself in again come next season.) Now he’s a penalty minute a game player.  He’s now in the situation that Ryan Spooner found himself in last year.  It’s not that he’s a terrible player, but the current roster have been firing on all cylinders.

For Vatrano, it’s about staying positive and waiting for the next opportunity to show he can still be an effective player in the Boston organization.

“I actually felt pretty good,” offered Vatrano on his current condition. “I’ve been trying to stay on top of my conditioning, on and off the ice. I felt good, felt like I really didn’t miss a beat out there. My timing was good, so hopefully I can add some more finishing to it. Obviously in a different role right now, so trying to be reliable.”

Boston Bruins bench boss Bruce Cassidy has been satisfied with Vatrano’s reliability. Cassidy has been trying to find a use for Vatrano in the wake of the B’s youth movement. So far, Vatrano has adapted to his current role.

“With Frank, we’re going to continue to make sure that in those close games he does his part away from the puck, keep getting better defensively and hopefully the puck falls a little bit and he creates a little more on his own on that line,” said Cassidy of Vatrano’s current performance.

“He’s been good, he’s worked hard the last six weeks without playing. I give him credit for that, it’s not easy when you’re young.”

While Vatrano is trying hard to make a difference with Boston, it may be a case of too little, too late for him. The Bruins have too many prospects coming up. The B’s current roster is (for the most part) injury free, and it’s a case of too many players and not enough spots on the roster.

This will likely be the last season for Vatrano in the spoked ‘B’. Vatrano may end up back in Providence, but its more than likely that’ll end up in another organization.

Boston Bruins: Will Brad Marchand Ever Learn?

 

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Brad Marchand #63 of the Boston Bruins skates against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on January 18, 2018, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Bruins defeated the Islanders 5-2.
(Jan. 17, 2018 – Source: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)

By: Andrew Thompson                                                                      Twitter: @Godwentwhoops

 

Brad Marchand is in trouble with the Department of Player Safety again. Marchand was given a five-game suspension by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety on Wednesday for elbowing New Jersey Devils forward Marcus Johansson during Boston’s 3-2 win on Tuesday.

Some fans will consider this a BS call. Marchand is trying to maneuver through two Devils players without running over the goaltender. Others will see it as Marchy being Marchy.  (And then there are the Canadiens fans who will want him banned from the league forever because of this.) Unfortunately for Marchand, he’s considered a repeat offender by the league.  Call it a reputation suspension or call it just desserts, Marchand will be out of action for the next two weeks.

The suspension will take him out of the line up until February 7 when he can play in New York against the Rangers.  “I let my teammates down. I know that,” said a dispirited Marchand to the media. “I let my organization down. I have to be better. There’s no question.”

There was a word missing in Marchand’s speech. The word is again.  He let his teammates down again. He let the organization down again. If the Bruins aren’t able to defeat Ottawa tonight, the Boston media (and a fair part of the fan base) will crucify him for being the reason why the Bruins point-streak ended.

This is Brad Marchand’s eighth run-in with the Department of Player Safety in his career.  This is his sixth suspension.  He has a lost of total of 19 games over the course of his suspensions. While he’s not Marty McSorley bad,  Marchand is entering Matt Cooke territory when it comes to being taken off the ice for bad hits.

Marchand will be participating in this weekend’s All-Star tournament. That’ll surely ruffle a few feathers. If he’s not careful, Marchand could find himself becoming the reason for a ‘Marchand rule’ about suspended players attending All-Star tournaments. (It’s bad enough he’s comparable to Matt Cooke [in the number of suspensions, NOT willfully engaging other players with a serious intent to injure], but he could end up joining John Scott.  The NHL made a rule to prevent another John Scott making the All-Star roster after he was traded and demoted to the AHL.)

“The last thing I want to do is anything to hurt the team,” said Boston’s Little Ball of Hate. “That’s obviously what I’ve done here. It wasn’t what I was trying to do.  We have a great team. They’re going to battle hard and do everything they can to win the games. I’ll be rooting them on. I put my team at a disadvantage again. I feel very bad about it.”

Boston Bruins bench boss Bruce Cassidy still supports his top scoring forward.

“I don’t believe there was any intent to injure Johansson,” said Cassidy to the media on Thursday. “But at the end of the day, Brad’s responsible for his actions on the ice. The league dealt with it.

“We’ll talk to him about it. Hopefully going forward, there’s no more incidents. Because I think Brad’s really earned respect around the league for how he plays the game. He plays hard every night. For the most part, I think he’s kept his nose clean.”

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Brad Marchand ‘tries’ to keep his nose clean. In his NHL career, he’s progressed from part-time agitator to an elite level player. He crossed the 50-point mark in just 38 games this season. (It’s Marchand’s third straight 50-point season.)  He’s currently tied for tenth place in points and is near the top of the list in almost every category.

For all his improvement, he always seems to play a little too over the edge. Tuesday night was just another example. Marchand wants to wear an ‘A’ on his chest. The only way he’s going to get that letter is if he stops making bad calls at inopportune times.  As fans, we want him to constantly get better and learn from his mistakes. I just wish Marchand would try a little harder to remember that.

What’s Next For Former Boston Bruin Marc Savard

 

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Marc Savard reacts to scoring the winning overtime goal against the Philadelphia Flyers on May 1, 2010. (Photo Credit: Chris Barelos)

By: Andrew Thompson                                                               Twitter: @Godwentwhoops

 

Last Tuesday was a big day in Boston Bruins news. B’s defenceman Charlie McAvoy underwent a procedure to correct an irregular heartbeat. While this was big news, something nearly flew under the radar. Former Boston Bruins forward Marc Savard officially hung up the skates after a 13 season, 807 game career.

(That Marc Savard responded to the Tweet was the highlight of my day.)

During his career, Savard played 304 games in the Black and Gold. In his first season with Boston, the Ottawa native put up 96 points (22 goals). He led all Bruins in scoring for the first three years of his career in Boston. During his time in spoked ‘B’, Savard suffered multiple concussions, the last occurring on January 22, 2011, which effectively ended his career.

It was an unfortunate end to what looked liked a Hall of Fame career. Savard’s contract expired at the end of last season, and that was the impetus for him to hang up the skates for good.  Savard put up nearly a point a game for the Black and Gold, earning 302 points (74 goals) as a member of the Bruins.

His Bruins teammates (and the organization itself) fought to have Savard’s name put on the Stanley Cup after the B’s won it all in 2011.

While he played on four different teams, he still seems to have a special place in his heart for the TD Garden and the people of Boston.

“A lot of mixed emotions, but really proud,” offered Savard. “Obviously, I didn’t play in any playoff games that year, but it was a nice gesture [by the Bruins to include Savard’s name on the Cup] and something I’ll never forget. That’s why I still hold Boston near and dear to my heart. My kids and their kids will be able to see it and that means a lot to me.”

Savard was extremely thankful for the 13 years he was in the league.  As he said goodbye to this part of his hockey career, he thanked Boston Bruins fans again for their part in his incredible journey.

“I did have a lot of believers along the way, which helped me believe,” said Savard. “That’s always been my quote to myself, ‘If you believe, you can achieve.’ That’s what I lived and died on. I’m proud to have played that long, seeing your name on the Stanley Cup and having your dreams come true.

“Thank you for supporting me all those years, being there after the games were over and asking for an autograph. I was always happy to do that. Thanks for giving me a tap or chanting my name at the (Boston) Garden when I came back from injury. Just always being there, whether I had a good or bad night. For that, I am grateful.”

So, what’s the next step for Marc Savard?  The former NHL player is now exploring the possibility of coaching at the OHL level, and perhaps even higher.

“I’d like to coach in the [Ontario Hockey League] or maybe move up at some point,” shared Savard with NBC Sports. “My real focus is the younger generation. Been doing a lot of AAA hockey here in Peterborough. We have the OHL Petes. I played for the [Oshawa] Generals. I would look into doing something like that to move my career forward. Right now, I’ve been doing the kids hockey and I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s a lot of fun. I love giving back and it’s been great.”

He already has some triple-A coaching experience teaching his two sons the game of hockey. The 40-year old Savard has the right name and skill set to pass on what he’s learned, and it just seems that it’s just a matter of time until one organization or another snaps him up.

“We’ll see where this road takes me, but right now I’m really focused on the OHL or doing something with the younger age just to get some reps in and get used to being behind the bench a little more,” said Savard.

“I’m not going to put any limits on anything as I did as a player, so we’ll see what’s down the road.”

While Savard is content to start in the OHL, there is plenty of room in the NHL for a man of his talent. While it may take a few years, the idea of Coach Savard suiting up in the Black and Gold sounds like a great idea to this Bruins fan.

Sixty Years Later, The Legend Of Willie O’ Ree And The Boston Bruins Still Endures.

 

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Boston Bruins legend Willie O’Ree watches the game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Bruins in Game Three of the Stanley Cup Final at the TD Garden on June 17, 2013, in Boston, Massachusetts.
(June 16, 2013 – Source: Gail Oskin/Getty Images North America)

By: Andrew Thompson                                                                   Twitter: @godwentwhoops

 

Today is the 60th anniversary of Willie O’ Ree playing in the NHL. He was the first African-American player to suit up in the league, and he did it while wearing the Black and Gold of the Boston Bruins.  O’ Ree ended up playing against the Montreal Canadiens that night (another page in the glorious history of the rivalry between those two teams).

Willie O’ Ree set a standard for the NHL. He integrated into the league in a time where integration wasn’t considered to be a good idea. He gave everything he had. Every night. (Looking at other people who were blessed enough to have the privilege to wear the Black and Gold, that should be enough). O’Ree ended up playing only 45 games in the NHL, but all of them were for the Boston Bruins.

O’Ree’s career is extensive. During his 28 season career (1950-1979), O’ Ree played in ten different leagues. He played at the NHL level despite being nearly blind in his right eye (a fact he kept hidden in order to play in Boston).

O’ Ree still checks in on the Bruins from time to time, when he isn’t helping grow the sport of hockey around the world.

For the last 20 years O’ Ree has been the diversity ambassador to the NHL. He tirelessly strives for the day where any kid can learn the game of hockey.

The Boston sports fan community hasn’t always been painted in the best light over the years. There have been a tiny minority of fans who have said and done stupid things in the name of the fandom (and bigotry). While some people still believe that Boston should still be painted with a racist brush, O’Ree disagrees.

He even regards Boston as his second home.

“You’re going to have racism, prejudice, bigotry, and ignorance all over. I had it when I played. The one thing I did was I just ignored it. I just told myself ‘I’m a black player playing hockey. If people can’t accept me for the individual that I am — because I had the skills and the ability to play hockey at that time — then that’s their problem, not mine,’ ” said O’Ree about his confronting bigotry while playing pro hockey.

Willie O’ Ree was inducted into the Order of Canada in 2008.

A case should be made about inducting him in the NHL Hall of Fame. Granted 45 games isn’t enough to be considered to make that much of an impact as a player. But there is a category that fits O’Ree to a tee.

O’Ree should be inducted into the Hall of Fame under the ‘builder’ category. As diversity ambassador, he has brought hockey to all parts of the world. He has spent the last two decades expanding the fan base. (Besides, if Jeremy Jacobs (the guy that held the reins for two lockouts and was the silent voice behind a third) can qualify as a builder, then O’Ree certain deserves the nod.)

Happy Anniversary to one of Boston’s living legends. He made the game of hockey a better place to play in.

Claude Julien And His Legacy With The Boston Bruins

 

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Head Coach Claude Julien of the Boston Bruins helps Brad Marchand #63 of the Boston Bruins adjust the chin strap on his helmet during a second period time out against the Pittsburgh Penguins on December 5, 2011, at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

By Andrew Thompson                                                                      Twitter: @godwentwhoops

 

For a lot of Boston Bruins fans, Claude Julien will always have a warm spot in their hearts. He was the coach that helped the Black and Gold get back to the Stanley Cup.  He was one of the key figures in the B’s bringing the Cup back to Boston in 2011.  With 419 wins under his belt, it will be quite some time till another head coach takes that benchmark away from him.

Julien’s return earned him a tribute video during Wednesday’s nights game.

The B’s family came to their feet to give Julien a standing ovation. It was well deserved in this fan’s opinion.

On the other side of the coin, there are Bruins fans who don’t have such a soft spot for Claude. He didn’t seem to connect well with the young players. He kept engaging in a defensive-minded hockey system that alienated the more aggressive players on the squad.

Love him or hate him, the former Bruins bench boss came to town tonight. It’s the first time he’s been here as a member of the visiting team since he was dismissed by Cam Neely last season after spending nearly a decade with the B’s. Julien returned to Boston at the head of the infamous Montreal Canadiens, the B’s most loathed rivals.

(At this moment, you can hear your average Montreal fan muttering something about “24 cups”. It’s a pity they haven’t won any since the start of the salary cap era.)

Boston Bruins fans owe a debt of gratitude to Coach Claude. If it wasn’t for him, the Bruins roster would be missing an integral component of their current roster. If it wasn’t for Julien, it’s likely we wouldn’t have the ‘Little Ball of Hate’ in Boston.

Brad Marchand is the best example of what Claude Julien did for the Bruins. Marchand started in the NHL as a young player with a lot of talent, but absolutely no discipline. Marchand started his career in Boston as a fourth-line grinder, playing minimal minutes due to his unpredictable style of hockey.

Julien believed in Marchand’s potential. He pushed an undisciplined pest to become a more complete player. His lessons didn’t just cover what to do on the ice. Julien helped Marchand (who currently leads the team in goals and assists) temper his demeanor and make him a better professional player overall.

Had Brad Marchand not came to Boston during the Julien era, it is very possible that Marchand would have become one of those bottom-six pests that would have been bounced around the league, never finding a home in his career.

“He gave me an opportunity to play, dealt with me more than I think a lot of coaches would have, worked with me tirelessly,” said an appreciative Marchand of his former coach. “Had plenty of conversations about how to act and how to be a good player, a good pro, how to learn the game and become a better player.

“He definitely gave me a huge opportunity and allowed me to grow into a better player.”

“You could go through a lot of different things, but the biggest thing he preached to me was how to be a good pro and how to be consistent,” continued Marchand. “That’s one thing we talked about is consistency. And if you want to be in this league for a long time you have to be able to bring your best game every night or close to it. That was probably one of the biggest things I took away.”

Marchand has become an All-Star in the league. He has become less known for his agitations, and more for his skill. He’s advanced from a part-time grinder to an elite player that causes most teams fits on any given night. He’s #63 on the roster and #1 in the hearts of many fans (and a #2 to those who love Patrice Bergeron more).

Brad Marchand is part of the legacy of Claude Julien.  Love him or hate him, Julien’s place in the history of the Boston Bruins is secure.

Bruins: Making the Oddsmakers Sweat With Recent Winning Ways

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( Above Photo Credit:  Getty Images )

By: Thomas Nyström              Follow Me On Twitter @nahstrom

At the end of the Stanley Cup finals last year, the hockey world was buzzing about the Nashville Predators and their astoundingly rabid fanbase, and the loathsome Pittsburgh Penguins were preparing to raise yet another banner. Meanwhile, Vegas was just starting to put it all together. No, not just the Golden Knights… I’m talking the other team: the Vegas oddsmakers. When NHL betting lines began to come out in June of 2017, The Boston Bruins were given just 33-1 odds to win the cup in the 2017-2018 season (according to bovada.lv). That put them at 17 in the league, and essentially a fringe wild-card team at best.

Well, Vegas isn’t always right, and I’d venture a guess that we all are wishing we’d put just a few bucks down because the Bruins appear to be very much in the hunt. As of writing this, the Bruins sit 2nd in the Atlantic Division just 3 and 9 points behind Washington and Tampa Bay, respectively in the conference. Boston has also played fewer games than both teams.

According to hockeyreference.com, the Bruins now possess a 17.8% chance to reach the Stanley Cup finals, and a 10.1% chance to win the whole thing. This is a far cry from their preseason betting odds and any logical analyst looking ahead at the season prior to opening the 2017-2018 regular season. This percentage is second highest of all teams behind the Lightning. Yes, higher than the Capitals, Vegas, Nashville, and Pittsburgh. Above any other original six team which is obviously a victory for the organization and it’s die-hard fan base, albeit usually an unspoken one. Statistical analysis is backing up the buzz behind Boston who are now on a 13 game point streak and haven’t suffered a regulation loss in what seems like an eon.

The production coming out of the youth on this team have exceeded expectations, the coaching staff has handled any and all adversities quite well, and the organization may have a little more depth down in Providence than originally thought. The P-Bruins sit 8th in the AHL in win percentage despite a roster who has been the victim of call-ups and injuries. The last three months of the regular season will inevitably test that depth, and it may be a big part of how we look back on this season in Boston when all is said and done.

Perhaps the depth will be addressed as the trade deadline, where the Bruins could likely use a defenseman, and a right winger at the NHL level, and I could certainly make an argument for goaltending depth in Providence. As of right now, I find myself trusting the organization to make the right moves more than I have in recent memory. Time will tell if I change my mind on that one — and believe me when I say, you’ll hear about it on my twitter if I’m left eating my words.

As we approach the all-star break next weekend, Boston fans have a lot to be happy about. The last half of the season will no doubt be as exciting as it’s been since 2013, and certainly more so than what was thought back in June.

Writers note: 33-1 odds for the Bruins may have brought a nice return, but could you imagine if someone took a shot and hit on the Vegas Golden Knights at 150-1? Dear Lord Stanley.

Thomas Nyström, Contributor.
Follow me on Twitter @nahstrom

David Pastrnak deal with the Boston Bruins still in the works, but it will happen

w1280xh966_2017-04-18T010821Z_1906856103_NOCID_RTRMADP_3_NHL-STANLEY-CUP-PLAYOFFS-OTTAWA-SENATORS-AT-BOSTON-BRUINSBy: Andrew Thompson                                                         Twitter: @godwentwhoops

The Boston Bruins had hoped to lock up forward David Pastrnak by now. The 21-year old winger had a truly breakout season in the NHL last year, putting up a 70 point (34 goal) performance for the Black and Gold. Pastrnak’s 70 points were good enough for second among Bruins scorers (second only to Brad Marchand‘s 85 point performance), so the B’s front office knew that Pastrnak would get a decent pay day for his work.

At the start of the postseason, many in the media (myself included) had Pastrnak being signed for a high-five/low-six million dollar deal. We were also pretty certain that the contract would be in the five-plus year range. While the length of the contract seems to be accurate, there have been a few signings that may change the dollar value to Pasta’s contract.

Connor McDavid signed an eight-year, $100 million dollar contract extension with the Edmonton Oilers (In his defense McDavid, won the Hart Trophy this year). Carey Price (who in my opinion is a phenomenal goaltender playing for the wrong team) is now the highest paid netminder in the NHL after he signed his eight-year, $84 million dollar extension with the Montreal Canadiens. Evgeny Kuznetsov (whose point totals (59) are close to Pastrnak) inked his own eight year deal, making on average $7.8 million a season with the Washington Capitals.

These signings (and a few others) muddied the waters of what was going to be a cut-and-dry signing for Boston.  NHL teams chose to overpay players these season, and now the Bruins now find themselves in a weaker position, especially after the Kuznetsov signing.

In short, a few teams went overboard in signing their stars. Now the Boston Bruins will likely have to follow suit and pony up.

The B’s will have to adjust their paradigm (and perhaps their comfort level) with this contact. The original high-five/low-six million dollar estimate will have to be thrown out for a high-six/middle-seven million dollar figure.  Is it what the Bruins want to pay out? Likely not. But it would fit the model of the contracts being signed in this offseason.  (To be fair, while it would be a bit of an overpay, it wouldn’t be as extreme as the others we’ve seen so far.)

A seven-million dollar contract wouldn’t break the Bruins bank. The Bruins currently have just under $13 million in cap space available. Even a $7.5 million dollar contact wouldn’t devastate the Bruins organization.

The only downside to this signing is it how it would affect the rest of the B’s offseason. The Bruins still have to deal with Ryan Spooner and his request for arbitration. The B’s could be forced to let Spooner go for nothing if they don’t like the dollar amount put forth by the agreement. It could also limit the B’s ability to snap-up a free agent just before the start of the season.

On a side note, a big enough contract would force Sweeney to go “all-in” on the youth movement. (Which is something many fans seem to be fine with.)  The B’s have four players on the projected roster with entry-level contracts right now. That number could go up depending on how well certain people do at training camp in September.

A deal WILL happen. The Bruins front office and Pastrnak’s agent will come to a meeting of the minds in the near future. Pastrnak’s too valuable to let go, and Sweeney is too smart to let that kind of career-defining mistake occur.

Besides, the odds of Pastrnak being snapped up by another team with an offer sheet are about as good as Jeremy Jacobs scoring a goal for the Bruins next season.

 

 

What Is The True Worth of Bruins McQuaid and Miller?

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Oct 23, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres defenseman John Scott (32) and Boston Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid (54) fight during the third period at First Niagara Center. Bruins beat the Sabres 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

By: Spencer Fascetta                                       Twitter: @PuckNerdHockey

I cannot count the number of times I have watched a Bruins game and been frustrated by the limitations in the skillsets of Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller. To the naked eye, they just do not seem to be in the mold of the modern-day NHL defenseman – a good skater who can make a good first pass and is excellent traditionally. Instead, both McQuaid and Miller are big, tough-nosed, stay-at-home defensemen, and, with both of them locked up long term and Colin Miller lost to the Expansion Draft, I decided to delve a little deeper into McQuaid and Miller to see if there was something I was missing in their play. Was I being blinded by my own prejudices, and are they truly worth the contracts that they are currently under?
I first started with their possession metrics. For the uninitiated, Corsi is a statistic used to measure shot attempt differentials while at even strength. It compiles shots on goal, missed shots on goal, and blocked shot attempts towards the opposition’s net minus the same shot attempts directed at your own team’s net. Fenwick is a similar statistic, but it eliminates blocked shots from the formula. A player with a positive Corsi or Fenwick is one generating more shot attempts for his team than he is allowing against his team, and one with a negative Corsi or Fenwick is allowing more shot attempts against his own team than he is generating offensively. This translates to what we can call “puck possession,” as these statistics are a relatively simple analog to how often a player has control of the puck. A player who is in control of the puck more than not will usually generate more shot attempts than he allows, as the other team cannot generate shot attempts if they do not possess the puck. For the sake of this article, I will look specifically at Corsi rather than Fenwick, as, in my personal opinion, it offers a more accurate depiction of a player’s puck possession ability. The Corsi For %, or CF% is the ratio of shot attempts for divided by the total number of shot attempts, and Corsi For % Relative is the CF% for the player while he is ON the ice as compared to the CF% for his team when he is OFF the ice. Below are the two charts for McQuaid (top) and Miller (bottom).

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Numbers #1

Obviously, McQuaid has a much larger sample size than Miller at this particular point in his career, but regardless, the results aren’t too promising for either individual. McQuaid’s CF% relative for his career sits at a -3.7 in 424 career NHL games. In 217 career NHL games, a little more than half of McQuaid’s total career games, Miller’s CF% relative sits at -2.5. A word of caution about Miller’s number would be that his 2013-14 season was absolutely abysmal, and that outlier significantly skews the data. He is still a career negative CF% relative player, but that season drops his career number to well below where it should be. There are no real arguments about McQuaid, however. In a much larger sample size, he has consistently been a supremely negative possession player for his team, even though his career best mark in this category occurred this past season (-1.8).

Pic #3

While both are negative career possession players, Kevan Miller has been markedly better than his older counterpart. Photo: Canadian Rubber Hockey

Possession metrics are only a portion of the story. Two other statistics are housed in the above tables – PDO and Zone Starts. PDO is the sum of a team’s even strength save percentage and a player’s even strength shooting percentage. Ideally, a player’s PDO will fall around 100. Anything below a 98 usually is indicative of a player who is better than their statistics would appear, and anything over 102 usually is indicative of a player who is likely to see a stark decrease in production. McQuaid’s career PDO is 101.6, which indicates that he essentially is what he is at this point. The production we have seen from him is what we should expect. Miller’s PDO is slightly more concerning, as his career mark sits at a 102.3, which tells me that he isn’t just as good as he is going to get, but he is likely to see a decrease in the near future. Zone Start statistics are fairly straightforward, as they measure the percentage of shifts a player begins in the offensive and defensive zones at even strength. Players who are deemed as defensively minded or defensively proficient (think Patrice Bergeron-esque) will generally see more defensive zone starts, whereas a younger player who is a dynamic offensive talent but has not fully developed their defensive game will usually see most of their shifts start in the offensive zone (i.e. Ryan Spooner). Based on what we already know about these two players, one would assume that they receive a large share of their zone starts in front of the Bruins’ net. For McQuaid, you would be correct, but only by a fractional margin. Interestingly, he saw his offensive zone starts to increase this year tremendously, clocking in at 52.4% of his zone starts coming in the offensive zone, only the 3rd time in his career where more of his shifts have started in the offensive zone than the defensive zone. Miller’s career numbers in this regard are more befuddling. He doesn’t just see a fraction more of his zone starts happen in the offensive zone, he does so by a wide margin. In his career, he has seen 53.5% of his shifts start in the offensive zone and has seen an offensive zone start more times than not in his career in 3 out of 4 seasons. For a player who is relied upon more for his defensive capabilities, this is a concerning trend in his usage and could contribute to his perceived inadequacies.

Next, I looked into each player’s hero chart. A hero chart provides an easy to read summary of a player’s ice time relative to his team, goal production, assist production, shot generation and shot suppression. A full and much more detailed explanation can be found at the home of the hero chart, www.ownthepuck.blogspot.ca. I compared the two players to each other, then compared them to the archetypes of a 2nd pairing and a 3rd pairing NHL defenseman.

Graph #1

As you can see, both are better than average at shot suppression. Miller is significantly better at goal generation, and the two line graphs beneath the bar graphs, which show their shot impact per hour and primary points generation per hour show that Miller is unequivocally the better player offensively. He is marginally better regarding shot suppression, both receive similar ice time, and McQuaid is (somehow) slightly better at shot generation.

When compared to a typical 3rd pairing defenseman, it is clear that both McQuaid and Miller pass the test. Both are much better at shot suppression than your average 3rd pairing D-man and aren’t significantly weaker in their other skill sets to indicate that they should not be receiving 3rd pairing minutes.

Because they were so clearly at minimum 3rd paring players, I wanted to see what they would look like when compared to 2nd pairing defenseman. As you can see below, McQuaid is definitely not a 2nd pairing player. He is far too weak offensively to garner those kinds of minutes. Miller is, in my estimation, a fringe 2nd pairing defenseman. He shows enough offensive upside that I believe he could reasonably be expected to play 2nd pairing minutes should the situation arise, and he is at the very least an elite 3rd pairing defenseman in this league.

Pic #2

Kevan Miller surprisingly shows relative offensive upside. Photo: Boston Globe

Unfortunately, zone entry and zone exit data is not readily available to us common folk. Most of it is proprietary to each individual team or company tracking it, so the only way to collect such data is to track it yourself throughout the season. Clearly, I was unable to do this. However, for the sake of argument, let me walk you through what an ideal defenseman does in this context. An ideal modern-day NHL defenseman is able to successfully complete a pass or skate the puck out of his own zone on a consistent basis, and, likewise, either can skate the puck into the offensive zone, or make the correct pass to create a controlled zone entry. Essentially, you do not want your players to chip or dump the puck out of their own zone, and dump and chase hockey should be a thing of the past. I cannot say with any certainty that McQuaid or Miller are adept or poor zone entry and exit players, so I hope this little tidbit can inform your own viewing at home to come to your own conclusion on this matter.

Pic #1

Upon further investigation, don’t expect much more than what we have from Adam McQuaid. Photo: The Pink Puck.com

Now, at the start of this incredibly long soliloquy, I posed a few questions. One is there something in the underlying numbers that suggests to me that Adam McQuaid and/or Kevan Miller are better than the eye test would suggest and two, do they warrant the contracts that Don Sweeney signed them to. In McQuaid’s case, no. I see a mediocre at best 3rd pairing defenseman who likes to play physical. There is nothing inherently wrong with that player type, but he should not be making $2.75 million for over the next two seasons. The production and ability simply do not support that price tag. In Miller’s case, I find his ability a bit more nuanced. I was surprised to find that he actually is decent regarding offensive generation, and is actually better at shot suppression than McQuaid. His career negative possession metrics still concern me, and that is, in my opinion, reason enough to prevent him from receiving 2nd pairing minutes, but as a 3rd pairing defenseman, I actually like him. Is he worth $2.5 million over each of the next four seasons? Probably not. But I am much more willing to give that contract to him than Adam McQuaid. Perhaps if he were provided with more defensive zone starts than offensive zone starts, his talents would begin to show themselves on a much more consistent basis.

 

All Hero Charts were found at ownthepuck.blogspot.ca

Possession Metrics found through hockey-reference.com

 

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The Value Of Ryan Spooner to the Boston Bruins

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Source: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images North America

By Andrew Thompson                                                               Twitter: @godwentwhoops

Boston Bruins forward Ryan Spooner has been the center of a lot of talk lately.  Last month, there were rumors that the Las Vegas Golden Knights were interested in grabbing him as a middle six-forward. The 25-year old forward has been mentioned by sources (including the team here at Black and Gold) about becoming part of a package deal.

Spooner might be on the move, but what kind of value does he have?

Expectations for Spooner were high back in 2010. The Bruins believed he could be a “legitimate game-breaker” when they grabbed him in the second round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

Spooner had another Jekyll-and-Hyde performance last season. Both Claude Julien and Bruce Cassidy found it difficult to place Spooner properly. Spooner wasn’t strong enough defensively under Julien, and Cassidy didn’t like his offensive game once he took over. The Bruins were hoping that Spooner would have been a dependable top-six forward(or third-line center) by now, but his inconsistency found him traveling up and down the lines last year.

Spooner ended up with 39 points (11 goals) last season, a ten point reduction from his 2015-16 performance. Overall, Boston fans considered disappointing. While it wasn’t as bad as Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes’ season, it was below what was expected of him.

Still, Spooner has a lot of potential.

Spooner has the ability to be a solid play-maker. He’s got a strong tactical mind on the ice. He can put things together and help rack up points.

It’s unclear why he can’t bring this kind of performance night after night. One could argue it was a coaching problem at the start of the season (Claude Julien had actually called him out in front of the media a few times), but then Cassidy couldn’t find a niche for him either.

Maybe I’m being a pessimist here, but it seems that Spooner’s time in Boston is done.

Spooner certainly isn’t one of those ‘uncoachable’ players.  But if two Boston coaches can’t get an elite level of performance out of him, it doesn’t speak highly of his attitude. Perhaps the B’s should use Spooner’s skill set and talent to get the B’s what they really need: A left-shooting defenceman or depth on the left wing.

Spooner still has decent trade value on the NHL market. While Spooner won’t get the kind of attention David Pastrnak would, he could certainly make stingy GMs give up the kind of player the Bruins need going into the 2017-18 season. As part of a package deal (especially if Sweeney’s willing to give up this year’s first round draft pick), he can be a very useful asset to the B’s.

Don Sweeney might already have some kind of plan in the works already regarding him. He hasn’t been afraid of shopping around Spooner in the past. Perhaps this time around a deal will be made that will be a win-win all around. The Bruins will get a player to help finish out their roster, and Spooner will find a team that’s a better fit for him.

If the Boston Bruins are going to make a move with Spooner, they’ll need to do it soon. The last thing the Black and Gold needs is another Jordan Caron fiasco on their hands. Tampa+Bay+Lightning+v+Boston+Bruins+qoYz3t-C4xIl

Where does Liles fit?

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.john-michael-liles-nhl-boston-bruins-tampa-bay-lightning-827x560

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.