Should the Bruins keep Carlo?

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Photo Credit: Bill Wippert/Getty

By: Spencer Fascetta                                                               Twitter: @pucknerdhockey

More than the “Trade Tuukka” chants, or the “Deal Krug” narrative, I have been most perplexed and frustrated by the trend of Bruins fans to constantly bring down Brandon Carlo. Carlo is a bonafide Top 4 defenseman in this league, does plenty well, and as soon as he makes a 21-year-old mistake (oh yeah, buried the lede here – HE’S STILL ONLY 21), people jump on the bandwagon and scream from atop the highrises in Boston to get rid of him as fast as possible. To me, this is twofold. For one, Boston fans are consistently impatient. They don’t like waiting too long for players to develop and are quick to bash youngsters for their flaws. This is likely due to how spoiled they have been as a fanbase. When you are exposed to Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque, Zdeno Chara, and now the emerging Charlie McAvoy, fair weather fans have a tendency to assume that every young defenseman should be this way, or they are automatically a bust.

No, they are not.

The irony is until McAvoy came along, Carlo was the beloved d-prospect who fans didn’t want to be dealt for anyone short of Connor McDavid, and three first-round picks (still may want to check on that, Pete Chiarelli’s starting to get desperate). As soon as McAvoy broke onto the scene, well, Carlo just wasn’t Chuckie. Newsflash: they have completely different skillsets, and that’s OK.

NHL: Boston Bruins at Arizona Coyotes

Photo Credit: Matt Kartozian

The second reason I think is that Carlo stands at 6’5″, 203 lbs, and doesn’t pile up highlight-reel, bone-crushing hits. I like to call this “Dougie Hamilton Syndrome,” only, Carlo hasn’t put up the pure offensive numbers that let some fans stomach Hamilton’s perceived lack of physicality. This is a fundamental flaw in how people perceive defense should be played. You do not have to hit people to be a good defenseman. You do not have to hit people because you are big. Carlo’s game is much, much more than that. But, you try explaining that to the fanbase of the Big Bad Bruins. They always have time (and wayyyyy too much money) for the grizzled veteran who will knock an opponent’s face in (I see you, Adam McQuaid).

By this time, you know my schtick – present an argument I find ridiculous and provide plenty of graphical information to support my hypothesis. In short, nerd stuff. Might I say, PUCKNerd Stuff? Yeah, I know, humor’s not really my forte. Anyhoo…

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Photo Credit: John Tlumacki

I looked at the last two years of Boston defensemen since Carlo broke into the league and only looked at players who suited up for a minimum of 500 minutes in the black and gold. This limits the dataset to guys who are heavily relied upon and likely played Top 4 minutes for a long stretch in that timeframe. There are only 7 players who qualify: Zdeno Chara, Adam McQuaid, Charlie McAvoy (yeah, ALREADY), Kevan Miller, Colin Miller, Torey Krug, and, yes, Brandon Carlo. Below is a distribution of their zone starts.

Bruins Defensemen Zone Start Distribution

Red represents the percentage of shifts started in the offensive zone, orange in the neutral zone, and blue in the defensive zone. You may be interested to note that Carlo has the second lowest percentage of his shifts start in the offensive zone, and the second highest percentage of his shifts start in the defensive zone. The only player getting a higher chunk of his shifts starting in his own zone is Zdeno Chara. Mind you, Carlo broke into the league as a 19-year-old. This says that not only do the Bruins trust him in his own zone, they rely heavily on him to get the job done.

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Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports

Well, that’s great. But a zone starts distribution that favors defensive zone starts does not necessarily equate to a GOOD defensive player. So, let’s look at Corsi For and Against per Hour. This normalizes Corsi rates for ice time, though the size of the data points equates to the percentage of total time on ice of the team’s time on the ice each player was deployed for.

Bruins Defensemen Corsi ForAgainst per Hour

Only Chara and McAvoy see a more significant percentage of the team’s ice time than Carlo, and he is their best Corsi Against player by a decent amount. Not only that, but he is also a net positive in Corsi, as he falls favorably within the “good” quadrant. What does this indicate? When he is on the ice, the Bruins are producing more shot attempts than the other team, which is indicative of better puck possession. This made me a bit skeptical, as our good friend Adam McQuaid ALSO shows up in that quadrant. So, what if we look at the TYPE of minutes Carlo has been asked to play?

Bruins Defensemen Minutes Difficulty versus Shot Suppression per Hour

Looking at the Time on Ice percentage adjusted for quality of competition, and comparing that to shot suppression, or Corsi Against per Hour, also adjusted for quality of competition, you start seeing a better picture. Pay close attention to the axes. The Corsi axis (the x-axis on your standard graph) is between 55% and 58% Corsi – an average possession player will fall around 50%. Based on this, Carlo appears to have played the 3rd most against the hardest competition. This makes sense, as it is supported by the previous chart. He is still good at suppressing the opposition, as his Corsi Against per Hour is third lowest of this group – meaning he actually has the third lowest number of shot attempts allowed while is on the ice of this group. Curiously, Colin Miller and Adam McQuaid are the only ones who are better at shot suppression but play significantly easier minutes and a much lower number of minutes. Also, Charlie McAvoy is the definition of fun, but he is playing easily the most difficult opposition of this group as a 21-year-old rookie. That’s objectively ridiculous. Please give him the Calder NOW.

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Photo Credit: Winslow Townsend/AP Photo

At this point, some of you might be saying, “Carlo is obviously a product of who he plays with.” AHA. I have out-thought you because I already have that information for you. Carlo Partners Number of Games with Each Partner

Since making his NHL debut, Brandon Carlo has played significant minutes (more than a couple of games) with only four players: Torey Krug, Zdeno Chara, John-Michael Liles, and Kevan Miller, with the majority of his time being spent with (by far) Chara and Krug.

Carlo Partners Zone Start Ratio

The 50% line on this chart represents an even distribution of zone starts. Those falling below the line favor defensive zone starts, those high favor offensive zone starts. As one would expect, Carlo has seen a lot more aggressive zone starts when paired with Torey Krug. With the other three, he was hemmed in his own end quite a bit.

Carlo Partners Corsi For versus Against per Hour

Let’s check out that Corsi For versus Against per Hour graph again, but this time, look at how each pairing performed. The Liles/Carlo pairing was objectively bad, but the other 3 have been reasonably good. Krug/Carlo is far and away the best pairing of this group, and they’ve played enough of a sample size of games together to indicate that this is real. In fact, looking at the PDO values for each pairing, each of which suggests how repeatable their performance is (PDO = save percentage + shooting percentage; expect most PDO values to trend towards 100.0), you see that the three best pairings actually seem to be about where they should be. The Liles pairing, let’s chalk that up to limited sample size.

Carlo Partners PDO

Now, I checked out how efficient each pairing was regarding offensive production. I compared expected goals differential to their produced goals differential to do so. Trending towards the top right of the graph is good, towards the bottom left is kind of bad, and any other direction indicates that they are not performing as expected.

Carlo Partners Expected versus True Goals Differential

The Chara/Carlo pairing is clearly the best, buoyed in large part to a high expected goal differential. The Krug/Carlo pairing is actually underperforming, while the other two pairings, well, they weren’t tremendously good.

New York Rangers v Boston Bruins

Photo Credit: Jim Rogash

Great. So, Carlo is a good defenseman – when compared to his own teammates. Despite Boston’s reputation as one of the more defensively stout teams in the league, that doesn’t mean a whole heck of a lot. So, let’s look at Carlo in comparison to all NHL defensemen who have played over 1000 minutes since his NHL debut.

Defensemen Minutes Difficulty versus Shot Suppression per Hour

Looking at a comparison of the difficulty of minutes and shot suppression ability per hour, as we did for the partners Carlo has played with, Carlo matches up quite favorably to some of the NHL’s elite. I have pointed out Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns, the two most recent Norris Trophy winners, as well as Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who plays the most difficult minutes of any defenseman in the league by far, Yannick Weber, who has played the easiest minutes of this group by a large margin, as well as Fedor Tyutin, who has gotten his teeth caved in the most of anyone in this dataset. Carlo is firmly in the top 1/4th of the group, indicating that he is, at worst, a #3 defenseman in this league.

Defensemen Corsi For versus Against per Hour

Now, Corsi For and Against per Hour. How does he stack up? Well, Burns is ridiculous, Torey Krug is (unsurprisingly) a Top 5 offensive defenseman in the league, Morgan Rielly is quite good, and Carlo is well into the “good” quadrant. I think I will take him on my defense corps.

Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Conor Sheary (43) and Boston Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo (25).

Photo Credit: Brian Fluharty

What does all of this do to the trade Carlo argument? Well, Brandon Carlo is demonstrably a good defensive defenseman in the NHL at the ripe old age of 21. He’s a right-handed defenseman who is 6’5″ and skates incredibly well. He defends quite well in his own end and plays a very cerebral game on the back end. If you trade Carlo, you immediately will be looking for another Brandon Carlo. The good news is, he won’t need to play top pairing minutes in Boston, which allows him to dominate in a slightly lesser role, what with Charlie McAvoy looking very much like perennial Norris Candidate in his own right. So, please. Just because he makes some weird mistakes, let him figure it out and back off. The end result is going to be one you want to stick around for.

All data mined through the databases on Corsica.hockey. Collected as of January 17th, 2018. All graphs are courtesy of PuckNerd and are not to be used without the express written consent of myself. Thank you.

Please give me a follow on Twitter (found above) and check out/subscribe to my YouTube Channel (@PuckNerd) for more of my content!

Bruins’ McAvoy In The Mix For Calder

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Photo Credit: Fred Kfoury III (Icon Sportswire)

By: KG                   Follow me on Twitter: @kgbngblog and on FanCred at K G

The former BU Terrier is making sure that people see why the Bruins drafted him 14th overall in 2016. He has been a key part of a lineup and seems to be playing some of the most minutes not only on the Bruins but in the NHL. The Hockey News writer Matt Larkin had McAvoy 2nd in his rookie rankings behind Clayton Keller, which seems to be turning out to be relatively accurate. But as the season has progressed, there has been a number of other rookies making their case for the Rookie of the Year award. The tweet below is a look at some of the other players, mainly other defensemen that are competing for the Calder.

We’ve seen over the past few years just how important it is to have a great defense. A team like Nashville last year had a solid core and went far in the playoffs because of it. Players like Will Butcher and Mikhail Sergachev are direct Calder competition for McAvoy. But one thing that they don’t have is the minutes that McAvoy is playing currently. He has four more minutes per game played than the next highest of the rookies in the NHL at 23:36. Like I said in an article earlier this year, he is a key component to the Bruins lineup and hasn’t missed a game this year, something you don’t see rookies do too often.

McAvoy’s point production is pretty good for a rookie d-man. He’s third for the most amount of points by a rookie defencemen, and second for most goals at four. He is in the 13th spot for most points by a rookie total, trailing players like Mathew Barzal and Brock Boeser. His offensive skills pair well with Chara’s stay at home defense style. He is one of the players that “Quarterback” the Bruins power play, and he is adjusting well to doing so. He and Krug are usually a great 1-2 punch when the Bruins get on the PP.

Another part of McAvoy’s game that is an asset to the Bruins is his physicality. He is 35th overall in hits in the NHL with 63, equalling out for 2.6 hits per game. That’s the most of any of the other Bruins. But this comes with its downsides. He is third in most PIMS with 18 on the Bruins behind Miller and Chara. Usually, rookies take a while to adjust physically to the NHL, but McAvoy is fitting right in. He uses hits appropriately to separate the player from the puck, and you don’t see him flying around trying to take somebodies head off.

McAvoy may not be the first person you think of when you talk about rookies that are lighting up the scoresheets every night, but he is playing a veteran role as a rookie on the Bruins. And this is after never playing an AHL game. Just his two years in the USHL at 16/17 years old, two years at BU as an 18/19 old, and the six games in the playoffs last year. Incredible stuff from a rookie and he can hopefully only improve from here on out.

 

Sources:

Theockeynews.com, NHL.com, Hockeydb.com, FoxSports.com

Follow KG on Twitter @KGbngblog and on FanCred at K G Like, share and comment your takes on the article

Idealizing The Bruins’ Defense Pairings

Brandon Carlo the definition of a modern shut-down defenseman. Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

By: Spencer Fascetta                                                         Twitter: @PuckNerdHockey

I have not hidden my frustration with the way the defensive pairings broke camp this season for the Boston Bruins. With Adam McQuaid out for quite some time still, Bruce Cassidy has not been able to run these pairings. That being said, I shudder to think that he will just go back to the way it was before McQuaid was injured because that is not how the defensive corps needs to be structured to ensure success in Beantown. So, let’s talk about it. I would like to state before beginning that there is no 1st, 2nd, and 3rd pairing, nor should there really be in the big scheme of things. With the players available to Boston, the 6 defensemen should be handled in a more balanced approach, in order to maximize their talents.

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Torey Krug doing what he does best. Photo Credit: ESPN

Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo

This is a pairing we have seen a bit since the McQuaid injury, and I have wanted to see this for quite some time. A theme you will find throughout this article is players of complementary skillsets. Torey Krug is a tremendous offensively gifted defenseman. That is a fact. It is also a fact that, although he is good enough to play defense at the NHL level, the weakest part of his game is his ability to break up plays in his own zone. This is somewhere that Brandon Carlo excels. Krug has always been partnered with a stay-at-home guy so that he can play his game unencumbered. Unfortunately, when that guy is Adam McQuaid, the person Krug has spent the overwhelmingly most amount of time within his career, Krug is put between a rock and a hard place – his partner can’t do anything other than play the body. Carlo offers a slightly different skill set to partner with Krug’s dynamic puck skills. He is the modern definition of a shut-down defenseman. He is big, physical, and most importantly, a tremendous skater. Carlo excels at disrupting plays in his own zone, mainly behind his own goal line. Now, isn’t that what we decided Krug’s weakness was? Exactly. Carlo complements Krug nicely, and vice-versa, while Carlo can actually be effective in zones other than his own, and isn’t a liability on the ice.

Charlie McAvoy has been impressive in his first full NHL season. Photo Credit: Bob Dechiara/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy

Again, this is what Bruce Cassidy has gone within the absence of McQuaid. Here’s why it should stay this way. McAvoy’s game is speed, offense, and physicality. He is aggressive to the nth degree. What he needs is a competent safety net to play with if and when he makes a mistake, as rookies are apt to do. Chara can be this guy. He was an excellent mentor to Brandon Carlo last season, but I don’t think McAvoy needs that level of mentorship. Let him figure some of the stuff out on his own, but be there if he can’t or has questions. Chara’s offensive game has been reduced to his shot at this point. He is still an adequate skater for his size and is good enough positionally and physically on his own side of the red line to be a suitable buffer for McAvoy. He just needs to understand that he isn’t 28 anymore, and there is no logical reason for him to act like he’s Bobby Orr like he did in Arizona earlier this season.

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Kevan Miller – offensively adequate? Photo Credit: Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports Images

Paul Postma and Kevan Miller

At this point, you are likely of one of two opinions: either “Wait, what about Adam McQuaid?” or “Why bother with this article, this is just what Cassidy has been playing the last few games.” Well, I’m not going to rehash my thoughts on Adam McQuaid. I wrote an article in the summer detailing his (and Kevan Miller’s admittedly less detrimental) shortcomings. If you haven’t had the chance yet, you can give that a quick read here. I have been Postma’s champion since he was signed. He is, in my opinion, an underrated defenseman, who has yet to receive a legitimate shot to be an every-game sort of guy on the back end. He can jump in on the powerplay if needed and has underrated transition skills. He is good at getting the puck out of his zone and into the offensive zone. Kevan Miller is rough, tough, and has shown glimpses of some real skating and offensive ability. He is also a significant upgrade over McQuaid and is good enough defensively to allow Postma to not be Johnny Oduya on the back end.

So, where’s McQuaid? Ideally, he and Matt Beleskey are getting well acquainted with the concessions stand in the press box, and not getting into the lineup. He is a liability in 2 zones and is barely replacement level in his own zone. Basically, he can hit and fight, and there is no need to pay 2+ million dollars and a roster spot for a guy that can only add that to your team. However, I know many of you disagree. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

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Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy Issues Updates On Krejci, Miller, And Rask

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(Photo Credit: Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire)

By Mike Cratty                                                         Twitter: @Mike_Cratty

Practice got underway earlier today for the Boston Bruins and yet again, David Krejci, unfortunately, wasn’t present. The Czech centerman was a last-minute scratch from the Bruins lineup in their 5-4 OT loss to the Buffalo Sabres last Saturday and has been sidelined from practice ever since with an upper-body injury. Bruce Cassidy has this to say about David Krejci’s status earlier today.

The Bruins need Krejci back in the lineup. His hockey IQ, as well as his playmaking abilities, are welcomed. He could have been of great help in the epic collapse from last Saturday.

Krejci has one goal, five assists, and six points through six games, making him a point-per-game player at the moment. That stat line has him tied for fourth in points on the team with Anders Bjork, as well as second in assists with Brad Marchand. He’s done this playing one less game than Bjork and Marchand while being a great help down the middle for his linemates Jake DeBrusk and David Pastrnak, as well as on special teams.

The Bruins will come back from four days of rest to take on the San Jose Sharks tomorrow night. The Sharks are 3-1 in their last four games. In these games, they have scored an average of 3.75 goals and allowed an average of 2 goals. The return of Krejci to a Bruins lineup with a good amount of uncertainty would have been really beneficial. It’s partially on David Backes now to step up in Krejci’s role for however long Krejci ends up being out for down the road. Backes has seen time in recent practices between Jake DeBrusk and David Pastrnak on the second line.

On a brighter note, Kevan Miller was on the ice with a black jersey. Miller had spent the past two practices, but with a red non-contact jersey. Miller, like Krejci, missed last Saturday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres. Miller isn’t a perfect defenseman, but when he’s on his game, he often makes a solid impact with his stay-at-home ability, his physicality, and his toughness.

Tuukka Rask made progress today at practice, much like Kevan Miller. The Patriot Ledger’s Mike Loftus was all over Rask’s situation at practice.

Getting Tuukka Rask back would be especially big after what happened against the Sabres. Tuukka’s numbers in the early going are ugly, 1-3-0, 3.30 GAA, .882 save percentage, but when it all comes down to it, he’s the number one goalie and backbone of the Boston Bruins.

Anton Khudobin started last Saturday in place of Rask, here’s how Bruce Cassidy described his performance.

“He battles. We love that about him. He battled to the end. Certainly made his share of saves. We need to be better in front of him. But there were times that, there were fires that needed to be put out that shouldn’t have been necessary. But that happens sometimes.”

Looking back at the game, this is a fair judgment. Khudobin had good and bad moments, but they weren’t always all his fault. He hasn’t been too shabby in his time between the pipes so far this season. Khudobin record currently stands at 2-0-1 with a 2.97 GAA and a .910 save percentage.

Good news and bad news. At this point, in a season that has been riddled with injuries for the Bruins thus far, seeing any good news is a thrill.

Bear Sightings: Boston Bruins vs. Vancouver Canucks (10-19-17)

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By:  Karen Still           Follow Me @bluinsfan2017

Ladies and Gentlemen welcome to the first edition of Bear Sightings—images were taken by me off of my phone for your viewing pleasure, as well as my thoughts on the action.  Let’s get started!

Score:  Bruins 6 — Canucks 3

First and foremost it was Hockey Fights Cancer Night at the TD Garden.  The boys practiced in special lavender jerseys, which has become an annual tradition throughout the NHL.  There was also a ceremonial puck drop, and it was done by 8-year-old Layla Flint, who is battling leukemia (and winning!).  She was escorted by Captain Zdeno Chara and also got a very special hug from Brad Marchand:

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And now…

“Our Bergy’s Backes and you’re gonna be in trouble…” (okay I’ll see myself out now).

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On a serious note the return of these two gentlemen, one who is the heart and soul of the team and the other who is a respected leader both on and off the ice, was probably akin to Christmas morning to our boys in the B.  With Bergeron having been dealing with a nagging lower-body injury (and was a game-time decision), and Backes suffering from an intestinal infection called diverticulitis since the start of the season, Coach Cassidy has been having to juggle lines to find something that would click in the interim.  And as we know that despite his best efforts, it was rather unstable, only furthering just how vital and important #37 and #42 truly are to the team if not just for their mad hockey skills, but their presence–just being there.

And did the Bruins ever run to those presents and tear into them with a 6–3 win:  Anders Bjork with 2 goals, Pastrnak, Krejci, Marchand and Bergeron himself with a goal each (and 3 assists—seemed like Bergy was most definitely making up for lost time!).

SO GOALS — LOTS & LOTS OF GOALS!

#1

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#2

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#3

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#4

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#5

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#6

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If all those goals weren’t enough, there were two fights, the first of which a lot have said was the catalyst for at least 3 of them:  Erik Gudbranson slammed Frank Vatrano into the boards hard, which landed him not only a 5-minute major but a game misconduct.  He was afterward met by the unexpected sight of a working man’s man in Tim Schaller, who didn’t take too kindly to the attack on his teammate.  It was quite the entertaining fight.

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Now, for something that will be called The Token Ugly.  Every game has one, whether it’s a camera-breaking face or a player who’s just downright awful.  For the inaugural post, this game’s Token Ugly is……

Derek Dorsett

Seriously, this guy is something special:  first, he tried to pester the Pest.

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And if that wasn’t enough, about 5 minutes later, he picked a fight with Kevan Miller! (who in their right mind would do that?)

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Miscellaneous Bear Sightings!

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Thank you for joining me! See you next time and Go Bruins!

No Bueno: Matt Duchene Should Not Figure into Boston Bruins’ Plans

( Above Photo Credit:  303 Hockey )

By: Bob Mand              Follow Me On Twitter @HockeyMand

Over the summer there have been ‘rumblings’ that the Boston Bruins were one of the squads in direct pursuit of disgruntled Colorado Avalanche star forward, Matt Duchene. With training camps rapidly approaching the Avs’ front office is under increasing pressure to get a deal done. The clamor isn’t exactly building in the Bruins’ direction (since the B’s have their own problems with a potential holdout forward) but it bears repeating to review exactly why this is a bad idea. Now, these rumors regarding Bruins’ GM Don Sweeney’s involvement didn’t exactly increase in tenor or volume as the offseason progressed, but it’s important to speak to the issue… Especially when we may have already addressed it before.

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Lots of teams have been kicking the tires on Duchene this offseason as both the team and player have indicated their openness to a deal. However, the Bruins should not, under any circumstances, consider him the answer to their top-six forward hole. For starters, it would be a cap mess. Unless David Pastrnak re-signed for something enormously less than a hometown discount, the Avs would have to retain money and take back one of the Bruins bottom-pairing defenseman (Kevan Miller, anyone?).

That’s complicated enough. Coupled with the king’s ransom Avs’ GM Joe Sakic is seeking for his demoralized center, it seems to put up a roadblock that no post-apocalyptic hero-on-a-motorcycle could weave past. Then there’s the plug-and-play issue. Duchene is a center. The Bruins have four (count ‘em) – four pivots with extensive NHL experience ready to take the dot in top-nine roles. Picking up a talented center simply to play wing diminishes what value he has – without diminishing the asking price. It would be as though the Bruins agreed to pay for a pint of Murphy’s Irish only to get some canned Natty Ice instead.

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And what exactly would the Bruins be getting in ‘Dutchy,’ as he is lovingly called in Denver? The game-breaking talent he appeared when he was drafted? Hardly – or the Avs wouldn’t be so ready to move him (despite the price). Over his eight full NHL seasons, Duchene has passed 25 goals twice as well as 60 points twice. His 2013 lockout-shortened campaign would have likely added to those totals (it was his best year on a per-game basis), but we’ll never know for certain.

As it stands, he’s coming off a season where he put up a line of 18-23-41 – hardly the stuff of legends. His Corsi For percentage sits just outside the bottom tenth (272nd of 304) of the League over the past three seasons (45.8% – among players with at least 150 games played). Sure, relative to his linemates, he manages a middle of the road 0.7 CF%rel – and that’s decent enough for him to stand alongside solid players like Jeff Carter, Jonathan Drouin, and Ryan Kesler.

However, for a player with just two years left on his current deal, that just doesn’t cut it on a team designed for and run by plus-possession players like Patrice Bergeron, Torey Krug, and Brad Marchand. Perhaps they could bring him up to their level… Or perhaps he could sink them down to his. Many point to Duchene as a risk worth taking. At what cost, though [Cries out in agony]… AT WHAT COST!?

Do we need to send one of our young defensive luminaries to the Rockies? Does our need for speed up front lead to a sacrifice of some of our almost ready for prime-time forwards like Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Zach Senyshyn or Anders Bjork? Wouldn’t the Bruins be better served to let their stockpile of young talent duke it out in a Royal Rumble-style fight for roster spots and ice time?

Ultimately, it comes down to a weighing of risk versus reward, and in this writer’s opinion, Matt Duchene’s caveats don’t warrant the haul of assets Joe Sakic is seeking from potential buyers.

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).

Numbers #2

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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Boston Bruins Need To Protect Colin Miller

Mar 15, 2017; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Boston Bruins defenseman Colin Miller (6) controls the puck against the Calgary Flames during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Boston Bruins won 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Bruins will have a hard choice when it comes to protecting some of their players for the upcoming expansion draft. Hopefully, the B’s will have the good sense to keep defenceman Colin Miller.

By Andrew Thompson                                                               Twitter:  @godwentwhoops

The NHL playoffs are currently going through their second round. (Sadly, the Boston Bruins are out due to falling the Ottawa Senators in six games.) At the end of the playoffs, the Bruins will have to deal with the Las Vegas Golden Knights taking one of their players.  Nothing like an expansion draft to throw a wrench in the Black and Gold works.

The Golden Knights are likely going to steal a defenseman from Boston. There is a decent amount of talent in the B’s blueline, and several players are in the cross-hairs of the Knights.

Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug won’t be leaving the fold anytime soon. John-Michael Liles is likely done in Boston.  If (and that’s a moderately sized ‘if’) the Bruins keep Joe Morrow around, he won’t gather much attention from Vegas. This leaves Colin Miller, Kevan Miller, and Adam McQuaid.

Adam McQuaid will likely not be the first choice of the Knights. While the 30-year old has proven that he’s willing do anything for the team, he has reached the practical edge of his skill set.

There are other reasons why McQuaid is out. McQuaid is a bottom-four blueliner that has an extensive history of injuries. He’s also the B’s stay-at-home defenceman. The league is getting faster every year. As the average game’s speed increases, the need for a limited-zone d-man is going the way of the dinosaur and the enforcer.

This leaves one of the Millers.

A lot of people have argued that the Bruins should protect Kevan Miller. I don’t want to take anything away from the older Miller’s most recent work. The 29-year old Miller had a very solid playoff round against the Sens.  He would be a better choice than McQuaid, but he’s also approaching the edge of his skill set.

The Bruins need to look to the future. That’s why they have to keep Colin Miller. The 24-year old still has an incredible amount of potential. Miller will spend next season with Zdeno Chara. He’ll continue to learn and grow under the captain’s instruction. He’s also the only of the three who is already a legitimate top-four blueliner.

The Boston Bruins are in the middle of an emerging youth movement. They are looking to younger players to stand up and make the kind of difference they made in the postseason. If this is the B’s focus moving forward, they’ll need to keep their young gun.

The Bruins will have plenty of talent coming down the road.  Charlie McAvoy certainly looks ready. While the B’s are looking ahead to the future, they need to continue to improve their blue line today.

Look at where the B’s are now. McQuaid and Kevan Miller are more of the same. It’s not enough to be consistent in this league. The B’s will need to evolve and improve if they want to remain a credible playoff threat in the future. Colin Miller is a step up for the team

When the Bruins release their list of protected players, I hope Colin Miller is on the list. He’ll be an important piece of the team moving forward.

Kevan Miller, My Choice For Being Protected

Miller_Kevan_MaddieMeyer

Photo Credit: (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

By Court Lalonde (@courtlalonde)

With the recent playoff exit to the Ottawa Senators in the first round of the National Hockey League Playoffs, we have to start thinking about the future. This summer is going to be different than other off-seasons because we will be welcoming an expansion team into the NHL, the Vegas Golden Knights. One of the biggest decisions for GM Don Sweeney will be who to protect in the expansion draft. He can either decide to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender or protect eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goaltender. I feel the obvious choice is the first option and protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goaltender. You have to protect players with no-movement and no-trade, so the decision with the forwards have almost all been made with a few spots open.

At the beginning of the season and the halfway point I had made up my mind on who I thought should get that final spot on the back end and it was Colin Miller. The two no-brainers are Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug, but after that, you can have a debate over the last spot. I’ve even gone as far to ask the Twitter world but ended up not coming to the same conclusion. During the last month and the playoffs, one defenseman stood out to me over all the others.

You can make a case for Colin Miller because he has speed and is a young skilled puck moving defensemen.  He needs a lot of work in the defensive zone and needs to be stronger on the puck and in the corners.  Miller has a cannon of a shot and can generate offense along with a very reasonable contract at one million a year until the 2017-2018 season.  With the emergence of Charlie McAvoy, I feel Colin Miller has been moved down on the depth charts.

Kevan Miller was never drafted by any team in the NHL but was able to sign an amateur tryout with the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League back in 2011 and played six games for them. He never actually made his NHL debut until 2013 when he was called up to play against the St.Louis Blues in November of that year. He was in and out of the lineup for the rest of the year but was able to get a contract extension at the end of the year; at the time I was wondering what Sweeney was thinking, to be honest. Miller has a physical presence and can make a quick first pass and will drop the gloves when needed. During the playoffs this year he got the shot to show his worth because the blueline became decimated with injuries. He was playing top minutes and averaging just over 24 minutes a night, but that includes a couple of overtime games. Intern coach Bruce Cassidy was relying heavily on Miller to soak up the ice time in the absence of the injured players. Miller didn’t let him down and became the second pairing shutdown defensemen in the playoffs this team had been looking for. He was taking the body, blocking shots and shutting down some of the top players on the Ottawa Senators. In the playoffs you get to see what a player is made of, some just can’t handle the pressure and fall flat. He was able to deal with the high typo of playoff hockey and excelled in it.


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The defense pairings for next year would look solid in my opinion and I feel Charlie McAvoy is a lock for a roster spot next year after his performance in the playoffs as well.

Zdeno Chara      Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug         Charlie McAvoy
Kevan Miller      Adam McQuaid

Kevan Miller is not the most flashy defensemen, and you could say he’s not the sexy pick, but he would be my pick if I had a say. He is not going to be the guy you expect to generate offense on the ice, but when he does, it’s a bonus. Miller’s a player that is going to stick up for his teammates and have the no surrender attitude. He showed me at the end of the year that I was wrong about him, and I’m glad he did.