Bruins

Haggerty: Bruins case for hanging onto (and paying) Ryan Spooner

Haggerty: Bruins case for hanging onto (and paying) Ryan Spooner

Don Sweeney hasn’t been part of an arbitration hearing since taking over as general manager of the Bruins a couple of years ago, but that may change at the end of this month. Ryan Spooner and the Bruins have an arbitration date set for July 26, according to a source with knowledge of the negotiations, and it looks like the 25-year-old third line center is going to get awarded something between $2.7 million and 3.5 million for next season before it’s all said and done. 

The 5-foot-10, 184-pounder has averaged 12 goals and 44 points in each of the last two full seasons for the Black and Gold, but was a healthy scratch for playoff games at the end of Boston’s first round series against the Ottawa Senators. He’s been dangled in trade talks since the season ended for the B’s, and the expectation is that Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson will be getting a crack at the third line center job at the NHL sooner rather than later. 

Who can also forget just exactly how non-committal that Sweeney was toward Spooner when asked his future with the Bruins back at the end of April?

“To be determined,” said Sweeney at the end-of-the-season press conference. “We’ll look at our roster and what our options are. [Spooner] has options as well as an RFA. We’ll have discussions with his representatives and see where there’s a fit.

“Ryan’s a talented player. He’s had a lot of success. Our power play is better when he plays as well as he’s capable of playing, and he can really be a good complement to our group.”

All of that makes it interesting to see what the Bruins are going to do in the aftermath of what could be a contentious arbitration hearing with a player in Spooner, who isn’t likely to forget any slights by the organization thrown toward his game during the process. That’s the difficulty with the arbitration process and the biggest reason why teams look to avoid it at all costs with their young restricted free agents eligible for arbitration. 

In a perfect world, the Bruins would likely take their chances with Spooner at a reasonable number for the next couple of years as a 25-year-old likely to either maintain, or improve upon his numbers from the last couple of seasons. It’s no coincidence that the B’s power play has been excellent (seventh in the NHL in each of the last two seasons) with Spooner working the half-wall on the first unit, and a salary cap figure somewhere in the $3 million range would be excellent if they can find a way to get Spooner a top-6 role. 

If all things were equal, one would almost expect the Bruins to try and move David Krejci once they’ve settled things with Spooner. There are some very interesting analytical arguments to be made that Spooner would be as good, or better, than Krejci as a second line center over the next couple of seasons as a player that’s six years younger than him. 

This past season Spooner and Krejci had close to identical production (2.19 points per 60 for Spooner vs. 2.20 for Krejci), and a perusal of the fancy stats show that Spooner appears to have elevated Krejci’s 5-vs-5 play last season in just about every category – from generating shot attempts, to suppressing opponents’ attempts, and also in terms of finding the back of opponents’ nets and keeping the puck out of the Bruins’ net – while Spooner was playing an unfamiliar, uncomfortable position as a left winger after playing his entire pro career at center. 

  TOI  GF60 (5v5)  GA60 (5v5)  GF% (5v5)  CF60 (5v5)  CA60 (5v5)  CF% (5v5) 
               
Krejci with Spooner: 325:58 2.7 2.01 57.7 61.65 49.6 55.4
               
Krejci without Spooner:  822:25 2.19 2.99 42.3 59.39 53.77 52.5

Interestingly enough, the highest paid player on the team in Krejci, at $7.25 million per season, also didn’t do much to elevate the play of those on his line. One would expect Krejci to make players on his wings better given his playmaking, his past performance as a player and a greater focus on the offensive end from the new Bruins coaching staff. Another deep dive on the fancy stats showed that Krejci’s most common wingers (David Backes and David Pastrnak) were significantly better without Krejci than with him. 

  TOI  GF60 (5v5)  GA60 (5v5)  GF% (5v5)  CF60 (5v5)  CA60 (5v5)  CF% (5v5) 
               
Backes with Krejci  524:13 2.4 2.98 44.7 62.04 49.67 55.5
               
Backes without Krecji  482:18 3.11 1.99 61 62.95 49.02 56.2

 

  TOI  GF60 (5v5)  GA60 (5v5)  GF% (5v5)  CF60 (5v5)  CA60 (5v5)  CF% (5v5) 
               
Pastrnak with Krejci    2.41 2.83 45.9 60.42 56.32 51.8 
               
Pastrnak without Krejci   3.36 2.05 62.1 71.98 46.9 60.5 

So what does all of this mean?

Well, it means the Bruins are stuck in a difficult place with an aging Krejci that’s clearly slowing down his playmaking pace despite scoring an impressive 23 goals last season. The 31-year-old Krejci has voiced zero desire to waive his no-movement clause and allow the Bruins to get out from under a weighty contract that still has years to go before it’s done. The Bruins might just be better off with Spooner, or one of their other young centers, as a No. 2 pivot behind Patrice Bergeron over the next few seasons, and there’s an argument to be made for holding onto the 25-year-old despite his five-on-five play inconsistency and the areas of his game (defense, face-offs) that are perpetual works in progress. 

Clearly Spooner's skating speed and his ability to generate offense are the kinds of traits the Bruins are looking for under Bruce Cassidy. They just need more of it during even-strength play, and they need it from him on a consistent basis. 

Don’t be surprised if Spooner more than doubles his salary in arbitration for this upcoming season, and winds up on Boston’s third line once again this season if Sweeney doesn’t get what he’s looking for with any deals involving the speedy, skilled center. 

David Krejci Line looks to shoulder their share of Bruins offensive burden

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David Krejci Line looks to shoulder their share of Bruins offensive burden

TORONTO – The Bruins top line totaled up 20 points in the first two games, and the B’s took both of those against the Maple Leafs. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak had zero points in Game 3 on Monday night at the Air Canada Centre, and the Bruins ended up dropping that game to the Leafs. 

So clearly the Bruins’ playoff fate could be strongly tied to the ebbs and flow of their top forward trio, but the hope with the B’s is that the formula won’t be that simple throughout the postseason. A big part of the reason the Bruins gave up a boatload to the New York Rangers in exchange for Rick Nash was to acquire another forward capable of shouldering a scoring load, and turn Boston’s second line into a much more dangerous group. 

All three members of the B’s second line, David Krejci, Rick Nash and Jake DeBrusk, all have goals during the best-of-seven series, but they also came up empty in Game 3 with Krejci and DeBrusk only managing two shots on net between them. They know that they’re capable of more given the offensive talent on the ice, and given that so much defensive attention is being paid to neutralizing Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak rather than them. 

“We had lots of good looks. I missed a couple. We had lots of good looks that just didn’t go in,” said Krejci. “So we need to work extra harder [in Game 4] to bury those chances and have them end up in the back of the net. We need to stick to the game plan and respect the game plan.”

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Nash had five shots on net and some pretty good chances, but the best scoring chance was a DeBrusk dangle and pass to Krejci wide open at the net. It looked like the puck hit a rut on the ice and Krejci was never able to settle it down for a shot despite the nice-looking pass, so that line is left biding their team for another chance to carry the offense. 

“I think that’s the main reason why we’re the second line. We all have attributes that can help this team. It hasn’t really come to the table yet, but I still thought that we generated chances [in Game 3], and I think our whole team did. It just wasn’t bouncing our way,” said DeBrusk. “It’s frustrating, but at the same time you take the positives from it. It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to get harder from here on in. Hopefully our top line does their thing, but if not then we’ll be ready to hopefully help out in that category.”

The Bruins top line is ready, willing and able to shoulder the lion’s share of the scoring burden for the Black and Gold, and most nights they’re going to be able to live up to that kind of responsibility. But if the Bruins want to beat the good defensive teams and become a much more difficult team to play against in the postseason, they’re going to need to start getting production from a second line that should be built to play the power, puck possession game in the postseason.

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Patrice Bergeron named Selke Trophy finalist for seventh straight season

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Patrice Bergeron named Selke Trophy finalist for seventh straight season

TORONTO – At some point, they’re going to have to start thinking about re-naming the award after Patrice Bergeron himself.

The Bruins center was named a finalist for the Selke Trophy on Wednesday night for the seventh consecutive season, and is going for his NHL-record fifth trophy for being the best defensive forward in the NHL. Bergeron was named a finalist along with Philadelphia Flyers center Sean Couturier and Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar. Bergeron finished his 12th NHL season with 30 goals and 33 assists for 63 points with 26 penalty minutes and a plus-21 rating in 64 games.

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He ranked fifth in the league in faceoff win percentage (57.3, min. 1,000 face-offs), 12th in face-offs won (784), third in even strength faceoff win percentage (58.0, min. 500 face-offs won) and first in shorthanded faceoff win percentage (58.3, min. 50 face-offs won). The 32-year-old forward also ranked second overall in the team puck possession metric SAT (shot attempts differential), with a 57.56%, which should make the fancy stat nerds very happy.

Some might argue there other more worthy candidates given that Bergeron missed 18 games due to injury this season, but he was also the center of a line that didn’t give up an even strength goal until January while putting up his customarily excellent stats. That being said, a guy like Aleksander Barkov also deserved plenty of consideration outside the top-3 finalists that all come in with equally strong chances of taking home the award.

Bergeron has won the Selke in 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2017. If he wins the year's Selke Trophy, he will break the record held by four-time winner and Montreal Canadiens Hall of Famer Bob Gainey. The Selke Award is given annually to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association at the end of the regular season, and will be announced at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas on June 20.

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