Hockey players are nothing if not loyal creatures of habit, routine and ritual.
They all have their idiosyncratic game-day routine, enjoy sliding into the same time-honored rhythm during the season and in the offseason, and even after some experience tend to get accustomed to the sometimes unpredictable nature of being a professional hockey player. Sometimes, there are things that even the most grizzled players can’t possibly prepare for and last summer’s Vegas expansion draft would have to qualify as one of those rare instances.
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For Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid, it certainly was a curveball thrown at him in late July that he most certainly could have done without. The Bruins didn’t protect the 30-year-old defenseman in the draft for the Vegas Golden Knights expansion team. Instead, they opted to make certain Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug and Kevan Miller were protected.
As it turned out, the Golden Knights selected defenseman Colin Miller from the Black and Gold instead of the hard-nosed, Cup-winning McQuaid, So, one of the longest-tenured Bruins will be back with Boston this season. The 6-foot-4, 212-pounder made it clear that he didn’t want to go Vegas, so obviously he’s glad he got his wish.
“It was a long few days at one point, but I had kind of forgotten about it,” said McQuaid, who finished with two goals and 10 points in 77 games last season. “I wasn’t quite sure what was going to happen for a little while there. I’m definitely very excited to be back and be a part of this group. I don’t need to reiterate what I’ve said over the years about how much I love this city and this organization, and everything it’s done for me. I want to continue to give back.”
That being said, it’s also a situation where McQuaid had to pack away any conflicted feelings he might have gone through in those uncertain few days. It’s a sobering dose of reality for any player to see where they might sit in the organizational pecking order. There’s no doubt McQuaid felt a bit of that while his NHL future was a little uncertain, but it’s become water under the bridge while he and his teammates use captain’s practices to get ready for the season.
McQuaid had a summer to get past it and instead refocus on being the tough, selfless stay-at-home defenseman he’s always been for the Black and Gold.
“Just looking at it, every team was going to have tough decisions,” said McQuaid. “Whether it was a tough decision or not, there were going to be guys that were going to be exposed. That was just the reality of the situation. I knew that going in, but it didn’t really make things any easier. I was just able to breathe a little sigh of relief once it was over. You move on and I’m just happy that I’m back here now.”
Clearly, the Bruins had some sound reasons for leaving McQuaid unprotected. He is in the middle of a pretty weighty contract for a player who projects to be a third-pairing D-man this season. The multitude of injuries in McQuaid’s career figure to grow now that he’s approaching the wrong side of 30. Those may be a few of the reasons the Golden Knights opted for the young, faster and more skilled Miller as their selection from the Bruins.
There’s little doubt, though, the Bruins would have missed McQuaid’s toughness when it comes time to stand up for his teammates, and his selfless, professional and winning approach to the game in all circumstances. McQuaid should also have a strong season of shutdown defense and stalwart penalty-killing for the Bruins now that he knows what the future holds for him. This much is certain for McQuaid: He’ll be in a much better position to succeed as a third-pairing defenseman with a simplified role that plays to his strengths this season