COUNTDOWN TO CAMP: ADAM McQUAID
Countdown to camp: Adam McQuaid
It’s hard to believe this will be Adam McQuaid’s eighth season with the Bruins, considering it feels almost like yesterday that he was a hard-nosed, punch-throwing youngster bringing toughness and some very good ability as a bottom pair defenseman to the table. McQuaid has improved in some areas over those eight years, but he’s also never quite fully returned to the form that saw him post 15 points and a plus-30 rating in his first full NHL season. The Bruins could use that kind of season from McQuaid.
What happened last year
It wasn’t McQuaid’s best season in the NHL, but it was still a pretty good effort from the 29-year-old. He suitied up for 64 games and avoided major injuries, aside from a concussion in the middle of the season. McQuaid put up a goal and nine points, along with a plus-6 while playing a top-four role on most nights. He finished with the second-highest ice time per game total of his career (18:02). McQuaid absolutely is what he is eight seasons into his career: a tough, strong defender that will lay the lumber in the defensive zone and will make offensive players pay a price to create things in the B’s zone. McQuaid is also prone to injury, has never been the smoothest puck-mover getting things out of the B’s zone and tends to make more mistakes when put under heavy pressure by attackers. He is perfectly fine when partnered with a skilled puck-mover, but the more minutes he plays, the more flaws you tend to see in McQuaid’s game. In a perfect situation, he’d be a No. 5 or No. 6 defenseman. The Bruins back end is far from the perfect situation.
Questions to be answered this season
It’s a variation on the same theme for McQuaid. Can he remain healthy for the entire season and give the Bruins the toughness and size/strength they need in their own end? Will the Bruins once again be desperate enough on the back end to play McQuaid and Kevan Miller against elite, top-line players and watch as they get exposed by players they shouldn’t be featured against for long stretches? McQuaid is a solid leader, a good citizen and a hard worker who protects the back of every other player on the roster and he has moments where he can surprise you when he steps up into the offensive play. But he’s being stretched too thin by the Bruins poor D situation and one has to wonder just how good the B’s can be with both McQuaid and Miller, very similar players, both in featured roles. It wouldn’t surprise this humble hockey writer if one of those players gets dealt once Brandon Carlo shows he can survive in the NHL.
In their own words
“This is the first [summer] I didn’t have a surgery in the last three years, so this is a good start. Not being behind the eight-ball is good. There’s probably going to be a lot of talk about the D-corps and uncertainty in different areas, but I’m looking forward to coming in, having a good training camp and having a really good season. The guys that I’ve talked to, everybody is looking forward to just a fresh start and a fresh opportunity. Hopefully we take care of what we can take care of, and see how everything else plays out.” –Adam McQuaid, speaking at Shawn Thornton’s charity golf tournament last month about being healthy and motivated headed into this season.
The Bruins covet McQuaid’s toughness, leadership and steady presence on their back end. He’s been a great team guy the past eight years. He’s also one of the few players carrying on the tradition of that big, bad group that won the Cup five years ago and a team always needs a tough, accountable guy like McQuaid. Still, there’s also no denying that the NHL is trending toward mobile, offensive-minded defenseman that can move the puck quickly. That’s an area that has never been McQuaid’s forte. It will be interesting to see how long the Bruins roll with both McQuaid and Miller making almost a combined $6 million on the salary cap because that’s a lot of money to pay two D-men who are probably best served as bottom-pairing, stay-at-home types on a good hockey team. Until that comes to a head, “Darth Quaider” will be valued and enjoyed by the Bruins rugged, blue-collar fan base and he’ll be appreciated greatly by the teammates he protects on a regular basis.