The bye week is here for the Bruins and that means the players are scattered to the four corners of the Earth for warm weather, umbrella cocktails and some kind of beach setup. So, the Bruins are locked in third place in the Atlantic Division until next week and they’ve done well to stay in playoff position to this point.
Still, discouraging losses to Montreal, Philly and the New York Rangers leave concern about the direction of the team and reveal some flaws coming up to the surface after they were able to ride their top line, power play and strong goaltending for the first four months of the season. With the trade deadline a little more than a month away, the rumors are rampant and the Bruins should be right in the middle of all of it.
Here are some of those scenarios, rumors and good, old-fashioned questions about what the Bruins will do. As always, these are real questions from real readers that sent tweets to my Twitter account using the #HaggBag hashtag, messages to my NBCS Facebook account and emails to my @JHaggerty@nbcuni.com email account. Now on to the bag:
Ok your opinion on the Bruins at the trade deadline, could they be sellers?
--Eugene Mannarino (@steelmann58)
JH: In my opinion, they won’t be. And I think that’s going to be the opinion of Cam Neely, Don Sweeney and ownership. They’re in third place in the Atlantic and really in no danger of falling out of the playoff picture with Buffalo starting to come back to reality a little bit. There is a window to compete for Cups with Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand not getting any younger.
Now, do they have the team to make a run at the Cup as currently constituted? It’s extremely difficult to see them beating Tampa Bay in a playoff series and they would likely fall short in the same fashion that they did last season against the Lightning. Still, it’s also reasonable to see them at least winning a round in the playoffs before they get to that point. That could change based on whatever kind of move Sweeney makes at the deadline.
Realistically, it would need to be a big, substantial move to get the Bruins closer to Tampa Bay in terms of talent, depth etc. but things can also happen whether injuries, slumps or something unforeseen. The Bruins are kind of stuck in a position right now where they’re clearly good enough to be a playoff team, but don’t seem quite Cup-worthy. It’s up to Bruins management to do something about that and find a way to get them closer to the elite in the East. Easier said than done, but that’s the gig.
McAvoy is the future for this team. However, is he untouchable at this time? The NHL seems to be moving more towards having an arsenal of #2/3 defensemen instead of the quintessential #1. If they are receiving calls on him I believe now is the time to sell. A future superstar for a future superstar. I personally do not believe Sweeney is capable of a trade this complex. However, the league is gearing more towards skill and speed. Besides the first line and DeBrusk, who stands out offensively? Even though Chiarelli may never negotiate with the Bruins, I would venture a McAvoy for Draisaitl move. Fixes the RW issue now, and bridges the C gap for Bergeron/Krejci. Thank you!
JH: I disagree about moving away from a quintessential No. 1. Now, is Charlie McAvoy going to be a No. 1 defenseman when it’s all said and done? That’s a legitimate question that needs to be answered. Clearly, he needs to stay healthy and needs to continue developing both ends of his game while showing that he truly wants to be a No. 1 guy.
But I’m not ready to give up on McAvoy in a seismic deal like you are talking about. As it is now, the Bruins are probably going to get him for a more reasonable contract than once thought given that this season hasn’t been a dominant one for him. Given the shortcomings that Torey Krug and Matt Grzelcyk have defensively and given that Chara is 41, there would be a huge void on Boston’s back end if they moved McAvoy without getting some kind of equal defensive talent in return.
It’s certainly true, though, that the Bruins are going to have to give up equal talent if they hope to get a young star forward into the mix who can really change their dynamic up front. And other teams will undoubtedly be asking about McAvoy. Still, I wouldn’t do it if I were Sweeney and Neely, and I don’t think they really have an appetite for it given some of the other young stars that they’ve traded in the past. McAvoy just needs more time to develop both on and off the ice and the Bruins need to give it to him.
I hear u about the B’s lack of response. The B’s seems to be in good shape when healthy but they need to make 2 moves up front: 1 for a scorer and 1 for a guy that can handle himself and add a bit of offence. Personally I like to see if they could get 2 rentals Maroon (any guy that would drop the gloves with Big Z is good in my books and can score a bit) and Simmonds (total package). Living close to Toronto often hear how the Leafs play a lot like the Bolts and they both may have a ton of offence but the Leafs don’t have Callahan JT Miller Paquette Hedman McDonough to compete in the physicality department and that was the difference in the B’s beating Leafs and losing to Tampa.
B’s get Maroon and Simmonds imagine:
Bergy Marchand Pasta
Krejci Debrusk Simmonds
Kuraly Maroon Wagner
Backes Nordstrom Heinen/Donato/JFK (at least one of them would leave in Simmonds deal)
JH: I have long been a fan of the Bruins going after Wayne Simmonds and still think he might be the best fit for what they truly need on that second line. He’s more skilled offensively than Michael Ferland and certainly a top-6 guy where some of the other players (Ferland, Patrick Maroon) are more third line guys at this point.
From talking to people around the Bruins, it sure seems as if they want somebody younger that they can control for a while under contract. Don’t forget that when they made the Rick Nash trade and gave up a first-round pick, the understanding was that Nash was going to resign in Boston so they were making an investment for beyond just last season.
Obviously, it didn’t come to pass with Nash retiring due to the concussion, but the Bruins are still in a position where they want somebody beyond this season. That might be a bit of a rub with Simmonds, who's probably looking to make some big free-agent bucks after this season. But who knows? Maybe they trade for Simmonds, he realizes the Bruins are a perfect fit and they find something reasonable that can work for both sides. Crazier things have happened.
As far as Maroon goes, I’d take a pass at this point. If you get Simmonds, then I don’t think you really need him. They just need somebody up front that plays a big, strong, heavy, mean game, and if he can score a few goals, then all the better. That’s the very definition of Simmonds, but we’ll see if the Bruins can pull it off.
I also still like the idea of Brayden Schenn as a versatile, tough, competitive player who would really upgrade the Bruins up front. And he’s signed for next season. I don’t think he’d end up costing the Bruins something they wouldn’t be willing to part with either.
Wow! These B’s are NOT there to compete against the top teams when they struggle against teams they should be man-handling, especially on home ice! Sorry, ‘man-handling’, was thinking of those 2010-2013 Bruins that had players with grit, jam, size to go with scorers.....won a Cup and a finalist! It’s still called hockey and the NHL (physical) even in 2019!
JH: I agree, Ron. Playing down to the competition with the Flyers and Rangers over the past week was a concern. It also looked to me that, like the Christmas break, the Bruins were already thinking about their vacation plans ahead of the bye rather than focusing on beating the Rangers. Still, they’re in a good spot and they managed to battle through plenty of adversity in the first half. Let’s see what they can do at the trade deadline and then we’ll adjust our expectations from there.
When do you think we'll get the Title for Star Wars Episode XI? #HaggBag
--Alissa #RSPNow (@nerdmetalchic4)
JH: How about Star Wars Episode XI: The Search to Undo what the Last Jedi Wrought? Seriously, I’d go with something like “The Last Stand of the Resistance” maybe.
That was a bad week by the Bruins. One point against the Canadiens, Flyers and Rangers is just not good enough. And losing to the Rangers, another bad Hockey team, puts them at 9 losses to bad teams this year. That game was lost in the first 10 minutes tonight. Six power play minutes and the Rangers had the better of the chances. That’s not good enough. Bergeron and Krejci are the best 2 Bruins when it comes to puck management. So you put Krejci on the point on the power play. By doing that you probably cut down on the number odd man rushes the opposing teams constantly get.
And come on Halak, you got to make a save on the winning goal. There was very little traffic in front, that's a save that's got to be made.
JH: Agreed. Terry. Halak is simply coming back to his usual level of performance after playing so well in the first half of the season, but I’m sure some of it is also about his playing time getting spaced out with Tuukka Rask’s performance on the rise. I would expect, barring any unforeseen issues with Rask’s concussion against the Rangers, that it will continue to play out that way in the second half.
The Bruins don’t usually put Krejci and Bergeron together on the power play unless it’s a two-man advantage. I’m not sure putting a forward back there on point is going to cut down on the shorthanded chances for other teams. It may simply be that the Bruins are going to have to live with that as long as the power play continues to score goals. The problem in the last few games was that the PP wasn’t functioning well offensively and was still giving up chances to the other team. When that happens, it’s time to change something up on the special teams. Maybe it’s about putting McAvoy as the top point guy on the top unit rather than Krug, who tends to run into problems when it comes to those shorthanded chances allowed. Either way, there’s an adjustment that needs to made, particularly given how dependent the Bruins are on the power play for much of their offensive success. The PP needs to come through if they’re going to win games against good teams and even against not-so-good teams as well. It’s as simple as that.
Thanks for taking my question. I'm worried that Sweeney will trade away some of our young assets for aging veterans just to get an opportunity to get out of the 1st round.
Case in point, last year's acquisition of Rick Nash. NYR got a great young developing star in Ryan Lindgren.
It's clear that the B's are more than a few players away to match top echelon teams like the Bolts, Caps, Jet and Flames. It take 3 years for your rookies to come into own with a team. I wouldn't rush to trade Heinen (who is having a down year), JFK, Donato etc. Both Carlo and Grzelcyk have really come into their own this year and I would hate to see the B's org developing these assets over the past couple of years and then trading them to a non-playoff team that will end up with a valuable asset.....while we lose our trade acquisition to free agency or retirement.
JH: I’ll be honest, Art. I don’t think Ryan Lindgren is a young developing star. Certainly, he might be an NHL defenseman, but I don’t think there is much in the way of star qualities there. I think the Bruins need to trade somebody from the Danton Heinen/Ryan Donato/Anders Bjork troika and obviously, it’s not going to be Bjork given he just went down with another shoulder surgery. I actually think Donato could end up being the guy that gets moved if/when it does happen. Clearly, there is NHL talent there in his shot and release, and other teams will value that highly.
I wouldn’t trade Brandon Carlo. I think he’s made real progress this season offensively and he’s started to develop a bit of the warrior mentality in the defensive zone as well. Would I trade Matt Grzelcyk? I probably would if it was a forward who could come in and be a difference-maker. You can make arguments about waiting three years for the young players to come into their own, but where are Bergeron, Chara and Marchand going to be at that point? Where is the Bruins team as a whole going to be at that point? They are in a competitive window now and that means making a trade to help this season’s team, and it may mean trading away a young piece that clearly could become a good player for another team.
I wouldn’t trade any of those assets for a rental player unless the Bruins had designs on keeping him beyond this season, however. They didn’t do that last season when the only NHL talent they gave up was Ryan Spooner, who they weren’t going to keep anyway (and who just waived by the Edmonton Oilers as well).
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