Bruins

Don Sweeney: Bruins 'lost a good player' in Colin Miller

Don Sweeney: Bruins 'lost a good player' in Colin Miller

CHICAGO – Don Sweeney said the Bruins knew and expected they were going to lose one of three players in the NHL expansion draft, and it’s pretty clear it was going to be Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller or Colin Miller leaving the team. The B’s took Kevan Miller out of the equation by leaving him on the protection list after a strong season while also playing some of his best hockey in the playoffs.

That left McQuaid and Miller with each of the two D-men standing an equal chance of getting selected by the Vegas Golden Knights, and the 24-year-old puck-moving Miller going to Vegas for the time being. It remains to be seen if Miller sticks with the Golden Knights, or if there is an eventual plan to flip him elsewhere like perhaps an interested party in Toronto.

Sweeney said the Bruins didn’t want to lose a player with potential like Miller, but it’s also true that he would have been stuck behind younger, better D-men on the depth chart with Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo as better right-handed options.

“It was an interesting process to go through. It was hard at times because you felt like other teams were able to find deals to keep their team together while you felt vulnerable in that regard,” said Sweeney at the B’s team hotel in Chicago during a Thursday availability with the media. “You knew you were going to lose a good player. You knew they had targeted three players on our team that we felt they would target, and unfortunately we’re losing a good, young player.

“We thought highly of Colin. He was part of a big trade for us and we wish him well moving forward. We thank for him doing his part with the organization. We lost a good player.”

Clearly, the Bruins lost a defenseman with skills and youth on his side, but it’s also a young guy that hasn’t put it all together yet while never posting more than 16 points in each of his two seasons with the Black and Gold. Perhaps he will put together the offensive package at his next landing spot after showing flashes in Boston over the last two years, but that unknown factor while no longer being considered a prospect is the reason he didn’t find himself on the protected D list along with Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug.  

With no Chara, it's a desperate situation for injury-plagued Bruins

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File photo

With no Chara, it's a desperate situation for injury-plagued Bruins

Some Bruins fans lament that 41-year-old Zdeno Chara isn’t quite what he used to be as a shutdown defenseman in the twilight of his Hall of Fame career.

Well, they’re about to find out exactly how valuable he still is after he was sent home from their lengthy Western trip just one game into the four-game sojourn that will lead up to Thanksgiving. The 6-foot-9 captain was sent back to Boston on Thursday after suffering what looked like a left knee injury in the loss to the Colorado Avalanche and he’s going to be re-evaluated by Bruins doctors while the team still has three games to go in Dallas, Arizona and Detroit.

So, the Bruins will be without Chara for at least the next three games and probably longer if there’s a sprain or worse to the big D-man’s knee. They got a picture into life without Big Zee when a 3-1 lead was erased by five consecutive Avs goals without Chara on the ice and three-power play goals allowed in the final 40 minutes as they attempted to stem the defensive bleeding.

Certainly, Chara's skating has slowed a bit and isn't as much of a factor in the overall offense and on the power play these days. There won’t be any more Norris Trophies or All-Star berths likely in his future, but he’s still the best, most intimidating defensive stopper in the league who uses equal parts size, strength, toughness and a tremendously long reach with his stick to frustrate even the best opponents.

He’s also the most valuable penalty killer who's been the backbone of a consistently effective PK for the Black and Gold.

The Chara injury forced rookie Jeremy Lauzon into almost three minutes of PK time and pushed small puck-movers Torey Krug and Matt Grzelcyk into power-play time as well. That’s where the trouble begins for the Bruins. 

Now, it will force rookie Jakub Zboril into the lineup for the Bruins and has pushed minor league D-man Connor Clifton into his first call-up to the Bruins from the AHL. It’s unlikely that any of the injured Bruins D-men will be able to return for tonight’s game against the high-powered Dallas Stars, so that would leave Brandon Carlo, Kevan Miller, Chara, Urho Vaakanainen and Charlie McAvoy out of the lineup.

Check out the defensive pairings from the morning skate in Dallas:

Clearly, that’s a lot of young, puck-moving talent missing. That’s been reflected in an inconsistent Bruins offense, but the missing bodies also feature the iron of Boston’s defense and penalty kill.

Chara is the beating heart of all of that for the Black and Gold.

The Bruins are having enough issues right now ranked 24th in the NHL in the penalty kill while closing out just 76.3 percent of the power plays that they face, but they’ve been strong defensively in allowing only 2.61 goals per game. That could all change starting tonight in Dallas with no Chara and with a rag-tag group of blueliners full of rookies, power-play specialists and AHL call-ups expected to stop the NHL’s best offensive players.

Some Bruins fans have been looking forward to the day when the Bruins can move past a 41-year-old who's perhaps slowed down just a little bit. They also might come to regret that notion after watching the Bruins struggle through life without Chara until they get their big defensive stopper back.   

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Re-setting the Bruins' blue-line depth

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USA TODAY Sports Images

Re-setting the Bruins' blue-line depth

The Bruins' already-thin blue line depth took another body blow Wednesday when captain Zdeno Chara left the first period of a loss to Colorado with an apparent knee injury. The big man is headed back to Boston for further evaluation, and as Joe Haggerty notes, any extended time away from the team by Chara could be a coup de grace.

How dire could this picture look without Chara? Here's what the defenseman depth looks like at present:

WHO'S OUT

Zdeno Chara - The captain is heading back to Boston after injuring his knee in Wednesday night’s loss in Colorado. It’s unknown how long he’ll be out for, but as Joe Haggerty writes, any long-term absence could be quite costly.

Kevan Miller - On the IR with a hand injury, Miller hasn’t appeared in a game since Oct. 18, but traveled with the team for this road trip. He won’t be eligible to play until Nov. 21 against the Red Wings, however.

Charlie McAvoy - Out since Oct. 18 with a concussion, he’s skating again, but did not travel with the team for this road trip.

Brandon Carlo - He’s out on the IR with an upper body injury, having not played since Saturday’s 5-1 win over Toronto.

Urho Vaakanainen - He didn’t make the trip to Colorado, out with a concussion, but he could join the team before the road trip concludes next week in Detroit.

WHO'S HERE

Matt Grzelcyk - He’s been on the top D-pairing with Chara and is averaging nearly 20 minutes of ice time this season, with 1-7-8 totals in 16 games.

Torey Krug - The left-shooting puck-mover figures to join Grzelcyk on the top pairing. He started the year off on the mend, making his season debut Oct. 30, with six assists in the seven games since.

Steven Kampfer - Sitting on the third D-pairing with call-up Jeremy Lauzon on Wednesday, Kampfer is at a minus-1 for the season.

Jeremy Lauzon - The third-line rookie notched his first career goal in Sunday’s 4-1 win over Vegas.

John Moore - The well-traveled veteran has been logging heavy minutes of late, averaging 20:06 of ice time this month — including a season-high 25:53 in an overtime win over Dallas on Nov. 5. He has just two points in 18 games.

Jakub Zboril - The 21-year-old Czech is understandably thrilled about his first call-up from Providence. In 13 games for the P-Bruins, the former first-round pick has 2-2-4 totals with 16 penalty minutes.

Connor Clifton - The former Quinnipiac star was called up from Providence Thursday on an emergency basis. In 14 AHL games this season, he has four assists.

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