The Bruins are a month into the NHL season and sit atop the league as the best team around with a whopping six months still left to go in the regular season.
What’s amazing is that the Bruins haven’t even hit the high register of their potential yet, either. They haven’t had a consistently healthy, midseason-form David Krejci in their lineup, the B’s fourth line has been just okay and the scoring level outside the Perfection Line has just now started rising above a pedestrian level.
Certainly, the call for secondary scoring was loud and unmistakable in the first few weeks of the season. It’s died down a bit as Krejci has returned healthy and the Bruins are beginning to get offense from guys like Charlie Coyle, Anders Bjork and Brett Ritchie among others. But there’s little question this Bruins team could benefit from another bona fide top-6 winger with the ability to finish off offensive plays and score goals.
So naturally that is the subject du jour in this week’s Hagg Bag mailbag as it is just about every week. As always these are real tweets to my account from real hockey fans using the #HaggBag hashtag, real messages to NBCS Facebook fan page and real emails to firstname.lastname@example.org email account. Now on to the bag:
I read your article on the two low-cost options the Bruins could pursue to try and fix their right wing issues and while I guess I would be okay with them going after Jesse Puljujarvi, I am also sick and tired of this revolving door of third-line players that the Bruins HOPE will work out in a top-6 roll. It's way beyond time that Don Sweeney makes a real hockey trade to bring in a legit player who we KNOW will be the answer.
My solution...trade Torey Krug for Anthony Mantha. Mantha would be a perfect fit in Boston. He's 6-5, 234 pounds, he's scored 6 goals in the first 8 games this year, 25 goals last year, 24 goals the year before. Steve Yzerman reportedly wants to upgrade his defense, so Krug would be a great fit for Detroit. Before I'm overwhelmed with "Krug is too valuable on the power play," the Bruins power play is not the issue, 5-on-5 scoring is and scoring from anyone other than the top line is. Are we even sure the power play will drop that much? I'm pretty sure Mantha will help the power play. Most importantly, the increase in 5-on-5 will be greater than the decrease on the power play and the increase in going from Karson Kuhlman to Mantha is MUCH greater than the decrease in going from Krug to Matt Grzelcyk
JH: First, let’s take the obvious. Mantha would be an exceptionally good fit for the Bruins given he can play right wing, given that he’s 25 years old and years away from free agency and given that he’s averaged 25 goals per game over the last couple of season. So you are definitely on the right track with the kind of player that the Bruins are looking for and what they essentially need right now for their top-6. Mantha is on a 40-goal pace early in this season as well, so maybe he’s even ascending to the next level as a player this season in lowly Detroit.
There’s also that unquestionably Torey Krug would be an excellent fit with the Red Wings. He’s a Michigan kid that would be going home and he’s also the kind of explosive offensive player that Detroit could definitely use on their roster. If Krug were to get to unrestricted free agency this coming summer, there is little doubt that the Red Wings would be one of the teams lining up to sign him.
All that being said, the Red Wings are rebuilding around Mantha and Dylan Larkin. I don’t see them traded a restricted free agent still under their control and still getting better for a player like Krug that’s going to be a rental acquisition at the deadline.
If the Red Wings were interested in Krug, why not just wait until he becomes a free agent and then try to sign him on July 1 while giving up nothing in return. It’s not like Yzerman and the Wings have any illusions about the playoffs for this season in a stacked Atlantic Division, so there’s really no urgency on their part to fast track Krug to Detroit.
I really like where your head was at, Marc, but I just don’t think it makes sense from the Red Wings point of view. It makes all kinds of sense for the Bruins if they could get that kind of player in return.
Understanding that practice time is limited during the season, do NHL team spend any time practicing for shootouts. The Bruins have never seemed very strong here. I agree that this is a sideshow, but it is also a pretty quick, easy way to grab an extra point. Thanks Haggs!
JH: The Bruins occasionally spend time at the end of practices doing shootout stuff. It doesn’t happen very often and at this point with so few new players, I think Bruce Cassidy has a pretty good handle on what he’s doing in the shootout based on the scouting report for the goaltender. That being said, it was interesting to note last week that Cassidy said he’s considered using Chris Wagner in the shootout based on some of the breakaway moves that the fourth line banger has shown over the last couple of seasons.
It made more sense to practice shootouts when they happened with a little more regularity, but the 3-on-3 OT has made the shootout an even more rare occurrence than it used to be. So the Bruins don’t use too much practice time worrying about it.
What can the Bruins realistically do with David Backes' albatross of a contract? As of last week’s game in Toronto, he'd been a healthy scratch for the last 3 games and is only playing now due to injuries. This has got to be one of the worst contract signings in recent memories? I hate Sweeney as a GM and this was a mistake they've been paying for pretty much since year 1 and still have 2 years remaining. They have to buy him out next year but you could argue that this cap mis-management cost the Bruin's the ability to add a truly effective $6-million player last year and that could have been the difference against St. Louis?
JH: While technically what you’re saying is true, Paul, just about every team in the NHL has at least one bad contract on their roster. And some are just as bad, if not worse, than the Backes deal with the Bruins. How about Loui Eriksson in Vancouver? He’s only dressed for three games for the Canucks and has zero points and just two shots on net. He is literally a ghost on the Vancouver roster making $6 million per season. How about Bobby Ryan in Ottawa soaking up $7.25 million on the salary cap? He’s got one goal in 10 games for the Senators and hasn’t scored more than 15 goals in any of the last three seasons while registering as their highest paid forward. I could go on and on. At least Backes still brings some value when he’s in the lineup in terms of toughness and making the occasional play. His stretch pass to Chris Wagner for the breakaway goal against the Sharks was a thing of beauty.
He’s got one assist in seven games, but he’s also got 13 shots on net while averaging under 10 minutes of ice time. He’s making things happen when he’s out there and I think his skating is noticeably better this year. I actually think Backes is going to help them at times. Would it be nice if he were still the 20 goal, 50 point guy they were hoping for when they originally signed him? Sure it would be, but that ship has sailed. As you said, he’s a candidate for a buyout next season when the dead money for Dennis Seidenberg and Kevin Hayes comes off the books, so we’ll see what happens then. But I’m not going to rake the Bruins over the coals for making a mistake on Backes because he still provides value to the Black and Gold.
Haggs-I know Clifton has played some RW in exhibition games and practices. Could you see a scenario where Clifton plays RW in an actual game once Kevan Miller returns to the lineup? Or could Miller possibly play some 4RW ala Marty McSorley?
--Mark Ierardi (@kram92291)
JH: Given how creative Bruce Cassidy can be on occasion, I wouldn’t rule this out. Certainly it would be a way to keep all eight defensemen at the NHL level when Miller is healthy enough to play in the next couple of weeks. And both Miller and Clifton play the kind of physical game that could translate to the fourth line. But I also don’t think Cassidy wants to mess with a fourth line that’s been a legitimate strength for the Bruins, either. Joakim Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner are very good when they’re going right, and pushing a miscast D-man in there might upset the chemistry or alter their overall effectiveness. It might be easier to send Kampfer down to the AHL on waivers and make the gamble that nobody is going to take while leaving Clifton up in Boston as the seventh defensemen while the B’s make certain that Miller is healthy for the long haul.
The Bruins have enough skill players on D, but they could really use some toughness.
--Wally Luz (@waldog75_luz)
JH: They could always use more toughness in my mind, but I think they’re pretty good right now with David Backes and Brett Ritchie up front and Zdeno Chara on the back end. Once Kevan Miller comes back from injury, I think they’ll be okay in the toughness department with a guy in Ritchie that brings something they didn’t have enough of among their forward group last season. They were tough enough to watch Evander Kane running away from them all over the ice a few nights ago, weren’t they?
Back for another season of Spoked-B!! I sooo agree with you on the B’s getting ahead of the curve and take a shot at Jesse Puljujarvi for the reasons you clearly stated. I actually talked JP last season. Who better to tutor him than a Bergy & Marchy? [He’d] bringing much needed size to top six with speed and youth. Will go one step further and say experiment with Jake DeBrusk, Charlie Coyle and David Pastrnak on a line.
David Krejci, if he returns to reasonable health, can slot in with Heinen and Ritchie. Or maybe a Kuhlman (added speed over size)? Now you potentially have three lines with skill, speed, and/or size.
Keep pushing it Haggs! You have the ears of Brass!!!
JH: Thanks Ron. We’ll see what happens with Jesse Puljujarvi after Ken Holland headed over to Finland to check in with their estranged player. If the Bruins could get him at the right price, I would absolutely pull the trigger and see if they could get more offense out of that size and skill package at right wing. A DeBrusk/Coyle/Pastrnak trio certainly is intriguing, but I don’t think the Bruins have any intentions of busting up the Perfection Line right now. Maybe in a few weeks if they slow down or if the secondary scoring dries up, but I think the better course of action is to keep working at a long term solution to fill that top-6 opening on the second line.
Maybe it’s Puljujarvi? Maybe it’s Tyler Toffoli? Maybe it’s somebody we’re not even putting on the radar? Given that things have stabilized a little with the seconds and third line over the last two weeks, I think the Bruins have bought themselves some more time to come up with the eventual long term solution.
Hagg Bag fodder What route do the B's go this year, add something soon for 2nd line or again wait till trade deadline when the prices are higher? Have you heard anything on how high the price would be on Toffoli as he was a healthy scratch.
--Brian A (@fouronorr)
JH: I have not heard what the price tag is for Toffoli, but I expect it would be reasonable given that he’s a declining asset, he’s not signed beyond this year and he’d probably be looking for something better than LA’s long rebuild when he becomes a free agent. Is it conceivable you could get Toffoli for a combination of draft picks and prospects without raiding your NHL roster? I definitely think it would be, particularly if it comes down to the trade deadline later this year. He’s a guy I’d keep an eye on because I think the Bruins were interested in him last spring as well, and he should definitely be a goner as a pending UFA this summer.
If I were a candy bar, which would I be?
--Don Sweeney (@thedonsweeney)
JH: I could make a Halloween candy joke about the Sugar Daddy candy bar given the aforementioned Backes contract, but how about Three Musketeers based on the Perfection Line and the outstanding contracts that all three forwards are playing under right now. Just compare the three top forwards on the Bruins and their contracts to Toronto, for instance, and the massive cap space being taken up by Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Mitch Marner before they’ve done anything up there. Sure, Sweeney only signed two of them (Marchand and Pastrnak) but I still like it.
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