Bruins

#HaggBag: What should the Bruins do at the trade deadline?

sweeney.jpg
File Photo

#HaggBag: What should the Bruins do at the trade deadline?

The Bruins are still in a playoff spot, and still show some of the same strengths and weaknesses they’ve had all season. What makes it even more interesting now is that the Bruins are finally healthy and getting a gauge of exactly where they stand as a hockey club from top to bottom. It hasn’t really translated into a long winning streak one might expect once injuries are in the past and adversity has been conquered after a turbulent first half.

But it should give the Bruins a good idea what they need ahead of the trade deadline (hint: offense up front), and just how much they should be willing to give up in a season where there is some stiff competition in the Eastern Conference playoff bracket.

With that in mind, we’ve got the usual trade questions and team improvement theories in the ole Hagg Bag mailbag. As always these are real questions from real readers sent to my twitter accounting using the #HaggBag hash tag, messages sent to NBCS Facebook fan page and emails sent to my JHaggerty@nbcuni.com email address. Now on to the bag:

Moving assets for Nash made sense. 1st, 3rd & 4th lines were solid. 2nd line needed a push. This year the entire 3rd line is a mess & they need a top-6 winger. Why not upgrade in the offseason for a 2-3 year run? Giving up assets when they are too far away this year seems foolish.

--Rob / 40 Photography (@bruins7140)

JH: The problem, Rob, is that the Bruins have the best line in hockey, a Hall of Fame defenseman, a former Vezina Trophy winner in net and a power play that could do some damage in the postseason. They have enough pieces to be a playoff team and are legitimately, probably two players away from being a legit threat in the East.

Are they going to be able to land both a top-6 winger and a third line center that would vault them beyond Toronto and Tampa Bay in the Atlantic Division? That seems like a tall order, but you never know until you see what’s out there and how much it’s going to cost. The best of both worlds would be dealing for a player like Brayden Schenn who can play center and wing, and would address one of those two needs while leaving the other to one of the B’s young players.

Peter Cehlarik has been pretty good skating with David Krejci and might be able to handle the top-6 role if the Bruins leave David Pastrnak on his right wing. He brings a power forward element and has been able to finish off enough plays around the net to keep himself in the lineup.

But getting back to your original question, the sense is that they shouldn’t waste the prime years for Bergeron and Marchand by leaving them short on an NHL roster that’s needed an upgrade up front all season. It doesn’t mean they have to go for broke at the deadline, and getting a player with term over a rental would be their preference in an ideal world. Or get a rental who would stick around. Don’t forget that the Bruins didn’t win it all the first season they traded for Mark Recchi, and he instead stuck around for another season in Boston before they won the Cup.

A rental like that, albeit younger and more in the prime of his offensive career, could turn into the kind of 2-3 year run player that you’re talking about. I just don’t think the Bruins can stand pat at the deadline given the talent on the roster. If I were the GM, I wouldn’t want to explain to the leaders in that room why they don’t deserve any help this season.

Should Don Sweeney put sentiment aside and move Chara to a legit contender for a 1st rd pick and cap relief?

--Mark Ierardi (@kram93291)

JH: No. What cap relief? Zdeno Chara is on a one-year deal at a reasonable number. The Bruins would be sellers if they did this, and I don’t think management, ownership or the players on the Boston roster would really be on board with this. Certainly Chara looks like he’s finally, unavoidably fading a bit at 41 years old and he’s no longer the 30-minute per night Norris Trophy candidate he was in his prime, but he can still be an effective defensive stopper in the right situation. Plus I don’t think they’d get a first-round pick for him at this point. Maybe a season or two ago they could have, but not now for a player who was minus-2 in 12 games during the month of January while looking slow at times on the ice. Chara is of much more value to the Bruins than he’d probably be to anybody else around the NHL at this point.

I think the Bruins shouldn’t go crazy on a rental, this team isn't good enough no matter who they add. Clear cap space and make a run at Panarin in the off season, your thoughts??

--brian (@bamoro31)

JH: Yes on the clearing of cap space, though I’m not sure it’s as easy as you might think it is. Nobody is going to want to take on David Backes’ contract, David Krejci doesn’t want to go anywhere and those are the two worst contracts on the books. About Artemi Panarin? I like him and I like his offensive skill, but I don’t think he should be the first option for a Bruins team that needs size, strength and skill in equal amounts on the wing. I like Panarin, but I’d be a little wary of overspending for him on the free agent market. There’s also Don Sweeney’s pretty spotty record when it comes to free agents, including deals he’s handed out to Matt Beleskey, David Backes and now John Moore as well.

Joe,

In all honesty, why not go for Vladimir Tarasenko? Just don’t see why it wouldn’t be worth it, mortgage some of the future and wait for maybes or know what you are getting and what the Bruins desperately need.

--Josh Earle

JH: I’m starting to warm to the notion of giving up almost everything in the Bruins roster, outside of Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak, to do whatever it takes to land a player like Vladimir Tarasenko. He’s signed to a fair enough deal and he’s been wildly productive over the course of his All-Star career. He’s also had some pretty great playoff performances over the years for the Blues as well. First round picks, Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk… I think there should be a lot of otherwise untouchable assets on the table if/when he truly gets made available by the Blues. But with many deals of this magnitude, the Bruins won’t be alone as suitors for Tarasenko and it might make more sense for something that big to get pulled off in the summertime rather than over the next few weeks.

What’s the move with the left shot defenseman? It looked like trading Krug was going to happen before the season started but hard to replace his offense. With Vaakanainen seemingly ready to make the jump next year, you still have 6 D - given Chara hangs them up.

--Casey Brigham (@BrighamCasey)

JH: I think Matt Grzelcyk could potentially be the guy that gets dealt based on his value contract and the way that he’s played this season. A puck-moving D-man that can skate, has some offensive upside and can hold his own in the defensive end for a small player, Grzelcyk has been one of Boston’s best defensemen this season. Other teams around the league have taken note of that and he might have some of the best trade value of any D-man on the roster. He’s averaging almost 20 minutes of ice time per night and is on pace for 22 points with pretty limited power play time, so that’s a good place to start for a 25-year-old with room to grow.

Do the Bruins add a top-6 winger and what kind of deal do you see the Bruins signing McAvoy to in the offseason?

--Neal MacDonald (@MacDonaldNeal)

JH: I think they will add a top-6 winger, but it may be a player like Micheal Ferland who might have to play up a bit for the top-6 role rather than a classic top-6 option like Jeff Carter or Wayne Simmonds. The Tyler Toffoli name has been interestingly thrown into the mix as well, so clearly the Bruins have cast a wide net with a lot of the selling teams at this point. I see the Bruins and McAvoy signing a three-year deal in the $5-6 million per year range as a bit of a bridge to a bigger deal potentially down the road.

Will McAvoy budge from the $8 million he reportedly wants?

--Braydon Maxam (@8Maxam)

JH: As I stated above, there’s no way I pay him anywhere close to that given his injury history and his inconsistency this season. He needed a dominant season where he started to take hold of the No. 1 job with the Bruins on the back, and he just hasn’t been anywhere close to that since coming back from his concussion. McAvoy is only 21 years old, so there’s still plenty of time for him to become the player that will land the long term, $8 million per season contract, but he has literally done nothing at the NHL level to deserve that kind of money yet. He has all kinds of talent, first-round cachet and the goods to be an extremely dominant player at this level, but he’s not even close to that yet based on what he’s done this year.

Joe,

I'm hoping that the B's finish in the number 1 wildcard spot and line up against either the Islanders or the Jackets. Finishing 2nd or 3rd in the Atlantic will guarantee an early 1st round exit against the improved Leafs. Too many lapses over the past month or so and no consistency doesn't give me any confidence of their chances.

Bringing in someone via a trade deadline acquisition at this point will not make much of difference as you need a year for that player to get used to the coaching, line-ups and the team chemistry.

What do you think about the B's rotating their d-men on a nightly basis to given them adequate rest? I would also like to see the perfection line split up and rotate Bergie, Marchand and Pasta across the lines 2 and 3. Only play them together on the PP. 

Thanks

Art

JH: Interesting ideas, Art. I tend to agree with you that the Bruins, unless they get a major game-changer at the forward position ahead of the trade deadline, don’t look like they’ll be able to beat the Leafs or the Lightning in the playoffs. Think about it for a second, the B’s barely beat the Maple Leafs in the first round in seven games last season and now Toronto has added both John Tavares and Jake Muzzin to their lineup since then. They are demonstrably better and the Bruins aren’t quite as good as they were last season.

I think a strict rotation of defenseman is a pretty good idea, and would probably be the best thing possible to keep the chemistry good while not allowing anybody to get too rusty. It would also be an easy way to sell Zdeno Chara on sitting out every now and then if all of the rest of the D-men are doing the same thing.

One thing I’m not going to agree with you on is breaking up the Perfection Line. That really isn’t my preference and I think you don’t go away from things that opponents can’t stop. No matter which way you combine the forwards in the current group, the Bruins are at least one, and possibly two, forwards short of a group that would be contender-worthy in the Eastern Conference. Adding a top-6 winger that can score and a third line center that can finally tie it all together is badly, badly needed. To your point, they may not be able to get all of that done and meld it into an effective group just a few months ahead of the playoffs. That’s a tough call for a playoff-caliber group like the Bruins.

Are you willing to admit Krug only has PP value and can’t be trusted 5v5 yet?

--meathome472 (@meathome472)

JH: No. See everybody next week! 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Losing streak revealing a Bruins flaw that could be fatal if not addressed

Losing streak revealing a Bruins flaw that could be fatal if not addressed

TAMPA  – The problems are many when a team has lost five in a row as the Bruins have.

It wasn’t a desperate Bruins dressing room in the aftermath of their 3-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday night at Amalie Arena, nor should it be. The B’s still hold an eight-point lead in the Atlantic Division despite being in the throes of their first losing streak of the season.

As Tuukka Rask said succinctly afterward, “We hate to lose, but we’re not going to go 80-3 or whatever it was that [Brett] Ritchie said.”

A strong, winning effort against the Florida Panthers on Saturday night would salvage a rough trip and get the Bruins spinning in the right direction in short order.

That’s not really the problem.

The issue with the Bruins is the same old problems that cropped up against the St. Louis Blues last June in the Stanley Cup Final and two years ago in the second-round series against Tampa Bay. The flaws are springing up again with a series of heavy, intense playoff-style games against quality opponents.

When the Bruins go up against opponents such as Colorado, Washington and Tampa Bay, the offense gets one-dimensional and the effort to score becomes challenging if the special teams are playing at a dominant clip. 

Bruce Cassidy sounded the alarm about it after watching another loss to Tampa Bay where the Bruins scored just enough to lose. There wasn’t enough going on offensively aside from the "Perfection Line" accounting for a first-period lead and a late, desperate goal from John Moore.

“The top line again was creating. We’re just not getting anything from the middle of the lineup in terms of offense,” lamented Cassidy. “You need four lines to produce for you in this league on a regular basis. It might not be [on Thursday]. It might be Saturday, but you need some offense to sort of balance things out. We need some guys to get going here a little bit. [They need] to at least find their opportunities and then they’ll go in. I’m not sure they’re even finding their opportunities yet, so that’s step one that they are chasing.”

Can Cassidy put his finger on what the issue is with the middle lines?

“Some of it is inside. You start playing some good teams that are fast, Colorado, Washington and Tampa Bay. It’s almost like playoff hockey in December. A lot of those guys in that room have lived it and they know what it’s about,” said Cassidy. “Make a decision, do you want to play that way or not? Then some of it is self-inflicted where we won neutral zone face-offs, and harmless kind of plays where it doesn’t get in, we turn it over and then take penalties against a potent power play. Is it the PK? Well, it’s a great power play and we really didn’t help ourselves in those situations.”

Cassidy is spot-on about not enough from the supporting players in the kind of games the B’s will be in the postseason. Jake DeBrusk finished with zero points and had zero shots on net in two of the three games against Colorado, Washington and Tampa. Danton Heinen had zero points and a minus-4 in those three games with five shots on net. Anders Bjork picked up an assist in the loss to Tampa Bay, but managed just two shots on net in the three games against the Avs, Capitals and Lightning. Brett Ritchie has zero points and a minus-2 in the three games since coming back from injury. Even David Krejci has no points, a minus-1 rating and just two shots on net in those three games.

The dilemma facing the Bruins is this: Is this just a preview of what’s going to eventually doom them in the postseason if nothing is done about it?

Certainly, the Bruins weren’t playing their best in the loss to Colorado, but the efforts against Washington and Tampa Bay were more focused and had the kind of urgency that Boston has played with most of the season. And it still wasn’t enough when push came to shove and underlying flaws came forward for a team that’s a little small, a little short on real scoring depth against quality teams and beatable going up against big, deep teams with a physical defensemen corps. 

One would hope that Don Sweeney and Cam Neely were watching closely the past week and took these losses for what they are. The Bruins are showing that they are going to need some help when things get tough in the postseason and that they could use at least one more viable source of offense among their top-six forwards.

They have a bunch of talented kids up front who have shown a propensity to disappear when things get tough against the hard teams and that isn’t going to help the Bruins much this spring. There’s enough of a sample size now to predict that isn’t going to change when it comes to DeBrusk, Bjork, Heinen and Ritchie. The Bruins need to do something about it ahead of the NHL trade deadline.

Whether it’s kicking the tires on Taylor Hall, or a more realistic target such as Los Angeles Kings right wing Tyler Toffoli, the Bruins have shown the past few games that they need some outsource things for help up front if they want to finish what they started last spring.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Bruins mired in losing streak: 'I don't think we've sucked'

Bruins mired in losing streak: 'I don't think we've sucked'

TAMPA BAY – The Bruins have dropped five games in a row for the first time this season, including four straight regulation losses, as their lead in the Atlantic Division has shrunk to single digits for the first time in weeks.

The latest setback was a 3-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on Thursday night that gives them losses in three of the first four games on a road trip ending this weekend against the Florida Panthers. The Lightning scored a pair of power play goals and once again, it looked like the B’s just didn’t have enough to get over the hump in the third period after they’d come up just a little short against Washington the previous night.

The offense has slowed with just 20 goals over the last nine games since blowing up for eight scores at the Bell Centre, and the power play has been a shadow of its former self while injuries forced the Bruins to tinker with the personnel. The penalty kill was the problem against the Lightning with Tampa Bay scoring on two of their three power play opportunities. Meanwhile, the B’s are getting very little offense from anybody aside from their top line once again.

The Bruins have enough veterans that they aren’t going to hit the panic button particularly given where they are in the standings, but some results are becoming necessary soon before it spirals out of control.

“It sucks to lose. We hate to lose here. But we’ve played decent. You’re not going to win them all. Obviously, you’re not going to go 80-3 or whatever it was that [Brett] Ritchie said,” said Tuukka Rask, who allowed three goals on 31 shots in defeat. “You don’t want to lose too many games in a row and you’ve got to put a stop to it. It’s been a tough road trip, but we’ve got one more game left and hopefully we can finish it off on a high note.

“We have experience and we’ve been through a lot. We recognize when we suck and when we don’t. I don’t think we’ve sucked. It’s just a matter of getting a couple of bounces, getting a lead and then playing with it. For the most part it’s just playing the right way and then you lose some of these tight games.”

The good news is that the Bruins have played much better against better opponents in Washington and Tampa Bay over the last couple of games after playing down to competition like Ottawa and Chicago in the games prior to that. But the losses aren’t going to turn into wins until they execute with a little more precision in certain instances where penalties, special teams play and a lack of secondary offense hurt them in a big way.

“We gave up two goals tonight where we’d won neutral zone face-offs. Harmless kind of plays where the puck doesn’t get in, we turn it over and then we take penalties against a potent power play,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We didn’t help ourselves in those situations. These are instances where guys need to be better, make the right play and execute.

“Even late in the game we have a chance to tie it up on a backdoor pass and we don’t execute. The power play was disappointing. We don’t execute. Some of it is that we’re playing to what we’re capable of, or what we think we’re capable of.”

Given that Florida is one of the teams most closely chasing them in the division and their Atlantic lead has almost been halved over the course of this current road trip, one would expect the Bruins are going to dig deep for a winning effort against the Panthers on Saturday. If not, then this continues to become the worst losing streak the B’s have experienced in a couple of seasons where they’ve previously managed to steer clear of the extended losing stretches.

Tim Thomas tears up while discussing hockey related brain injuries >>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.