With the start of the Bruins preseason just 5 weeks away, now seems like the opportune time to analyze their offseason. We have some new faces coming to Boston, as well as the departure of a couple of key players in last years Stanley Cup Championship team. As crazy as it sounds, the Boston Bruins will try to repeat in 2011-2012 as Stanley Cup Champions. What’s even crazier, is I think they have a great chance to do this. But I’ll get into that later. Let’s start off where the Bruins left off coming off their Stanley Cup victory, the NHL Draft.
Boston had their final pick from the Phil Kessel deal this year, and it allowed them to pick Dougie Hamilton (18) 9th overall. It’s the first time since that a Stanley Cup Championship team has picked in the top 10. Having a top 10 pick will surely strengthen the already stout Bruins lineup. The pick itself was a great one in my opinion. Hamilton is a bit small for his height (being under 200 lbs at 6′ 5″), but that can easily be taken care of with proper training. Besides that, he doesn’t have any real negatives except for experience. The Bruins don’t desperately need him, so expect him to see some time in the AHL. When he’s ready to come up though, I expect him to make a big impact in the NHL. His size and reach will be tough to get by, and he’ll provide good offense for the B’s. In the 2010-2011 season for the OHL Niagara IceDogs, Hamilton had 12 G 46 A for 58 Pts, and had a +/- of 35 in 67 games. In 14 playoff games, Hamilton had 4 G and 12 A as well. I see him taking over for Big Z when he retires, and fitting right into that role of a shut-down defender that can provide a little offense. He’ll have plenty of time to develop in the AHL as well, since the Bruins are all set at the defensive position for the next few years. The Bruins have 2 up and comers in Steven Kampfer (22) and Matt Bartkowski (23), 2 great young defencemen in Boychuk (27) and McQuaid (24), 2 solid veterans in Seidenberg (30) and Ference (32), and of course the captain Zdeno Chara. They decided to let Tomas Kaberle go in free agency, which unlike most of you, I was against. Instead, they picked up former Carolina Hurricane Joe Corvo in a trade for their 2012 4th round pick. The first thing this tells me, is that they’re not confident in giving up the rains with Kampfer (38 games played last year) or Bartowski (6 games played last year) yet. But why go out and get Joe Corvo, when they coud have just re-signed Tomas Kaberle?
Now I know what you’re all thinking, but I think Kaberle deserved another chance to prove himself on the Bruins powerplay. Yes Kaberle was a complete wreck, and his presence in fact worsened the already terrible Bruins man advantage. But, he played great during the postseason, and they did trade away C Joe Colborne (21) and their 2011 first round pick (which Toronto traded to Anaheim, and they selected RW Rickard Rakell) to get him. Rakell is a former Plymouth Whaler, who scored 20 G with 45 Pts in just 49 games last year. Wouldn’t you like to have him on a line with former teammate Tyler Seguin in the future? I know I would love to have seen that. Remember how excited we all were when they acquired Kaberle back in February? Why would you then waste a young center and a 1st round draft pick to get a defenseman for half a season plus playoffs? That doesn’t make any sense, especially when you factor in that Corvo is 2 years older than Kaberle, and you had to trade to get Corvo. Kaberle was more expensive, but I think worth the risk. If Kaberle didn’t pan out, they could have traded him for something more than what Corvo’s worth. The Corvo trade is not all bad though, as Corvo will provide a good shot from the point. He racked up 40 Pts in 82 games last year, his 1st full season since 2008-2009, when he scored 39 Pts. He’s a but bigger than Kaberle, so he’ll provide a little extra oomph in the defensive zone. Another free agent entering this offseason was Michael Ryder.
Ryder is one of the most frustrating players to watch. He’s got an amazing shot, and can hit top shelf like no one else on the Bruins. But he only plays when he wants to. The postseason however is the time when he plays. It’s difficult to give someone who only plays when he feels like it $7 million for 2 years, but he’s worth it in my opinion. Ryder is a great player in the postseason, as he racked up 17 Pts in 25 games this past postseason, he had 5 Pts in 13 games in the 09-10 postseason, and 13 Pts in 11 games in the 08-09 postseason. Lets not forget the save he made in Game 5 of the Eastern Quarterfinals. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKPVVYIUws4 Ryder also appears to love playing against his former team, the Montreal Canadians. Whenever Ryder plays the Canadians, his 1st NHL team, he seems to bring his A game to shove in their face what they gave up. What’s not to love about a guy who wants to beat up the Canadians? But the Bruins felt he wasn’t worth the hassle of 82 games of wait and see, so they let him go to Dallas for the 2 year $7 million I stated earlier. Instead, the Bruins decided to pick up another former Canadian, in Benoit Pouliot.
Yuck, that’s all I can say about this guy, and the distaste I have for the Bruins acquiring him. As Bruins Commentator Jack Edwards once said, “…he was a really high draft pick, but he’s never done anything with his talent.” For those of you who don’t remember, he tried to nail Johnny Boychuk with a flying elbow in game 3 of the Eastern Quarterfinals this past postseason. Here’s a link for the hit, and the fight that followed. http://www.hockeyfights.com/fights/104665 Pouliot scored 24 Pts in 39 games in the 09-10 season, but just 30 Pts last season in 79 games. He’s a waste of space, and will have to go through quite a hazing I assume to get acquainted with his new non-diving team. But, at just 1 year for $1.1 million, Pouliot seems worth the risk. If he doesn’t pan out, the B’s still have a couple of options to replace him (Zack Hamill, Jordan Coran, Tyler Seguin). I just can’t stand that bad taste in my mouth of Pouliot in black and gold, and would much rather have Ryder and his playoff experience.
The Bruins haven’t made too much of a splash this offseason, but I don’t think they had to, to remain Cup contenders. Right after the Bruins won the Stanley Cup, Mark Recchi announced his retirement. The Bruins have such depth at every position though, that I don’t see it affecting them too much. His best asset was his experience, and it will be greatly missed. Now that the core of the team all has Cup experience, I don’t see it hurting them too much. The Bruins also have all of their core players locked up for the near future. The only person they have yet to re-sign is restricted free agent, Brad Marchand, but all signs point to him working out a long-term deal with the B’s. I’m not sure of the conditions of Nathan Horton and Mark Savard, but the Bruins have players to back them up. Horton appears to be in better condition than Savard, as I think Savard will be forced to retire sometime this season. I expect Horton to return to form by January. You just never know with concussions, so I’m giving a little leeway for Horton. I expect the Bruins to be in great shape this season, even if Horton isn’t around or isn’t producing. I’m not going to say their Cup favorites, but they are definitely strong Cup contenders entering the 2011-2012 season. I’m very excited for the upcoming hockey season, as should all of you Boston fans out there.