Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Do the Bruins REALLY need a defenseman?

Lots of scuttlebutt today surrounding the Bruins, who seem very likely to make a move before noon tomorrow. Most of the chatter concerns the following:

- Left wingers - Erik Cole, Keith Tkachuk
- Defensemen - Chris Pronger, Jordan Leopold, Tomas Kaberle, Ruslan Salei, Derek Morris, Pavel Kubina

The consensus seems to be that the Bruins will trade for a puck-moving defenseman (if the sheer volume of rumors is meaningful).

Here's what the Bruins are currently sporting at D:
1st pairing
Chara - Norris candidate, projects to set a career high in goal scoring.
Ward - Perhaps playing a role outside his ability, but he's one of the more reliable vets on the team.

2nd pairing
Wideman - Already working on a career high in scoring, top-10 in the league.
Ference - Despite injury troubles, has matured as a puck-mover and scored 1/2 ppg.

3rd pairing
Stuart - Has scored a career-high 5 goals so far, despite being a shutdown guy.
Hnidy - Adds a lot of grit at the back end of the lineup, not something to be taken for granted.

In addition, Claude Julien has the option of activating any of the following to fill holes along the blue line:
Hunwick - A natural defenseman who at one point was the team's most productive blueliner.
Axelsson and Bergeron - Forwards who play the point on the man-advantage.
Lashoff and Boychuk - Prospects currently in Providence, both having spent time in Boston recently.

So, what's missing here? The Bruins blueline corps features two top-quality point men, several hulking defensive defensemen, and plenty of sandpaper. Julien can pair Chara and Wideman for an All-Star quality offensive duo, or put out Chara and Stuart in a "prevent" situtation. For speed he can pair Hunwick with Ference. If things get rough he can rely on The Sherriff and Mental Ward.

This isn't to say the Boston blueline (see what I did there?) can't be upgraded -- Pronger and Kaberle could step right into that top pairing with Chara and look pretty scary. But how much would that improve the Bruins as a team? Chara and Pronger are 30 min/game players, and Wideman is highly productive at 25 per game... meaning there would be 35 minutes of total ice time remaining for Ference, Ward and Stuart.

It made sense at the beginning of the season for the Bruins to trade for a defenseman, but standout seasons from the majority of the defensive corps have eliminated the need for any drastic moves. Considering the sacrifice it would take to acquire an All-Star defenseman at the trade deadline (surely a productive roster player or high draft pick), the Bruins could be much more productive by acquiring a forward to provide scoring depth and veteran leadership. Going after a defenseman at this stage would be soooo 2008.

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Bonesaw said...

Hey man,

Here's the thing. You make some valid observations, but i'd say that you're liberal in your assessment of Hnidy and Ward, in particular.

Both are over the hill and simply can't keep up in this league anymore. Ward's so much more physical than most guys that when the play is half court, if you will, he can be successful, but he's atrocious countering the rush. Hnidy simply sucks. He's a terrible puck handler and his "grit" is overrated. There's a reason Hunwick played and Hnidy sat for so long until Hunwick got hurt. Frankly, we need someone to fill Ward's role going forward who is young and faster, and Hunwick can step into Hnidy's role, if not immediately.


The Bastahd said...

Not sure I agree with your position on Hnidy... the guy has been playing ahead of Hunwick all month. That says something in and off itself... hell, the only way Hunwick could get back on the ice is as a forward!

I think Hnidy brings some much needed sandpaper to that blueline... he and Stuart are the only ones likely to fight. The man has done everything asked of him thus far and I think he is perfectly fine in a 3rd pairing role. Definitely not bad enough to merit trading Kessel and Hamill for Pronger!