Pros and Cons of the Bruins
After watching the games so far, here's what I see as the pros and cons of the Bruins:
Goaltending - Potvin has been especially sharp after such a long layoff and poor preseason showing. Raycroft has excellent positioning, reflexes and mental toughness. I don't see many fundamental flaws in his game. The key factor here is the Bruins are no longer giving up the soft goal. If they can continue this, they will have stabilized the spot.
Team chemistry - To the credit of O'Connell, there are no big egos on this team that create divisiveness or discourse. Sometimes Thornton's performance and the veteran leadership may be lagging, but when this team wants to turn it on they can really step up.
Bruins are big - Trying to stop Thornton, Murray and Knuble is a handful for any defense, but overall the Bruins have size and strength on every line and defensive pairing.
Scoring forwards - The B's have a dynamite first line followed by solid offensive players on the second (Samsonov) and third lines (Rolston, Bergeron). This increases their likelihood to strike at any time.
The kids - There's no doubt that Raycroft, Jillson and Bergeron have stepped up in a major way. Hat's off to them as well as the coaching staff, drafting, development and scouting groups. They found these guys and got them to this level.
Second line chemistry - Kluzak said it best against Anaheim, Samsonov is skating with two up & down guys and it's not the greatest fit. He does his cutbacks and really needs someone to play the give and go. I think Gordie was right on about eventually pairing Sammy with Bergeron in one form or another. Either way, it's not just Samsonov, but the second line needs an identity. With Green, Lapointe, Zamuner, Axelsson and Rolston, the Broons have pleny of parts but noty the right pieces.
Speed & quickness on defense - Yeah yeah I've already talked about this enough. The Bruins obviously have to adjust their game in order to limit this weakness from becoming a liability, such as having the d-men drop back to keep forwards in front of them. The real killer is the breakout. Not only is the B's ability to rush the puck limited, but the first pass is also. You can see this on the PP. It also comes through in the offensive zone, where Jillson and Boynton are the only proficient backliners at jumping into the play. Overall, the limitations of the D, whether speed, quickness or core competence, is the real achilles heal of this team.
Many parts, not always the right pieces - As mentioned about the second line, the Bruins have several good players, but not necessarily the right mix. For instance, there's plenty of excellent 3rd liners of which many can drop to the second unit, but not the right guys for Samsonov. Then there's the mix on defense, which is mostly #4 stay-at-homers. The guys who offer more are young and less experienced.
Thoughts -- If at some point the B's picked up a few pending UFAs from a list that included Ron Francis, Vinny Damphousse, Peter Bondra (who probably will be gone long before that) and Alexei Kovalev for the second line coupled with one good experienced puck moving defenseman who's not a liability (Sean Hill anybody?), they will have taken major strides to strengthening their team. Maybe even throw in Brian Berard to boot.
Samsonov-Damphousse-Lapointe (Kovalev or Bondra would also be nice here)
Again, it's a long ways away, but I'd be OK if the B's solidified some of their weaker spots before the playoffs. The idea is to reduce any fundamental weaknesses by finding the right mix. Add a few experienced players and put the right pieces into place and the B's could be a whale of an underdog.
Thats not really an "underdog" roster and would cost upwards of $60M+
Lets give Zino / Hilbert a chance on the 2nd line - see if they can cut it and if not then start looking - but not before at least 35-40 games to see how the team gels - maybe we could trade Zams to free up money for Berard as there just doesn't seem to be a slot for him in the roster these days.
We need patience- there are going to be 'exhilerating' wins and 'downer' defeats like we saw in last two games. Its a long season- remember, the Florida Marlins back in late May were 10 games under 500- not back under.
I'll use another baseball reference- Billy Beane says you take the first third of the season seeing what you have. Screw Damphousse, Bondra and the rest- sure they're sexy but lets see what Bergeron and Zinovjev have. Its, a long, long season. If the Broons in February or even January want to go out and pick up one of these player sure- but right now I'm paying $73 dollars a game and I'm all for the kids. If you have to struggle here and there, lose some games you might've won but long term your teams is much better off- I say play the kids. Heck, even Orr only had 41 points as a rookie. These guys are going to struggle at times but this team has enough veterans to allow them wade into the league.
I think we need to be patient- every win shouldn't be met with dreams of Stanley Cups or losses with 'lets shake it all up'. If the Hawks had been more patient with Hasek or the Nucks with Neely they would have been a bit better off wouldn't you say?
Zinovjev, Hilbert, Samuelsson, Bergeron, Jillson, Raycroft vs the Damphousses, Bondras, Amontes and Potvins of the world? Give me the yutes.
Regarding salary, if some of these players are acquired later in the season, how do you come to your $60M+ figure? Don't forget, these guys would come with pro-rated salaries. Moreover, there wouldn't be long term implications. The fact is, 12 or more of the Bruins (including any acquired pending UFAs) would be unrestricted next summer, so the B's would not "carry over" any upper echelon payroll into the new CBA. More specifically, by July 2004, the B's will some $25M or so committed to the following players:
Martin Lapointe (under contract $5,250,000)
PJ Stock (under contract $550,000)
PJ Axelsson (under contract $1,300,000)
Nick Boynton (under contract $1,500,000)
Shaone Morrisonn (under contract, no terms avail)
Milan Jurcina (under contract, no terms avail)
Martin Samuelsson (under contract, no terms avail)
Patrice Bergeron (under contract, no terms avail)
Sergei Zinovjev (under contract, no terms avail)
Andrew Raycroft (?, no terms avail)
Ivan Huml (?, no terms avail)
Joe Thornton (Group II RFA, $5,500,000)
Sergei Samsonov (Group II RFA, $3,650,000+ incentives)
Hal Gill (Group II RFA, $2,000,000)
Jonathan Girard (Group II RFA)
Andy Hilbert (Group II RFA)
Jeff Jillson (Group II RFA)
If the Bruins acquired any pending UFAs, there really wouldn't much financial implications, short or long term.
As far as giving Zino and Hilbert a chance, I'm all for it. If they could get 40-50 games of quality time in, the B's would have a serious idea of what they can do come the playoffs. Still, I think these guys may not solve the "too many parts not enough pieces" syndrome. It will still come down to how well the players fit together and, ultimately, how effective they are as a result.
If the B's want to improve their chances for the playoffs, they will have to be looking at their team with this in mind. Otherwise, they will head into the postseason with similar issues we've seen in the past few seasons -- such as having too many defensive defensemen and not enough offensive ones, or an underperforming second line/forward attack, etc etc.
Meister, I agree with most of your basic premise. Like you, I have seen a good chemistry between Bergeron and Samsonov and they should be kept together with a grinder (Lapointe).
I dont, however, advocate going after more UFAs though. If there is a need for another center then Adam Oates is there for the taking....but he does want a lot of dough.
I do not think bringing back Berard is the answer either. His speed would be nice, but I still worry a lot about his defense...although Moran is showing us why Pittsburgh fans werent heart broken to see him leave.
Overall I think this team has a lot going for it. I think we are just as well off to give more time to the younger guys and decide what we are going to do with our own UFAs.
However, come February, the Bruins should know whether they have answered their questions. And therein lies the rub. As of now, I think the Bruins have more parts than pieces. Whether that will have changed by then remains to be seen, but if not, the Damphousses of the world could be the right fit to nullify any potential weakness that could be exploited in the playoffs.
It's not lost on me the potential of the youth. For instance, there is a distinct possibility that Bergeron could end up as the second line center we need. I am skeptical with him being 18 and not quite physically mature, but if he was clicking with Samsonov, then the B's may have answered an important question. Whether Patrice could stand up in the playoffs is a different story, but if playing him meant the B's had a chance to balanced out their attack rather than carrying a potentially deadly flaw, then if he was truly ready, I'd rather get him the experience -- even if he wilted under pressure -- than acquire other players or have a weakness such as in year's past.
As far as Hilbert and Zinovjev, they are considerably behind the eight ball. This may be a "development" season for them instead of the contributory one Bergeron is having. To that end, I am a bit more suspect on their real impact on the Bruins issues.
Again, when looking at the bigger picture, if the Bruins want to compete come the playoffs, they have to know what they've got. The players have to fit together so there's balance and minimal weakness. As of now, the Bruins have many parts but not necessarily the right pieces. This is evident on the second line, where Samsonov is playing with two glorified muckers, and on the defense, where the size and strength are dominant but mobility and skill are largely void. I'm not sure the youth can answer these questions. Perhaps to a degree, especially in Bergeron's case, but the B's may have to look elsewhere if they want the best chance. That's where the veteran acquisitions come in.
So yeah, let the youth play, see if they can answer the call, but be prepared that they may not. Beyond that, if the Broons want to assure their competitiveness come the playoffs, they should be honest with themselves about what they have and take sensible steps to address any shortcomings. As long as it's not costly (ie no top prospects), such strategically placed additions to the roster could mean the difference between making the finals and entertaining their next early exit. See where I'm coming from??
I'd even go so far as to say unless the Broons are cruising along at top 3 spots and 15 points ahead of last playoff team, I expect them to do just that. A Daze, Scott Young, someone along those lines could be targeted- but its 40 games or a serious injury away.
I want to see the 'Zino Kid' for several games before any move is made.
I would love to see a Ron Francis brought in for a stretch drive and playoffs..
Big Joe is in awe of the guy as it is and could really learn a bit from Francis...
That's what I'm hoping for if it's in the cards...
Wally, Dan, agree on both accounts.
Francis would be a huge acquistion because of his intelligence, savvy and leadership on and off the ice. He may not have the finesse he once did, but the guy can deliver in the playoffs.
I also agree about giving Zinovjev, Huml and Hilbert some playing time. I am really hopeful about Zino, so it would be great to see some significant ice time lead to good development strides and perhaps some real impact on the ice.
The only thing I wonder about isn't as much with the kids as it is fitting the pieces together. The B's could really use a playmaking #2 center, but in Bergeron and Zinovjev, the B's have two smallish green pivots who need patience. Neither may be dependable come the postseason, not that it's any fault of their own. Elsewhere, the Broons also have tons of good parts but a real puzzle when it comes to putting together the pieces -- whether on defense, wing, etc.
The good news is the talent is there, it's just a matter of getting the most from it. This is the vexing issue O'Connell faces, and with a polarized roster of pending UFAs and first year players coupled with the unknowns of the CBA, it's a difficult one to address. Then again, many other GMs are in the same boat.
One other possibility is that O'Connell may be able to swap a pending UFA or guy like Lapointe for a similar talent from another team, thereby allowing each club to address a specific need. This would enable the B's to negotiate with playoff bound franchises that they may not otherwise be able to partner with.
i am against signing of UFA's to patch holes for a good reason...for years, i've looked at the players the bruins' drafted and thought "damn, if we never made a trade we'd have a helluva lot better team then we do now". one thing is clear to me...the bruins have always been 'decent' at drafting, and now they're quickly becoming AWESOME. i personally want to see this team build like ottawa...young, talented, and strong for MANY years. that's the path we're on, and that's the path i want us on personally. zino/hilbert have loads of talent and should be given every opportunity to make the team IMO...not because they're young and cheap but because both are just about/if not ready to make the jump and they have talent with alot of upside. UFA patches almost never are able to elevate their games. i look no further then raycroft...i was thinking vs. the canes "wow...this is by far the best performance i've seen from him". i am SOOOOOOOOO fricken excited about him not for how he is...but simply because he dont let up...he keeps getting better almost game-by-game and i cant help but wonder what the finished product is going to look like :D
Hmmm, as far as Murray goes, I think he will be OK. Aside from the goal he got tonight, he's typically a slow starter. When he was in LA during the training camp prior to when the B's acquired him, Andy Murray was publicly challenging him. After he changed teams the rest was history. So he should be OK. He just has to concentrate on working harder and the goals should go in.
At the same rate, I think the Bruins lack of second line scoring punch has adversely effected the ability of Thornton & Murray. I have seen how teams smother those guys knowing that if they succeed, they have a good shot at beating the Bruins. That may not be the case anymore now that the B's are getting contributions from Bergeron and potentially Samsonov-Zinovjev. In other words, if the B's are able to spread out their attack, it will be much more difficult for the opponent to focus on shutting down the top line. In turn, Murray (and Thornton) should get a little more space to operate.
I do agree that Bergeron is effective with Axelsson and Rolston. Ax is a heads up player with great hockey sense, so he can mesh well with the poise and intelligence Patrice brings. With Rolston's experience, size and shot, they have a solid 2-way line that can contribute some decent offense. All told, that can be a terrific third line.
As far as the idea of playing Bergeron with Samsonov, it was to put a skater with Sergei who can read the play and do the give and go. Samsonov's game is cutbacks and quick passing, and pairing him with up & down guys like Green and Lapointe doesn't allow him to take advantage of his best skills. That said, it looks like we already have a player to put with him...Sergei Zinovjev. If that's the case, then the Bruins have greatly strengthened their potential -- and may have answered one serious question at the same time. They could have offense spread out through three lines, which with their goaltending and dedicated team defense, could give them a real chance to win any game.
Speaking of which, you called it right about playing Zino with Sammie. That was exactly what Samsonov needed, a guy who can keep up with him. The goal they manufactured tonight was a prime example of the potential they have. Swirling play, cutbacks, stopping and turning, and the quick give & go is where they can excel together. That makes it extremely difficult to defend against, which is why bringing out Samsonov's best is so key for the Bruins offense. Having him anchor an effective, not to mention dangerous, second line spreads out the attack. Even though Zinovjev is a first year player who may or may not keep up, now's the time to get him in. If he can contribute, then stick with him and live with the errors. Find the right linemates and keep it consistent. Speaking of which, I like Lapointe on that line. He's a physical presence and real corner guy who is always willing to go to the net and do the dirty work. His veteran experience gives the trio a nice blend.
Hmmm, even if the Bruins went down the stretch and into the playoffs with all these young unproven players, I'd be OK with it if it meant they have a better chance for a balanced team in the postseason. In other words, I'd rather see three potential scoring lines and live with Zinovjev & Bergeron's possible mistakes than asking Green, Zamuner, Grosek and Lapointe to be scorers on a second line. Not only that, but these young guys would be getting tremendous experience as well as valuable playoff games. In the long term, that will pay off fast.
That said, in terms of the big picture, I'd feel much better about things if there was less uncertainty about the team heading into next summer. Not to fret about something that's 2/3rds of a year away, but with Rolston, Knuble, Murray, O'Donnell and McGillis being pending UFAs, there's definitely reason to be concerned about what will happen to this team's core. That's relevent to the conversation because with the youth, the Bruins are really building something here. Over the next 2 seasons, they could have the chance to finally have a real contender. But how do they do that with so many core players entering unrestricted status? Using past history as a guide, I am skeptical about the Bruins desire and willingness to build upon their success and do what it takes to build a complete team. I hope that's not the case and things will be different now, but honestly speaking, I've said that to myself several times before.
And while some will say that there will be many UFAs across the board next summer, no team has as many core players with expired contracts as the Bruins. There's no doubt that several teams will stand pat, but I believe that at least a few clubs will go against the grain and spend. There's always at least a few who throw caution or respect to the wind for a chance to one-up their competitors. Whether that spells trouble for the B's is unknown, but in their case, losing any of those guys would hurt. It's not so much as there isn't internal replacements (Jurcina, Morrisonn, Huml, Hilbert and Samuelsson provide us with great talent waiting in the wings), but that they could be void of needed veteran presence and leadership or some other important element critical (size, special teams, etc) to the team's success. In one form or another, all of those guys have key roles on this team. I believe the Broons need to bring back as many as four of them, or have alternative veteran replacements, to ensure they do not fall back as we have seen in year's past. Even Sinden said during transition of the Bates/Wilson/Mann crop "you can't have all kids."
In essence, all this ties back to what's happening today. The Bruins are trying to integrate youth, but they are also facing armegeddon with a number of core players. So while the young players are a critical element in the roadmap for the future, the B's will not be making progress if they lose more than a few of their core UFAs. Anyone knows that is the strength, depth and competence at the core that carries your team in the playoffs. So yeah, play the youth, see what you've got, inventory your roster and plan for the future. That means re-signing Knuble, Rolston, Murray and maybe O'Donnell, and continuing to upgrade weak spots like the defense.
I'm not worried about this at all. For one thing you need look no further to what happened to the Oates and Thomases that want to play but cant get their price. With a luxury tax looming you can be certain the teams that would covert these type of players wont be able to. Dallas is trying to get down, the Blues wont take on payroll, on and on. The Broons have planned for this day and imo when the dust settles they'll keep whoever they want. They also will be dealing specifically with Rolston and Murray who have openly stated they want to remain Broons. This wont be Allison's NBA 'show me the money to show me respect'; or Billy Guerin getting a Godfather offer he can't refuse. All the players you mentioned are good players- some B/B+ others B or B-. The offers CAN'T be ludicrious because of the impact they will have on a teams payroll. The Broons will be in the drivers seats not only with the players you mentioned but other free agents.
Bottom line- the Broons are well off in talent, payroll flexability and prospects. I see no reason to even waste one brain cell at this time worrying about this. Enjoy the Bruins win and the Yankees getting beaten by a team with a payroll less than 1/3 rd of theirs. Oh, Big Stein has probably fired everyone- that senile old fool. All the euphoria of beating the Sox ended in a train wreck just like all the glee of beating the A's for us ended similar. Misery likes company, welcome aboard Yankees and your tix cost twice ours :joker: :joker: :joker:
In terms of the UFA market, if Knuble has another good year, he will be one player who could be a hot commodity. Rolston and Murray are two other players who could be sought after largely because of their specialized contributions and reasonable price tag. Yeah Detroit, Dallas and Colorado are all pressing their budgets down, but I wouldn't put it past a few teams to go shopping. There's always a few who break ranks for a chance to get better, and the B's will have some good players on the market. No matter what, having 4-5 core guys who play a big role on your team being UFAs combined with the B's track record does not make me comfortable. That doesn't mean I'm fretting about it, or that I believe the B's will lose all these guys and suddenly become a crap team, but whether they can really build on their integrated youth and potential success is the one question I have.
|All times are GMT -5. The time now is 10:38 PM.|
vBulletin Copyright ©2000 - 2014, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
HFBoards.com, A property of CraveOnline, a division of AtomicOnline LLC ©2009 CraveOnline Media, LLC. All Rights Reserved.