Nick and Pete discuss whether or not it’s worth pursuing Pavel Datsyuk this summer, the Adam Fox trade and what it means for the New York Rangers, as well as more Second Round musings in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Nick and Connor talk the latest trades, Torts drama (and latest record), Casey DeSmith’s extension with the Pittsburgh Penguins, as well as a tribute to the careers of Rick Nash and Josh Gorges who both announced their retirement this week.
Additionally, what’s up with the Edmonton Oilers and St. Louis Blues this season and why can’t they just pick a side? Plus, it’s time to hand out awards for being slightly more than halfway through the 2018-19 regular season. #FlamingNotToFlamingHot
In keeping with true fashion to cranking out these forecasts this season, once again I am a couple of games behind in terms of timeliness.
Nonetheless, the last few games don’t matter– they’re not taken into account for this latest forecast, but they are taken into consideration for future performance as a whole over the remaining “42” games at the time these projections were forecasted.
Halfway through the season, the Boston Bruins find themselves in 3rd place in the Atlantic Division standings. Despite all the injuries, despite the lack of depth scoring and despite all other areas of regression, the B’s are holding their own weight in a competitive division.
Bruce Cassidy‘s coaching style and compete level is something to be praised as they’ve weathered the storm, but now the question remains– can they take it to the next level?
General Manager, Don Sweeney, probably could opt for a scoring winger before the team goes down the stretch and into the playoffs, where, last year’s depth scoring dried up thanks, in part, due to a gamble that didn’t pay off in acquiring Rick Nash to help provide a spark on the second line.
This season’s team is righting the ship, but are they peaking too early? When will they peak if they aren’t starting to peak now?
Doubt will always enter the mind. True professionals ignore it and achieve.
Anyway, to avoid getting too much into coaching philosophy or whatever, let’s take a look at the most recent forecast for Boston and remember there are many variables that can and will change things. Being injured, called up, assigned, scratched, traded, lucky or unlucky will incur damage to the expected stats.
Unpredictable variables happen. Microsoft Excel knows none of that.
As always, my degree is in communication– not math. This forecast is just an utopian outlook for the Bruins if every player met expectations.
Should they do better, then they will have exceeded expectations. If they fall short, then they were injured, out of the lineup or whatever– they didn’t meet expectations and next season’s numbers will reflect a new benchmark for meeting expectations.
The nature of hockey is both contextually analytical and holistically unpredictable– nothing can account for sheer puck luck or the odd puck bounce, but whatever’s on the scoresheet every night can indicate general trends and be utilized for educated guesses.
Boston Bruins Forecast Through 40 Games (42 Games Remaining)
Boston’s expected leaders in points indicates an 80-point season for David Pastrnak for the second season in-a-row– and not only that, but a career-high in goals and points.
Pastrnak is forecasted to lead the Bruins with 39 goals and 43 assists (82 points) with linemate Patrice Bergeron (26-41–67 forecasted totals) expected to be second in the club’s scoring.
Second line center, David Krejci (15-45–60 expected totals) is bound to be third in Bruins scoring this season with Jake DeBrusk emerging from the haze of injury and a slow start to his sophomore season.
While Pastrnak is destined to lead his club in goals with 39 in the latest forecast, it appears he’ll be the only Bruin to reach the 30-goal plateau this season, as Brad Marchand is currently forecasted to end up with 27 goals this season.
Marchand has reached 30-goals for the last three consecutive seasons and the 20-goal plateau in seven out of his eight full seasons he’s played since 2010-11.
Should he reach 20 goals as expected this season, he’ll extend his scoring prowess to eight out of his nine seasons in the NHL.
Bergeron’s expected to follow suit with his teammates on what is one of the best lines in the league, ranking third in goals by season’s end with 26, despite missing 16 games due to a rib/sternoclavicular injury.
In assists, Marchand has emerged as much of a playmaker as he is a natural scorer with the current expectation of 47 assists this season, leading his teammates, Krejci (45 expected assists) and Pastrnak (43 expected assists).
Marchand set a career-high in assists with 51 last season and is on pace to reach at least 40 assists for the third consecutive season.
Noted playmaker and usual assist leading suspect, Krejci’s 45 assists would be his best since he had 46 assists in 72 games during 2015-16. Of note, Krejci has not missed a game so far this season.
Fellow Czech native, Pastrnak is the only other player to have appeared in every game so far.
On defense, Torey Krug remains supreme with 10-40–50 expected totals, despite missing 11 games thus far. Another 50 points this season would be the third consecutive season of reaching the 50-point plateau for Krug.
He matched his career-high in goals (14) and set a new career-high in assists (45) last season en route to a career-high 59-point year in 76 games played.
It’s very likely Krug may exceed expectations, so long as he’s healthy.
Young stallion, Charlie McAvoy is still on pace for breaking the 30-point benchmark this season, despite missing 23 games through this forecast due to a couple of injuries (namely, a concussion and a lower body injury after blocking a shot).
While McAvoy’s health may be worrisome this season, Matt Grzelcyk has stepped into more minutes with the expectations of a career-year with 3-19–22 forecasted totals.
In goal, Boston has seen some stellar action from Jaroslav Halak— though recently he has been trending in the other direction, Tuukka Rask has picked up his pace of play back to where it’s expected night-in and night-out.
Halak is on pace for a 2.42 goals against average, despite his 2.28 GAA in 22 games played as of this forecast. Still, a 2.42 GAA would be equivalent to his 2.43 GAA in 59 GP in 2014-15 with the New York Islanders.
His workload shouldn’t reach nearly 60 games this season, so there’s still hope he exceeds expectations and keeps his GAA low, while increasing his expected save percentage.
Currently, Halak is forecasted to finish the 2018-19 regular season with a .920 SV%– his highest since attaining a .920 SV% in 52 games in 2013-14 for the Islanders. He had a .919 SV% in 36 games with New York in 2015-16.
Whether Halak will regress back to his usual form remains to fully be seen.
As has been since Halak’s stellar performances early in the season outplayed Tuukka Rask, Cassidy will have to manage both of his goaltender’s time in the crease– keeping each fresh enough to remain hot and rested for a playoff stretch.
Rask, in the meantime, is currently forecasted to reach a 2.38 GAA, which would be the second consecutive season of a slightly worse goals against average since he had a 2.23 in 65 games played in 2016-17 (he had a 2.36 GAA in 54 GP last season).
However, a 2.38 GAA is still respectable, considering his 2.63 GAA in 20 appearances through Boston’s first 40 games this season.
Boston’s usual starting goaltender is on track for a .919 SV%, which would be Rask’s highest since amassing a .922 SV% in 70 games played in 2014-15– a season in which he was drastically overworked.
Rask’s career-high .931 SV% came in 2009-10, when he had stolen the starting job from Tim Thomas and played in 45 games.
He’s also had back-to-back seasons at .929 in 23 games in 2011-12 (while serving as Thomas’ backup) and in 36 games in 2012-13 (during the 48-game lockout-shortened season, in which Rask backstopped Boston to their 2013 Stanley Cup Final appearance).
Anything at or above .920 in terms of save percentage is usually widely praised. A .919 SV% is not that far off and might actually be more reflective of the increased offense league-wide, but that’s something to research on a different day.
Regardless, two goaltenders around .920 in save percentage and close to a 2.30 goals against average isn’t a bad thing to have. That’s what some might refer to as an effective “1A/1B” scenario.
Now fight it out in the comments over who is “1A” and who is “1B” in this case.
Don Sweeney is having his Peter Chiarelli moment.
The current Boston Bruins General Manager is at a crossroads similar in nature to that of his predecessor in Chiarelli– except this time it’s forward thinking.
No, not that forward thinking.
Sweeney’s masterplan has made up for Chiarelli’s deficits in both defense and cap management. Yet, for a team that’s tied with the Nashville Predators for allowing the fewest goals against (88), its offense is nothing spectacular– ranking 25th in goals for so far this season (94).
Through 34 games, the Bruins are 4th in the Atlantic Division with a 18-12-4 record and 40 points on the season despite numerous injuries.
At one point in time this season, five of Boston’s regular six defenders were injured.
In Chiarelli’s final years with the Bruins, defense became a problem.
The 2013-14 President’s Trophy winning Bruins team amassed 117 points on the season with a plus-84 goal differential. The 2014-15 Bruins missed the postseason and had 93 points on the season and a plus-10 goal differential.
The franchise’s second ever President’s Trophy winning roster had Johnny Boychuk in his prime to rely on. The 2014-15 team did not, thanks to a trade made by Chiarelli prior to the start of the season.
Boychuk was traded out of salary cap constraints that could have been avoided had Chiarelli a) moved other assets or b) not signed those other assets to such inflated extensions in the first place.
Chiarelli promised he’d find a fix for the opening he created, but that never came to fruition as he was later fired in the 2015 offseason.
Upon Sweeney’s hiring, it was clear the Bruins needed a revival on the blue line.
In addition to that, Sweeney was walking into an organization that was needing to negotiate with then pending-RFA Dougie Hamilton.
Hamilton was coming off his entry-level contract and emerging as a prominent two-way defender with the offensive likes of Torey Krug, in addition to that of a more traditionally framed defender.
When Hamilton wanted out of Boston, Sweeney was looked at poorly for trading the RFA defender to the Calgary Flames in the midst of a foundation collapse in defense.
The problem was that the problem didn’t start then.
It worsened as a result of Chiarelli’s dealing of Boychuk, while Dennis Seidenberg got older and more susceptible to injury without anything in the pipeline to act as an adhesive bandage in a worst case scenario (Sweeney would later use a buyout on Seidenberg’s contract on June 30, 2016).
Sweeney’s Hamilton trade was meant to address the long-term scope, as Zach Senyshyn, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Jeremy Lauzon were all selected with the 1st and 2nd round picks in the 2015 Draft the Flames gave the Bruins in return for adding Hamilton.
Though Forsbacka Karlsson has only emerged as far as the third line center in Boston for now, his chemistry alongside Ryan Donato and Danton Heinen is to be lauded with pleasure as those three forwards remain central to the core in a not-so-distant post-Patrice Bergeron era (Forsbacka Karlsson may end up centering the first or second line someday).
Senyshyn’s been seasoning in Providence as Sweeney brought in the Washington Capitals’ approach to “over-cooking” their prospects in the AHL before calling them up for a seamless transition to the NHL (though, in fairness, it remains to be seen where Senyshyn fits into the long-term plan, if he even makes it).
And Lauzon is near the top of the depth chart in defensive prospects within the organization alongside Urho Vaakanainen and Connor Clifton– if not number one.
Though the blue line is not of concern for Boston, when healthy, the depth of the team in the top-six forwards, as well as run-of-the-mill finds to play on the fourth line has come into question.
Sweeney must take an action to address the need for a winger to play alongside David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk on the second line– something Sweeney aimed to bring in since he began his tenure with the Bruins as General Manager.
Again, scoring fell from the 2013-14 dominant team to Chiarelli’s missteps in 2014-15, so Sweeney dealt a struggling Milan Lucic to the Los Angeles Kings at the 2015 Draft for a 1st round pick (Jakub Zboril), Colin Miller and Martin Jones.
Jones was flipped later that summer to the San Jose Sharks for a 2016 1st round pick (Trent Frederic) and Sean Kuraly. More recently, Miller was claimed by the Vegas Golden Knights at the 2017 Expansion Draft.
In the aftermath of the Lucic trade– and with a spot on the second line to fill– Sweeney signed 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs star, Matt Beleskey to a five-year deal worth $3.800 million per season.
Beleskey set career-highs in assists (22) and points (37) in 80 games played in his first season in Boston (2015-16), then injuries cut his sophomore season with the Bruins to just eight points in 49 games.
In 2016-17, Beleskey had yet to score a point in 14 games with the B’s prior to being assigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL). He was added as an afterthought turned salary cap balancing equation in the Rick Nash trade last season with the New York Rangers.
When Beleskey’s first season with Boston didn’t yield as much of a breakout as Sweeney expected, he signed David Backes to a five-year, $6.000 million AAV contract on July 1, 2016, expecting the forward to shift from center to right wing alongside Krejci.
In his first season with Boston, Backes had 17 goals and 21 assists (38 points) in 74 games played. He followed that up with 33 points (14 goals, 19 assists) last season in 57 games while battling injury.
Though he has been plagued by injury the last two seasons, Backes (3-5–8 totals in 29 games) has been relegated to the fourth line when DeBrusk is in the lineup.
Sweeney’s plan to let the kids takeover led to exceeded expectations last season, but with that comes an even higher benchmark for success set for this season. Anything less is a disappointment.
Add to that the expectation for a Cup in three years time from when Sweeney was hired. At least, that’s what Boston’s internal operations was calculating when the front office sat down with Sweeney to interview for his current job.
For a GM that was active in his first month on the job and laid out a plan to take the organization up to where it is now– what’s next?
Sweeney’s not in the hot seat from the standpoint about imminent job security, but rather, he’s being put to the test.
This season, of all seasons, matters that much more.
His track record at the trade deadline hasn’t had any staying power, save for an extra year of John-Michael Liles as a depth defender for 2016-17.
He doesn’t have to hit it out of the park with a trade if he truly believes in the youth movement, which is why the Bruins probably aren’t going to be in the market for acquiring the services of Artemi Panarin.
Then again, if DeBrusk is going to be out long term and head coach Bruce Cassidy can’t split up Donato, Forsbacka Karlsson and Heinen, then it’s going to be worth acquiring a top-six forward that’s a legitimate top-six forward.
Adding Jeff Carter from the Los Angeles Kings would be like adding Rick Nash last season, except for the fact that the 33-year-old Carter is signed through the 2021-22 season at about $5.273 million per season.
If you even want to have a chance to potentially sit down with a guy like Panarin or pending-UFA Jeff Skinner in July, you can’t afford to chip away at your available spending money.
Unless Krejci or Backes is involved, that is.
Even still, Carter’s not set on playing anywhere outside of Los Angeles and might retire if he’s shipped elsewhere. Besides that, he only has six goals and nine assists (15 points) in 35 games this season.
The only other recent rumors swirling around have been tied to Minnesota Wild forward– and Weymouth, Massachusetts native– Charlie Coyle and New York Rangers forward– and Boston native– Kevin Hayes.
Both Coyle and Hayes are 26-years-old with Coyle having a cap hit of $3.200 million through 2019-20 and Hayes as a pending-UFA this offseason at $5.175 million.
Minnesota’s in the hunt for a wild card spot currently in the Western Conference and sits 17th in the league table. The Rangers are fifth in the Metropolitan Division, 21st in the league standings and falling.
Coyle has five goals and 10 assists (15 points) in 33 games. Though he has the same offensive production as Carter has with the Kings, Coyle is younger and in the midst of his prime, leaving room for potential– especially should he be placed on a line with Krejci and DeBrusk.
But Coyle (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) has only surpassed the 20-goal plateau once in his career (21 goals in 82 games, 2015-16).
Hayes has 9-18–27 totals in 33 games with New York so far this season. At 6-foot-5, 216 pounds, he’s had the hotter hands of the three potential trade targets.
He’s also only reached the 20-goal plateau once in his career (25 goals in 76 games last season), but never had a season below 36 points.
Both the Wild and the Rangers will have enough cap room at the deadline should Boston look to flip a player like Backes to fit either player comfortably on their payroll and still have something to give pending-RFAs Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Forsbacka Karlsson, Donato and Heinen in the offseason.
(Regardless, if there’s a team willing to take on Backes’ $6.000 million cap hit now as opposed to flipping him to the Arizona Coyotes later…)
Plus there’s the odd hold-out that the Bruins find themselves in conversation with one of the offseason’s biggest prizes like how they were finalists in the John Tavares arms race last summer.
Sweeney has a plethora of prospects to wager if– and only if– he can lop off one of the larger contracts on his books and land a legitimate top-six forward.
Can he do what Chiarelli failed to do in his final year with Boston and deliver on an as of yet unfulfilled promise?
Come to think of it, if he does acquire a top-six forward that can play with Krejci and leads to a Cup, then he does have a lot more in common with Chiarelli.
It’d just be more like when Chiarelli traded Dennis Wideman to the Florida Panthers in June 2010 for Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell.
Hello Columbus Blue Jackets fans, I’m not Cap’n Cornelius, but since we know each other and I visited your wonderful city in August, I was determined to deliver some Blue Jackets forecasted stats throughout the season.
Alas, the regular season started almost a month ago, but I promised I’d have some forecasted stats for Columbus’ entire roster for the entire season by the end of the month and I have finally gotten around to it.
These things take time when you’re transferring data into a new system and trying to watch every game on TV, as well as exist on Earth among its people.
For now, let’s pretend the season hasn’t started or that we’ve all jumped into a time machine and gone back to October 1st. How would things play out for the Blue Jackets this season?
Based on last season’s results– a 45-30-7 record, good enough for 97 points on the season and 4th place in the Metropolitan Division as the first wild card team in the Eastern Conference– Columbus is poised for a bit of a bounce-back in the division standings.
Why? Because the other teams ahead of them got worse– namely the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals.
The Flyers are
off to their usual slow start (wait, I forgot, we’ve time travelled back to the beginning of October) just overall worse and the Capitals look to be dethroned by the Pittsburgh Penguins for the Metropolitan crown at the end of the regular season.
Last season’s Blue Jackets won two playoff games on the road against the eventual Stanley Cup champions, then lost the next four games to extend Columbus’ misery as the only NHL franchise without a playoff series win.
That’s the major storyline to the Blue Jackets this year– will it be one last hurrah or will Panarin and/or Bobrovsky leave the city in the dust among the cornfields on its outskirts in what might become the franchise’s greatest departure(s) since trading Rick Nash to the New York Rangers in 2012?
If this season is a failure, is it head coach, John Tortorella’s fault, a roster problem or General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen‘s inability to construct the necessary components of a successful organization?
Critics will be sure to point out all the flaws that mar the franchise, but one thing’s for certain– there’s a lot of expectations.
One way to generate an unnecessary buzz about expectations is to believe your educated guesses about how players should perform this season makes any difference to what actually goes on the ice.
Fear not, for I am about to do just that.
Before I do, however, I’d like to remind those of you in the audience that are familiar with my roster forecasts before and inform those of you that are new here for the first time of my actual area of expertise.
It’s words. My degree is in communication.
There’s nothing that I will present here that you cannot do yourself, better and/or read anywhere else. All of this is an educated guess– an educated expectation– thanks to one of my sport management classes from college.
A player who performs better than their expected outcomes here is merely exceeding these presented expectations. A player who doesn’t meet the expectations could’ve been injured, a healthy scratch or on a chronic cold streak that’s technically unpredictable.
Anything else is just an error outside my expertise and/or Microsoft Excel’s fault.
That, or there’s a little gut-feeling added for players with substantially fewer career NHL games played than the rest of the data shows (basically, if someone’s projected to score 100 goals and has only played in nine games, I might tweak the result until they’ve played a quarter of the season and have either proven themselves as Wayne Gretzky 2.0 or nothing like “the Great One”).
Take a look at the charts below as though everything were to fall in line and nothing bad could ever happen– an utopian view, if you will. Some things may pan out, some things may not– it’s just a suggested (expected) outcome in a sport that’s highly unpredictable thanks to its collective nature and sheer puck luck.
Columbus Blue Jackets Forecast Through 0 Games (82 Games Remaining)
As has been the custom since his arrival via trade with the Chicago Blackhawks, Artemi Panarin is expected to lead the Blue Jackets in points with 30-49–79 expected totals. The next best player on the team? Cam Atkinson.
Atkinson’s bound for 27 goals and 24 assists (51 points) this season, while the third best forward on the team, Pierre-Luc Dubois, is expected to match his rookie season totals with another 48-point season, at least.
In the meantime several other forwards fall within the 40-point range, while free agent signing, Riley Nash isn’t expected to break into the 30-point plateau after amassing a career-high 41-point season with the Boston Bruins in 2017-18.
Werenski’s expected totals tops Jones (9-28–37 expected totals) by seven points and is in a league of his own compared to his teammates on the blue line.
In goal, Sergei Bobrovsky is looking for redemption with an expected goals against average of 2.37 and an expected save percentage of .923 over the course of 2018-19. Backup netminder, Joonas Korpisalo seeks to provide healthy competition with an expected 2.68 GAA and .917 SV% prior to puck drop on the season.
Of course, now that we’re a month into the regular season, it’ll be time to update this entire forecast once Columbus is about a quarter of the way through their 82-game schedule.
50-20-12, 112 points, 2nd in the Atlantic Division
Lost in the Second Round to TB, 4-1
Subtractions: F Kenny Agostino (signed with MTL), D Chris Breen (signed with Providence Bruins, AHL), D Tommy Cross (signed with CBJ), F Austin Czarnik (signed with CGY), F Brian Gionta (retired), F Justin Hickman (signed, Norway), D Nick Holden (signed with VGK), G Anton Khudobin (signed with DAL), D Adam McQuaid (traded to NYR), F Riley Nash (signed with CBJ), D Paul Postma (signed, KHL), F Tim Schaller (signed with VAN), F Tommy Wingels (signed, Switzerland)
Still Unsigned: F Rick Nash
Offseason Analysis: My fellow hearty New Englanders, we’ve reached the third year of Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney‘s secret three-year Cup masterplan. This is the year– it’s make or break.
Live free or die Do or die.
Why? Because Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Danton Heinen and Ryan Donato are all pending-RFAs at season’s end with about $16.500 million to spend next offseason– wait, actually, that’s not that bad. It’s tricky, tedious stuff, but manageable if they do it right (Sweeney’s not the last guy, so…?).
Considering David Krejci ($7.250 million cap hit through the 2020-21 season), David Backes ($6.000 million cap hit through 2020-21) and for some reason Torey Krug ($5.250 million cap hit through 2019-20) have all been the topic of trade rumors this offseason, Sweeney will likely end up with well over $20.000 million to work with for the 2019-20 roster.
Oh and 41-year-old ageless wonder and captain, Zdeno Chara‘s $5.000 million cap hit comes off the books after this season, but as long as he’s still trucking, he’ll be in a spoked-B sweater until he retires. (P.S. That’s right, Jaromir Jagr, I’m going with Chara as the new ageless wonder, at least in the National Hockey League.)
But this? This is 2018-19.
Gone are Tim Schaller and Riley Nash, two bottom-six forwards who– let’s be honest– you didn’t think would have the kinds of seasons they had in 2017-18.
I’ve already gone over this plenty of times this offseason on the podcast and in writing, but Schaller legitimized himself as a third liner at best (and rightfully earned his new contract with the Vancouver Canucks), while Nash had a career-high 41-point season at 29-years-old– can that ever be repeated on his three-year deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets?
Maybe at least once, but not at the price the Bruins could afford with a plethora of youth needing renewals in the next couple of offseasons (oh and coming for roster spots too).
Gone as well are Anton Khudobin and Nick Holden– last season’s backup goaltender and depth piece acquisition on the blue line in February.
In are Chris Wagner, Joakim Nordstrom and whoever makes the roster from Providence this season. John Moore’s new on defense too– he signed a 5-year, $2.750 million per season, contract on July 1st and as a result, became Adam McQuaid’s de facto replacement turned actual-facto (I’m making that a thing) replacement after McQuaid was shipped off to the New York Rangers on September 11th.
The thought process is simple with Wagner and Nordstrom.
Wagner likes to hit and Nordstrom’s coming in exactly like Riley Nash did two years ago. He’s a durable penalty-killer signed at $1.000 million AAV for the next two seasons. Low risk, high reward (as long as he reaches his goals).
Jarolsav Halak’s in town as the backup goaltender for the next two seasons with a cap hit of $2.750 million. Head coach Bruce Cassidy almost has a 1A, 1B option in goal with Halak’s previous starting goaltender experience, though he’ll likely see about 30 games this season to Tuukka Rask‘s 50-plus starts. Both goaltenders will be right in their sweet-spot.
Remember Steven Kampfer? The 2011 Stanley Cup champion doesn’t have his name on the Cup (he only played 38 games in 2010-11), but he’s back in black-and-gold as part of the return in the McQuaid transaction with New York.
Kampfer’s signed through this season at $650,000 and will likely be utilized as an emergency recall from the Providence Bruins, unless Cassidy doesn’t mind carrying eight defenders (with Matt Grzelcyk already as the seventh defenseman). He’ll wear No. 44 this time around with Boston, as Krug is wearing his old No. 47.
Fun fact, Krug wore No. 44 at Michigan State, but Dennis Seidenberg was already wearing that number when Krug signed as an undrafted free agent with the Bruins in March 2012.
The Rangers also gave up a 4th round pick and a conditional 7th round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, which could come in handy at the trade deadline as extra pieces in any Cup or bust making moves Sweeney might have up his sleeve.
Also departed this offseason are Paul Postma (remember him?), Tommy Wingels (off to go explore the Swiss Alps), Brian Gionta (retired as a Sabre, technically) and Austin Czarnik (actually living up in Calgary with the Flames after the Bruins
ran out of space didn’t tender a qualifying offer to at least feign interest in prolonging their relationship).
Plus, Rick Nash is still undecided about coming back to play. Should he do so, Boston has about $5.060 million in cap space to spend on what would undoubtedly be his last chance at a Cup– if last season’s disappointing, concussion-filled, end to a season wasn’t already his last.
Good on Rick Nash either way– if he decides to hang up the skates, nobody can blame him for taking his health seriously. If he waits it out until February or so and is 100% ready-to-go, then let him have a shot at going out the way he wants to– on his own terms.
The 50-20-12, 112-point season Bruins we saw last year in Boston have a lot of pressure this season. A lot more is expected heading into 2018-19 than was expected heading into 2017-18, but it’s a good place to be in. Not to mention Cassidy is the right man behind the bench to get the job done.
The time is now.
Offseason Grade: C+
Despite groans from the fanbase, right or wrong, the Bruins had a slightly above average offseason. Boston placed an emphasis on their youth when Sweeney came in and retooled the prospect pool, so they’ve stuck with the plan.
They didn’t overspend, given John Moore’s potential as a quality top-four defender at precisely what Adam McQuaid (a bottom-pair blue liner) was making. They didn’t land John Tavares or Ilya Kovalchuk this offseason, but the fact they were even in the conversation lends them some serious credibility as a contender.
In order to be enlightened and crowned champion, first you must climb a seemingly impossible mountain. This team has those expectations and it all starts from within.
Erik Karlsson finally got traded, NHL 19 came out and our official 2018-19 Pacific Division Season Preview just so happened to be this week too. Nick and Connor place their bets on the San Jose Sharks and more.
Nick, Colby and Connor talk the Max Pacioretty trade, Eugene Melnyk’s latest antics, John Tortorella’s extension, Adam McQuaid and Steve Yzerman stepping down in Tampa. Also in this episode– DTFR’s official 2018-19 Atlantic Division preview.
New York Rangers
34-39-9, 77 points, 8th (last) in the Metropolitan Division
Subtractions: F John Albert (signed, DEL), F Paul Carey (signed with OTT), F Daniel Catenacci (signed, Austria), F David Desharnais (signed, KHL), F Carl Klingberg (signed, Switzerland), F Adam Tambellini (signed with OTT)
Offseason Analysis: New York Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton had a plethora of restricted free agents to re-sign this offseason and he successfully pulled off every single one.
Both Ryan Spooner and Vladislav Namestnikov are signed to matching two-year contracts worth $4.000 million per season. Kevin Hayes has a bridge deal that’s not too shabby either.
At 26, Hayes signed a one-year, $5.175 million extension with a lot to prove– to himself and to the watchful eye of diehard Rangers fans. At least he’s ahead of Jimmy Vesey in the depth chart– who only managed one-point better than his rookie campaign in his sophomore season (28 points in 79 games last season versus 27 points in 80 GP in 2016-17).
Gorton has bigger fish to fry this season as the Rangers re-tool on-the-fly.
New York’s defense is young and susceptible to making errors as Brady Skjei, Rob O’Gara and perhaps even Ryan Lindgren in the near future come into their own. Of those three defenders, Skjei’s been in the Rangers system the longest– given both O’Gara and Lindgren were acquired from the Boston Bruins in separate trades last season.
One season removed from the shutdown pairing of Marc Methot and Erik Karlsson in Ottawa, the Senators had another underrated good thing going in the pairing of Karlsson and Fredrik Claesson. But Sens GM Pierre Dorion moved on from the 25-year-old Claesson.
That’s where Gorton and crew swooped in on a make or break one-year, $700,000 offer.
Claesson has the potential to grow as an anchor in the defensive end while his teammates work the puck out of the zone. If nothing else, he has a lot to prove– along with his peers looking to follow the Bruins model of “rebuilding on-the-fly”.
Trade expendable pieces (Nick Holden), part with assets (Rick Nash, J.T. Miller, Ryan McDonagh), insert who you envision as the new prototypical Rangers players (Spooner, Namestnikov, Lias Andersson and other prospects) and maybe– just maybe– New York can turn things around sooner than expected.
How much longer does Henrik Lundqvist have to wait for another chance at his first Cup? Can he win it wearing a Blueshirts sweater? This is just pure speculation, as there’s nothing else to say about the Rangers.
Dustin Tokarski could make a push for the backup role, but all roster decisions are up to first-year NHL head coach David Quinn.
Quinn’s coming off of a five-season tenure with Boston University as the head coach of its men’s hockey program. During his time, Quinn brought the then Jack Eichel led Terriers all the way to the NCAA championship game– only to be defeated by the Providence College Friars in 2015.
From 2013-18, Quinn amassed a 105-67-21 overall record at Boston University.
Like Dallas Stars head coach Jim Montgomery, one would expect an initial struggle from coaching college hockey straight to the National Hockey League, but luckily for the Rangers the timing is right as they can afford a little learning curve during their restructuring.
Are the Rangers a playoff team in 2018-19? No.
Can they get back into a playoff spot in 2019-20? We’ll see, but it’s certainly plausible. The pieces are there and time will tell. First things first, they have to clean up last season’s minus-37 goal differential. You can’t win games if you allow more goals than you score.
Offseason Grade: C
Perhaps Gorton could’ve pulled off one more signing or one more trade this offseason, but he took care of most of his work by the trade deadline last season with 2018-19 in mind.
Other than that, it’s been an average offseason for New York. Keep the new young core intact, re-sign their RFAs to quality bridge deals that might make for some tough decision making later or wizardry like that of the Tampa Bay Lightning nature in the salary cap era.
If you wait long enough into the summer things start to look more concrete– until you really look at the nitty gritty.
The 2017-18 Boston Bruins were ahead of schedule. They exceeded expectations. They weren’t even supposed to have the kind of season they had until at least this season or next season (if that makes sense), depending on how you broke down General Manager Don Sweeney‘s master three-year plan.
Like everything, however, this offseason has had some ups and downs.
Without getting too much into the nonsensically named (okay, it was named after some videogame, read Bob McKenzie’s book Hockey Confidential— shameless plug) advanced stat “PDO”, let’s just say that whenever a team does really well for a season, they usually come back to reality the following season.
Hockey logic has indicated this in the past, what with the Chicago Blackhawks almost evenly spaced out Stanley Cup championships in 2010, 2013 and 2015 (notice, 2011, 2012 and 2014 did not result in Cups– kind of makes you think)– let alone all of hockey history.
A long season, while rewarding with a championship run (sometimes), is a grind.
Not trying to be Debbie Downer here, but let’s just try to look at things with a slice of realism for this season especially.
Last season they were “too young, too, too young”, but they amassed 50 wins and made it to the Second Round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. This season they’re more experienced, but with an unknown and untapped source of depth in both their free agent signings and expected rookie debuts and sophomores.
Gone are Tim Schaller and Riley Nash— two quality bottom-six forwards who left for Vancouver and Columbus respectively in July. In their place we find Chris Wagner and Joakim Nordstrom. Lateral– but necessary– moves.
The expectations coming into Schaller and Nash’s two-year deals in the 2016 offseason were that they’d contribute in some way, but nobody could predict Schaller becoming a legitimate fourth liner and Nash amassing 41 points (a career best) in a contract year.
While Wagner and Nordstrom aren’t your bottom-six fan favorites yet, they share similar parallels of the unknown and are expected to rise to the occasion– whatever that may be as Head Coach Bruce Cassidy will see fit.
Wagner’s your tough guy and Nordstrom’s a solid penalty killer. The latter will likely see some time with Sean Kuraly on a PK-unit a la Nash and Kuraly from this past season.
Moore’s five-year deal may seem like a bit much, but at $2.750 million per season, he’s making as much as Adam McQuaid for likely a bottom-pair role that’ll transform into McQuaid’s replacement, should Sweeney look to move the career-long Boston defender or not re-sign him in July 2019.
Despite being one-year older than Khudobin, Halak is an upgrade as a stable backup goaltender who’s numbers should improve in a more limited role with a better group of skaters in front of him than his now former New York Islanders teammates were the last few seasons.
Pointless arguments can be made all day (Halak is better than Khudobin), but let’s move on with the actual lineup projection, shall we?
Actually, let’s digress for another moment. Rick Nash remains undecided about whether or not he’d like to return to the game, so that could always mess everything up.
Anyway, here’s a look at how the Boston Bruins 2018-19 lineup should shape up:
Forward Line 1
Isn’t it obvious? The best line in the NHL from 2017-18 rolls right into 2018-19 intact with the same level of chemistry as before. Sure, you could spread out the points a bit by putting Pastrnak on the second line with David Krejci, but you really don’t have to unless you’re looking to shake things up a bit from time to time.
Boston’s first line is set for at least the remainder of Patrice Bergeron’s existence– ignoring contracts altogether. Brad Marchand is inseparable from Bergeron and Pastrnak has joined that royalty in his own right, as he continues to emerge as a star.
Forward Line 2
Jake DeBrusk and Krejci go together like Milan Lucic once did on the Czech center’s left side. Except there’s a bit of a difference in DeBrusk’s game– it’s more offensive. The bigger question on Boston’s second line shouldn’t be “what top-six forward will they try to acquire to fill a ‘hole'”, but rather “who will win the job between Anders Bjork and Ryan Donato?”
For the sake of testing things out in the wake of Bjork’s return from a season-ending injury in 2017-18, Cassidy could insert No. 10 on the second line. Then again, if the Bruins are set on giving Donato a big-time role for a full season, well, then it’ll be Bjork sliding down to line three or line four.
Donato could be like Pastrnak once was early in his development and be sent to Providence for some seasoning in his game and offensive capabilities at the professional level. However, one difference between Donato’s development and Pastrnak’s development is that Donato stood out on an Olympic level, not just in an international World Junior Championship competition.
But if you’re looking to give props to Pastrnak, it’s worth mentioning (albeit due to international/minor league transfer rules) that No. 88 in black and gold went pro before Donato while No. 17 in the spoked-B finished his bona fide duties at Harvard University.
Or just to mess everything else up, perhaps Bjork starts 2018-19 with a stint in Providence.
Forward Line 3
Whoever doesn’t win the second line right wing job (Bjork or Donato) should likely end up on the third line in Boston alongside Danton Heinen and Sean Kuraly. Kuraly, you say?
Yes, Kuraly will be tested out as a third line center as had been planned since he was part of the Martin Jones trade with the San Jose Sharks. Just how far will his bottom-six forward potential go? Time well tell and the time is now.
Otherwise Joakim Nordstrom slides right into Riley Nash’s old job much like how he’s already slid into the No. 20 sweater in the Hub.
Forward Line 4
14 Chris Wagner — 20 Joakim Nordstrom — 55 Noel Acciari
Then again, if Bjork or Donato slide just enough, they might end up taking a job from Noel Acciari on the fourth line. Or just maybe Sweeney can console armchair GMs enough with some level justification for having Backes on the fourth line at $6.000 million per season through the 2020-21 season.
For fans and armchair GMs alike that like a lot of hitting, Chris Wagner is your man. He’s basically the new Matt Beleskey, but without the expectations that ran rampant after Beleskey’s incredible 2015 Stanley Cup Playoff run with the Anaheim Ducks.
Otherwise, it’s pretty much status quo on the fourth line, despite some new faces in Wagner and Nordstrom– provide a spark. Whatever that is.
Defensive Pair 1
Zdeno Chara wants to play forever (basically) and Charlie McAvoy is the closest thing Bruins fans have seen to a modern-day Ray Bourque in his development and potential.
On a serious note, Chara intends to play for at least another four years (by then he’ll be 45) and signed a one-year extension (at a $5.000 million cap hit) this spring for the 2018-19 season. McAvoy, on the other hand, seeks to continue his rise to stardom on the blue line moving on to his sophomore season.
Defensive Pair 2
There’s an impetus among armchair GMs to trade Torey Krug for a second line wing and/or other assets, but the fact of the matter is Sweeney and Co. have no legitimate rush to move on from Krug. He might be their biggest piece of trade bait for speculative purposes this season, yet he’s also still part of the top-four defensive core in Boston.
Meanwhile, Brandon Carlo looks to rebound from a bit of a sophomore slump in which he failed to score a goal. Carlo and Krug had a chemistry that– at best of times– worked well in 2017-18. Like any defender, though, mistakes are usually noticeable, because there’s a puck in the net behind them.
Defensive Pair 3
27 John Moore — 86 Kevan Miller
You’re not going to pay John Moore $2.750 million for the next five seasons to not play him, whereas a guy like Matt Grzelcyk or Brandon Carlo could be at risk of becoming a healthy scratch– and that’s assuming Adam McQuaid who also has a $2.750 million cap hit this season already will be a healthy scratch most nights.
In the meantime, Kevan Miller has solidified himself as the 5th or 6th defenseman in Boston– for his physicality and impressive play alone– and could further take on McQuaid’s fighter role this season as a deterrence from the waning role of the enforcer around the rest of the league.
48 Matt Grzelcyk, 54 Adam McQuaid
Following suit with last season, Grzelcyk will have to win his full-time role out of the gate once again, while McQuaid’s future status with the organization remains cloudy past 2019. So cloudy, in fact, that he’ll be a pending-UFA as of July 2019.
In the system
Zach Senyshyn (potential second line RW/bottom six contender), Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson (bottom six contender), Jesse Gabrielle (fourth line option at camp), Trent Frederic (bottom six contender), Jack Studnicka (bottom six contender at camp), Jakub Zboril (bottom pair defensive contender), Jeremy Lauzon (bottom pair defensive contender), Zane McIntyre (backup goalie contender at camp), Dan Vladar (backup goalie contender at camp)
40 Tuukka Rask
Tuukka Rask is your starting goaltender as he has been since Tim Thomas decided to take a gap year (and was subsequently traded to the Islanders). There is no goaltending controversy, though Jaroslav Halak should provide more consistency in net on the night’s Rask gets to rest.
In addition to finding the right mix of rest and play, fewer shots against for the third consecutive year since facing a career high 2,011 shots in 70 games in 2014-15 has helped Rask’s focus throughout the season as the Bruins look to go further as a team.
You win and lose as a team– not solely as a goaltender.
41 Jaroslav Halak
Yes, Anton Khudobin bounced back from a disappointing 2016-17 season to an exuberant 2017-18 season, but let’s get this clear– he’s a backup. Khudobin bounced around a bit from the NHL to the AHL and back again in 2016-17, posting a 2.64 goals against average and .904 save percentage in 16 games played.
He then had a 2.56 GAA and .913 SV% in 31 games as Boston’s backup in 2017-18, which was good enough for his third best season in GAA and SV%, dating back to his first real taste of being a backup NHL goaltender in 2012-13 with Boston (Khudobin appeared in seven NHL games from 2009-12 with Minnesota and the Bruins in dire situations).
The thing here is a 2.56 GAA is not starting netminder material, no matter how you break down Khudobin’s overall improvement from 2016-17 to 2017-18.
In the meantime, Jaroslav Halak is poised for career-reset. He’s got a change of scenery from Brooklyn to Boston and with that he won’t be playing in nearly as many games.
Halak had a 3.19 GAA and .908 SV% in 54 games as New York’s starting goalie, keeping in mind the Islanders suffered a lot of injuries on the blue line last season. He also nearly doubled his workload from a dismal 2016-17 (28 games played) to 2017-18 (54 GP).
In 2015-16, Halak had a 2.30 GAA and .919 SV% as the Islanders backup netminder in 36 games played. Khudobin, on the other hand, appeared in nine games for the Anaheim Ducks that season, amassing a 2.69 GAA and .909 SV% before being sent down to San Diego (AHL).
The moral of the story here is that the Bruins have been about giving backups second chances in recent history, whether that’s Chad Johnson, Jonas Gustavsson, Khudobin and now Halak– they’re willing to take that gamble.
Okay, end Halak vs. Khudobin rant.