Monday, September 29, 2008

Who stays? Who goes? Who cares?

For the first time in recent memory, the Bruins find themselves with some very tough choices to make as training camp winds down. In recent years, it was pretty obvious who would make the big club. And in many cases, that was a depressing proposition. But now they have more depth up front than they've had in a very long time. So who from last year's teams makes the grade and gets to stay in Boston? Who gets demoted, waived or traded? And really, should we care? Well, lets look at these three questions, in no particular order of importance.Whos stays?-Who goes?Most of these choices are pretty obvious. Starting on the back end: Chara, Ward, Stuart and Wideman are absolute locks. Things start to get interesting when you get to Alberts, Ferrence and Hnidy. Hnidy has been out of action all preseason after off season repairs to his knee. So at best, I think he'd be an extra D-man to start and not in the lineup. Ferrence is "probably" a lock, but he struggles in his own end frequently, and has been the subject of trade rumors. Don't see him going anywhere unless he's part of a package for a better puck moving defenseman (and the odds of that seem slim at best at this time of year). Alberts, in my opinion should be a lock, but he's a guy Bruins fans love to hate for some reason. Yes, he is prone to the big mistake in his own end. But, with his combination of size, physicality, youth and skating ability, I think it's just way too early to give up on this kid. He was playing some very solid hockey before the injury last year. Another long look is in order here.Up front, things are heating up for the final few roster spots (NINE centers still on the roster still?). The locks here would appear to be:Bergeron, Savard, Sturm, Ryder, Lucic, Krejci, Kessell, Yelle, Axelsson, and Thornton. So that leaves two spots, and leaves out Schaefer (wishful thinking perhaps). My guess would be that Sobotka and Nokelainen HAVE to make the team. They've done nothing in camp to hint that last year was a fluke. But, the biggest wrench in that plan is the excellent play of Blake Wheeler. His solid play, and large cap hit, will probably force some very tough decisions for Chiarelli & Julien. As much as it pains me to say, I think long time favorite, PJ Axelsson may be the odd man out. He'd bring back moderate returns in a trade, but would provide some cap relief while allowing a young guy to step in and fill his role. Bottom line is, if I had to choose right now between PJ and any out of the group of Wheeler, Sobotka or Nokie....I'd have to say Axe loses.So overall, I'd say the vets from last year that do not start the year on the opening night roster will be: Jeremy Reich (and I've been a big supporter of his, but Thornton's overall game is just better than Reich's, and there isn't room for two players of that skill set, except in certain "grudge game scenarios" which are all but gone in the NHL nowadays anyway.). Schaeffer (although he played hurt most of last season, he just takes up too much cap space and doesn't have the all around game some of the younger guys have). And lastly, Axe. PJ is still a very good player if put in the correct role. He's also a very popular guy "in the room", so losing his leadership there may hurt, at least in the short term as guys adjust.On the Blue Line, it looks like Hnidy won't be active on day one, and will probably find himself in a battle for ice time all year. Good physical presence back there, but is fairly one dimensional. In the event of injury, he'd probably be passed over for the likes of Hunwick or Lashoff (who I just can't see the facination with. Skilled skater, decent offensive upside, but has yet to show he can play at a high level in his own end. He hasn't shown in camp that anything has changed. IMO, he needs to either be traded, or face the prospect of being a career minor leaguer. Just another guy that dominates in the AHL, but struggles in the NHL).Between the pipes is pretty obvious, so I didn't get into it. For the time being, we're looking at Thomas (that's a very good thing) as our #1 with Manny Fernandez as the #2 (not so sure that's a good thing. I'd love to see Manny get healthy enough to showcase him for a trade. That allows Rask to come up. I'm not sure another season of facing AHL shots will help Rask that much. And, with Rask in Boston, a side benefit would be that Regan gets more ice time with the Pro-B's.Who cares?Well, obviously all of us care who makes the cut & who doesn't. But when it gets right down to it, with this kind of there really a "bad" decision? Sure, we'll debate on players all day. But the thing is, they finally have enough good players that they can take a couple chances, and not ruin their season. If say, a Wheeler doesn't turn out to be ready, that's ok. He can go to Providence to work and there are still players that can step in and produce in Boston.Let me be clear: I am not a flag waving, pom-pom carrying "whatever they do is fine with me" type of guy. If and when I see something I disagree with, I'm the first to call BS. But, I feel that the organization (Chiarelli, Sweeney & the scouts) have put themselves in a position this year that allows them some slack from us. They can take a chance or two and not suffer. In years past, if a draft pick couldn't play nearly instantly, they were in trouble. OK, that's enough incoherent rambling form me. Your turn.....tell me where you agree with me, or where you think I'm a complete idiot. Go B's - Kynch

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