Monday, October 19, 2009

Kobasew Traded

Yesterday, obviously fed up with the lackluster play of his team, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli pulled the trigger on a trade. Sending sometimes fan favorite, sometimes whipping boy, Chuck Kobasew to Minnesota where he will join another favorite former Bruin, Shane Hnidy (I suspect a certain die hard Bruin fan I know may start keeping tabs on the Wild because of those two. Yes A.H., I'm looking at you). For whatever reason, many Bruins fans were "down" of Kobasew since he arrived in Boston. I'm sorry, but I just don't get it. He was always a very hard working guy. He was very physical, playing much larger than his diminutive frame would suggest. And he was a consistent 20 goal scorer. Not sure what people expected of him, but I will miss him.

All that being said, I think this may have been a good trade by Chiarelli. As much as I hate to see Chucky gone, the deal makes a lot of sense. In the short term, a move like this is sure to get the rest of the rosters attention. Chilly has sent a clear message that the effort hasn't been good enough, and he isn't going to sit back and hope they start playing better.
Also, this allows the B's to bring up a couple kids in Sobotka and Marchand (Lucic being placed on Long term IR frees up an additional spot for at least ten games). With that window of opportunity, these two can have a legitimate chance to prove they belong in the NHL and can fill the role Kobasew filled (and then some?), with a smaller cap hit. For all of the Sobotka apologists who feel that he was getting screwed by the B's, here is his chance. (Why everyone feels like he "deserved" to be on the roster out of camp the last couple years, is a whole other story which I won't get into now). Sobotka should finally get a chance to play with top six forwards, as opposed to the fourth line role for which he was ill suited.
Marchand will also get a chance to play on the third line, which could use his feistiness and occasional goal scoring pop.
If the Bruins players need any explanation for what management sees wrong with their play, all they have to do is look at the players they called up. Sobotka, Marchand and Lefevbre all are "nasty" to one degree or another. We all have memories of Sobotka throwing his (tiny) body around and being a thorn in Montreal's side during the playoffs two years ago. Marchand comes advertised as a classic "agitator". And Lefevbre is always looking for a dance partner out there and will throw his body around at will. If there is one common theme in what ails the Bruins, it's that they haven't been NEARLY as physical or "hard to play against" as they were last year. The word from the top is, THIS ENDS NOW. Or more changes will come, be sure of it.

But this move also is largely about the long term. Kobasew was due to make $2.3M this year and next. Freeing up that cap space can do a few different things for the B's. first, they can use some of those draft picks they're stock piling to pick up an impact player, either at the trade deadline (when you'd only be assuming a pro-rated portion of his cap hit), or sooner if the call ups don't pan out as planned. That is sort of the "near long-term" I guess. Longer term, Chiarelli has several key free agents to think about next year. Does he want to bring Savard back? I would think so. I also think Savvy wants to come back, and *may* take a slight discount to stay here. But the B's Cap situation isn't good, so clearing some space is vital. They also have Blake Wheeler among others to tie up. So, it's never too early to start planning.
The other rumor I've been hearing is, Chilly is clearing space to make a bigger splash. Did someone say Ilya Kovulchuk? While the thought of him reuniting with Savard is enough to make any goal starved B's fan salivate, I'm not sure it could happen. Kovulchuk makes $7.5 this year, and is a UFA as of July 1st. Only way I could see Chilly going after him is if he could get him signed long term. And frankly, I don't know that they can afford to do that. beyond that, word is he's content in Atlanta and may want to return there, as long as they keep playing well and going in the right direction. Adding even more wrenches in the Bruins gears (of they are after him), the Russian League (KHL) is supposedly ready to offer an enormous deal to the big winger should he not resign with the Thrashers.

The bottom line is, Chilly has sent a very loud, very clear message to his troops. he and Julien have a clear game plan for how the team needs to play. And if the current players aren't up to that committment, he'll find guys who are. We all know the B's window for doing big things in the post-season is closing rapidly. Chilly, I think, is showing the proper level of urgency. Let's just hope his troops get to that level ASAP.

I am on the record as saying I thought this team would struggle out of the gate this year. I also said I wasn't convinced they were any kind of lock to make the Cup Finals. Well, the losses of guys like Axelsson, Yelle, Ward and nidy are really starting to show up in my opinion. The Penalty Kill thus far has been an absolute joke. Axe and Yelle were both great penalty killers. And teh D has been "scrambly" all season. Lots of running around, seemingly totally disorganized. Ward and Hnidy were the poster boys for calm back there. The loss of Ward especially to me is a huge loss. He was not only steady on the back end, he was also a leader in the locker room. At this point, I wonder who, if anyone, is actually "leading" this team. Sooner or later a player or two has to step up and say enough is enough, then do something about it. I would hope that guy would be Chara, but he has been nearly invisible thus far. He isn't playing terribly, but he also isn't making much of an impact on the game. Again, not good enough.
Goaltending? Please....don't even get me started on the goalie play. While the team clearly has been playing poorly in front of them, neither has seized the moment and won them a game. Thomas in particular just looks "off". Don't get me wrong, I'm not baling anyone in particular, and I'm not giving up on him. I have faith that he'll be fine (although, as I said in the preseason, not back to Vezina form).

The Bruins have a lot of questions that need to be answered. Chiarelli just posed another one to his team. Do you REALLY want to be a great team?
Time for the boys to answer on the ice. I'm sick of hearing the lip service in every interview. Put up, and shut up.
Go B's-Kynch

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