When the season began, there was a lot of buzz surrounding the trio of young defensemen that had helped lead the Boston Bruins to the Stanley Cup Finals last spring. The team had two openings on defense, following the departures of Wade Redden and Andrew Ference. While this put the team in an envious position, the youngsters (Torey Krug, Dougie Hamilton, or Matt Bartkowski) knew that someone would be the odd man out on game day.
As the season progressed, the Bruins began to deal with a number of injuries on the back end. The month of November saw Johnny Boychuk and Adam McQuaid fall victim to the injury bug, paving the way for Kevan Miller to make his NHL debut.
Although Miller is not an offensive powerhouse, he has almost flawlessly replaced the production of Adam McQuaid. McQuaid notched a goal and five assists through 30 games this season, while Miller has one goal and four assists in 39 games. To take it a step further, Miller currently has a +17 plus/minus rating, while Adam McQuaid achieved a +12.
The differences between the two players might seem slight, but when you factor them into the bigger picture, they carry a lot of weight. Miller’s contract gives the team an additional $800,000 in cap space, while his ability to handle an additional minute of ice time per night helps reduce the workload of veterans like Dennis Seidenberg and Zdeno Chara. Although Miller will never be an offensive defenseman, it is not unrealistic to expect his offensive production to eclipse that of Adam McQuaid. McQuaid’s biggest contribution to the team is his physical brand of defense, but even in that department, Miller is more than capable of stepping up.
Over the years, Adam McQuaid has endeared himself to the Boston Bruins fanbase. His physicality, his reliable defense, and his mullet, among other qualities, have made the player they call “Darth Quaider” a true fan favorite. Although losing McQuaid will hurt, Kevan Miller will help ease that pain. In fact, he might already be easing that pain before McQuaid has even left town. Watch out for Miller to really establish himself in the playoffs, as Claude Julien’s confidence in the University of Vermont alum continues to grow.
Is Miller pushing McQuaid out of town? Who would you keep? Let me know what you think below or on twitter @kirkvance.