Another day, another mailbag!
This may be the first mailbag all season long that comes with the Bruins at relatively full health without many questions surrounding the team’s short-term look at fixes as far as health is concerned.
Despite the team being at full health, there are still noticeable holes in the lineup that need to be filled and multiple questions that need answering.
With that in mind, let’s get straight to business with the mailbag.
“When the Club Is [at] Full Health, Who Is Your 13th Forward and 7th [Defender]? #AskBSC” (APags87 via Twitter)
Assuming this doesn’t include Anders Bjork as he was last with the Providence Bruins prior to his injury, I’d say that the Bruins are as close to fully healthy as they’ve been all season long. With the exception of Joakim Nordstrom, I don’t believe anybody is injured enough to miss games.
With that in mind, my ideal 13th forward would be David Backes and my ideal seventh defender would be John Moore (Steven Kampfer being the eighth defender).
This isn’t to say that Backes or Moore have been bad. In fact, Backes has been playing better hockey as of late and has even produced three goal and nine points in his last 18 games.
Those numbers don’t exactly jump off the page, especially not when Backes is paid $6 million annually. Still, it’s a significant improvement on the one goal and three points he produced in his first 20 games that the Bruins had to endure. He’s also returning to the team’s lineup Thursday after being a healthy scratch Wednesday.
The same applies to John Moore who has been fine in the Bruins lineup this season. Unfortunately for him, the Bruins defense, specifically the left side, consists of Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug and Matt Grzelcyk. All three of those players should be locks for the lineup each and every night.
That clearly isn’t the case with Moore slotting in for Grzelcyk against the St. Louis Blues on Thursday, but I digress.
On the right side, Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo are locks each and every night and Kevan Miller brings a certain quality to the defense that his colleagues simply don’t. As a sixth-defender and a primary penalty killer, his role is as important as any.
Moore is a good player but if the choice is two players out of Miller, Grzelcyk and Moore, I have to leave Moore as the odd-man out right now. Even if he’s only in the first year of his contract.
Although Wagner and Acciari have both been good alongside Kuraly, I’d still be willing to sit one of them for Backes or for Nordstrom when he returns as well. It will probably be a revolving door on that line to close out the season.
“Let’s Make a Deal. Anyone From the Red Wings That the Bruins Might Be Interested In? #AskBSC” (TonyWolak via Twitter)
The obvious answer? Dylan Larkin.
The realistic answer, however, would be Anthony Mantha or Andreas Athanasiou (and yes, I did spell his name correctly in one try).
Both Mantha and Athanasiou (I did it again) are talented wingers who can score and play on the right side. Both players would come at a pretty steep asking price, however, and it would be interesting to see what the Red Wings would be looking for in return.
Ideally, the Red Wings find young players who can step in right away and help retool their roster on the fly to avoid going into a full rebuild. If that’s the case, moving Mantha or Athanasiou would be counter-productive.
At the same time, the Bruins do have a bevy of young defenders in Providence who have already played NHL games and who could be of interest to Detroit.
Let’s just assume the Bruins can find a way to swing a deal for one of those two players without going into specifics. Mantha would be my first choice given his scoring pedigree and size.
Mantha Adds a Big Scoring Presence
Having watched Mantha score 50 goals in 67 games in 2012-13 with the Val d’Or Foreurs of the QMJHL and then produce another 57 goals in 57 games the following season (as well as 102 assists over those two years), I can vouch for Mantha’s ability to produce points and put the puck in the net.
This didn’t stop in the QMJHL, though, as Mantha is also a 21-goal scorer in the AHL and even a 24-goal scorer in the NHL already at 24 years old. He’s scored only 11 goals and 18 points in 33 games this season but the Red Wings as a whole outside of Larkin and Gustav Nyquist are struggling to produce points at a consistent pace.
If the Bruins could somehow acquire Mantha and play him alongside a proven playmaker like David Krejci (who has historically played well with typical power forwards) then the Bruins could fill a major need. Did I mention that Mantha is 6 foot 5 and 225 pounds?
Athanasiou is Having a Career Year
The same can be said about Athanasiou who has already scored 17 goals and 28 points in 42 games this season.
For reference, Athanasiou’s career-high in goals came in 2016-17 when he potted 18 goals in 64 games. His career-high in points came last season when he would score 16 goals and 33 points in 71 games. He’s well on his way to blowing both of those totals out of the water with a 33-goal and 54-point pace.
An added bonus is that Athanasiou can play center as well.
Both Mantha and Athanasiou come in at team-friendly deals as well as Mantha is set to earn $3.3 million this season and next with Athanasiou earning $3 million through next season. Both players will be restricted free agents at the ends of their respective deals.
Even better is the fact that the Bruins would only have to pay Mantha $1.41 million if a trade occurred today while Athanasiou would cost them $1.29 million. Those totals are very palatable and would give the Bruins a lot of money to work with to fill other holes on the roster if need be.
“What Is the Deal With Giving up Shorties?! Is It the Risk/Reward Nature of Their [Power Play]? It’s Almost to the Point Where It Is an Epidemic!” (BostonJMD via Twitter)
The short-handed goals are less than ideal. It’s not a secret and the Bruins are fully aware of the issue.
The Bruins have the second-best power play in the league behind only the Tampa Bay Lightning (and that’s impressive considering the injuries the team endured for the entirety of the first half of the season).
This is a good thing, but scoring a power play doesn’t mean much if the team already allowed a short-handed goal prior to scoring their own with the man-advantage.
Part of the issue stems from your point of the risk/reward nature of their power play but it also seems entirely preventable. While there’s naturally a risk that comes with a power play that features four forwards and a defender like Krug on the back-end (on their first unit, anyway), there’s also bad decision making that can be taken into account.
Whether it’s the team shooting the pucks from the point at players who are five feet in front of them, creating chances the other way or just carelessly moving the puck, there have been a few examples of some ugly power plays already this season.
In general, tightening up the ship and making smarter decisions would go a long way. At the same time, you don’t want to mess with a successful power play to the extent that it suffers as a result. The issue will be rectified. It has to be if the team wants to succeed, anyway.
“Chances on a Silfverberg Trade or Think That the Ducks Will Re-Sign Him?” (BruinsFan3725 via Twitter)
Silfverberg is an interesting name. He’s a skilled forward who brings a lot to the table in all three zones and has proven he can score upwards of 20 goals.
He’d come in at $1.61 million against the Bruins cap for the remainder of the season if the Anaheim Ducks do elect to trade him and that’s certainly doable.
He’d immediately slot into the Bruins top-six alongside Krejci and DeBrusk if healthy and would create a far more balanced lineup for the team across the board.
Still, I think the Ducks will try and re-sign him and keep him in their core moving forward. That’s my gut feeling. This is especially true after seeing what Ducks general manager Bob Murray said of the situation:
“You take another crack at signing him. We’re going to do that right now, and we’ll see where that goes,” Murray said. “Silvy knows exactly where I’m at. He’s a good hockey player. He’s one of those ones right now standing up and being counted. I have to take a shot and it. We’ll see where we go.”
Never say never, though.
Rapid Fire Questions
“Is There a Short List of Forwards You Personally and Realistically Want Sweeney to Go After at the Deadline?#AskBSC”
My ideal shortlist of forwards who the Bruins could acquire by the trade deadline would be Derek Stepan, Kevin Hayes, Vladimir Tarasenko, Brayden Schenn, Jesse Puljujarvi and as mentioned, Mantha.
The cost of those players should all vary but will undoubtedly be steep regardless. That’s the cost of winning and if the Bruins think they have a legitimate chance of doing so this year, it might be worth the gamble.
Naturally, the biggest fish there is Tarasenko and he’d command the largest return as well. Seeing Tarasenko and Pastrnak on the right side of the Bruins lineup for years to come would be special though.
Another sleeper name is Derrick Brassard as the Ottawa Senators are already retaining $2 million of his $5 million cap hit on a deal that expires after this season. He’d come in at $2.15 million if acquired today.
“What Do You Think of Losing Colby Cave, and Do You Think He Will Find a Spot in Edmonton?” (ChrisY0023 via Twitter)
I do think Cave will carve out a role in Edmonton. He’s a hard worker and plays a very good defensive game. Whether or not he ever becomes anything other than a bottom-six player (and specifically a fourth-line center), is a whole different story.
Losing him is unfortunate as he was one of the team’s most NHL-ready players as made evident by his call-up and subsequent stay on the main roster. Still, the NHL is a business and losing a player like Cave isn’t the end of the world. It isn’t ideal, but it’s also just the way things play out sometimes.
“I’m Going to the Game Tonight. What Are the Chances a Flyers Fan Tries to Fight Me as a Result of Me Wearing a [Marchand] Jersey?” (JesseGaunce via Twitter)
I was waiting for a spiffy graphic to use for this mailbag! Considering this game was yesterday, it was nice knowing you!
Brandon Share-Cohen has covered the NHL and various professional sports for six years. Working with The Hockey Writers, Brandon works extensively on covering the Boston Bruins in addition to his role as the News Team Lead.