Injuries Only Complicate Bruins’ Roll of the Dice

Well this certainly was not what general manager Don Sweeney had in mind.

First, Dennis Seidenberg succumbed to a nagging back injury from training camp and will be sidelined for the next eight weeks. The loss of Seidenberg, a stalwart on the blue line, creates the opportunity for younger defenseman, such as Colin Miller or Joe Morrow, to potentially see substantial minutes. Seidenberg played 28.1 shifts per game, second to only Zdeno Chara.

(*cues Billy Mays voice*)

But wait, there’s more! 

During a preseason exhibition game against the New York Rangers, Chara sustained an upper body injury after a hit from Ryan Bourque along the Bruins’ bench.

Before Sweeney poorly scribbles the words “Help Wanted” on a sign and sticks it in the ground, there is some good news. Thankfully, Chara only missed two games.

*Breaths sigh of relief*

While having the captain back is certainly beneficial to the team’s morale, his presence in the locker room and especially on the ice will most certainly elevate the team.

Bruins Front Office Continues To Make the Same Mistake

How does the hit J Cole song, No Role Modelz, go?

Fool me one time, shame on you

Fool me twice, can’t put the blame on you

Fool me three times, f**k the peace signs, load the chopper, let it rain on you

Sweeney won’t be shooting anyone soon. However, he might be upset that he shot himself in the foot this summer.

The Bruins never learned their lesson about trading superstars. On September 19, 2008, the team shipped disgruntled point producer Phil Kessel to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Bruins turned a 2010 first round pick, 2010 second round pick, and a 2011 first round pick into Tyler Seguin, Jared Knight, and Dougie Hamilton, respectfully. While the Bruins received a substantial reward, Kessel continued to be a fantasy hockey superstar, consistently appearing on the stat sheet. Alright, so it might be a bad example: the Bruins emerged on top from this transaction. That year, the Bruins finished 39-30-13 and was eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs in the quarterfinals.

Another sour star, another trade. Tyler Seguin, a player who’s faster than a speeding bullet and oozed potential, exchanged his winter parka for a cowboy hat after he was traded to the Dallas Stars. The Bruins couldn’t figure out if they wanted Seguin at wing or center, and Seguin was deemed as a poor locker room presence and had a reputation as someone who never turned down a party invitation.

Seguin has blossomed into one of the best players in the league. In addition to modeling for ESPN the Magazine’s issues, Seguin terrorizes defenses. In his first four games this season, Seguin has accumulated four points. Last season, Seguin posted 77 points in 71 games. Only 23, Seguin should continue to dominate for years to come.

Well, why not try it again? What could go wrong? Trade more young talent!

In the latest episode of “Troubles in the Boston Bruins Locker Room”, Dougie Hamilton was dealt to the Calgary Flames for 2015 first and second round picks. The 22 year old defenseman notched 42 points in 77 games last season, and made considerable strides defensively. He spent most of the year to the right of Zdeno Chara on the top line. Hamilton, with his offensive abilities and overall upside, was supposed to be the future number one defenseman on Boston’s blue line for years to come. However, rumors emerged of Hamilton being a ‘loner’ and an ‘uppity kid’, and ultimately didn’t have many friends in the locker room. Hamilton refused to re-sign in Boston, ultimately ending his time with the Bruins.

Is the Dougie Hamilton Trade Already Backfiring?

Woah! Talk about jumping to conclusions.

In all seriousness, the trade of Dougie Hamilton was doomed from the start. The unhappy potential franchise cornerstone bolted Boston for the greener pastures of Calgary, to where he all but forced the hand of Boston management by not accepting a contract extension. With the first round pick that the Bruins received from Calgary, the black and gold selected Zach Senyshyn. Senyshyn didn’t make it past the round of cuts and was sent back to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds on September 24, cementing himself as the first of the three consecutive Bruins 2015 draft picks to be sent back to their respective junior team.

Granted, Hamilton trade has been beaten to death by both Boston media and the black and gold faithful alike. The combination of a lackluster return and losing the best offensive defenseman and future face of the franchise made many turn up their collective noses, much like when someone offers a standard trading card for an autographed relic.

Unspectacular reward aside, the Bruins didn’t do anything to replace Hamilton in the lineup. Yes, the Bruins have a tremendous amount of defenseman fighting to don the striped “B” on the front of their sweater. However, many of these defenseman are not ready to be a significant difference maker in the NHL, but are too talented for AHL competition (yes, we’re looking at you, Joe Morrow). Many of these players are pushing against each other, like the constant friction of being entrapped around thousands of inebriated strangers at a music festival.

None of the newcomers, bright eyed and bushy tailed from Providence, possess the same skill-set as Hamilton. Hamilton had the ability to manipulate defensive coverages, finding the open man with crisp passes or taking over offensively with awe-inspiring moves. If Sweeney, or anyone, believes that anyone new can replace Hamilton’s ability to create offense or command games, then he is crazy.

Who Will Replace the Lost Production?

It’s one thing to trade away the best defenseman on the roster. It’s another to do nothing to accommodate the loss of that player.

Sweeney didn’t trade for or sign any player of Hamilton’s production. Management swung and missed on Cody Franson, who was sitting there like a hanging curveball. Despite not receiving much ice time, Franson has outstanding individual production and possession numbers. Instead of choosing to skate at the TD Garden, Franson is taking his talents to Miami Buffalo, where he will enjoy a leadership role on a young and improving Sabres team.

Matt Irwin joined the boys in black, further adding to the logjam on the blue line. While Irwin moves the puck well, he doesn’t provide the sort of offense that Hamilton does and isn’t defensively stable enough to be relied upon to shut down the opposition’s best players. After playing poorly in his first two games, the Bruins waived Irwin.

Colin Miller was acquired in the Milan Lucic, and is contributing immediately for the Bruins. Miller excels at carrying the puck into the offensive zone and creating scoring chances. In addition to moving the puck well, Miller won the AHL’s fastest shot competition with a 105.1 blazer and also the fastest skater competition. While Miller is immensely talented, his lack of NHL experience and reputation as an unfinished product were thought to be detrimental when it comes to making an impact with the senior team. However, Miller has played in three games to open the season and added one assist.

Dreadful Defense To Open the Season

One thing is for sure: there is a lot of change on Boston’s blueline.

The players listed in the tweet above comprised Boston’s opening night pairings. Torey Krug, power play perfectionist and pint sized defenseman, teamed up with Adam McQuaid, who will drop the gloves with some of the best fighters in the league, to battle the oppositions’ best forwards. Joe Morrow, a career AHL standout, joined Kevan Miller to form Boston’s second pairing. Matt Irwin and Zach Trotman, both mobile, puck moving defenseman, rounded out the Bruins’ top six.

Morrow and Trotman have a combined 39 games of NHL experience, while the rest of the members of the defensive corp have been notoriously bottom pairing defenders.

Hence, the results: 6-2 loss. 4-2 loss. 6-3 loss. All three defeats were at home.

Players in the Bruins’ locker room were, as expected, discouraged. And rightly so. Per Zack Cox, of NESN:

“It is frustrating,” said Krejci, who scored the Bruins’ first goal and added two assists. “I mean, if you look at the big picture, 16 goals in three games. That’s not how we play. Losing sucks, and I just … honestly I don’t even know what to say right now.”

The Bruins were able to rally to best the Colorado Avalance by a score of 6-2 to notch the team’s first win, easing the sudden turmoil that arose around 100 Legends Way.

In the absence of Chara, the Bruins were a mess defensively. Sloppy turnovers combined with poor coverage made for plenty of scoring chances for the opposition. Add in the fact that Tuukka Rask has been less than stellar (a 4.72 GAA and .846 save percentage don’t exactly scream elite, do they?), and the Bruins have transformed from a defensive juggernaut to a back end train wreck.

Julien echoed those sentiments, per DJ Bean of WEEI:

“It used to be our strength and right now it’s our weakness.”

Thankfully, the captain returned and provided some stability. As players  were struggling to adjust to being forced into increased roles, Chara’s monumental figure provided a calming presence. A locker room leader and the best defenseman by leaps and bounds, a long period of time without Chara could have spelled disaster for this Bruins team.

Having Seidenberg, another veteran who provides leadership and stability on the back end, in the lineup again will be decisive for a struggling Bruins team. The initial injuries to Chara and Seidenberg only deterred management’s plan on defense, causing the trade of Hamilton to cause a larger would. The Bruins sorely miss Hamilton’s impact on games. Until everyone is healthy and the young talent matures in the new fast-paced, mobile Bruins’ system, the defense will continue to struggle. So far, the roll of the dice with the Hamilton trade is already backfiring.


Cam Kerry covers the Bruins for The Hockey Writers. He can be reached on Twitter, @camkerryPRS.