Forgive the title, that’s the only thing I can think of that isn’t laced with expletives. Now that we’ve had 24 hours to digest the news that the Bruins have re-upped defenseman Kevan Miller to a 4 year $10 million deal, it’s time to address it.
Kevan Miller had a, to be kind, rocky season. He’s been torn up two consecutive seasons with nagging injuries, and though he’s a tough physical defenseman he was a big reason for the B’s struggles on the back end last season. Specifically for such a “big, physical” player, he had difficulty controlling the front of the net, a problem that plagued the entirety of the defensive corps last season. It is worth noting that he finished the year significantly better than he started it but with that being said he is at best a 6th defenseman on a team that didn’t make the playoffs. If you watched last season, you watched Kevan Miller get top 4 ice more often than not out of necessity. As a top 4 player, he was exposed explaining in part why most of us can recall probably three or four game changing blunders, and even more head scratching plays that maybe the B’s got away with. In the final analysis this contract is probably under market value, and about what a veteran bottom pair defenseman under 30 gets paid these days but it is a contract that clarifies a lot of what we need to be concerned about as fans.
Setting aside for the moment that Kevan Miller is truly a 6th/7th guy and I can’t believe committing to this player was a priority for an organization that has missed the playoffs for two consecutive seasons, here are some of the biggest red flags going forward:
1. The bruins have a wealth of bottom pair D, and significant cap commitment to players that should be fighting for ice time with the rising tide of youth to come. The 4 year deal at 2.25 million per season wouldn’t sting so bad if the B’s hadn’t just given Adam McQuaid a very similar deal last offseason, the same one where they shipped off an emerging young D with a high ceiling named Douglas.
2. The organization committed to Claude Julien, deciding to stick with the coach that just passed Art Ross for most Wins in Bruins history. This move seemed to be management saying “we didn’t give you the tools you needed to succeed, you did the best you could with what you were given, please stay”. Then why, dear god, are you going to give that coach the same defensive group that was by far the biggest problem of the season? “Damn we just missed the playoffs, let’s give him the same group and roll the dice again” doesn’t seem wise.
3. Are you rebuilding or not? 4 years of Miller, 3 more years of McQuaid. If they don’t buy out Seidenberg he’ll be here forever. None of them really have any trade value. Are you telling me that Colin Miller, Joe Morrow, Brandon Carlo, Jakub Zboril, or Jeremy Lauzon won’t be ready in the next four years? If that’s the case, the organization is screwed anyway because the new boss can’t draft any better than the old one. Chiarelli got the organization into trouble when he committed too much money to roster depth instead of committing to the next waive of youth to plug the various holes invest in better upper end talent. You can argue he didn’t commit to the next wave because there wasn’t one coming, which again points us to the organization’s struggle in the draft. Kevan Miller is now another roadblock to developing younger, more skilled, cheaper players.
4. Just because this was a below market signing doesn’t mean it is a good one. Why not let the player get to free agency, and see what the market is for starters. Why sign this guy in May? If someone wants to pay Kevan Miller more than $2.25 per season LET THEM. If there is no market for this player, which there very well could have been no market for Kevan Miller, they could have saved on term and cap while another team in the league allowed themselves to get worse. Win win.
5. If there was a market for Kevan Miller, then why the drunk wasn’t he traded at the deadline!?
6. Fluto from the Globe wrote yesterday that the B’s are committing to a young D-man with room to grow. In fairness to Fluto he wrote back in March that Miller is similar to McQuaid and Trotman, but the better skater and thus should get the nod over the other two so he’s not just trying to spin this thing now, he’s had these feelings for months. But, I’m sorry, he is 29. When we say a young player has room to grow, we’re usually talking physically. We’re talking about an 18 year old kid who is literally still growing. Or a 20 year old kid who still needs to put on 20 pounds. Or 3 first round draft picks who can’t pass the off ice conditioning test. Kevan Miller to his credit is in tremendous physical shape. He’s a monster off ice. He can’t develop anything off the ice to help anymore, he’s at his peak. That doesn’t stop his shoulder from giving him trouble two years in a row, and that’s not going to help his hockey sense that leads to the type of play where he blindly throws the puck from behind his net to a wide open LA King at Tuukka’s doorstep, or on a 5 on 3 when he decides to go down on all fours at the top of the crease and crawl like an animal with no objective in clear view. What is he going to improve on at the age of 29? He could simply not make those plays that I mentioned above, that would be an improvement, but those are largely instinct driven and if that type of stuff hasn’t been drilled out of him by now it never will be.
hmpf, only 6, thought I’d have more. We’ll let this thing marinate for a minute more and see what Sweeney has in store for us heading into the draft. If you’re looking for signals, here’s one giant one pointing directly to returning a depressingly similar squad that has missed the playoffs two years in a row.