When it was announced today that Bruin’s defenseman Dennis Seidenberg would be out for at least 8 weeks after he undergoes a lumbar microdiscectomy. That’s back surgery to us common folk. Either way, it’s boot to the Kaisers.
So with one of the teams two, tried and tested top four defensemen on the shelf, it’s time for the Bruins to find out what they have in Torey Krug, Zach Trotman, Matt Irwin, Conor Miller and Kevan Miller.
We know what Zdeno Chara is. He’s still one of the best defensemen in the NHL but not the same dominating monolithic force of nature that drove the team to the Stanley Cup in 2011. He’s a step slower and coming off an injury plagued 2014 campaign so there are some doubts as to if Big Z can still shoulder the kind of workload this team will need and that was before Seidenberg got hurt.
We know what Adam McQuaid is. He’s a rugged defense first blueliner who is a true heavyweight when the gloves come off. Ideally, he’s a bottom pairing option who was forced to work top 4 minutes last year due to various injuries. He gamely filled the role and was steady for the most part, but was exposed often enough to know he’s better suited with less minutes. And let’s be honest, McQuaid is the Bruins version of Spinal Tap’s Drummer. It’s only a matter of time before he toe picks and dislocates his spleen.
What we are left with are five questions:
1. Can Zach Trotman be a top pairing defenseman?
Last year we saw Trotman paired with Chara down the stretch and although there were numerous rough patches, there was enough two way promise there to make continuing this pairing the obvious choice. I want to see how a more mature Trotman works with a now healthy Z and what they can do with a season’s worth of chemistry.
2. Is Torey Krug going to cash in on his “prove it” contract?
When the contract extensions for Torey Krug and Reilly Smith were announced we through there was some reporting dyslexia going on. Why on earth would anyone give two years to Reilly Smith and only one to Krug? It made no sense. But then we all remembered that Peter Chiarelli had the GM acumen of a banana slug, and the pieces fell into place. Krug was the glue that kept a fractured D together last season. And Krug was once again a driving force on the power play. Now can Krug fill the shoes of Dougie Hamilton and be a two way D, eat minutes and not be a social cripple in the lockeroom? With Seidenberg gone Krug is going to get ample opportunity to prove it. If he can step up, he’s gonna get paid.
3. Is Colin Miller for ready for prime time?
We’ve all seen the numbers. In 70 games for the Manchester Monarchs Miller put up a gaudy 19-33-52 stat line that had the AHL all a tingle. He has everything you want in a prospective NHL puck moving defenseman. The question is will the numbers translate? So far this preseason, it’s looked like he’s as advertised. As savvy offensively as you expect and honestly, he looked a bit better than I thought he would in his own end against the Devils. Now granted the competition he was up against wasn’t fully an NHL caliber roster, but it was a very promising start. With the Bruins ability to move Miller back down to Providence without going through waivers, Miller will have to prove that his AHL numbers weren’t a mirage or he’ll be sent back to replicate them.
4. Is Kevan Miller just a McQuaid clone?
When Bruins GM Don Sweeney extended Adam McQuaid at borderline crazy money for 4 years the most common comment was: “Why are we paying McQuaid when we already have Kevan Miller? They both play a physical bruising game, emphasize defense first and aren’t shy about dropping the mitts. But Miller has a cap hit that’s almost 2 million less than Darth Quaider. Before Seidenberg went down, Miller was thought of as the 7th D/odd man out in the Bruins D depth chart. Now with Seidenberg down Miller will get more of a chance to prove not only that he’s still the guy that looked capable of second pairing minutes in 2013-2014, but that he can also transition the puck out of his own zone more effectively than his more expensive doppelganger.
5. Is Matt Irwin for goal scoring for real?
When the Bruins signed Matt Irwin for a bargain basement 800K, I liked it. Cheap deal. No risk. Potential upside. Then I looked as his stats from last season… and I began to love it.
Here is the TOI/Goal for a few players you know:
Zdeno Chara – 183:51
PK Subban – 143:14
Torey Krug – 127:21
Erik Karlsson – 106:25
Last season Matt Irwin scored a goal every 112:45.
This is a defenseman with a very accurate shot. As we saw against the Devils, Irwin knows when to jump into a play and when manning the point on the PP he can unleash a bomb that is both hard and accurate. His shooting percentage last season was a very impressive 8.6%. Dennis Seidenberg’s absence should provide Irwin ample opportunity to prove he can replicate his offensive magic. If Irwin can score while being the least bit defensively responsible Claude will be hard pressed to sit him when the German hammer returns to the line up.