The Off Wing

Opinion and Fact…From the Off Wing

Archive for the month “May, 2013”

Where Do They Go From Here?

Late in the evening of March 27th, 2013, the Boston Bruins had just finished losing to their arch rivals the Montreal Canadiens, but things weren’t as bleak as they appeared.  It was an overtime loss, and gave the hated Habs the lead in the East, but still Cam Neely was seen smiling in the elevator after the tilt.  The reason for all the happiness:  Peter Chiarelli, the loved and yet maligned (at times) GM, had pulled off a deal that was going to add some scoring punch and veteran leadership to the local six.  Jarome Iginla was joining the team.  Shawn Thornton indicated as much.  Dougie Hamilton, during an interview on WEEI, alluded to it.

So where is Jarome Iginla…?

He’s wearing Black…that of the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Buddy of, and Canadian National Team line-mates with Sidney Crosby, Jarome was  believed to fill the latter role again.  But how could this happen?  Aaron Ward of TSN (who had been taking a beating on Twitter in the Boston area) all but assured us that he would be wearing a spoked B.  Yet around 2:00am the morning of the 28th, the news came over my twitter feed…Iginla to the Pens.  And the deal…A first round pick and two prospects.  Come to find out the prospects aren’t even what scouts would call “elite”.

So where do the Bruins go from here?

The short answer was no one knew.  I don’t believe the Bruins brass even knew.  Steve Yzerman had stated that he was not trading Martin St. Louis, who would have been a nice addition to the squad.  Curtis Glencross’ name had been bandied about, but with the Iginla move, it didn’t seem likely that Calgary would deal another forward, especially one that had 21 points in 28 games (at the time), is affordable at 2.5 million dollars and has another year on his deal as well as a no movement clause.  To everyone paying attention, that left Jaromir Jagr as the only option, but not necessarily a viable one.  He’ll make a splash, i thought (albeit not as big as Iginla going to Jagr’s former club), but  at 4.5 million, he would be an expensive rental player and at 41 years of age, may not be playing anywhere next year.  I had heard mention of Eric Nystrom, also from Dallas, but this didn’t seem to be getting much traction.  From reports I’d read, he is a great locker room guy and a grinder on the ice, hard working third/fourth line type.  He only had 4 goals and 6 points on the season (again, at the time), having played in every game, which didn’t fill me with enthusiasm for his scoring touch.

As far as the defensive side of things, names like Mark Sreit had been thrown around.  With Lubomir Visnovsky signing an extension for another two years with the Isles, Mark was a possibility.   At issue here was that “the other” New York team and the Islanders were entrenched in a battle for the final playoff spot in the east.  As it turned out, both New York teams made it to the playoffs, and made their exits, with the Islanders leaving more of a positive impression on the hearts and minds of the fans and talking heads…

So things have come full circle.  The Bruins acquired Jaromir Jagr from the Dallas Stars for what is now a first round pick, Lane MacDermid, and Cody Payne.  And while Jaromir didn’t light it up as the fans had hoped, he did inject some excitement by coming to Boston.  Iginla did the same for Pittsburgh, showing up just as Crosby was getting hurt.  So, here in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Bruins will get to see what they missed out on.  With a full complement of players, the Penguins are expected by most outside of Massachusetts to win the series.

The bonus to not making the Iginla deal is in what was not given away.  Matt Bartkowski has shown that he belongs in the NHL, and could be a top 4 defenseman on any squad.  He has shown poise and experience beyond his hockey league years.  Being encouraged to not play any style but his own (as was Torey Krug), Matt has made the second round his video résumé as to why he belongs.  The Bruins, while upset about how the whole deal went down with Calgary, can’t be too upset with how it turned out.  They kept talent that they were willing to part with for an aging hall of famer, who still has plenty of talent, and have achieved the same level as the team that won the Iginla sweepstakes.

The question at the trade deadline was…Where do they go from here?  The answer, it would appear, is the Stanley Cup finals.  If the Bruins can beat the team that beat them back in March.

L.W.L.

 

 

 

 

But They’re Contenders Now

Here in the second round of the stage that is the NHL playoffs, we have seen some decent teams make an early exit that most likely was predictable for just about everyone except maybe the teams’ most devout followers.  Two of those teams, however, showed that they not only belonged, but came ever so close to advancing to the next round.  The Toronto Maple Leafs (why isn’t it Leaves?) and the New York Islanders gave their opponents all they could handle on the ice.  Both teams losing in overtime, both teams showing that, with a little more playoff experience, they might have won their respective tilts.  There are some similarities between the two teams, besides being eliminated in the first round and a lack of playoff experience.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are the fifth youngest team in the NHL this season.  And while the Islanders were fourth oldest in the league, they were inexperienced with regard to the playoffs as well.  The lsland’s entry into this year’s playoffs included Brad Boyes, who had 11 playoff games with the Blues and Sabres, Mark Streit and his 12 playoff games with the Canadiens, Lubomir Visnovsky’s 18 games between the Kings and Ducks, Keith Aucoin (who didn’t see his first playoff action until last season with Washington) and his 14 games, Marty Reasoner and his 23 games previous, only played 1 game this post season.  Brian Strait is the only player on the roster under 30 with playoff experience…that being 3 games with Pittsburgh last season.  Radek Martinek was the only player on the team who was around the last time the Islanders reached the post season.  His experience…a whopping 9 games.  The goaltender has the most playoff experience…62 games.  And granted you want your goalie to show that he can perform under pressure, but at 37 years of age, could it be that the years have caught up with him.  Matt Carkner has 10 playoff games under his belt, and Eric Boulton has 4 playoff games…with the Atlanta Thrashers!  The common thread, with the exception of Strait all of these guys are over 30 (and in some cases way over).

The Islanders needed this, even though they lost.  The playoff time on ice for Tavares and Moulson as well as Grabner is priceless.  The team can’t afford to have all of its experience in players with one foot heading toward the exit.  Having a couple around is useful and a great learning tool for the young ones, but when four of those players are defensemen (and a goaltender), it’s time to get younger.  The blue line for the Islanders is starting to look a little geriatric.  Drafting strong, young defensemen should be the priority.  The goal scoring is there.  Tavares and Moulson can find the back of the net, but keeping the opponent from scoring is just as important.  Extend a sheet to some of the top talent such as Shattenkirk or Pietrangelo.  The Isles should also look to at least extending an offer sheet to Sergei in Columbus.  The Blue Jackets will never let him go, but it shows the hungry Islander fans that the team is making a concerted effort after the one the team left on the ice in the Nassau Center.  The front end is in good shape, but the Isles need to get younger on the back end.

The Maple Leafs need goal-tending help as well.  Reimer gave it all he could against the Bruins, and even stole one for his team.  The biggest issue with Reimer is his inability to control rebounds.  Against other bottom tier teams he is strong, but against the perennial playoff teams his weakness is exposed.  And when the Bruins decided to actually crash the net or put bodies in front of Reimer, he struggled with those rebounds finding twine behind him.

Toronto is loaded with youth, most of it under their control thanks to Brian Burke, who has the privilege of watching from afar.  Like the Islanders, the Leafs have plenty of goal scoring, with the likes of Kessel, Van Riemsdyk and my favorite player of the squad, Mikhail Grabovski.  Not sure how much work needs to be done on defense.  The core is young, with J.M. Liles being the elder statesman at 30.  But with Cody Franson, Carl Gunnarson, and Jake Gardiner to compliment Dion, they have some talent.

While the Penguins are busy trying to prove that you don’t need a number one goaltender to win a Stanley Cup, the safe bet would be for these two teams to get themselves one, a tender that can be relied on night in and night out to make the saves that need making.  And to get hot in the playoffs and carry them out of the first round.  Sure they could continue to eek their way into the playoffs but for how long would their respective fans put up with that…They’re Contenders Now.

L.W.L.

 

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