BOSTON BRUINS 2012/13 – PLAYER BY PLAYER SEASON PREVIEW

Boston Bruins Puck Drop

Photo by U.S. Navy photo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


In preparation for the 2012-13 NHL Season, IceNationUK will be taking a look at each team on a player-by-player basis.  This isn’t really about predicting overall how well the teams will do, where they’ll end up in the standings, line combinations, or even guessing at individual player stats, but is more about analysing the make-up of each roster.  Of course rosters are yet to be finalised, but I will be using the rosters as stated on each individual team’s website.

I am by no means an expert on every single player in the league, but through looking at traditional “box car” stats (G, A, P, PIMs, TOI, +/-, etc.) and also using Robert Vollman’s Player Usage Charts, I hope to piece together a reasonable, realistic view of each player.  Please don’t hesitate to comment if you agree or disagree.

So without further ado, here is the anticipated 2012-13 roster for the Boston Bruins.

 

FORWARDS

PATRICE BERGERON

Photo by Michael Miller (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

    • PATRICE BERGERON – C (2011-12: 81GP, 22G 42A 64P)
      Since recovering from his injury issues that took place in the 2007-08 season, Bergeron has managed to maintain, and even boost, his sterling reputation as an elite 2-way forward in the NHL.  However, this season he also made great strides to get back towards becoming the premier scoring forward he was before the injuries, posting great offensive numbers (in this day and age of NHL scoring, 64 points is bonafide 1st Line production; not elite, but still very very good).  I hesitate to call him the Canadian Pavel Datsyuk, because he doesn’t have quite the high-end offensive skills that Datsyuk has, but he’s damn close.  EXACTLY the guy every team needs – packs offensive punch, wins close to 60% of his face-offs, plays significant minutes at all disciplines (PP, PK, 5v5), plays pretty tough competition and dominates it.  His Selke Trophy for the NHL’s Best 2-Way Player (let’s face it, it’s not for defensive forwards, otherwise players like Manny Malhotra and Shawn Horcoff would be in the running) was well-deserved.  No reason whatsoever to expect a regression this year, quite possibly could post even better scoring totals playing with Seguin and Lucic, plus he’s staying healthy.  Quality, quality player.
    • GREG CAMPBELL – C (2011-12: 78GP, 8G 8A 16P)
      Seemed to lose a bit of his offensive skill this year, not that he was ever dominant in that area.  He was outshot playing weak competition, although he did play sub-45% offensive zone shift starts which would make this more difficult.  He’s a depth player through and through, but a pretty good one, a useful guy to have on your team whose contributions won’t always show up on the scoresheet but are valuable nonetheless, such as playing the PK, winning half his face-offs, and providing a physical presence.  What you see is what you get with this player, I wouldn’t expect him to get back to his 10-11 performance (that season was fuelled by a slightly high shooting %) but he’ll put in around the same performance in 12-13 as he did this past season.
    • JORDAN CARON – R (2011-12: 48GP, 7G 8A 15P)
      The large winger was a former first-round pick (25th OV, 2009) and has seen a fair amount of hype due to his impressive size and two-way ability.  He performed pretty well in a depth role this year, seeing only 10:50 per game of 5v5 play and minimal time on either special team, yet still managed to put up stats that would project to around 12 goals and 25 points for a whole 82 game season – pretty good numbers for a rookie who plays a two-way style and was buried behind Boston’s brighter lights.  Expect him to play the full season with the Bruins, gradually earning more ice-time and responsibility.  I wouldn’t expect a massive increase in points-per-game output this year, this season will be more about surviving at the NHL level for a full year than trying to dominate it – but you never know, he does have the tools to perhaps break out.
    • NATHAN HORTON – R (2011-12: 46GP, 17G 15A 32P)
      Horton’s frustrating time with injuries continued this year, as he continued to battle with the concussion issues sustained during the 2010-11 Stanley Cup Finals, when Aaron Rome of the Canucks hit Horton with a late check to the head in Game 3.  However, when Horton was in the line-up this year, he proved his worth, carrying on his reputation for providing a quality secondary-scoring option to the Bruins.  He isn’t being asked to be a first-line player here in Boston, but I think that actually suits him better than the role he was made to play in Florida.  Here he can dominate the softer competition, and gives the Bruins yet another big-bodied presence with strong powerplay ability.  He will have to prove this coming season whether he is over his concussion issues, but even if he is I would temper expectations for how much he will contribute.  Coming back from a concussion is tough, and it can take time to get back to form – for example, Bergeron is only now getting back to where he was offensively speaking.
    • CHRIS KELLY – C (11-12: 82GP, 20G 19A 39P)
      A career-year across the board this past season for Kelly, acquired from Ottawa to bolster in 10-11 to bolster the Bruins bottom six for their Cup run.  Kelly plays some of the tougher competition on the team with slightly more difficult zone-starts, and whilst he had a negative shot-differential that is to be expected given the situations he was put in, and it was impressive that he put up the scoring numbers that he did.  A strong, defensively-apt, face-off winning centre who can chip in from time to time offensively is what winning teams have, and Boston is a better team for having Kelly.  I would expect his production to decline somewhat this coming season, as he was fuelled last year by a pretty high 16.4% shooting accuracy, nearly 5% higher than his usual rate.  He is also not getting any younger at age 31, but overall he should provide sound defensive play combined with some offensive contributions.
    • DAVID KREJCI – C (11-12: 79GP, 23G 39A 62P)
      Some have labelled Krejci a disappointment, as he has yet to better his 73 points obtained in his second NHL season.  In many ways he is very similar to fellow Czech player Ales Hemsky, of the Edmonton Oilers, who scored 77 points in 05-06 at the age of 23, but has yet to match that output.  Yet both players have continued to put up solid-to-good-to-great stats – 62 points each of the last two seasons is quality production, particularly on a Bruins roster where defensive systems are used quite heavily and scoring is spread around.  He is also healthy, never something to overlook, can win face-offs and doesn’t shy away from physical play (69 hits).  Whilst he isn’t a dominant player by shot-metrics like Hemsky is, he does outshoot secondary competition – with the advantage of ~54% offensive zone shift starts.  Krejci is still young at 26, and could continue to improve his numbers, although I think that that the 73 points scored 4 seasons ago is probably his “outer-marker” as a player.
    • MILAN LUCIC – LW (11-12: 81GP, 26G 35A 61P)
      The hulking winger is revered around the league for being the absolute model of perfection for power forwards.  Massive size (6’4″, 220lbs), physical play (201 hits, 135PIMs) and (nearly) high-end scoring ability make him an absolute force to be reckoned with.  One of the only truly feared players to play against in the league, he is hated as much as he is praised (particularly after his controversial hit to the head of Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller this season).  His shooting percentage numbers might look high, but he is historically (in the NHL at least) a high percentage scorer so probably not to worry about there, although that number could be expected to fluctuate a bit from season to season.  Won’t help the team much defensively, but outshoots his competition at even strength and pushes the play in the right direction.  Unfortunately for other teams, the emergence of Lucic has meant fans of other teams having to endure the embarrassment of their teams looking for “the next Lucic” – which generally means drafting massive hockey players with often-questionable skill much higher than they should (e.g. Mitch Moroz by the Oilers this year) and hoping they develop into the quality player the Bruins possess.
    • BRAD MARCHAND – LW (11-12: 76GP, 28G 27A 55P)
      The “little ball of hate” is exactly that – one of the most hated players around the league, a diminutive forward who excels at pissing off every opposition player, with his mouth and with his scoring ability.  Marchand is a terrific hockey player, fast-skating and skilful, and has emerged this year (only his second full season) as a player who can dominate pretty tough competition.  His shooting percentage is something to watch – it was high at 16.8% this year, but it was 14.1% last season so he could be a high-percentage player; worth keeping an eye on as it may cause his goal scoring to regress slightly.  I can only see Marchand going up from here, personally.
    • DANIEL PAILLE – LW (11-12: 69GP, 9G 6A 15P)
      A typical 4th line forward, who can chip in a small bit on offence and provides some ability on the penalty kill.  He did show more offensive promise in Buffalo a few seasons ago (he is a former first round draftee), but that was fuelled by high shooting percentages and soon came back down to Earth.  Paille plays some of the softest competition on the team and gets pretty significantly outshot, but that is to be somewhat expected of a pure defensive forward playing sub-45% zone-starts.  A pretty replaceable player (many of those guys around the league), but fairly capable at what he does.
    • RICH PEVERLEY – C (11-12: 57GP, 11G 31A 42P)
      A great pick-up from the Atlanta Thrashers in 10-11 for the Cup run, Peverley has simply continued to do what he always has – provided quality secondary scoring ability, PK ability, and strong face-off capability.  He’s the kind of player you can move up and down the line-up without much worry or hassle – he can fit in with the defensive guys or the offensive guys.  Plug and play, pretty much.  Not a unique player, but consistent and useful, I would actually expect an increase in scoring this year, probably around the 50-60 area, as hopefully he stays healthy and does what he did last season for the full year.
    • TYLER SEGUIN – C/W (11-12: 81GP, 29G 38A 67P)
      The highly-touted 2nd Overall Pick in the 2010 NHL Draft broke out this year in a big way.  After posting only 22 points in his rookie year in a depth role, he had something of a coming-out party in the playoffs, having big games against Tampa Bay to help Boston get past the red-hot Dwayne Roloson in goal to reach the finals and eventually win the Cup.  Seguin appeared to use this experience to really launch himself full force into his sophomore season, as he led the Bruins in scoring playing a more featured role than previously.  He played most of the season, I believe, with premier two-way forward Bergeron and premier agitator/scorer Marchand, which would give anyone a boost, but Seguin didn’t just leech off these two – the three worked well together and seemed to share out the scoring pretty equally.  Playing on a line with the defensively apt Bergeron of course would help any player improve their possession numbers (it doesn’t hurt to play and learn from the best), but Seguin did dominate his competition and that can’t be discounted at all – he positively destroyed the competition, although he was getting easy zonestarts (56% offensive zone), yet all he can do is what he is asked.  A potential superstar player, it’s exciting to imagine what he can be for the Bruins even as early as this year.  He likely won’t have another exponential jump in production, but he should see another increase – although the possibility exists that coach Claude Julien believes it’s time to stop sheltering Seguin and increase his responsibility, possibly leading to a slight plateau or decrease in scoring numbers.  I’m not anticipating that though.  Smart, fast, skilled – think big with this player.
    • SHAWN THORNTON – LW (11-12: 81GP, 5G 8A 13P)
      A proto-typical 4th line winger, he ticks all the boxes – fights, hits, plays minimal minutes, chips in with the odd goal, plays easy minutes and gets out-shot by easy competition.  He’s not a useless player like some of the enforcers out there by any stretch, and in fact is hailed as a hero in Boston by some, with people claiming he was as big a reason the Bruins defeated Vancouver as anyone.  It’s impossible to tell if that’s really true, but the guy is popular in Boston, and apart from the possession metrics and the fact he is pretty replaceable as a player, I can’t really find much bad to say about the guy.  When you think Shawn Thornton, I guess he’s what people would use the word “intangibles” for.

 

DEFENCE

Zdeno Chara

Photo By Dan4th Nicholas from Cambridge, MA, USA (081128 Captains collide) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

  • JOHNNY BOYCHUK – D (11-12: 77 GP, 5G 10A 15P)
    A guy who pretty much came out of nowhere in 2009-10, he has been a solid d-man ever since the Bruins acquired him from Colorado, and he played a key role in their Cup win.  He provides solid defensive play, routinely outshoots tough competition, and chips in offensively.  He doesn’t play a ton of minutes for a defenceman, as he isn’t really a powerplay option, but plays significant PK  and 5v5 minutes.  Solid second-pairing defenceman, he’s 28 now so I would expect this to pretty much be his established level of play for a few more seasons.
  • ZDENO CHARA – D (11-12: 79 GP, 12G 40A 52P)
    One of the league’s gold standard for defencemen the past few years, the behemoth (6’9″, 255lbs!!!) continued his run of dominance even at the age of 35.  The guy basically does it all, playing by far the toughest competition on the team and outshooting it, whilst putting up gaudy offensive numbers and just generally dominating at every turn.  He played 25 monstrous minutes per night, combining dominance in all three disciplines to be nominated for the Norris Trophy for Best Defenceman yet again.  He doesn’t appear to be slowing down at all, although the Bruins probably should start thinking about the future and who will replace “Big Z” when he decides to hang up the skates.
  • ANDREW FERENCE – D (11-12: 72 GP, 6G 18A 24P)
    Ference played some of the easier competition on the team and got significantly outshot, struggling somewhat in a depth role.  He did however play regular PK minutes, and managed to put up some solid scoring numbers, so perhaps he evened out his overall play.  Ference appears to be slowing down somewhat in his career, and at age 33 with 712 games under his belt, I do wonder how much longer he will last at this level.
  • ADAM MCQUAID – D (11-12: 72GP, 2G 8A 10P)
    The tough-nosed d-man struggled along with Ference, playing easy competition and getting outplayed.  Tall, physical, isn’t a complete bum offensively.  That’s pretty much all the good things I can say about McQuaid.  That said, defenceman do take a long time to develop, and at age 25 you can’t rule it out that he’ll get better.  Still, he better start showing improvement soon or I suspect he won’t be on the team for the long-term.  His +16 is likely more due to the team than him being high quality.
  • DENNIS SEIDENBERG – D (11-12: 80GP, 5G 18A 23P)
    Seidenberg has been useful for the Bruins ever since they got him from the Panthers, providing decent offence and solid defence.  A very good two-way defenseman who plays middling competition and almost outshoots it, though not quite.  At age 31, he probably has a couple more seasons like the last one and then he’ll likely start to decline, but for the time being he is a good second pairing guy for the Bruins.
  •  ???
    The Bruins website presents many options for the sixth defenceman on the team this year, but it is not clear exactly who it will be.  Garnet Exelby was signed, and whilst he has 408 NHL games under his belt he has played in the AHL for the last two years so may or may not be in the mix.  Other options include Matt Bartkowski, Ryan Button and Colby Cohen, but most likely the spot is being held potentially for prized junior defenceman Dougie Hamilton, an outstanding prospect with a high upside and the potential to take over from Chara someday as the huge two-way player.  More on Hamilton at the bottom.

 

GOAL

Tim Thomas

Photo by Dan4th Nicholas (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

  • ANTON KHUDOBIN – G (11-12: 4GP, 3W 1L, .903% 2.74 GAA)
    The 26 year old Kazakh goalie doesn’t have much NHL experience, only 7 games, but has positively excelled when called upon, and has proved himself to be a quality AHL netminder even on some pretty bad Houston Aeros teams.  He will likely be relied upon this season to be the backup goalie to Rask, providing Thomas sticks to his word about not playing.  I wouldn’t expect him to put up quite such gaudy totals as he did in previous NHL stints, as he will be playing more games, but he could well be a pretty good backup.
  • TUUKKA RASK – G (11-12: (SEL) 46 GP, .934% 2.04 GAA)
    As with Khudobin, Rask’s role this year depends on whether Tim Thomas sticks to his word about not playing.  Should Thomas not return, then Rask is more than capable of taking the reins.  Rask is already considered one of the NHL’s top goalies, despite not having played more than 45 games in a single season.  He has constantly excelled, and the only question that remains is can he handle the heavier workload of a full-time starter.  There is no reason to believe that he can’t, but it’s worth keeping in mind should he falter.  I think he’ll do great – the Bruins’ starter of the future is here, now.
  • TIM THOMAS – G  (11-12: 73 GP, 29W 30L 12OT, .910% 2.57 GAA)
    The superstar goalie of the past 3-4 years has decided to take a year off from hockey to spend time with his family, which is somewhat understandable given the whirlwind career he has had – years spent as a journeyman all over the World, followed by a rapid rise to prominence in Boston and putting up some of the best numbers ever seen by a goalie to win two Vezina trophies, a Stanley Cup and a Conn Smythe as Playoff MVP.  I’d say he’s earned the time off, but combine this with his strange habit of making controversial political statements via his Facebook page and not seeming to be the greatest team player, I can see why fans and even the players are a pit annoyed at him.  Maybe he’ll come back after this season, maybe he won’t;  if he does, I wouldn’t expect it to be at the level he was at previously, and almost certainly won’t be with the Bruins.  He might even be traded in the coming weeks to a team that needs to reach the cap floor.  If so, it’s a slightly sad ending to one of the most stunning runs at the top by any Bruins player, indeed any NHL player, and he could be called one of the saviours of the franchise in carrying them to the Cup.  I hope fans remember that side of Tim.

 

PROSPECTS MOST LIKELY TO MAKE THE TEAM / EARN A CALL-UP

Dougie Hamilton

Photo by Hugh Lee from Edmonton Alberta, Canada (Team Canada 2011-12) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Boston has many prospects worthy of consideration for call-up during the year.  Jared Knight, Ryan Spooner are both players who should be playing for Providence in the AHL this year after wrapping up successful junior careers, but will probably need time to adjust to the pro game.  Maxime Sauve is probably the forward closest to the NHL, as he put up quality numbers for Providence in an injury shortened year, and did see 1 game for Boston.  There really is only one name worth mentioning above everyone else here though:  Dougie Hamilton.  The massive 19 year old defenceman, who stands at 6’5″ and around 200lbs, absolutely dominated in junior last year for the Niagara Ice Dogs in the OHL, putting up 17 goals, 55 assists for 72 points in just 50 games.  Now THAT’S a prospect to get excited about.  He dominates in all disciplines and is an imposing presence.  Whilst he may spend another year in junior (I don’t believe he’s eligible for the AHL yet), perhaps to put more weight on as he’s quite skinny for his height, I expect he’ll probably make the team out of camp.  Don’t expect him to be dominant in his first year, rookie d-men very rarely are, but expect to see flashes of brilliance to tease in what’s to come.

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