Taking Some Stock

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So I’m of the mind right now that it won’t be until after the Vancouver Olympics that we can really sit down and evaluate what we have here this season. The Bruins are currently beset with key injuries and plagued by inconsistency and I just can’t get a feel for who they are going forward. There are a host of issues that need to be resolved and I’m thinking the four weeks between now and then will be enough time to sort some of it out.

Marc Savard, Patrice Bergeron and Mark Stuart will all be back. Andrew Ference will be on the horizon. Milan Lucic will be warming back into shape. They may finally be able to field a healthy, cohesive team that we can evaluate with Playoffs in mind.

Because, right now, this isn’t the team that finished atop the Eastern Conference last year. Not even close.

So what are the key questions?

Well, for starters, the offense, of course. Now, the easy thing to do would be to point to the loss of Phil Kessel’s 36 goals and say, hey, there’s the problem. It’s not that simple, though. A healthy, productive Marco Sturm (if they allow him to play the right side, that is) is keeping pace with most of what Kessel would provide. No, the problems on offense go deeper than one guy I’m afraid and it doesn’t even begin with the forwards.

The problems on offense stem from the defense.

Despite the addition of supposed puck mover Derek Morris, the Bruins just do not have the typeof scoring support from the D position that they need. Zdeno Chara, for all his presence in his own zone and his 175 mph slap shot, is just not an ace point man like you need on the power play or, for that matter, at even strength. There is a knack for making plays at the blue line, getting low shots through to the net, finding open guys while moving laterally or, better yet, rushing the puck through the neutral zone and gaining the zone with speed, that he and the other guys totally lack. So much good stuff can happen off of what a good offensive d-man acan do on the rush or when set up in the zone and the Bruins are clearly missing that.

Let’s face facts. Dennis Wideman is not the guy. Derek Morris is not the guy. Even Zdeno Chara is not the guy. 26 points is nice but 23 of those are assists and when you get the sort of ice time he does you could get 23 assists lying unconscious at center ice as the puck deflected off your prone body.

So then the question becomes, can they get that guy? We’ll need to take a closer look at who might be available at the deadline but my intital guess is there isn’t anyone available that’s better than what theyhave now. Outlook: Grim.

There are problems at forward, too. Michael Ryder is a total void at his position (maybe this is distracting him, I dunno). The center position, in flux all year due to injury, needs to become the strength it once was. Claude Julien needs to settle on some stable, functioning lines and let it be. He also needs someone else to assemble and coach his power play because, for all his skill as a defensive minded coach, he can’t seem to piece together the pp puzzle, can he? Blake Wheeler needs to keep his head on straight and remember where the net is and how to get there.

All of this and more, folks. The road is long and fraught with danger and we have miles to go before we sleep.

I think the journey will begin in earnest mid-February. Until then, it’s survival time.

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