Looking Forward

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david krejci boston bruins

The Bruins currently have 14 forwards on their active NHL roster, so finding a live body to fill in David Krejci’s spot in the line-up on Wednesday night can be done without any emergency call-ups from Providence. Daniel Paille and Brian McGrattan are both seasoned NHL pro’s at this point of their careers and one of them can fill the now vacant 12th forward slot against Pittsburgh.

Neither of them can replace Krejci, though. Neither of them can be the creative on ice straw that stirs the offensive drink that is the Bruins’ top line featuring the supremely talented Czech pivot with Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton on the wings. It’s no accident that the two of them look to be laying the foundations for career years as they play with Krejci. He is blossoming into a master playmaker. Puck skills, vision. The ability to do the unexpected and the smarts to play at both ends of the ice.

There’s no replacing that.

Hell, neither Paille or McGrattan are centers either. A position thought to be one of depth going into the season now looks a bit bare. Patrice Bergeron continues to shine but behind him are only the extremely raw Tyler Seguin and the always-game Gregory Campbell. The count there is three and none of the above can be said to be a real No. 1 center in the NHL, as Krejci is becoming. Marc Savard is likely weeks away, so that leaves a hole.

There are a number of ways to plug it. The easiest is to shift another forward to the center position and insert Paille into the line-up at wing. Blake Wheeler seems the likliest candidate to me, given that he played the position in college and even in a couple of pre-season games. In fact, you could bump Seguin up to skate with Lucic and Horton for a couple of games, shift Wheeler to centering Michael Ryder and Paille. Or have Wheeler center Caron and Recchi while Bergeron takes that top slot. He’s earned the chance to play there, for sure.

The Seguin flip, however, would enable Claude Julien to keep many of the current line combinations somewhat intact. Like this:

Lucic-Seguin-Horton
Recchi-Bergeron-Caron
Paille-Wheeler-Ryder
Thornton-Campbell-Marchand

It seems extremely risky, however, to put the unnervingly young, and currently somewhat mistake prone, Seguin in a position that would entail so much ice time and responsibility. I have a hard time believing that a defensive minded coach like Julien would do that. Hell, he had Tyler on the bench for the entirety of that 3rd period against St. Louis after Seguin was guilty of a number of miscues on the ice earlier in the game. The kid has a lot to learn.

A solution further down the probability slope, as Neil Asher called it, would be the call up of a true center from Providence. There’s no Trent Whitfield to look to right now but there is blue-chip prospect Joe Colborne who has done well for himself in the AHL so far this season. A steady 5 goals and 5 assists with a +6 in the stats columns. Seems to be developing well. Zach Hamill, however, is not. The former 8th overall pick (2007) has got some folks now wondering if he’ll ever show himself to be a serious NHL prospect.

Regardless, I doubt the B’s will reach down without having at least tried the Wheeler experiment. Krejci might only miss a week or so which could mean anywhere from 4-6 games. More if the concussion is more serious. If the team responds to the situation well and plays fairly decent against Pittsburgh and Montreal, then perhaps no drastic moves will need be made.

Practice this week should sort it all out, I would think, and give us a clearer picture of what Claude Julien and the boys upstairs have in mind.

Update: Brian McGrattan has been waived for the purpose of sending him to Providence. That just leaves Paille at the moment to jump into the line-up for Krejci. We’ll see if this is a precursor to further movement.

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2 Responses to “Looking Forward”

  1. nightfly Says:

    Bergeron is probably the best option you have for top pivot until Krejci returns. I wouldn’t toss Seguin to the wolves.

    We’ve been having this conversation a lot at Lighthouse Hockey regarding guys like Nino Niederreiter, especially in light of Josh Bailey making the Isles immediately. A guy might be too good for junior, but not ready for NHL game speed and physical play – but you can’t send them to the AHL underage unless their juniors team refuses to accept them, or in the very rare case where no juniors team holds the player’s rights. Seguin would be best served in Providence, probably, getting top-six minutes, some PP time, and extensive coaching. He’d be more ready at 19 than he will be otherwise. (See Thornton, Joseph.)

    The alternative is to let him light up juniors at 18 and 19, which worked pretty well for guys like Brad Richards. (Those 99-00 numbers look like someone used an EA cheat code on him.) But it’s not for everyone of course. I wish teams had that option, frankly.

  2. Ken Socrates Says:

    It seemed almost pre-destined that Seguin was going to remain with the Bruins for the entirety of the season. One of the reasons being, unfortunately, that he’s cost effective. That sort of talent for under a million cap hit is what the team needs so desperately at the moment while they’re so snug to the limit.

    Both Seguin’s incredible talent and his incredible youth have been on dispay a bit in the last few games. His goal in the shoot-out against St. Louis was a preview of things to come, for sure. A wicked backhand move that screamed out elite level talent. His defensive miscues, however, have also been on display. Drop passes to opposing players at the blue line, ill advised passes into traffic, hurried long distance shots. He is raw, no doubt.

    That said, the B’s need him now with Krejci down. I would be shocked if the scenario I pondered actually happens, even for a few games. Julien is not that reckless. I wouldn’t be shocked, however, if he sees some serious power play time with that crew. There is the one area his skills can safely be exploited without as much risk.

    Bottom line is that the B’s want a healthy Krejci and, down the road, Savard so that Tyler can step back, learn at a slower pace in a reduced role, watching guys like that play top calibre center to see how it’s done.

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