Bruins not giving up on finding puck-moving defensemen


Bruins not giving up on finding puck-moving defensemen

If this weeks development camp for the Bruins brought one thing to light, its the never-ending search for the mythic puck-moving defenseman.

The Bruins have a well-chronicled history of searching for a puck-moving partner to pair with Zdeno Charas tower of defensive power, but they havent found their permanent Mr. Right since Peter Chiarelli took over the Bs reins six seasons ago.

First there was Dennis Wideman, who had a 50-point season in Boston before subpar skating skills and ill-timed turnovers sent him on his way.

Matt Hunwick developed within the Bruins system, but ultimately didnt have the skills necessary to be that defenseman.

Steve Kampfer similarly rose up through Bostons ranks, but didnt prove to be answer while coming down with injuries at the worst possible times.

There was, of course, Tomas Kaberle as well. The Bruins won a Cup with Kaberle after he arrived from Toronto, but he essentially became a third pairing defenseman during the playoffs that quarterbacked the worst power play in history to ever actually win a Cup.

Obviously weve tried to develop a puck-mover a little bit in the last few years, or bring in a player of that ilk," said Bruins assistant GM Don Sweeney. "People would comment that Kaberle wasnt a great fit, but he helped us win a Stanley Cup. I dont care what anybody says. He played with Adam McQuaid and he helped out McQuaid in terms of transitioning the puck and making sure we werent in our own end. Those were key ingredients.

Everything about Kaberles usefulness is ultimately debatable, but nobody can argue with Sweeneys point that the Bruins won it all despite the flaws of the current Montreal Canadiens blueliner.

Finally last season Joe Corvo was a one-and-out after playing like he was actively trying to relocate into Claude Juliens dog house. The Bruins attempted to protect Corvo by keeping him away from the oppositions best offensive players, but once again he couldnt offset his defensive foibles with enough offensive production.

After seeing gun-for-hire defensemen and traded assets ultimately crash and burn as Bostons puck-moving defenseman, it appears they are finally turning inward as an organization for solutions.

And theyre not doing it with just one candidate.

Nineteen year-old Dougie Hamilton holds the inside track for the sixth defenseman spot on the Bruins heading into next year, and his 95 point season (regular season and playoffs combined) at the junior hockey level show offensive proficiency. While Hamilton is a more well-rounded defensemen than puck-movingpower play specialist, Sweeney believes he might grow into an elite offensive defenseman.

You look at what Doug Hamilton may or may not be able to bring and what he was able to do at the junior level. You hope that his offensive skills translate and that hes gonna be a puck mover, said Sweeney. Is he a prototypical guy . . . sometimes you describe those guys as being small and skilled wise? No, those guys are big and skilled now. Its the best of both worlds in that regard.

Torey Krug's another potential candidate . . . you know, he came in and moved the puck in the couple of games that he played very effectively. Im sure the guys in Providence would say the same thing about David Warsofsky. Clearly were trying to make sure that we have that part of it covered because we feel like its a need. If we can do something better at the NHL level, then we need to go out and develop it.

Thats exactly what theyre doing: David Warsofsky and Torey Krug will both be in Bruins training camp as young defensemen with puck-moving skills and fast-paced skating on their resume. They are in the latest in a line of candidates to fill Bostons vacancy for a PMD (puck-moving defenseman) and Krug showed some promise in a pair of dress rehearsal games with the Bruins at the end of last season.

Then theres 18-year-old Charlestown, Mass native Matt Grzelcyk, who showed perhaps the best skating wheels of any player in the entire Bruins Development Camp this week after the Bruins secured his rights in the third round of the draft. Grizz showed the aggressive willingness to jump up into the play offensively against players older, bigger and stronger than him in first development camp, and fearlessly flashed 360 degree spin moves when looking for a little offensive separation.

The future Boston University star is likely four or five years away from playing in a Bruins uniform if things go well in Jack Parkers hockey program. But Grzelcyk is a future PMD the Bruins will keep tabs on over his collegiate career while they also try out a few new candidates for the position in the meantime.

It certainly beats the alternative.

It is expensive to acquire that puck-moving defenseman as it would be to sign a player; Dennis Widemans contract is what it is, said Sweeney. Ideally, youd like to develop that, and you would be homegrown in every position. We look for the puck-moving defenseman, of course.

Youre not going to be able to force that. Even looking at this years draft, you know, would you go up and trade for a player? That player might not be there, and might not be ready for two or three years.

So instead the first new wave of puck-moving defensemen candidates will include Krug, Warsofsky and Hamilton this coming season. Eventually one would expect the law of averages will begin working on their favor, and one of Bostons undersized, skilled choices will develop into a Bryan Rafalski-type blueliner.

But until then the search for the elusive, mythic PMD rages on for the Bruins and they'll will keep on trying until they find what they're looking for.

Haggerty: Subban looking more like a 1st-round bust than NHL goalie

Haggerty: Subban looking more like a 1st-round bust than NHL goalie

BOSTON, Mass – Malcolm Subban says that he believes that he can still be a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL.

While that’s admirable on some level for the sheer, brazen self-confidence involved in saying this after getting yanked from a 5-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild at TD Garden, pretty much all of the evidence points out the contrary. Nearly two years after getting pulled from his NHL debut in against the St. Louis Blues after giving up three goals on six shots, Subban was pulled from Tuesday night’s appearance after giving up three goals on eight second period shots with the Bruins desperately in need of a quality start in goal.

He maintained a defiantly confident tone after another humbling NHL effort against Minnesota, and that’s a testament to the maturity and mental toughness of the person behind the goalie mask.

“It sucks. Obviously, I’m just trying to finish the game, let alone win one. Obviously it sucks, but what can you do now, right?” said Subban, who has now allowed six goals on 22 career shots faced in two starts. “Obviously I want to be a number one goaltender in the league. I was a high pick for a reason. I have the potential, and I just have to show it. Obviously I haven’t done that so far yet, but I think I’m getting closer to it. Honestly, I think I can do it right now. I just got to show it. Obviously, I didn’t [do it] today, but tomorrow’s a new day.”

Given the stunningly bad quality of his two NHL starts combined with a thoroughly pedestrian body of work at the AHL level over the last three years, there is literally zero tangible evidence Subban is tracking to be a franchise goaltender. Instead he’s the emergency goaltender called on by the Bruins only after Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin have both been shelved by injuries, and he’s now flunked the two pop quizzes when the NHL team needed him to come through.

Meanwhile, a sizeable selection of goaltenders taken after him in the 2012 NHL Draft class have already proven their NHL worth and broken through at the elite level: Matt Murray, Frederik Anderson, Connor Hellebuyck and Joonas Korpisalo.

Subban was hoping all along to break through this season in Boston, but things went south on him quickly with a Bruins team not playing well in front of him. The first goal was a fluttering Charlie Coyle shot that trickled between his glove hand and the top of his leg pad. The third goal was a softie low and to the glove side, power play strike authored by Ryan Suter. It added up to poor goaltending and shoddy defense, but it also added up to a Bruins goaltender that didn’t even give his hockey club a chance to win.

“It could be a combination of both. There are some goals – I’m not going to lie – there are some goals that we thought our goaltenders should have had. But I’m not here to talk about a goaltender who’s in one of his first few games because he let in a couple of bad goals,” said Julien. “We were terrible in front of him and we weren’t any better, and that’s the big picture. That’s more important.

“I don’t care who’s in net. I think when you have some injuries you need to be better in those situations and we weren’t good enough tonight. It doesn’t matter if Tuukka [Rask] is in net and we had injuries up front, or we’re lacking players here or there. You’ve got to let the system take care of the game. If you play it the right way, you have a chance to win. When you don’t, you don’t. That’s what happened [against Minnesota].”

There’s no question the defense in front of Subban wasn’t nearly good enough, and Adam McQuaid and Torey Krug in particular struggled to lock things down in the defensive zone. The wide open shots from the slot - like the Chris Stewart score in the second period that arrived 12 seconds after Minnesota’s opening goal - are indicative of a hockey club that’s not sticking to the game plan once things start to get a little wonky.

But this is about a player in Subban that should be entering the NHL stage of his career after being a first round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, and anybody would be hard-pressed to see him as an NHL goalie after failing in each of his first two NHL starts. Combine that with the lack of dominance at the AHL level over the last three years, and there’s a better chance that Subban will be a major first round bust for the Bruins rather than suddenly develop into a late-blooming No. 1 goaltender in Boston.

The scary part is that Subban and fellow young netminder Zane McIntyre are all the Bruins have for Wednesday night’s game at Madison Square Garden, and perhaps longer than that if Rask can’t make rapid progress with his lower body injury.

Maybe Subban can be a bit better than he’s shown thus far, and the four goals allowed to Minnesota were not all his fault. The bottom line, however, is that Subban should be up for doing this job right now. Tuesday was a big chance for the young goalie to make a statement that he was ready for it.

Instead he looked like the same goalie that’s been pulled from two of his first four AHL starts this season, and plays like a goaltender that’s never going to truly be ready for the call in Boston.