Haggerty: Time to bench Kaberle

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Haggerty: Time to bench Kaberle

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON First off, theres little need for wholesale changes with the Bruins. Not when theyre tied 2-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals with two of the three remaining games on their own TD Garden ice.

Claude Juliens crew still remains in the dominant position over the Tampa Bay Lightning, and truth be told theyre the better team -- especially with a healthy, fully functional Patrice Bergeron back at the height of his powers.

Theres really no reason to insert Shawn Thornton into the series against Tampa Bay despite his prominent leadership role. His six minutes per game in the playoffs arent a difference-maker in a series and the enforcer role isnt all that vital against a skilled team like the Lightning.

Likewise, shuffling the lines and pushing Tyler Seguin into a role requiring 16-18 minutes of ice time per night in the playoffs is similarly courting danger. There is such a thing as asking more from the prodigiously talented youth than he can contribute at this point in his career.

A major shakeup along the roster and everyday lineup would come off as the ultimate Chicken Little move for a coaching staff embedded in the stay the course way of doing things. Theres simply no need, and Claude Julien is wise enough to know it.

But there is one change that has to be made heading into Monday nights important Game 5 in Boston.

Theres been enough turning-the-corner talk, and pointless hope that the Bruins can salvage something out of defenseman Tomas Kaberle.

Trading a first-round pick, Joe Colborne and perhaps a second-round pick if the Bruins do make it to the Cup Finals to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Kaberle has become Peter Chiarellis version of the flawed 2007 Red Sox deal that brought Eric Gagne to Boston. In that instance the Sox won the World Series title despite Gagnes presence, and not because of him.

Itll have to be the same thing with the Bruins. Kaberle has flopped just as spectacularly as Gagne, and its reached the point where hes legitimately hurting the team in a role that's been reduced in a way nobody within Bostons front office anticipated at the time of the trade.

Its time for Julien to make the move, and mercifully pull the plug on the Kaberle experiment.

Its almost unfathomable how much the puck-moving defenseman debilitated the Bruins in only 11:35 of ice time during the Game 4 loss to the Bolts.

Kaberles feeble turnover behind the Boston net led directly to Sean Bergenheims game-tying score in the second period, and the 33-year-old couldnt block out Simon Gagnes game-winning score in the third period when Tim Thomas was counting on him to block it by any means necessary.

Thats not even counting the two failed power-play chances at the start of the second period, which sucked all the momentum out of Bostons corner.

The line has to be drawn for Kaberle now that hes gone from a neutral performer with no real benefits to a player thats detracting from the teams performance.

The Bruins' power play was 7-for-66 during the regular season after his arrival from Toronto on Feb. 18, and the Bs are 4-for-52 on the man advantage during 15 playoff games this spring. That means the Bruins PP is humming at a 9.3 percent success rate (11-for-118) since Kaberle entered the Boston scene, and thats beyond pathetic for a club harboring legitimate Cup aspirations.

Of course the power play maladies go beyond Kaberles futility, but his labored skating, compromised confidence and inability to make snap decisions in crunch time have hampered any shot at consistent special-teams performance during the postseason.

No matter what Julien says publicly about Kaberle and the teams belief in him, its clear the coaching staff has lost confidence in the player as hes relegated to a bottom pairing defenseman. No amount of public spin and positive feedback can cover up the stench left on the ice after Kaberles shift has concluded and another round of mistakes have to be cleaned up by his teammates.

He hasnt surpassed 20 minutes of ice time since the opening playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens, and his pairing with Adam McQuaid was a flammable liability in Saturdays loss to the Lightning.

With all of that in mind, Steve Kampfer or Shane Hnidy might give the Bruins a tougher, more stable option for minutes along the blueline as Kaberle exhibits weakness when playoff hockey consistently rewards the strong.

Kampfer hasnt played an NHL game since March 31 and suffered a knee injury at the end of the season, but the 22-year-old also took part in the pregame warmup Saturday afternoon for the first time in the playoff run. Hes finally healthy enough to play, and Kampfer can move the puck and play on the power play while also playing with a bit more physical toughness than Kaberle.

Hnidy's played in three games thus far during the playoffs though only a total of nine minutes and could add a bit of the physical toughness around the net thats sorely absent in the defensively deficient Kaberle.

The top five Bs defensemen might have to shoulder more of the load should Kaberle sit in favor of another option, but thats a far better choice for a Boston team thats going to be under heavy pressure from Tampa. Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg have shown they can shoulder a 30-minute burden if it comes to that during the postseason.

The 1-3-1 trap isnt working against the Bruins, and Guy Boucher's team is tasting success most when Tampa submits a heavy forecheck to suffocate the Boston defensemen.

Neither solution is perfect for the Bs, of course, but simply trotting out Kaberle game after game because of the kings ransom that brought him to town isnt a perfect solution, either.

There is still time to come clean, admit that Kaberle didnt work out when everybody including this humble hockey writer thought he would perfectly address Bostons needs, and move on.

The only priority at this time of year for a hockey team is winning games, and Kaberle is subtracting from the effort each night hes out on the ice for the Bruins.

It doesnt look like the great moment of redemption is coming for an aging defenseman (who is costing himself a lot of money in free agency, by the way) and its high time for the Bruins to cease production on the Tomas Kaberle Affair.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Morning Skate: Do Caps have mental block come playoff time?

Morning Skate: Do Caps have mental block come playoff time?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while thinking about and praying for the people of Manchester, England. It’s obviously an evil, cowardly act to bomb any public place, but to do it at a concert filled with women and children is the lowest of the low.

*The Capitals players are acknowledging that there’s some kind of mental block with the Stanley Cup playoffs. CSN Mid-Atlantic has all the details.

*It’s been a very odd postseason for the NHL where there are so many non-traditional teams still alive with the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Fina, and the Ottawa Senators fighting for their lives in the Eastern Conference Final. On that note, there is a ton of disappointment at the empty seats at the Canadian Tire Centre for Ottawa’s home games in the playoffs. It sounds like there are going to be empty seats tonight for a do-or-die Game 6 in Ottawa. That is an embarrassment for a Canadian city that’s supposed to pride itself on their love of hockey. Let’s hope the Senators fans have a last-minute surge to buy tickets and show some appreciation for a Senators team that’s given the Ottawa fans a totally unexpected ride through the postseason this spring. I mean, Erik Karlsson at the top of his game is worth the price of admission all by himself.  

*The Pittsburgh Penguins have the Senators on the ropes, and it’s been an impressive showing given that they’re doing it without Kris Letang.

*Pro Hockey Talk has the ownership for the St. Louis Blues giving their GM Doug Armstrong a vote of confidence.

*Another early exit from the playoffs is going to start making some players expendable on the New York Rangers roster.

*Here’s a good piece on how David Poile built the Nashville Predators, who have reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time. Give credit where it’s due: He manned up and made a big move dealing away Shea Weber straight up for PK Subban. It’s really worked for Music City as they’ve stepped to the next level.

*Speaking of Nashville’s rise this spring in a wide open Western Conference, Pekka Rinne has silenced the critics he might have had by carrying his team to the Cup Final.

*For something completely different: Boston law enforcement is on high alert after the bombing of the Ariana Grande concert in the UK.

 

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Hindsight is always 20/20, of course, but it appears the Bruins made a mistake buying out veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg from the final couple of years of his contract. 

Seidenberg just finished up a wildly successful stint with host Team Germany at the IIHF World Championships, where he was named Directorate Best Defenseman (the tournament’s best defenseman) after leading all D-men with a goal and eight points. This came after Seidenberg, at age 35, posted 5 goals and 22 points in 73 games for the Islanders, with whom he signed after being cut loose by the B's, while averaging a shade under 20 minutes per game.  Seidenberg also had an excellent World Cup of Hockey tournament for Team Europe last summer (where he was teamed once again with Zdeno Chara), thus managing to play at a high level from September all the way through May.

A faction of Bruins fans thought he was on the serious decline after the 2015-16 season and, clearly, the Bruins agreed, opting to buy him out with two more years still left on a sizable contract extension. (They owe him $2.16 million next season and then will be charged $1.16 million on their salary cap over the next two seasons.) But the B's could have used a durable, defensive warrior like Seidenberg in the playoffs, when they lost three of their top four defensemen against the Ottawa Senators. A rejuvenated Seidenberg, able to play both the left and right side, would have been a better option than Colin Miller.

The Bruins made a conscious decision to hand things over to younger defensemen like Miller, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo and Joe Morrow in cutting ties with Seidenberg. But they also perhaps miscalculated how much Seidenberg still had left in the tank after his best season in at least three years. 

“Well, at the time we felt like [Seidenberg's] game had really dropped off to where we thought he couldn’t contribute, and we wanted to see if some younger players could come in and help us out,” Bruins president Cam Neely said at the end-of-the-season press conference earlier this month. “I’ve got to say he played well this year for Long Island. But at the time we thought it was the right move. You can’t envision us having three of our top four D’s get hurt [in the playoffs]. We went through a lot of D’s in the postseason. You can’t predict that.”

Neely is referring to the decision made after Seidenberg’s second straight minus season in Boston, when back injuries and a major knee injury had seemed to slow him down a bit. It seemed the only way to properly evaluate some of their other, younger defenseman was to cut Seidenberg loose, but one has to wonder if the Bruins would have possibly done it had they known he was still capable of playing like he did this season for the Islanders. 

Either way, the buyout of Seidenberg is an extremely legitimate second guess of Bruins management in a year where they did a lot of things right.