Kampfer's loss is Bartkowski's gain in roster battle

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Kampfer's loss is Bartkowski's gain in roster battle

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs

BOSTON -- It wasnt how Matt Bartkowski wanted it to go down.

But it certainly looks like the young defenseman will be cracking the Bruins Opening Day roster this time around.

The Bruins were cautiously optimistic about the left knee injury suffered by Steve Kampfer in the third period of their 2-1 loss in the preseason home finale at TD Garden, but the young defenseman is headed for an MRI on Friday morning. Kampfer collided with Ottawa defenseman Jared Cowen in the Senators defensive zone, and did an awkward split on the ice before going down in a heap. Kampfer needed to helped off the ice and never returned to the game with an injury that looked fairly substantial to an eye without any medical training.

Kampfer's knee is the Bruins' first significant injury of the year after enjoying relative health throughout the regular season and playoffs last year. Coach Claude Julien wasnt ready to make any definitive announcements, but things certainly appear to be trending in one direction.

I dont know if Kampfers injury settles the roster battle. Well find out Friday how severe it is, said Julien. Is Kampfer going to be out two months or is he only going to be a few weeks? If he is only out for two weeks, then it can still be a battle going on there.

Credit Julien for walking on the sunny side of the street, but the requirement of an MRI is usually not a good sign.

Its also a shame considering that Kampfer was playing some of his best hockey over the last few preseason contests, and appeared poised to wrap up the roster skirmish for the last defensemen spot out of training camp.

But injuries are certainly a part of hockey, and now Bartkowski may get a chance to get a little more comfortable with the considerable pace and speed of the NHL game. The rapidity of game action seems to leave Bartkowski behind at times, but the young defenseman has had some excellent moments in the preseason against Ottawa and Montreal in particular.

Bartkowski is bigger, stronger and sounder defensively than Kampfer, while also flashing some good vision from the point position, but his puck-moving skills and speed are going to be a work in progress. The only way to improve will be exposure to game action, and that may be limited given the very definition of a seventh defensemen role on a playoff team with six established defensemen.

Two defensemen with disparate skills and strengths, but individuals that can also contribute to the Bs this season when its all said and done.

Bartkowski and Kampfer were both pretty good, said Julien. I thought Kampfer was having a real good night skating and moving the puck, and Bart is still there. There are some things that I think he has to continue to work on.

Hes got good size and hes a solid skater, but every once in a while he gets caught with maybe not moving the puck quickly enough. Those are just little things that he has to continue to work on but having said that I like both their games.

Normally a young player would be ecstatic at a break that opened things up for a NHL job, but Bartkowski knew his shot was likely coming at the expense of another young defenseman hes grown close to over the last couple of years.

Ill be ready if that time does come, but its definitely not the way you want it to happen. You dont want to get an opportunity because another guy is hurt, said Bartkowski, who has a pair of assists in four preseason games. I mean, thats the way it works, but its not like Ill take it anyway I can. But Ill definitely be ready when it happens.

So Bartkowski will likely get the shot with the Bs as a seventh defenseman that he never received last year. Bartkowski looked like he would be that guy while making it all the way to the European trip with the rest of the Bs through Northern Ireland and the Czech Republic, but the blueliner turned into the final camp cut before the regular season.

Then Kampfer passed by him during the season, and Bartkowski appeared in only a handful of games during the regular season before a playoff stint as one of the Black Aces.

Theres no doubting it was a big camp for Bartkowski after growing exponentially as a player, and now the opportunity has been set out in front of him.

The goal is to make the team, so getting to the last round of cuts, said the 6-foot-1, 196-pound Bartkowski. "Its a big step, so its very important. So its good so far. Every second you get more comfortable with this level. Even practicing in the playoffs helps a little bit. Now going through this camp it definitely helps a lot.

Its unfair and its a bit harsh, but injuries happen in professional sports and when they do it usually pries open the door for somebody else to have an opportunity.

A knee injury might just be giving Bartkowski the chance hes worked diligently to earn, and now its on the 23-year-old to make the most of it.

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

NHL shouldn't overthink offsides challenges any longer; they should just get rid of them

NHL shouldn't overthink offsides challenges any longer; they should just get rid of them

When the hockey world grew tired of shootouts, the league took something of a half measure. Rather than eliminate the shootout, the league moved overtime from 4-on-4 to 3-on-3. It worked; games that were tied at the end of regulation were more likely to end in the five-minute OT period than before, thus reducing the frequency of shootouts. 

Now, the NHL is dealing with its latest cumbersome gameplay issue: the offsides challenge. A half-measure isn’t as desirable in this case. No more half measures, Walter. 

The offsides challenge was introduced with good intentions, but it’s simply too easy to abuse. And really, when the option is there with only a timeout at risk, why wouldn’t a coach roll the dice that maybe a guy was offsides entering the zone 29 seconds before the goal was scored? 

The option needs to be taken away. Rely on blueline cameras and automatically look at anything close on a goal that’s scored off the rush. It would take two seconds and would save the refs from another Matt Duchene incident while saving the viewer a lot of time. Let anything else go the way of the dry scrape. 

There’s the temptation to instead tweak -- maybe make offsides challengeable if the entry in question occurs within however many seconds -- but that would just mean more time would be wasted seeing if a play was even challengeable. 

It was proposed at the GM meetings in Chicago that if a coach loses an offsides challenge, his team will be assessed a two-minute penalty. That sounds great as a deterrent, but it won’t stop instances of the needless why-the-hell-not challenge. Late in games, coaches might be just as likely to take their chances in a tie game or a one-goal game. That goal allowed could likely be the deciding tally, so if they’re likely to lose anyway, some coaches might still go for the time-wasting Hail Mary. 

And of course, the loser there is the person hoping to catch their train out of North Station in time, or the person who might doze off during the stupid challenge, wake up four hours later on their couch and develop back issues over time. That was a friend, not me. 

Colin Campbell said at the GM meetings in Chicago ahead of the draft that the league is trying to "temper" the negative reaction the offside challenge has received from players and fans. 

There’s really only way to do that, and that’s to get rid of it.

See you in a year when we’re going through the same thing with goalie interference. 

Haggerty: Bruins need more than draft-weekend output if they want improvement

Haggerty: Bruins need more than draft-weekend output if they want improvement

CHICAGO – With the 2017 NHL Draft officially wrapped up and the proverbial eve of NHL free agency upon us, there wasn’t anything to get particularly alarmed or excited about when it comes to the Bruins actions over the last few days.

The Bruins lost a potential-filled defenseman that might never actually realize any of it in Colin Miller, and they followed up the expansion draft subtraction with an average draft class where they addressed defense, goaltending and their depth up front. But at the same time, it didn’t really feel like the Bruins got anybody in the draft that they were particularly bowled over by, and the B’s lost a potential trade chip once they’d used their 18th overall pick in the first round to select smooth-skating defenseman Urho Vaakenainen.

MORE: NHL shouldn't overthink offsides challenges any longer; they should just get rid of them

The sense at this address, though not confirmed by anybody inside either organization, is that the Bruins weren’t willing to trade a first-round pick as part of a package for Wild defenseman Marco Scandella, and would have preferred Jonas Brodin if they were going to give up that kind of asset. Don Sweeney confirmed that Boston’s first-round pick was in play, but stressed it was for “target specific” players that the Bruins coveted.

A deal was never worked out for one of those “target specific” players, so the Bruins continue to move on and hope that something breaks over the next few weeks.

“I was on record saying we’d be offering our first-round pick for target-specific players, and we did do that,” said Sweeney. “I don’t blame teams for not necessarily wanting to do it, so we went ahead with our own pick. I was target specific on a few players and there were other considerations being discussed.

“It’s an area we’d like to address and help our team currently. I’m not going to stop exploring areas where we can improve our club. It’s hard to tell [which way trade talks will go]. Maybe people will feel that picks from next year’s draft will be even better, or they like that pool of prospects a little bit better. It’s hard to tell [where trade discussions will go], to be perfectly honest.”

At least the Bruins were right on time with picking a Finnish player in the first round as a record six players from Finland were nabbed in the first round of the draft, and one would hope that means all will benefit from the hockey talent streaming out of that Scandinavian country right now. It will take years to determine how Vaakenainen, Jack Studnicka, Jeremy Swayman and the other members of the 2017 draft class ultimately pan out, but it sure doesn’t feel like the same outpouring of talent as in 2015 when Brandon Carlo, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Jake DeBrusk and the rest of the Bruins draft picks officially entered the Black and Gold system.

B’s assistant GM Scott Bradley admitted as much when discussing the entire draft class on Saturday afternoon at the United Center, home of the Chicago Blackhawks. The Bruins got good value, addressed organizational needs and felt good about the players they picked in each and every spot, but there isn’t going to be a Charlie McAvoy or David Pastrnak coming out of a really “meh” group of draft-eligible hockey players.

“Our first rounder is somebody we’re excited about. His skating is close to what we call a ‘5’ in our system. He’s a left-shot. You compare his skating to [Paul] Coffey at times, really mobile and transition defenseman,” said Bradley, who hadn’t run a draft board for the Bruins in roughly ten years while Wayne Smith and Keith Gretzky had been in charge of the Black and Gold’s scouting operations. “I think we addressed a lot of our needs. It wasn’t sexy, but I think we did well in addressing a lot of the organization’s needs.”  

So with the amateur draft and the expansion draft both in the rearview mirror, the Bruins must move on in the roster-building process while still facing a pair of big needs in top-6 left wing and top-4 left side defenseman. They may be able to nail down one of those needs by swinging a trade with their list of available assets including Ryan Spooner, Jimmy Hayes, Jakub Zboril, Adam McQuaid and next year’s first-round pick.

A deal that would send a Spooner-led package elsewhere might be enough to land the big, skilled, young winger that the Bruins are currently in the market for, and provide top-6 insurance in case DeBrusk, Danton Heinen or Anders Bjork all aren’t quite ready for full-time duty skating, passing and finishing off plays with David Krejci.

It might be that the Bruins have to begin thinking about free agency as a viable place if they want to land a solid, top-4 D-man for the next handful of years to pair with Charlie McAvoy. Karl Alzner headlines a list of players that would be a good fit for the Black and Gold, but they would absolutely have to overpay for a 28-year-old UFA that’s averaged 20:13 of ice time per game over the course of his 591 career games with the Washington Capitals. More affordable would be a young, free agent defenseman like Dmitry Kulikov, who is still extremely young as he comes off a rough year with the Buffalo Sabres after getting traded there from Florida. Or other potentially available left-shot free agent defenseman like Brendan Smith or Ron Hainsey could be stop-gap answers for the Bruins until the next crop of D-men in Jakob Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon and Vaakenainen, and others, are ready to step up just like Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy did last season.

The bottom line is that the Bruins did perfectly fine over draft weekend with no true idea until a few years have passed for these teenage prospects, but they need to aim higher than “perfectly fine” with their offseason if they want to be any better at the NHL level next season. A big move or two will be needed from the Bruins front office if the B’s are going to make the jump that everybody wants to see from them over the next couple of seasons.