UNIONDALE, N.Y. Changes are coming for the Bruins, no matter how they feel about them.
Its a bit of a shame, because every member of the Bs through words or actions showed they didnt want to go anywhere else in a 6-3 thumping of the New York Islanders at the NHL rink that time forgot Nassau Coliseum on Thursday night.
But the NHL journey doesnt stop for any player, no matter how big or small, and a few players will likely be departing for other teams in the coming days while going out with their head held high.
Mark Stuart was a healthy scratch Thursday night despite playing some of his best hockey in the two previous games, and was nowhere to be found in the Bs locker room following the game. Its expected that the rugged defenseman is going to be shipped to the Chicago Blackhawks in the next day or two in exchange for a draft pick and some salary cap relief, and if he leaves Boston he does it with some things intact: his love for Boston and the Bruins that had him hoping he would stay despite the writing on the wall, and some very good final games in Black and Gold while he controlled the matters in his own hands.
In his final five games with the Bruins Stuart had a goal and two assists to go along with a plus-5 rating, and showed the toughness and flashes of offensive competence that have many around the NHL interested in his services as a 26-year-old defenseman.
So Stuart embodied the attitude that Claude Julien has been preaching to the rest of his team with less than two weeks to go until the NHL trade deadline has passed.
Youve got to deal with it professionally, and guys have to just go out there and play, said Julien. Its up to them whether to take that approach or not, but we emphasize the approach that were professionals and you need to act like professionals.
When you sign a contract at this level you have to understand that there might be trades involved that you have to deal with down the road, and thats all you can do. What Ive told players is that trades arent the end of the world. You might be going somewhere else, but youre still getting paid to play hockey. Thats not the end of the world at all.
Blake Wheeler and Tyler Seguin have also adopted that take no prisoners philosophy with their names tossed out there as possible fodder for trades or healthy scratches now that Chris Kelly is ready to join the fold.
Wheeler has a goal and four assists in his last seven games, and Seguin has three points in his last three games while both young forwards seem to be ramping things up while skating together on the same line. The 23-year-old Wheeler is obviously the name thats popping up in trade talks given his 2.2 million price tag, and its believed hes a necessity to move if Tomas Kaberle is coming to Boston.
Seguins situation is a lot more complication. The 19-year-old looks like he finally gets it, as Julien said, following one of his best games of the season against the Islanders, and the Bruins need that kind of offensive potential in the lineup.
Wheeler sees Seguins recent two-game hiatus in the press box as the prime reason why everyone is beginning to see a determined rookie ready to make plays and do some damage while battling on the ice.
I think the biggest thing you learn sitting up in the press box as a scratch is that you dont want to be sitting up there, said Wheeler. Your teammates are out there battling and doing a good job, and you come in and everybody is sweating and patting each other on the back. Thats tough to see all your teammates were off to war with each other and you werent a part of it.
I think you learn that you want to do whatever you can to stay on the ice, and stay involved.
Once Seguin got back on the ice, Wheeler knew it was only a matter of time before the two of them clicked offensively and only a matter of time before Seguin really starting becoming some kind of dominant force.
Since hes come back from being scratched youve seen a lot more determination, said Wheeler. Youve seen a little more determination and he creates a lot. I keep telling him all along that hes got another gear that we havent seen yet. Hes going to learn. Maybe not this year, but hes going to learn that hes a lot better than the guys that hes playing against.
Once he realizes that and he has that confidence, the sky is the limit for him. Hes so young, its tough to build confidence in this league especially if youre not used to playing the way that youre used to. But if he gets some confidence and starting believing in himself then youre really going to see him take off.
While Julien has to be pleased with the desperation and commitment evinced in the games of Wheeler and Seguin with Kelly on the way, hes already said that Kelly will jump into the lineup in Ottawa Friday night. Whether it means benching Wheeler, Seguin or Daniel Paille who has also played well since coming back from a four-game suspension somebody thats done nothing wrong on the ice is going to be sitting at the end of the cold, hard, unforgiving bench when the Bs suit against the Senators on Friday night.
The Bruins all showed that they deserve to be in the lineup after the way they performed on and off the ice on Thursday but rarely is anything in professional sports truly about what one individual or another deserves.
Its a lot more about what you get, and what you need.