Seidenberg's winding journey settles in Boston

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Seidenberg's winding journey settles in Boston

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com Staff Reporter Follow @mary_paoletti
There's something about Dennis Seidenberg you might not know.

If hockey was his first love, it wasn't his one and only.

"When I was 17 I stopped playing hockey," the Bruins defenseman said. "I was pretty good at tennis back then."

How good? He says he could have legitimately pursued a career in pro tennis. He lists "professional tennis player" in the media guide as what he'd be doing if not locking down Boston's back end. It's a good thing for the team his young interest got redirected and he was steered back toward the ice.

"I got invited to the hockey national team that was under 18 back then and I decided I wanted to give it a try again. So I went to the international tournament with Germany. After that I decided to stick with hockey and keep going."

Though being a hockey pro wasn't his lone aspiration, he gave himself a good chance at achieving it. Seidenberg started playing hockey in Schwenningen, Germany at age four. His father was a physical therapist for a local team and toddler Dennis tagged along to the rinks. It didn't take long for him to end up in skates.

And look at him now: Cup champion. Not Davis, but Stanley, Cup champion.

Seidenberg thinks of his mother when considering his accomplishments.

"She was the one who always drove us to practice -- me and my brother Yannic, 26, who plays for the Manheim Eagles in Germany -- and she mostly worked so I think she would be a main part in me being where I am today," said Seidenberg. "Not only financially, but also how time consuming everything is. I mean, my mom sitting in the car every afternoon, the whole afternoon driving us to practice. I think that's the most sacrifice you can ask for."

Family seems important to the 30-year old. As he talks about his hockey journey, you don't get the impression he did it alone -- he started because of his father, persevered because of his mother and is often reminded of his brother. Now a father of two girls, he sees things in perspective of his children. His first, Story, became a sister to Noah Grace on October 6 while the Bruins were in Prague.

What can two kids provide a professional athlete? Balance, says Seidenberg.

"They definitely help take my mind off of hockey because I really focus a lot on hockey being the ultimate goal," he said. "Especially when we lose, I think about it all night and all day. But having the girls in my life definitely helps me to think of something else and getting my mind off it."

Happy distractions were needed even before the girls were born.

Seidenberg's body hasn't always cooperated with his ambition. The lacerated forearm tendon suffered in April, 2010 was only the most recent setback in his now eight-year career.

He was drafted by the Flyers in 2001 and made his debut in 2002, playing 58 games. The next season Seidenberg saw action in just five because of a broken leg. He fell victim to concussions as well as groin, wrist and ankle injuries in the years that followed.

The forearm tendon tear ended his first Bruins season after 17 games. He had surgery three days after the incident, but missed Boston's last three regular season contests and playoff run. With just one month of service in Black and Gold, GM Chiarelli said Seidenberg "fell between the cracks" that year.

Fallen between the team's floorboards, he was good as gone to fans. So when it comes to Dennis Seidenberg there's probably a mess of things you don't know.

He's aware of this. It makes him thankful for being able to help the Bruins through 81 regular season and 25 playoff games.

"It's just very satisfying for me that I got to stay healthy for one year," he said. "When you get injured you always try to battle back into the lineup and that just kind of fights against you. It's just tough to battle back from that."

There, he paused.

"I can't really complain because my brother has had five or so knee surgeries and he's got problems walking around every day and I've got no problems. I did have my injuries, but I feel fully fine right now and I can't complain about anything."

He could begrudge the missed opportunities, he just doesn't. An important aspect of the nickname NBC's James O'Brien gave Seidenberg -- "Pain Sponge" -- is the ability of the defenseman to wring out the negative experiences he absorbs.

Resilience was one of Seidenberg's qualities that the Bruins noticed despite his small sample size of playing time in 2010. That June the Bruins locked himup for four years, 13 million.

He was thrilled to stay.

"Everyone welcomed me really nicely," he said. "It was easy to get adapted to everybody, getting to know everyone. It was just a good and easy adjustment. And I would say that as soon as I stepped into the locker room I felt like a Bruin."

So nobody brought up his role on the Carolina team that bounced Boston from the 2009 playoffs? Not one person mentioned his assist on Scott Walker's Game 7 game-winner?

"Well, couple guys mentioned it back then," Seidenberg laughed. "But it wasn't really a hard time. A couple guys said that's why they got me, so that was good."

He's in on the jokes with this crew. He's content here, honeymooning with the city's people. Bruins fans especially. And his teammates, too, of course.

A lot of athletes prefer not to compare teams, whether to avoid burning bridges, avoid offending former teammates, or to avoid taking the time on yet another question. But when asked what sets the Bruins apart from Philadelphia, Phoenix, Carolina and Florida, Seidenberg answered immediately.

"It's the confidence we had in our team. No matter what the standing was in the series or in a game we always knew we were able to come back if we put our minds to it. In the Stanley Cup finals we were down 2-0, but we just knew if we put our game on the ice that we were gonna win that game and series.

"I think this team is like no other because of that confidence that we can win every game if we play our style. "

The team has confidence in Seidenberg. His average ice time shot up from 23:32 during the regular season to 27:37 in Boston's playoff run. On average, only captain Zdeno Chara played more -- two-tenths of a second more.

Unsurprisingly, Seidenberg just rolled with it.

"It wasn't really pressure," he said. "Playing in the playoffs the lastcouple months was fun. I really enjoyed having that challenge, that time on ice every night. So when I left every night, like I said, I was having so much fun I wasn't really thinking about the pressure. It was more about the challenge of shutting down the other guys and helping our team win."

He did win. The Bruins won hockey's most coveted prize in 2011 and Seidenberg had a lot to do with it. Peter Chiarelli stressed that point during the team's post-Cup decompression, saying the team started its run with the blueliner's acquisition.

That's one hell of a nod and Seidenberg knows it.

"It just really makes me happy to hear such words out of our GM," he said. "Again, it always goes back to confidence, but you need it to play hockey and you need it to feel comfortable on the ice. I can't ask for more."

Well, maybe another NHL championship. For as much as he relished the first, it's time to move on; this season's training camp kicks off in less than eight weeks.

"The celebration stopped a while ago. It's always nice to talk about it, but right now it's everyday life again. I'm working out, getting ready for next season. Our goal is to do it next year. I think everybody wants to party like we did at the end of the season and wants to do the same thing again because it was so much fun."

Dennis Seidenberg is happy "everyday life" for him is that of a hockey player. Of a Bruin.

But that's one thing you probably already knew.

Tuesday, Aug. 23: What about NHLers in Olympics?

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Tuesday, Aug. 23: What about NHLers in Olympics?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while appreciating all the birthday wishes I got yesterday while turning 42 years old.

*With the World Cup of Hockey around the corner, there is still a decision pending on NHL players participating in the Olympics.

*With the Winnipeg Jets and Jacob Trouba still unable to agree on a contract extension, some are wondering about comparable contracts for the young D-man.

*In the strict interest of self-promotion, here’s my radio hit with Pete Sheppard and Jimmy Murphy on the Bruins from Monday afternoon.

*Marek Zidlicky is still a free agent option for teams seeking a cheap solution on their back end.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker has the Ottawa Senators and Cody Ceci agreeing on a two-year contract extension after a summer without a deal.

*The Minnesota Wild do the right thing and officially change their goal song to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” for next season.

*For something completely different: there will be a "Hamilton" documentary and the question will be whether I see that before I see the actual play.

 

Five best available free agents left for the Bruins

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Five best available free agents left for the Bruins

Click here for the gallery. 

The reality for the Bruins is that the Jimmy Vesey has signed with the New York Rangers and an entire menu of options for roster moves has been taken away from Boston with him choosing the Blueshirts over the Black and Gold.

Signing Vesey would have been like found money for the B’s, but losing out on him does still leave Don Sweeney with a couple of holes on the roster with training camp a few weeks away. The smart money says the Bruins attempt to fill those holes with young players stepping up in camp and that a move to bring in more veterans will only be out of desperation once the season gets going.

Still, there are still some free-agent options out there for the Bruins, so here are the five best potential fits for the Bruins should Sweeney opt to go the quick-fix route with the leftovers still kicking around. 

 

1)  Jiri Hudler 

Sure the 32-year-old Hudler really struggled in the playoffs for the Florida Panthers last spring, but he still posted 16 goals and 46 points in a “down” season for the Flames and Panthers. He’s only two years removed from 31 goals and 76 points for the Flames and seems a lock for 15-20 goals provided he can remain healthy for whomever he ends up playing for next season. If the Bruins had Vesey slotted in for a top-six role with David Krejci, they will most certainly have young players Frank Vatrano and Danton Heinen lined up for long looks in training camp after Vesey signed with New York. But Hudler has the kind of experience and offensive ability that could play well with a playmaking force like Krejci if they wanted to get an experienced hand for a top-6 role. After all it could be a tough spot for Krejci if he’s got younger players on both sides of him with David Pastrnak already lining up for the right hand side, and essentially a rookie on the left side in either Vatrano or Heinen. Hudler could be a very cheap option at left wing for a low, low price given that he hasn’t signed as a free agent with anybody this late into August. The bottom line is that the Bruins got 30-plus goals and 60-plus points from a guy in Loui Eriksson that played in that spot last season and they need to find somebody that can give at least a solid fraction of that production with the Swede now in Vancouver. 

Should the Bruins kick the tires? Absolutely, this would be something to consider strongly even if Sweeney and Co. would rather see Vatrano or Heinen develop into the answer this season.

 

2) Kris Russell 

The Bruins had explored things with Russell a bit back in July and the price should be way down on this D-man after he turned down a long term deal with the Maple Leafs after July 1. Unfortunately for Russell, it looks like he’s going to be this year’s Cody Franson as the D-man left scrapping for a shorter-term, smaller-money deal than he thought he’d be getting as a free agent. That’s a byproduct of the 5-foot-10, 170-pound frame for Russell. He’s another player that struggled with his new Dallas team after being traded from the Calgary Flames at the trade deadline. For the Bruins purposes, they’ve already got a couple of small-ish left-shot defensemen in Torey Krug and John-Michael Liles. So, signing on another left-shot defenseman in Russell would seem redundant, but Russell has also been a “no doubt” top-four defenseman for the past four seasons that hasn’t averaged fewer than 22:58 of ice time in any season over the past four years with the Flames. That’s the kind of minutes horse that the Bruins could use on their back end and certainly Russell is more adept at moving pucks than Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller. It’s hard to ignore the combined 63 points Russell put up for from 2013-15 and now the B’s could get him at a much cheaper price at the end of the summer. 

Should the Bruins kick the tires? Only if they move out a defenseman currently signed to a contract and only if Russell is willing to take a short-term deal like the one Franson signed in Buffalo last summer.

 

3)  Jacob Trouba 

The 22-year-old restricted free agent still hasn’t signed with the Winnipeg Jets and by all accounts the Jets are far apart on term, money and Trouba’s role on the team with Dustin Byfuglien and Tyler Myers both in front of him on the depth chart. It’s getting to the point where Winnipeg needs to consider trading Trouba if it’s going to be too difficult to sign him, and keep him, in Winnipeg. The Bruins were preparing an offer sheet for Trouba at the start of free agency, but backed off given some of the negative ramifications, and the potential cost for the player, involved with an offer sheet. He’s young at 22, he’s big at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, and he was a lottery pick back in 2012, so the potential is there for him to be exactly what the Bruins need as a right-shot, top-four defenseman. He’s the best option for the B’s if they could somehow be the team standing and waiting for Trouba should Kevin Cheveldayoff decide to cast him off, or should they really go bold and finally drop the offer sheet they’d prepared. 

Should the Bruins kick the tires? If they’re going to actually act on a free agent, this should be the one whether it’s through an offer sheet or trade. The sense is the Bruins aren’t going the offer sheet route, so they’ll simply have to wait and hope Winnipeg decides to move him. Trouba is still their best option by a safe margin, but it feels like they needed to act back in July if they really wanted him in a Bruins sweater.

 

4)  Brandon Pirri 

The 25-year-old Pirri scored 22 goals in 49 games for the Panthers just two years ago, and remains unsigned after posting a decent 14 goals and 29 points in 61 games for the Panthers and Anaheim Ducks last season. Pirri has scored 49 goals over the past three seasons with the Blackhawks, Panthers and Ducks, so he can put the puck in the net while not being afraid to shoot it in the least. Like the rest of the free agents at this point, Pirri won’t be expensive or a big commitment in terms of contract. He’s a lefty shooter and a natural center by trade, but yet another forward that could be flexible for the Bruins if they wanted to try him on the wing as a veteran option. 

Should the Bruins kick the tires? Possibly a PTO candidate, but it makes more sense for the Bruins to give Vatrano or Heinen a chance rather than signing Pirri to an NHL contract this late in the game. Presumably, the B’s can get at least that level of production from Vatrano, if not more, entering his first full NHL season in Boston with a lot of untapped goal-scoring ability. Hudler on the cheap is one thing, but the Bruins should probably pass on Pirri at this point.

 

5)  Marek Zidlicky 

He’s 39 years old and he’s coming off a down season with some injuries and an off performance for the Islanders, but it might be worth it for the Bruins to see if there’s anything left in the 12-year veteran’s tank on a PTO-type situation. The four goals and 16 points were decent enough for the Isles last season, but Zidlicky saw his ice time drop to a career-low 15:35 per game last season as he was shifted out of a top-four role. Only two years ago, Zidlicky posted four goals and 23 points while averaging 21:56 of ice time for the Devils while featuring his big, booming point shot and logging heavy minutes in all situations for New Jersey. He’s a right shot, and he’s sturdy enough at 5-foot-11, 190-pounds. Considering that Zidlicky is still looking for work in late August, this could be the kind of “buy low” option that could pay some nice short-term dividends for the Bruins as they wait for their younger options to mature into NHL players. What do the Bruins have to lose at this point with a B’s back end that still needs a lot of improvement while bringing back the same crew as last season?  

Should the Bruins kick the tires? If they can sign Zidlicky to a PTO and bring him into camp, there is literally no downside to a player that could fill a big hole for them if he can bounce back from a tough year in Brooklyn.