Haggerty: Meszaros isn't enough for Cup-caliber team

Haggerty: Meszaros isn't enough for Cup-caliber team
March 6, 2014, 2:00 am
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BOSTON – Peter Chiarelli himself admitted he was “disappointed” in some of the deals that never materialized by the 3 p.m. NHL trade deadline on Wednesday afternoon.

Words like underwhelmed and unimpressed could have just as easily been used.

Andrew MacDonald, Stephane Robidas, Christian Ehrhoff, Nikita Nikitin, Jack Johnson and Marian Gaborik were all possibilities for the Bruins and there may have even been a few realistic names that never even saw the light of day. Chris Phillips was high on their wish list, but signed a two-year contract extension with the Senators rather than leave Ottawa for the first time in his career.

In the end, the Bruins traded for 28-year-old Andrej Meszaros, claimed 30-year-old Corey Potter off waivers from the Edmonton Oilers and secured some defensemen depth for the playoffs.

“They’re two defensemen who have been in and out of the lineup. [Meszaros is] a big defenseman, a thick defenseman. I’ve had a history with him. He’s played internationally with Slovakia. He plays both sides, he’s heavy on the puck, he’s more apt to push the puck than to defend but he can defend, and he’s heavy,” said Chiarelli. “So we acquired these two players for depth.

“When I say for depth, I just want to be clear, it doesn’t mean that they’re just reserves. It means I look at our defensive corps as a whole, and we’re just bolstering that corps. We’ve got a lot of games in a short period of time, so that was my, our intention going into this trade deadline.”

Clearly, the Bruins now have depth with four NHL-caliber left-shot defensemen, and five NHL-caliber right-shot defensemen. There’s also the option that Meszaros can play on the right side, and partner with Zdeno Chara as he did in his best NHL season as a rookie with the Ottawa Senators in 2005-06.

So, if everything works perfectly – if Meszaros’ defensive weaknesses can be covered by the B’s system, and he can stay healthy after a rash of injuries (back, shoulder and Achilles tendon) over the last few years – then perhaps things can work out in the postseason for the Black and Gold.

Still, there won’t be many pundits that will award the Bruins as big winners on trade deadline day, although NHL Network analyst Kevin Weekes did point to the Bruins and Los Angeles Kings as one of his big winners.

Chiarelli seems to be okay with all of that, and knows that the real winners and losers matter in June.

“My main intention of today was to bolster our depth. You get in these conversations [for high-end forwards], and I know there’s been talk about [Thomas] Vanek going to Montreal, and they’ve strengthened their team. Good for them,” said Chiarelli. “It never seems that we’re an anointed winner of Trade Deadline Day, and I’m fine with that. [Montreal] is a better team, and I look forward to facing them.”

The Bruins have lost five straight games to the fast, skilled and irritating Montreal Canadiens and haven’t beaten their arch-rivals in more than a year dating to Feb. 6 of last season. To an already effective mix of players, Montreal GM Marc Bergevin added a certified Bruins assassin in Thomas Vanek for a conditional second-round pick and a mid-level prospect.

The former Sabres and Islanders stud has 30 goals and 61 points along with a plus-21 in 53 career games against the Black and Gold, and has routinely torched Bruins shutdown defenseman Zdeno Chara when they’ve matched up against each other. Vanek will almost certainly leave the Canadiens in free agency once the season is over, and he can sometimes pick his spots in the effort and intensity category.

Vanek also brings the size and skill package Montreal was seeking out at the trade deadline, and adds to the undersized crew of Habs forwards normally buzzing around at the Bell Centre.

One would have hoped for that kind of boldness from Chiarelli, who had names like Meszaros and Henrik Tallinder as safety choices on Wednesday afternoon if he didn’t land any bigger fish at the deadline.

But the bigger fish all got away.

Meszaros isn’t quite the same level deadline acquisition for the B’s front office as closing deals for Tomas Kaberle and Jaromir Jagr in year’s past. Normally Chiarelli is one of those tenacious NHL GM’s that finds a way to fill the needs of his team, and had picked up key Cup figures like Dennis Seidenberg, Chris Kelly and Mark Recchi at the trade deadline in year’s past.

But there is still a big hole in the defensive zone, and on the B’s penalty kill, a couple of places where Dennis Seidenberg normally roams.
It’s tough to argue with the numbers.

The Bruins have averaged 2.61 goals per game in the 23 games since Seidenberg blew out his right knee, and were allowing 1.97 goals per game in the 38 games prior to the German defenseman’s injury. They were also killing 89 percent of the power plays they faced near the top of the NHL, and have killed 76 percent of the power plays faced since losing Seidenberg to injury back in the Dec. 27 shutout win over the Ottawa Senators.

There’s enough of a sample size to determine that it’s a pattern linked to the Seidenberg injury, and a byproduct of being forced to rely on young defensemen like Matt Bartkowski, Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton in key situation.

Those are also the kind of numbers that could usher in a pretty quick exit in the playoffs if they’re not fully straightened out. It’s highly debatable as to whether Meszaros does anything to positively impact the situation given his standing as a third pairing defenseman – shuttling in and out of the lineup -- on a bad defensive team in Philadelphia.

Time will tell the true winners and losers of the trade deadline, but at first blush it seems the Bruins didn’t do enough at a time when
they need to be “all in” for nucleus capable of winning the Cup each and every year.