Bruins Beneficial Short Season

“The sides are far apart and have different views of the world,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman Tuesday after the NHLPA presented an alternative agreement to the collective bargaining agreement. Currently, the players are proposing to partner with the owners of the clubs to bring stability to the industry and assist those who are less financially stable.  They want to fix the current existing problems, rather than focus on problems that don’t.  With the realization of a lock out becoming more and more evident, we have to start looking at the positives of the situation. Perhaps a lockout wouldn’t be the worst thing for the Boston Bruins.

The reality of a lockout for the 2012-2013 season is potentially heartbreaking for anyone involved, players,owners,coaches,media and fans alike. With the 2004-2005 lockout being the dark place that no one wants to return to, the actuality of the situation at hand just plain old sucks all around. However, a shortened season could have its benefits for the club whose post-season was cut short, providing them with extra off-ice opportunities to get back to 100% health.

While the biggest story for the NHL this summer seemed to be where Rick Nash would end up, the Bruins were taking a much different approach, one that most Bruins fans expected. They opted to make as little movement as possible, keeping their key core in tact. The biggest commotion surrounding the “heart of the team” Tim Thomas.  With the re-signing of guys like Chris  Kelly, Daniel Paille, Shawn Thornton and Gregory Campbell, the Bruins are keeping together an eerily similar Cup contending team. In keeping the core of the team in tact, they are provided with the advantage of team chemistry. They have guys who have played together for years and know how each other work, where as many of the teams this year, shook things up with one of the most active trade markets we’ve ever seen. Going into a shortened season with a team that already knows how to play together will provide them with the upper hand against teams like the New York Rangers, Minnesota Wild and Carolina Hurricanes who made some hefty additions and will have to make some adjustments in their way of play. Instead, Boston will be able to pick up where they left off with their determined and focused mentality to get the job done.

With the exception of defenseman Dougie Hamilton being tossed into the defensive pairings, the lines for the Bruins will pretty much stay the same as we have seen them in the years past. GM Peter Chiarelli stated that he wanted to keep his core together and re-iterated that statement in the re-signing of Kelly and goaltender Tuukka Rask. If the trend continues, it’s likely that Chiarelli will want to negotiate with the whole lot of free agents that the Bruins will have after the 2012-13 season is over.

Commencing the end of the 2012-2013 season Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand, Milan Lucic and Jordan Caron are all restricted free agents with Andrew Ference and Nathan Horton being unrestricted. All of the players listed above are the age of twenty-six or under and all played an important role in helping the team win the 2011 Stanley Cup.  The likeliness of all of them sticking around Boston is a very plausible idea, assuming they have a solid campaign this season. Tyler Seguin could easily attain something to the effect of what Jeff Skinner got from the Carolina Hurricanes (a six-year, $34.35 million extension). Seguin, who was drafted five spots ahead of Skinner in the draft, could easily get this, if he so chooses to ask for it, while Lucic will probably go for the $5million dollar figure.

While Seguin might have been drafted first, it was Skinner’s numbers and ability to make the team right out of rookie camp that had Cane’s fans turning their heads. As for the rookie campaign, Skinner’s  31 goals and 32 assists for 63 points stomped Seguins 11 goals and 11 assists his rookie season.  However, last season Seguin put up better numbers, fearing not the Sophomore Slump and becoming a Superstar in the making with his 29 goals and 38 assists for 67 points.  Taking a closer look at the two, Skinner has more playing time than Seguin, but the Canes and Bruins were in two completely different places in 2011, providing Skinner with a lot more pressure in his rookie season. However, the efforts set forth by Seguin and his transformation and progress in play his sophomore season can hardly go unnoticed.  Given that the Bruins currently have two forwards that they are paying $5million, one being the current Selke winner Patrice Bergeron and the other David Krejci at $5.25million a year. Considering the Bruins didn’t think Kessel was worth that much, what value can you really give Seguin? The Bruins didn’t want to give Kessel the five-year, $27 million deal he got from Toronto, and that was after he put up a 36-goal season. Now that Skinner’s deal seems to have set the bar for elite scorers in the 2010 class, it will be interesting to see where negotiations with Seguin go.

Unfortunately, a new CBA could put some restrictions on signings and the specific details as to when and how new contracts are given out. A shortened season would provide some issues for those point-producing forwards such as Seguin. While he may be projected to at best double his totals from last season in an 82-game season, having that cut short will no doubt have an effect.  If point totals are messed up, you then have to question how justified new contract lengths and negotiations are as opposed to a players true value and worth to a team.  If this means smaller contracts in general, the Bruins could be in luck with some re-signings in the future.

In having this season be the last in their contract for a number of players this season, it is not unlikely to see them step up and be big role players this season, as they are expected to shine in their last respective year to ‘earn more.’  In having names like Lucic, Marchand, Seguin and Horton stepping up to the plate and producing more, your roster is now guaranteed to make an impact in a shortened season.

What better player to benefit from a shortened season than goaltender Tuukka Rask? We have to remember that Rask has never played more than 45 games in a single season and his backup, Anton Khudobin has only played in seven NHL games.  Given that it wouldn’t be the greatest way to test whether or not Rask is ready for the task at hand, it would be similar to what he is used to and make for an easier transition to becoming the number one goaltender.

While a shortage of season is brutal to fans and players alike suffering from an already long off-season, some hockey is better than no hockey at all, especially given the fact that the NHL would most likely not make a come back from an entire season lockout.  For now we just have to sit and wait to see if the NHL and NHLPA come to an agreement on the CBA by September 15. Fingers crossed!

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