Morning Free Association: The D

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The other day I had a chat with a friend. We wondered about about what the plan for the defense this season. With nine potential players between the NHL and AHL rosters and possibly a free agent signing in Zdeno Chara, the Bruins defense is at a crossroads: Do they commit to a youth rebuild on the fly and move on from Chara or do they re-sign him and adjust him to a lesser defensive role while using his skills to coach younger players?

Let’s talk about the prospects. Don Sweeney has made a bolder than expected move with his signing of Jakub Zboril to a two-year, one way deal which will pay him $700,000 for 2020-21 and $750,000 for 2021-22. Clearly, he expects Little Z to make the roster this season out of camp after having a much improved season in 2019-20, albeit one that was cut short due to the pandemic.

The knock on Zboril has been inconsistency, which is the bane of all young, talented players. When Zboril is on and engaged, he shines. Otherwise he becomes invisible or worse, painful to watch. He’s been improving the past two seasons, so that’s a good sign. Last training camp, he was among the last in roster cuts, largely because his exempt status had run out and he could be claimed on waivers when sent down to Providence. Being skeptical, I am suspicious of players who have good years during their contract year. I admit this came from watching Reilly Smith, who can be a solid 20+ goal scorer but who flailed when playing with two of the best players on the Bruins, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. With Zboril I’ll try to tame my watchful eye while accepting that a first year NHL player will make bunched of mistakes.

Urho Vaakanainen is also a left shot defenseman. Last season he was brought up for 5 games. So far he doesn’t have any NHL points but 7 games is a small game total to expect anything. He seemed to be developing well in the AHL.

However, there are rumors that the Bruins are looking to move him. This could be because there is a logjam in the LD pipeline and perhaps they would like a more veteran presence. These rumors are coming from Haggs and Murphy, so I wouldn’t place stock in them.

Regardless, it looks like either of these two guys could be battling for a roster spot.

Then there’s the newly signed Matt Grzelcyk. We know he’s a rostered player and an NHL veteran. where does he fit in? Last season, we saw Cassidy pair Grzelcyk up with his BU teammate, Charlie McAvoy in certain situation when he wanted to give Chara a break or was otherwise unavailable. This seemed to be a look at a future pairing and a glimpse at the past. The two certainly have chemistry but is this the top pairing that Cassidy wants? Moving Grizz up from the third pairing will solve the top pairing issue while allowing the bottom of the lineup to open up for a first year player (Zboril, Vaakanainen).

The right side of the defense seems to be all but set: Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Connor Clifton/ Jeremy Lauzon. Kevan Miller re-signed early in free agency, with a contract worth almost $2 million with bonuses. It seems doubtful that he’ll really factor in to the roster building as he has yet to take to the ice without further injury.

Then we come to Zdeno Chara. The 43 year-old Captain has continually expressed a desire to return to the Bruins for a 15th season. He feels he has more to give and not just in playing time. His desire to win another Stanley Cup hasn’t waned. The problem seems to be with accepting that his role may be different. Chara still tirelessly trains but age is catching up with him. Chara is not a top pairing option at this point in his career and that is something that he will have to accept. Could he be a second pair option? Maybe. Seeing him and Carlo as the shutdown pair is awesome but it might be more effective as a penalty kill option rather than 20 minutes a night. Cassidy likes having a stay-at-home guy paired with a puck mover and neither Chara or Carlo are puck movers. He might be best at lower minutes with a focus on the PK, whether that’s the second pairing or third.

At this point, the Bruins and Chara aren’t close to signing a deal. Apparently Chara is looking to see how the season is going to be structured before committing, which is understandable. Again there are rumors of teams being interested in Chara. Those teams all have one thing in common: none of those teams have cap space. So, I wouldn’t worry about other teams right now because every team is equally screwed due to the cap. So, it will be up to Chara if he re-signs.

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the german hammer

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Quaider4everwash
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Quaider4everwash

I got up at 4 this morning, to leave by 5, so i could be here well before the guys come to install the propane tank. 8 to 10 they said. 8 to 10. It’s still a little chilly for laying on the floor and work, so maybe a nap

IntentionallyWidenberg
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IntentionallyWidenberg

Installing propane tank? You using a propane stove for heat?

Satan 81's Sister
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Satan 81's Sister

comment image

Quaider4everwash
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Quaider4everwash

We’re using a condensing boiler

Quaider4everwash
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Quaider4everwash

I plan to have a wood stove in the basement, but needto put a liner in the chimney, first.

Satan 81's Sister
Editor
Satan 81's Sister

Morning all. Had a dream last night I was dating Ewan McGregor’s son. Kind of weird Ewan McGregor would have a son around our age when Ewan McGregor himself is around our age.

The London Bear
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The London Bear

Maybe he was a clone (have you seen The Island?)

Satan 81's Sister
Editor
Satan 81's Sister

Hahaha yes I did see The Island. Not to be confused with the Netflix series The I-Land which is making me angry thinking about it and how much I would love to have those 7 hours of my life back. (Seriously, don’t watch that show. It’s a chore.)

Quaider4everwash
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Quaider4everwash

Hey All!
Defense. The foundation of Bruin teams forever. Yes, the d is at a crossroads. I’d like to see big Z another year. If he would do third pairing, he could really help Zboril.
BTW, my tablet changed chaos to Chara the other day. Hilarious.
Crisp cold morning in Monrovia. I can here the train whistle, five miles away. It’s about to enter the east portal!

The London Bear
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The London Bear

I could certainly go another year of Z. Even when he’s not on the ice it would be great for the younger guys to have him there on the bench

The London Bear
Member
The London Bear

Morning folks,

I often think defensemen are like drummers – if you notice them it’s usually because they’re doing something wrong!

I liked what I saw of Vaakkanainen in those handful of games before his injury, but I assume he’s played quite a few games in Providence since then.

That’s a pretty solid right half of the D.

IntentionallyWidenberg
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IntentionallyWidenberg

I definitely want to see more of Vaakanainen (but don’t want to have to type it again!). I would be super disappointed if he got traded for a short-term half solution. Haggs’ tweet sounds like that’s what’s in the works – the sort of thing where a team gives away a likely gem for a hill of beans.

Quaider4everwash
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Quaider4everwash

Can we call him Vaako, or something like that? God knows what my tablet will do with that name!

Satan 81's Sister
Editor
Satan 81's Sister

Vicodin!

IntentionallyWidenberg
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IntentionallyWidenberg

“We’re on a regimen of Vicodin and Zboril”

Quaider4everwash
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Quaider4everwash

Zboril is probably manufactured by Astra Zeneca.