Monday, 5 December 2011

NHL Realignment: Reading between the ”Ligns”

NHL realignment will be good for Canadian hockey fans. Just read between the lines or should that be “ligns”. The realignment being discussed this week at the NHL meetings in California would shuffle the teams into 4 conferences roughly based on geographical / time-zones.

Conference 1.      Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton, Los Angeles, San Jose, Anaheim, Colorado and Phoenix

Conference 2.      Winnipeg, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Nashville, Columbus, Minnesota and Dallas

Conference 3.      Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Boston, Buffalo, Tampa Bay and Florida

Conference 4.      Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey, Washington and Carolina

The good news for Canadian hockey fans is that the two conferences in the eastern regions would have 7 teams each, compared to the central / west conferences with 8 teams each. Logic would dictate that if there were to be a relocation of a financially troubled franchise or what Mr. Bettman, always looking ahead, has as a longer range plan: expansion.  Mr. Bettman has always wanted to be the biggest, most successful North American professional league. That is his job.

The NHL is already the most international of the North American professional leagues. The NBA has 30 teams, but only one in Canada. The NFL has 32 teams, none in Canada. MLB has 30 teams, only one in Canada. Of the 30 NHL teams, 7 are Canadian.  If the NHL were to expand the best two locations would be Quebec City and a second team in southern Ontario. That would be 32 NHL teams, 9 in Canada.

Quebec would join Montreal in its confernce. The second southern Ontario team would join the other conference (not with the Toronto franchise and stealing their rivalries) to lessen the objection of the Maple Leafs.  Reading between the lines, this proposed realignment acknowledges that the East and Canada, specifically, is the logical point of expansion for the NHL or, at least, a relocation because of current team viability issues. No other location (U.S.) in the east is a viable location for an NHL franchise. Atlanta to Winnipeg has demonstrated Canada’s lust for the game.

Now, whether the realignment happens or not, Mr. Bettman has shown his longer term thinking by his proposal. Just read between the “ligns”.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Boston Bruins: That was Not a Stanley Cup Hangover!

The 2011 Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins started their 2011-1012 season with 3 wins and 7 losses in the month of October. Many have termed this as the inevitable Stanley Cup hangover. Actually this was more like a Stanley Cup Concussion. This was one of the worst starts following a cup win in league history.

In reviewing October’s games I look at it this way. The first game of the season a 2-1 loss to a pretty good Philadelphia Flyers team was excusable with all the banner hype and celebrations. Their second loss, a 1-0 score, against a young Colorado squad that got off to a quick start, again excusable. The 4-2 loss to the powerful San Jose Sharks team can be understood. Sprinkled throughout October, the 3 wins were against divisional rival Toronto Maple Leafs (6-2), last year’s conference finalist Tampa Bay Lightning (4-1) and a shootout win against western conference co-leader Chicago (3-2). That’s 3 losses and 3 wins. A .500 record could be considered a hangover for the defending Stanley Cup champions.

The other four losses in October are what define this as a concussion rather than a hangover. Those 4 losses were against two teams. Boston lost a home and away series to the Carolina Hurricanes. Carolina is currently second last in the conference and without those two wins early against the Bruins would be dead last. And worst yet, in a pair of games against Montreal the Bruins came away pointless. That ended the month on the lowest of lows. The “what if” scenario could be: if Boston had split this two series, had a .500 record, won only 2 more games they would currently have 4 more points in their first 18 games. A record of 13 wins and 5 losses would give them 26 points, good enough for first in the North East division, first overall in the Eastern Conference and one point out of 1st overall in the NHL with 2 games in hand as of games played through November 20th.  Oh, what if, what if.

But back to reality. The Bruins have won 8 straight games in November against Ottawa, Toronto, the Islanders twice, Edmonton, Buffalo, New Jersey, and Columbus. They have out scored their opponents 42-14.  As much as all Bruins fans would like to believe the streak will go on forever let’s stay in reality. The Bruin’s next two games are against bitter divisional rivals. If the Bruins were to split these next two games; if the Bruins were to win just one of the two who would you rather beat:

Montreal on Monday who has already beaten the Bruins twice this year, are coming off a victory over the New York Rangers who themselves were on a 7 game winning streak, with Carey Price recording 2 shutouts in a row, and one point behind the Bruins in the standings,  or

 Buffalo on Wednesday, a team the Bruins have beaten once but is still ahead of the Bruins, leading the division, still sniping in the media following the Lucic / Miller incident and the team many project to unseat the Bruins as division winners this year.

If we can only win one...

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Boston Bruins’ Brad Marchand: Hero to Zero?

Stanley Cup Hero and RFA, Brad Marchand, has not signed a new contract with the Boston Bruins with only 2 days left before start of training camp. I have to admit I am a Bruins fan, so I figure if I spend the time to write this article perhaps I will be pleasantly annoyed at my waste of time because Marchand will sign just as soon as I finish writing. I agree there is ‘some madness to my intentions’.

Marchand in 77 regular season games had 21 goals, 20 assists for 41 points; was a plus 25; took 149 shots; and, had a 14.1% scoring percentage. He played with enough skill, grit, and defensive acumen to be promoted from the fourth line to be a regular on the second unit. He proved to be an excellent penalty killer and although he did have a tendency to cross the line he filled an important role as agitator supreme.

Continuing this style of play Marchand had a breakout playoff. Marchand had 11 goals, 8 assists, 19 points. He was a plus 12; took 61 shots; and, had a scoring percent of 18.0%. Marchand was an integral part of the Bruins’ Stanley Cup Championship not only for his offence and defence but also for his aggressive style that seemed to completely throw the Vancouver Canucks off their games. I am sure Daniel Sedin wakes up from his post Stanley Cup nightmares with a sore neck from jerking his head repeatedly. All of this came in his rookie season at 23 years young.

Marchand’s playoff points project through a full season to 36 goals, 26 assists. Perhaps 36 goals is a stretch but a 30 goal season is not out of the question in the near future. However with his current non-contractual status and being represented by Wade Arnott (the same agent as Phil Kessel) Bruins fans cannot help but to think that Brad Marchand’s actual contributions to the Boston Bruins’ defence of the Stanley Cup for the 2011–2012 season may be Zero.

There is speculation Chiarelli is shopping Marchand. I am not surprised or upset by this. Chiarelli is doing his job. Don’t get me wrong, having Marchand back with the Bruins is my first choice. But we are dealing with Arnott here. No one can tell me that Phil Kessel has not once, since June 15 wished he had a different agent. When will Toronto win a Cup? When will Toronto make the playoffs? Marchand may soon have the same regret. Chiarelli cannot give in to unreasonable demands from Arnott. Chiarelli has to manage the big picture. Only by maintaining a reasonable internal equity of players’ salaries can he hope to maintain the majority of these players over the long run. There are other future UFAs and RFAs to consider within the salary cap future. Chiarelli did an excellent job parlaying Kessel into some excellent futures. I am sure he can do the same with a hot commodity like Marchand.

The question for Chiarelli (and fans) is where to get the best deal. The fans and reporters in Toronto are drooling but it would not make sense to do another deal with the Leafs. But before we get into the ‘who to trade with’, let’s think about what the Bruins should expect to get from a Marchand trade. All Bruins fans know the unique skill set of Brad Marchand and so does every General Manager in the NHL. No need to repeat his accomplishments and potential. I would want as a minimum a top five first round draft choice / plus a prospect for Marchand. I know Chiarelli is much better at this than I am and I trust he will maximize this asset.

With Marchand’s ability Boston would be foolish to strengthen any of the other Eastern Conference top ten teams. Also they would not have a top five first round pick. So Washington, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, New York Rangers, Buffalo, Montreal, Carolina, Toronto and New Jersey do not call. Winnipeg, New York Islanders, Florida or Ottawa may have the desired first round pick and recent high level prospects. Each has a ‘but’: Ottawa is in the same division and Marchand will have a long career; Winnipeg is not far away from being very competitive but they will be transferring to the Western Conference next year; Florida and the Islanders management / ownership is too unstable (they may end up flipping Marchand to an Eastern competitor). Winnipeg is the only reasonable trade partner only because they are moving to the West. So it makes sense to trade Marchand to a western team.

In the Western Conference, obviously, Vancouver is not a viable trade partner. As well the other top teams (San Jose, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Nashville, Minnesota) may see Marchand as ‘Sedin kryptonite’ but the Bruins would not want to strengthen a potential Stanley Cup opponent. Of the other teams(Calgary, Edmonton, Colorado, Phoenix, Dallas, St. Louis, Columbus) Vancouver’s North West Division rivals would have the most demand for ‘Sedin kryptonite’ since they have to play the Canucks 6 times during the regular season. As well Colorado, Edmonton, and Calgary will have the most potential to pick in the top 5 next year having finished 30th, 28th, and 23rd respectively last year. These 3 teams meet the Bruins criteria best for supply of high draft choices / prospects and demand for Marchand. As 3 divisional rivals this may also leverage competitive negotiating in favour of the Bruins. Whatever the trade it will probably be for future assets rather than an immediate top six forward.

So if the Bruins cannot sign Marchand and trade him who plays with Bergeron and potentially Seguin on the second line. We would have to see who Chiarelli gets back in the trade. Time for Bruins fans to scour the rosters of the aforementioned 3 teams to discuss some possibilities. Internally Pouliot, Peverley, or perhaps  one of the kids may fill the void.

So it remains to be seen, will Marchand again be a Bruin Hero or become a Bruin Zero in 2011-2012? Before Marchand regretfully lets Arnott lead him out of Boston to a non-contender he may want to think of Kessel. Either way Bruins fans should be confident in Chiarelli doing what is best for the team.  

Update: This article was posted late morning. By late afternoon the same day it was announced Marchand had signed a 2-year, $5 million contract. I am pleasantly annoyed with my 'intentional madness'. Bottom line: Hero to Hero.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

2011 Canucks Riot: Step Up to the Mirror

It is time for the citizens of Vancouver and the fans of the Vancouver Canucks to step up to a mirror. Raise your right hand (left hand if you are left handed) to your shoulder. Now give yourself a really good slap! Now that you are conscious let’s talk about the ridiculous response by your politicians and police force regarding the civil unrest known as the 2011 Canucks Riot. Take another look in the mirror and ask who is really to blame. BC is Canada’s left coast, pretty laid-back, easy going and now, known as the riot capital of Canada?

I wouldn’t call myself an activist. Nor do I proclaim to be the smartest card in the deck.  But you have to be as dumb as a hockey puck and emotionally distant as a vandalized store front mannequin to tolerate the ineptitude and blame washing coming out of one of the most beautiful cities in the world. As citizens you should be infuriated. The civic politicians and police force are there to protect you from the anarchy of the streets you call home. But when it is demonstrated they cannot provide that protection nor are willing to step up to the responsibility for their own failures be afraid. Be Very Afraid.  I would be terrified to live in the powder keg of Vancouver, protected by such an incompetent civic leadership and police force. I am not talking about the rank and file officers here. I saw them on the line in riot gear. I respect this profession immensely. There was no leadership here. No commands to action, rather the commands were to inaction. If I am being assaulted I want action. If my city is being assaulted I want action. Failed action is better than complacent failure. I have never heard so much, “it wasn’t our fault”.

I don’t even blame the politicians as much as I do the police leadership. This was not about ill conception or inept planning. This is about decision making in the heat of a riot. And a decision of inaction is not a decision to action. The police were too slow to intervene. The police officials had plenty of time to act and react. There were many action and reaction points prior to the day of the game, but certainly after over 100,000 people showed up before the game police could have scraped the ‘meet and greet’ strategy. Go to Plan B (did they have a Plan B?) Every available officer in BC should have been called onto crowd control sooner. The game lasted 3 hours, time enough to redeploy.  At 14:37 of the First period the situation had worsened, still 2 ½ hours to react. The second goal at 12:13 of the Second period left 1 ½ hours to make decisions. The final critical time came at 17:35 of the Second period leaving well over 1 hour before total mayhem. If I call 911 I want better response time than 1 hour. Were these civic and police officials not watching the game? At this point it was Game over.

What really makes no sense to me is the prideful quote from police chief, Chief Jim Chu. Following the riot Chief Chu on more than one occasion has proudly stated that compared to the 1994 riot, although the damage was relatively the same, it took “half the time to quell the riot”. Proudly? Thanks to some data from the CBC and the Globe and Mail let’s compare before commenting on Chief Chu ridiculous and misplaced pride logic.
 Data                                                       2011                                       1994

Estimated cost
$1.3 million
$1.1 million
Crowd / Rioters
100,000 people
70,000 people
Police Presence
446 to 928 officers
540 officers
140 people
200 people
100 idiots
150 idiots
Most Severe Incident
4 stabbings
1 hit by rubber bullet
Length of Riot
3 hours
6 hours
thanks to CBC and the Globe and Mail

True, the estimated property damage cost was approximately the same and the 2011 riot was considered under control in 3 hours compared to the 1994 period of rioting of 6 hours. Chief Chu, do the math. How can you be proud of this? What you are saying is: we as a police force were so incompetent in our response to this situation that we allowed the same amount of damage to happen in 3 hours that took 6 hours to commit in the past. This to me says the 2011 riot was allowed to be twice as intense as the 1994 riot. How can you be Proud of this level of failure? If and only if you were able to say the damage was less than half, that is, less than $500,000 you would have an argument of which to be proud. Here is my premise: A riot in downtown Vancouver will cause approximately $1.2 million dollars in damage (my assumption is that in 1994 after 6 hours everything worth destroying or looting was). After 6 hours of looting and destroying, as an anarchist, I have had enough. I am tired. I have sobered up. I am going home. Anarchists don’t work 8 hour days. The pride factor here goes to the anarchists. They were able to accomplish the same level of destruction and looting in half the time with fewer arrests. They, as anarchists, were able to entice 30,000 more people to participate this time than in 1994. Further to their anarchistic pride it took almost twice the number of police officers to quell the riot. They were able to intensify the severity of injury (4 stabbings) while reducing the overall injuries to participants. Chief Chu Step Up to the Mirror! Open your eyes. Is that the face of Pride? If you do not think so, it is time to resign. If you think it is, it is time you were fired.

I don’t even want to get into the lack of justice so far because it is so frustrating.  The ‘better to do it right than do it in a hurry’ mantra coming from police. They still don’t get it. The people want action. Action on the night of the riot and action in the courts now. One individual, caught on tape, was seen by the world in real time lighting a police car on fire. He has turned himself in. What are you waiting for? What further evidence do you need? What other charges could be more damning. He torched a police car! Put him in prison! Make him pay for the damages! Make him Step Up to the Mirror!

Civic officials have blamed this incident on a small number (maybe 100 anarchists) intent on rioting from the beginning, win or lose. So don’t try now to blame the NHL and the Canucks’ organization. Is it a coincidence that 100 rioters were arrested? Does that mean you got all the anarchists? Mayor Greg Robertson was quoted as saying,” rioters came with a plan”. Obviously a better plan than the police and civic officials. I am sure these civic and police officials by nature of being civic organizations had more opportunities to meet and plan for all eventualities for this misconceived event. More planning meetings I am sure than the alleged anarchists. By definition anarchists don’t organize, meet or plan. Anarchy only succeeds when there is no structure and authority to oppose it. It wasn’t even the first time they had a riot after a hockey game gone bad. The previous time was the 1994 final loss to New York. A strange coincident that recently the civic officials of New York were criticized for over-planning for the worst from Hurricane Irene. Good for them. Better to take criticism for over protecting your citizens. Mr. Mayor Step Up to the Mirror!  Next election Vancouver you need to elect a new mayor if he refuses to do the right thing and resign now. Perhaps a public demonstration would be appropriate to express your displeasure, but remember you will have to police yourselves, so keep it peaceful.

Friday, 12 August 2011

NHL: Is Your Team Scheduled for Success?

The NHL currently has 30 teams. The NHL regular season consists of 82 games. The NHL has 2 Conferences of 15 teams each. Each Conference has 3 Divisions. Each Division has 5 teams. The schedule, however, is not a balanced schedule. In other words each team does not play every other team the same number of games. The League justifies this by referring to saving on travel costs and creating Divisional rivalries. Teams within each Division play each other 6 times. That is 4 teams times 6 games for a total 24 games within your Division (29% of games). The other teams within their Conference play each other 4 times. That is 10 teams times 4 games for a total of 40 games. Teams in the other Conference (15 teams) are played 1 or 2 times for a total of 18 games. So does this unbalanced schedule have an effect on a team’s final result? Let’s take a look at an example from the 2010-2011 season.

During the 2010-2011 NHL season the Vancouver Canucks won the President’s trophy as the team with the most points during the regular season but lost in the Stanley Cup playoff final series to the Boston Bruins. After such a dominant regular season how could the Canucks lose? Let’s take another look at the Canucks’ regular season.

The Canucks, finishing 1st, played 28 games against the Western Conference other top 7 playoff teams. In those 28 games they had 15 wins and 13 losses. In the 4 games against each team they split every home-and-away series 2-wins and 2-losses except against San Jose against whom they had 3-wins and 1-loss. Not a dominant performance by any means. Against the bottom 7 non-playoff teams they had 36 games. They had more games within their Conference against non-playoff teams because the Canucks play in the worst division in the Conference and maybe the League. That means the Canucks were fortunate in playing 6 games each against the Edmonton Oilers (30th place), the Colorado Avalanche (29th place), the Minnesota Wild (21st place) and the Calgary Flames (17th place). In those 36 games they had 28 wins and 8 losses. But how did the Canucks fair against the best and the worst in the East?

The Vancouver Canucks played 18 regular season games against Eastern Conference opponents. Against the top 8 playoff teams the Canucks had 2 wins and 7 losses. Totally dominated by the elite of the East! Against the bottom 7 non-playoff teams the Canucks had 9 wins and 0 losses. Again their success appears to be as bottom feeders.
So across the League the Canucks had 17 wins and 20 losses against the top level playoff competition in a total of 37 games. In the other 45 games, they played against bottom level non-playoff opponents winning 37 games and losing 8 games. Could an argument be made that the Canucks’ President’s Trophy was a result of this unbalanced schedule? And what about other regular season accomplishments? Scoring goals or goals against? Any individual or team awards can be questioned when those accomplishments were while playing against lesser opponents more often than not over the course of the season. With due respect to Edmonton and Colorado what team wouldn’t want 12 games against the 29th and 30th place teams?

It would be an interesting exercise to do the same analysis for all the other teams in the league. Who had the best results based on the level of competition imposed on them by the unbalanced schedule? Was it the ultimate winners, the Bruins? Someone else? The Washington Capitals had the second best regular season record and were the top team in the East. Was their competition more difficult? Would they be more deserving of the President’s Cup?

More importantly, what about the Stanley Cup? How did this unbalanced competition affect home ice advantage during the playoffs? Who might have missed the playoffs based on a more difficult schedule? It is time for you home team analysts to crunch some numbers. Do it for your home team. The problem in the analysis is the regular season results are based on this unbalanced schedule so what is a true test of a team’s results? The most difficult division in the West could be argued to be the Pacific having teams that finished 5th, 9th, 11th, 12th, and 16th. But teams in this division got more games against the worst division, the North West (1st, 17th, 21st, 29th, 30th) than Eastern opponents. Based on the same rationale the best in the East was the Atlantic with 3rd, 4th, 18th, 23rd, and 27th league finishers. So the question in the West is whether San Jose (5th overall and 2nd in the West) was a better team than Vancouver and in the East whether Philadelphia (3rd overall and 2nd in the East) was better than Boston. The NHL does have the most gruelling of playoffs requiring 16 victories over 4 series.

 I think they got it right. Vancouver played San Jose head-to-head (won in 5 games), and Boston had to go through Philadelphia (a 4 game sweep), both to ultimately get to the finals. Boston was the best team during this playoff. Better than Vancouver! The Bruins were dominant in their victories. Congratulations Bruins. But Montreal or Tampa Bay were very close to going to the finals. So is your favourite team scheduled for success in 2011-2012?

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Boston Bruins, Believing in the Future

First, before discussing the future a declaration on the recent past: We are 2011 Stanley Cup Champions! I say ‘We’ because as a long time Bruins fan, this is a collective accomplishment, Right? But really, we fans (long-suffering or new band-wagoners) didn’t have a lot to do with this accomplishment other than wanting to Believe the team could do it. So thanks for the memories. But now, can we believe in the future? This is an even more important question for the casual fan, those that jumped on the band-wagon for the Bruins’ incredible 2011 playoff ride.
 Let’s take a look at what just happened and if being a Bruins’ fan has a future.

The Business
As fans we sometimes forget that a professional sports team is a business. A private business. It’s not a business to start-up to make a profit but rather a hobby for millionaires or billionaires to break even or make a small profit while the value of the franchise increases. We have a choice whether we want to invest (cheer) in this business. The question is ‘Is the business well run?’  Based on a Forbes review in 2010 the Bruins franchise was valued at $302 million, 5th overall in the NHL. In 2009 Forbes reported revenue was $100 million with operating income of $12 million, 6th overall in the NHL where many franchises are in a financial suicide watch. The success of the 2010-2011 season has significantly solidified this financial strength (more on that later). The NHL reported 40 consecutive home sell outs of 17,565 for the Bruins this past regular season (remember the Bruins started the season overseas October 9th, attendance 15,299). This represents maximum primary revenue in ticket sales and with success the best time for an increase in ticket prices. There must be something good about the product on the ice. It’s good business to provide a product people want, especially in an economic environment where non-essential entertainment products are risky business. There is a psychological element here. When times are tough it’s nice (psychologically therapeutic) to associate oneself with success. Now why is financial stability important as a fan?  Just ask the fans of Atlanta or Winnipeg or Quebec City or Hartford etc., etc., etc.  

Now in assessing a business you want to invest in (and let’s face it the emotional investment in cheering for a professional sport team is significant, maybe more significant in many ways to the monetary investment) a smart investor will look not only at the product and financial stability but at the ownership, the management, the philosophy, and the future.

The Ownership
The Jacobs ownership has been stable for the past 30 years (there have been times when fans thought this to be a bad thing, calling for change). Jacobs has always run the team with fiscal responsibility. It’s nice to have a billionaire owning the team. No worries about paying the bills. But he didn’t become and remain a billionaire by throwing money away. In the salary cap NHL Jacobs has not restricted his management team from putting a quality product on the ice. The Jacobs ownership stability is reinforced by Jacobs Senior’s commitment to professional hockey as the Chairman of the NHL Board of Governors and Jacobs Junior’s involvement in the hockey operation. It’s time to give proper congratulations and credit to the Jacobs family.

The Management
There is no indication or reason to imagine change in the management team of the Bruins. President Neely, General Manager Chiarelli and Coach Julien have been successful. Most important in looking at this management team’s success is their consistency in philosophy. They are on the same page. They are consistent at all levels. They walk the talk. In business terms: they say what they are going to do, then they do what they say. The Bruins hockey Philosophy is to be hard hitting, defence first, balanced scoring, everyone contribute, work hard, stay within one’s abilities and win as a team. President Neely epitomized this philosophy as a player. Chiarelli obtains players that fit the mould and Julien coaches based on this style of play. Not only is this the team philosophy but it translates through this management team to be a Bruins player profile and an entertaining product. This has created a strong team identity. Ownership has mandated management to win as a cap team. Win being the operative word here. Player contract terms and length are reasonable. The Bruins are well below the cap of $64 million for next season, sitting around $55 million. But they aren’t spending foolishly this offseason. Rather they plan for future free agency and a new CBA. Wisely they also know having flexibility come trade deadline can better fill the needs next February than overspending now. This is a strong young core group of players that managed properly will be competitive for many years. We can’t expect a Stanley Cup every year but this management has given the team a chance going forward. A lot of non-controllable variables come into play during an 82 game season and the required 16 post-season wins but right now there are 29 other teams who would like to be in the Bruins’ position. They would love to be defending Champs with 90% of their roster returning (some turnover is good, in fact business practice will tell you a 10% annual turnover is considered ideal), have $9 million in cap room, have the best goalie tandem in the league, the best defensive shutdown pair in the league, and an offensive balance that only promises to improve. Management in business is assessed on their financial success. The Bruins extended playoff run provided 13 additional home games (that’s an additional 32%). That’s not all profit even if the players’ salaries are based on a regular season of 82 games. Some of the money ensures the players’ escrow and some goes to revenue sharing but it does solidify the bottom line. The Bruins didn’t maximize this financial opportunity. They had 4 home games in round one, going seven games against Montreal. They only had 2 home games in the Philadelphia sweep (I think it was worth the revenue loss). They maximized again against Tampa (4 games) and Vancouver (3 games). On top of this is the merchandizing gain from a Stanley Cup victory run. The Cup runneth over, cha-ching!  Nothing this management team has done this offseason would indicate a change in philosophy or less than optimism for future success.

The Roster
Management has put together a team with great balance and youth. The Bruins won the Stanley Cup this past season with 3 rookies in the line-up. The top six forwards are relatively young: Lucic (23), Krejci (25), Horton (26), Marchand (23), Bergeron (25) and Seguin (19). They should be able to stay together for a number of years. Is there any doubt their best years are still ahead of them? The third and fourth lines are in their prime: Peverley (29), Kelly (30), Pouliot (24 – with upside?), Thorton (33 – the old man?), Campbell (27), and Paille (27). The experienced defence includes Chara (34), Corvo (34), Ference (32), Seidenberg (30), Boychuk (27) and the youngster McQuaid (24). We all know there is no slowing down for the timeless Thomas (37) and Rask (24) has his best years ahead of him. The Bruins actually got younger with Recchi (43) retiring, Kaberle (33) leaving and Ryder (31) leaving. There is no player on the current roster considered on the down side of his career. So far contract management and balance have been strengths, management has not forfeited the future to win in the short term. Nor has this team been built around one highly paid “superstar” with no team balance. 

The League
Two league-related issues could have a negative effect on the success of this team going forward. The first is a new CBA. If there is a work stoppage after next season we could lose a season of hockey with the Bruins at their peak of performance. If the salary cap is lowered to accommodate the have-not franchises (doesn’t that make you appreciate strong ownership) the Bruins may have to jettison players to a lower cap. Our one advantage going into the CBA is that the Chairman of the Board of Governors is the Bruins’ Jacobs. Hopefully his motivation will be able to avert a stoppage while his team is profitable and on top. The other thing that may happen is if management cannot keep this core group of players together because of wild free agency spending by other clubs and the players’ priorities to go for the best buck rather than a quality situation where they are still millionaires but willing to keep a winner together by taking a home team discount. We have seen that as the only way to develop a professional sports dynasty in a salary cap structure. Right after being the Stanley Cup Champs is the best time to leverage this discount. Hopefully management will be exploring some extensions.   

The Prospects
Management has addressed what may be one weakness within the organization going forward. The Providence Bruins have not mirrored the success of the parent team. We can assume this has been recognized by management as indicated by the change in coaches for next season. The lack of playoff success for the baby Bruins does not indicate poor performance drafting or a lack of talent in the system. But the Bruins need to show patience with the future. Stock the baby Bruins and develop them in the same image as the Bruins. The Bruins are a young team and don’t need to rush any player development. This will pay off in the long run. Let the juniors finish junior. Take 1 or 2 years in the AHL. Build success at the AHL level. Call up if needed but don’t rush up. This management team does not need to prove anything in terms of their draft picks by rushing them to the big league. It would be best to keep any young player playing significant minutes with Providence or in junior rather than having them practicing and be healthy scratches with the Bruins.

The Product
Now let’s take a look at the future of the product (the players on the ice) based on the immediate past and what we might expect from the past season’s success. The easiest way for me to organize this is to analyze the forwards line by line.

First Line Krejci-C.Lucic-L.Horton-R.                                                                                                 
In 75 games last season Krejci scored 13 goals with 49 assists for 62 points. He was a plus 23 with 157 shots and an 8.3%  scoring percentage. In the 25 playoff games Krejci had 12 goals, 11 assists for 23 points leading all playoff scorers. This was a breakout for the young centre. Krejci was a plus 8 with 57 shots and a 21.1% scoring percentage. Krejci learned he can score. The improvement is dramatic. Projecting Krejci’s playoff numbers forward to a full season would result in 39 goals, 36 assists from 187 shots on goal. The 39 goals may be a bit of a leap but 30 goals are not out of the question. This potential makes Krejci the number two priority to sign a contract extension. Krejci would also be further motivated by wearing an ‘A’ on his jersey next year. Quiet waters run deep. It’s time for him to lead. He certainly did by his performance in the playoffs.
Lucic in 79 games last season had 30 goals with 32 assists for 62 points. He was a plus 28 with 173 shots and a 17.3% scoring percentage. Somewhat disappointing Lucic in 25 playoff games had 5 goals, 7 assists for 12 points. He was a plus 11 with 56 shots but only an 8.9% scoring percentage. This production level projected over a full season would result in only 16 goals and 23 assists on 184 shots. Lucic can rebound next season.
Horton in 80 games last season had 26 goals and 27 assists for 53 points. He was a plus 29, took 188 shots and scored at 13.8% scoring percentage. In 21 playoff games he had 8 goals, 9 assists for 17 points. He was a plus 11 with 52 shots and a 15.4% scoring percentage. Not in the numbers are the significance of his game winning goals. Projected to a full season he could score 31 goals, have 35 assists on 203 shots.
Overall in the 2010-2011 regular season this first line combined for 69 goals, 108 assists. During the playoffs they raised their production to 25 goals, 27 assists. This projected to a full season would be 86 goals, 94 assists. Based on the youth of this line, the playoff experience and success it is not unreasonable to expect them to combine for 90 goals and 90 assists next season. Each has demonstrated to be 30 goal scorers. That is great balance to have on a first line. That would add 17 to the team total goals.

Second Line Bergeron-C.Marchand-L.Recchi.Seguin-R.
Now Recchi has retired and I include him here for comparative purposes. I have assigned Seguin to this line as a comparative substitute for the scoring numbers Recchi provided and Seguin should be able to provide into the future. I do make the argument that Seguin should be on a second line but let’s look at the numbers first.
Bergeron during 80 regular season games scored  22 goals, 35 assists for 57 points. He was a plus 20 with 211 shots and a 10.4% scoring percentage. In 23 playoff games he scored 6 goals, 14 assists for 20 points. He was a plus 15, took 67 shots and a 9.0% scoring percentage. Projected over 82 games his playoff production would become 21 goals, 49 assists. Right in line with his last regular season. Bergeron is Bergeron. He has been and will continue to be the consistent Heart of this team and an excellent choice for alternate captain.
Marchand in 77 regular season games had 21 goals, 20 assists for 41 points, a plus 25 with 149 shots and 14.1% scoring percentage. Marchand, like Krejci, had a breakout playoff making him the first resigning priority ahead of Krejci, only because he is a restricted free agent. Marchand’s 11 goals, 8 assists, 19 point playoff projects through a full season to 36 goals, 26 assists. In the playoff he was a plus 12, took 61 shots and had a scoring percent of 18.0%. This as a rookie. Perhaps 36 goals is a stretch but a 30 goal season is not out of the question in the near future.
Recchi in 81 regular season games had 14 goals, 34 assists for 48 points. He was a plus 13, took 132 shots and had a scoring percentage of 10.6%. In 25 playoff games he scored 5 goals, 9 assists, 14 points, was a plus 7, took 40 shots and had a 12.5 %scoring percentage. He was a veteran leader. He has retired on top. I expect the torch of his leadership however has been passed on to his line mate, Bergeron. As far as his experience winning 3 Stanley Cups, the Bruins now have 17 returning players with on ice Stanley Cup winning experience. His scoring production will be replaced by the up and coming Seguin.
Seguin in 74 regular season games had 11 goals, 11 assists for 22 points. He was a minus 4, took 131 shots and scored at an 8.4% scoring percentage. When given a chance in 13 playoff games he had 3 goals, 4 assists for 7 points. He was a plus 5, took 22 shots and had a scoring percentage of 13.6%. Over an 82 game season this playoff performance would equate to 19 goals, 25 assists. This level of production would more than replace the loss of Recchi.
Overall during the 2010-2011 season the second line with Recchi had 57 goals, 89 assists. In the 2011 playoffs again with Recchi they scored 22 goals with 31 assists (very balanced to the first line with 25 goals, 27 assists). If you were to substitute Seguin for Recchi the playoff numbers project over a full season to 76 goals, 100 assists. It is not unrealistic to expect 25 goals from Bergeron, 30 goals from Marchand and 20 goals from Seguin. That’s an additional 18 goals. With an additional 17 goals from the first line the Bruins would be the highest scoring team in the league. My assumption to add Seguin to the second line was to show his production will offset losing Recchi. There is an argument to play Seguin on this line. Seguin should be a top six forward. It would be a young line. Able to grow together. I believe Seguin’s offensive potential is better suited to a second line rather than as a third or fourth line centre. If he is a centre of the future who better for him to learn from than the best two way centre on the team, Bergeron. Just as Recchi was a mentor to Bergeron this past season I see Bergeron being the best mentor for Seguin for next season. After all Bergeron was once himself the high potential teenage hockey prodigy. Can you imagine the tempo with Marchand and Seguin skating and creating together?
While we are considering where to play Seguin just for fun let’s consider playing Seguin on the first line with Krejci and Lucic. Seguin would add speed to the line. Horton on the second line adds the big body. If you look at the two lines they would have a balance of speed, toughness, defence, scoring. The opposition couldn’t key on one line. It would be like having two first lines. Each line capable of scoring 80 goals. Lucic and Horton both play better when they are skating hard. Their lulls come when they are caught coasting. Playing alongside Seguin or Marchand will increase their tempo. Having a Horton or Lucic on each line provides that big body in front of the net and in the corners. Pairing the high potential Seguin with the Bruins most offensively skilled centreman, Krejci, could be very entertaining. Let the discussion begin.

Third Line Kelly-C.Peverley-R.Ryder.Pouliot-L. 
Kelly in 24 regular season games with Boston scored 2 goals, with 3 assists for 5 points. He was a minus 1  with 24 shots and an 8.3% scoring percentage. With Ottawa Kelly had 12 goals. During 25 playoff games Kelly scored 5 goals, had 8 assists for 13 points. He was a plus 11 with 28 shots and a 17.9% scoring percentage. His playoff numbers project to a 16 goal, 26 assist season. Pretty much in line with his Ottawa plus Boston total of 14 goals.
Peverley in 23 regular season games with Boston scored 4 goals, with 3 assists for 7 points. He was a minus 1 with 40 shots and a 10.0% scoring percentage. He also had 14 goals with Atlanta before being traded. In the playoffs he scored 4 goals with 8 assists for 12 points. He was a plus 6, taking 42 shots and scoring a 9.5% scoring percentage. His playoff scoring projects to 13 goals, 26 assists over a full season. Like Kelly, Peverley appears to be consistently headed to a 15 goal season.
Ryder in 79 regular season games scored 18 goals, 23 assists for 41 points. He was a minus 1 with 165 shots and a 10.9% scoring percentage. His playoff performance will be harder to replace. He scored 8 goals with 9 assists for 17 points. He was plus 8 taking 44 shots and scoring at an 18.2% scoring percentage. That projects to a 26 goal regular season. Pouliot was acquired to compete for Ryder’s roster spot.
In 79 regular season games Pouliot scored 13 goals with 17assists for 30 points. He was a plus 2 with 129 shots and a 10.1% shooting percentage. His shooting percentage compares favourably with Ryder’s 10.9. His shots were fewer. His regular season goals could easily reach 15 if encouraged to shoot as often as Ryder. Pouliot may be an excellent fit for the regular season.
Letting a third line of Kelly, Peverley and Pouliot have a training camp and full season together there is realistic expectation for them to score 15 goals each. It’s hard to compare to the third line of last year since the 3 players have not played a full season together. But with the playoff performance of Kelly and Peverley they have demonstrated they can be a valuable component next season. If another player competes for the third line position, such as Caron or others, it is reasonable to expect them to score 15 goals and be a plus player or Chiarelli will find an alternative perhaps at trade deadline.

Fourth Line Campbell-C.Thorton-R.Paille-L. 
In 80 regular season games Campbell scored 13 goals, 16 assists for 29 points. He was a plus 11 with 98 shots and a 13.3% scoring percentage. In the playoffs his contribution was well beyond his numbers. He had 1 goal, 3 assists for 4 points. He was a minus 2 with 24 shots and a 4.2% scoring percentage. His playoff numbers projected less but can be expected to have 10 goals next season. Thorton in 79 regular season games had 10 goals, 10 assists for 20 points. He was a plus 8 with 151 shots and a 6.6 shooting percentage. Like Campbell his playoff numbers do not reflect his contribution. He had 0 goals and 1 assist. He will get his 10 goals next year.
Paille in 43 regular season games had 6 goals, 7 assists for 13 points. He was a plus 3, took 48 shots and a scoring percentage of 12.5 percentage. In 25 playoff games he had 3 goals, 3 assists for 6 points. He was a plus 2, took 25 shots and scored at 12.0% scoring percentage. This projects to 10 goals over 82 games.
The fourth line scored 29 goals with 33 assists in the 2010-2011 season and had 4 goals, 7 assists in the playoffs. They were effective playoff performers and can be expected to combine for 30 goals next season.

The Power Play
The power play was less than effective last year and in the playoffs to say the least. But the Bruins were the best team during the regular season and in the playoffs 5 on 5, scoring more goals than any other team at even-strength. The solution for next year is a simple one. In any man advantage situation next year don’t try to find a power play combination of forwards and defensemen to set up some fancy plays. Rather simply roll out the lines and defensive pairings (don’t even tell them there is a power play). Play your 5 on 5 style, against 4 defenders. It can’t be any worse. Seriously though, it’s nice to have an area to improve on. Imagine the result in total offense if improvement on the power play is forthcoming next year. Corvo will give the Bruins a second scoring-defenseman on the power play.  

The Offence
To score you have to shoot. The Bruins had the 3rd highest shots-for last year with 2692. If they maintain that level they will score. To summarize the offence we can expect an effect fourth line contributing 30 goals, a third line with a consistent 45 goals, a second line contributing 75 goals and a first line capable of 90 goals. If the defensemen contribute 36 goals as they did last year that is a total of 276 goals. That’s more than the league leader last year (262 goals). That compares to 246 Bruins’ goals last year. It is a stretch but not unreasonable: Krejci, Marchand and Seguin must step up to their potential. They can do it. They already did in the toughest of competition...the playoffs. Plus some of these goals will come from an improved power play. Corvo will not hesitate to shoot.

The 36 goals by defensemen were scored by Chara (14), Seidenberg (7), Boychuk (3), Ference (3), McQuaid (3), Kampfer (5) and Kaberle (1). Chara had 14 goals, 30 assists for 44 points. Included was a hat trick, something not expected to be repeated. The newly acquired Corvo had 11 goals last year with Carolina. Combined with 29 assists he totalled 40 points. His offense is comparable to Chara and far outweighs Kaberle’s total of 4 goals (only 1 with Boston).  

At this point, at least on paper, it would seem Chiarelli has done an admirable job replacing lost offense in his acquisition of Pouliot and Corvo. The Bruins didn’t need game changers. They required a couple of veterans to fill a third line winger position (replacing Ryder) capable of 15 goals and a third pairing defensemen with some offensive ability to replace Kaberle. Corvo certainly more than fits the latter and Pouliot is only 24 years old with upside. Both are better fits to the Bruins player profile and have short term contracts at a reasonable cap hit. Experienced players with upside and if they don’t work out the Bruins have Caron, Arniel, Hamill, Sauve, Kampfer or Bartkowski ready to challenge for the jobs. The Bruins will give the youngsters an opportunity to earn a roster spot but having these two experienced players to manage the risk is a good management strategy.

The Defence
Now let’s look at the defence. A record setting goaltender with a .938 save percent, 2.0 goals against average, two time Vezina trophy winner in the past 3 years and no reason to expect any less competitiveness next year. We all know what Thomas accomplished during the playoffs (.940 save percentage, 1.98 goals against) to earn the Conn Smythe trophy. It’s hard to remember that Rask had the best save percentage (.931) and goals against average (1.97) in the league during his 39 starts in 2009-2010. Thomas competed to win the job last year. They will compete again this year. The number one job is Thomas’ to start but Rask will be there to compete for playing time. What a great situation. Many teams struggle to find a number one. The Bruins have a 1a and a 1b. Rask is priority number three to extend his contract after Marchand and Krejci. He is the future and should be expected to see more action next year just to keep Thomas rested and healthy. The defence allowed 195 goals against last season (3rd best) and were plus 51 (2nd best). In the playoffs they were a plus 28 allowing only 53 goals (in comparison Vancouver who was number one during the regular season was a minus 11 allowing 69 goals in the playoffs). Projected over an entire season the Bruins’ playoff defensive effort would result in 174 goals against. You may argue that you can’t compare the regular season to the playoffs. Perhaps, but consider over 25 playoff games (roughly a third of a season, not a small sample) by buying into a defensive scheme against the best (and highest scoring) teams in the league the Bruins learned what it takes to win. I give full credit to both forwards and defensemen. If you don’t play both ends of the ice for Julien then you don’t play. The defensemen are anchored by team captain, Chara, awarded by the NHL this year for his leadership, a former Norris trophy winner and a finalist this past year. The Bruins put out the best shut down pair of defensemen during the playoffs with Chara and Seidenberg. Boychuk and Ference proved a solid pairing. And McQuaid, with a plus 30 rating in the regular season, followed it up with an excellent playoff. McQuaid is definitely priority number four to get a contract extension. Corvo is expected to provide a more physical and reliable alternative to Kaberle for next season. If not, Kampfer and  Bartkowski are ready to compete for the sixth position. As far as pairings to balance left and right shots I’d like to see McQuaid develop further along side Chara, keep Ference and Boychuk together and who better to initiate Corvo to the Bruins style of play than Seidenberg (they were paired together previously in Carolina). A more balanced playing time will rest the defenders for the playoffs. You can reunite Chara and Seidenberg in the second half of the season. The defensive area to improve on is the number of shots against. The Bruins ranked a poor 29th allowing 2682. This trend continued throughout the playoffs. Obviously reduce the number of shots, reduce the number of goals, and win more games.

The Penalty Kill
The Bruins had 46 goals against in penalty situations last season (9th). The penalty kill pairings have proved themselves in the playoffs: Campbell with Paille; Kelly with Peverley; and, Bergeron with Marchand. The Bruins were 16th during the regular season killing 82.6% of penalties (the top kill was around 86%) and were 6th in the playoffs killing 84.4% of penalties. So there is some room for improvement next season. Playing on lines together throughout the season reinforces their defensive effectiveness and could account for their ability to score short-handed goals. The Bruins were 4th during the regular season scoring 11 SHGs and 1st during the playoffs scoring 4 SHGs. This ability to score while short-handed offsets the lower penalty killing percentage. The Bruins were 3rd overall during the season in net goals while short-handed (goals-against minus goals-scored).

The Shoot Out
The Bruins were dead-last, 30th, in shootouts last season. They recorded only 2 wins in 8 opportunities. Seguin had 4 goals on 8 opportunities for a shooting percentage of 50% but only 1 game winner. The other 2 shootout goals came from the departed Wheeler and Ryder. Others that attempted but failed to score were Bergeron on 3 attempts, Krejci on 2 attempts, and Lucic, Chara, Horton, and Peverley with one attempt each. The goalkeepers recorded only a .542 save percentage against opposing shooters, 28th worst in the league. Six lost points may not seem significant but that would have resulted in 1st place in the Eastern Conference. Who are the candidates next season to take the shootouts? How can the goalies improve on their performance? The best solution: win in 60 minutes.

The Opposition
The final test is to ask the question, “How do you beat the Bruins?” The Bruins will not be undefeated but the question is more how does the opposing team approach the Bruins? What is their weakness? Goaltending is not an issue. You can’t just outshoot them. They still win if you do. The scoring is well balanced. You can’t win by shutting down one or two stars. You can’t intimidate or out hit the forwards or the defence or the goalie. If you charge the net Thomas will knock you down on your butt (just ask Daniel Sudin). The defence is big, strong and mobile. The third and four lines are solid and consistent. They are the best team 5 on 5. Penalty killing could be better but watch out they don’t score against you short-handed. They have a slightly better road record than at home so you don’t have home ice advantage. If you can play for a tie you have the advantage in a shootout. They will be confident as defending Champs with 90% of the roster returning. The hangover effect or over-confidence may be an issue but this team has strong leadership and great coaching to address any issues. Teams may up their game to play the Champs next year but that will only strengthen them through tough competition and not let them get over confident. They adapt well to systems applied against them (goodbye 1-3-1). Their greatest weakness is their power play. If you get a lead you could try to play short-handed the rest of the game but I don’t think that is a viable strategy. You know they will be focusing on that part of their game to improve it. They won’t win every game but certainly should be a playoff team next year. Once in the playoffs they know what is required to win. They know how to win in 7 games; know how to come from behind; know how to win in a sweep; know how to win 1 to nothing; know how to blow out a team (8 – 1); know how to win in overtime; know how to close out at home and on the road; know how to win as a team and with great individual effort; they understand the sacrifice; and, they will believe in themselves.

The Conclusion
So in conclusion the Bruins are worthy of your future investment as a fan. They have solid, committed ownership, financial stability, and a successful, consistent management team with a winning philosophy. They have an exciting and winning product on the ice with an upside for further success based on a young core of players. Based on playoff success we can expect an increase in goals for and a decrease in goals against. Management needs to extend the contract for Marchand, Krejci, Rask and McQuaid (done) as a priority. There are areas to improve upon. If there were not, one might be afraid the team had peaked and had limited upside for future success. Areas to improve include the AHL affiliate’s success, reducing the number of shots against, the shootout, the penalty kill and the power play. Get over the hangover, improve in these areas, stay healthy, make the playoffs and Believe ‘We’ can do it again.