- Joe McDonald, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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Welcome to ESPNBoston.com's Bruins Mailbag. This week we take a lot questions about possible trades the Bruins might make, as well as thoughts on David Krejci, Milan Lucic and more. Check out what's on readers' minds:
Q: Sounds like [Chris] Kelly will be a solid player for them, which if fine. But the Bruins don't need fine, they need someone who is really going to make an impact. Tell me there are more moves to make? -- Bill (Hartford, Conn.)
A: Hey, Bill. More help in on the way. I was a little bit surprised, but impressed with the way Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli actually said publicly that he would be busy prior to the Feb. 28 deadline. He usually plays his cards close to his vest in these types of situations, especially around the deadline. Like every other Stanley Cup contender, the Bruins need a puck-moving defenseman and Chiarelli may just be able to pull off a deal to acquire Leafs blueliner Tomas Kaberle. As of late Thursday night, despite multiple reports, there is no deal in place between Chiarelli and Toronto GM, Brian Burke. If, for some reason, the Bruins are unable to acquire Kaberle, Chiarelli said recently he's targeting a total of nine defensemen, and he's positive he'll be able to make a deal.
Now, I agree with you that Chris Kelly will be a solid player for the Bruins and he'll add depth to the center position, while bringing big game and playoff experience. But, Chiarelli's focus is on the backend. It may seem elementary, but when the Bruins are successful, it all begins on the breakout and having another puck-moving defenseman will help the team's transition game, while allowing the goal scorers more time to create quality scoring chances.
Brad Richards' (Dallas Stars) name has come up in rumors, and no doubt the veteran forward would be a major addition to the Bruins' offense, so it'll be interesting to see how that one turns out.
You can bet, Bill, that Chiarelli and Bruins president Cam Neely know this team has a chance to make a serious push in the Stanley Cup playoffs this season, and they will do everything in their power to make the club better.
Q: As good an offensive season as Milan Lucic is having, it seems like he's been a lot less physical this year. Do you think it's an effort to stay healthy, how the B's have asked him to play ... Anyway, I'd obviously rather have him healthy and scoring, but I wouldn't mind him a little nastier either. -- Jacob (Northampton, Mass.)
A: Jacob, I've had this discussion numerous times and it's a great question. Lucic is in the midst of a career year. He currently has 24 goals and 16 assists for 40 points in 55 games. He has a plus-15 rating and 83 minutes in penalties. More importantly, he is healthy. At the start of training camp he spoke at length about his disappointing season a year ago, mostly due to a high-ankle sprain. I don't think the Bruins have asked him to play less physical this season because he's at his best when he's playing that way. It's also clear that he's playing with confidence and that's why his numbers are where they are. Believe me, I would love to see him put a player through the glass every night, but he's one of the main reasons the Bruins are atop the Northeast Division and they need him to stay on the ice.
Q: I get the fact that the Bs need a puck-moving defenseman, but to me, I'd rather have more help up front. Which do you think is a bigger need? -- Jerry (Amherst, NH)
A: Jerry, as much as the Bruins do need a puck-moving defenseman, more offensive spark would be nice, too. As I mentioned on an earlier question, if Chiarelli was able to acquire a top-notch blueliner, that addition would greatly enhance what the Bruins already have up front. Guys like Nathan Horton and David Krejci desperately need to start giving opposing goaltenders whiplash, and if they have another guy on the backend to help create those quality scoring chances, I think that's a bigger need at this point.
Q: Would you consider David Krejci's season a disappointment? He's been very inconsistent to me. -- Connor (Lexington, Mass.)
A: At this point, Connor, yes I would. I've been fortunate to cover Krejci since his first pro season with the Providence Bruins and I've since seen him do some amazing things on the ice. Without a doubt, the Bruins need him to pick up his game. Sure, he has 32 assists, but he only has nine goals this season. With the absence of Marc Savard for the remainder of the season due to a concussion, Krejci needs to be that top-line center the Bruins can depend on. He scored a goal and added an assist against the Islanders on Thursday, but he needs to be a driving force offensively for the remainder of the season. It was no coincidence the Bruins lost in the Eastern Conference semifinal series to the Philadelphia Flyers after he suffered a broken wrist in Game 3 last spring. When Krejci decides to play with the confidence and swagger he possesses, he's always a dangerous player. Hopefully for the Bruins' sake, they get that player down the stretch.
Q: Do you think the Bruins are showcasing Stuart for a possible trade? He's been solid the last couple games I think, but right now he's nothing more than a 5-6 D for them and he'd clear some cap space. -- Matty (Belmot, Mass.)
A: Matty, there are a lot of teams that would be foaming at the mouth to have Mark Stuart on the roster. He's a solid player. He's physical and he's a leader on and off the ice. Unfortunately, when he went down with a broken finger and missed 18 games, guys like Adam McQuaid and Steven Kampfer stepped up and took advantage of their opportunities. He's been a healthy scratch nine of the last 11 games. In the five games he's played since returning to the lineup after the injury, Stuart has three points, but his ice time has dwindled in each of those five games. Every time he's asked about not playing, he's says all the right things because he does not want to be a distraction in the room, but there's no way he can be happy about his current role with the team. If the Bruins don't want him and decide to move him, I believe that would be a major mistake.
Q: So with the addition of Kelly the B's would have to clear cap space to add another significant player. That being the case, which current roster players would be the most likely to get traded? -- Nate (California)
A: Gotta love it when there are Bruins fans in the Golden State, Nate. You must be a transplant from New England, or an old-time Seals fan. Peter Chiarelli has a few options if needed to pull off a major deal. With 10 days before the deadline, we've already heard the names of Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart mentioned in the rumor mill. The Bruins also have a few prospects in Providence that could be dangled for possible trade bait, too. Center Zach Hamill was recently called up and played well enough to draw some interest. Another prospect that could get moved is Joe Colborne. As far as the parent club, it wouldn't surprise me if teams have inquired about Johnny Boychuk.
Q: Who sits with the acquisition of Chris Kelly? Who changes sweaters? Paille? Has the Bruins' patience with Wheeler run out? -- Steve (Gardner, Mass.)
A: Hey, Steve. It was quite obvious rookie Tyler Seguin noticed that his spot in the lineup was in jeopardy. Due to visa issues, Kelly was unable to join his new team in New York, so it gave Seguin a stay of possible execution. He played better against the Islanders, posting a goal and adding an assist, but his puck pursuit was much better. He used his speed to his advantage, but he still needs to be better defensively. Julien has made it no secret that he'll go with experience down the stretch. If Wheeler remains in a Bruins sweater following the deadline, his spot won't change.
Q: I think Claude has significantly set back Tuukka Rask's development. He has significantly overplayed a 35 year old/post surgery Tim Thomas and his timing on when he plays Rask is awful. The kid looks like a shell of his former self and the fault lies with Julien. -- John F (Walpole, Mass.)
A: Hey, John. I wouldn't put any of the blame on Julien for Rask's struggles this season. I disagree that he has overplayed Thomas, too. Despite offseason hip surgery, he's been healthy and obviously quite productive this season. Currently, he leads the league in goals-against average (2.02), save percentage (.938) and shutouts (7). Along with his record of 26-8-6, he's the top candidate for the Vezina Trophy as the league's top goaltender. Without the play of Thomas this season, there's no way the Bruins are atop the Northeast Division. I'll also admit that Rask's record (6-11-1) doesn't completely reflect his play this season. He's been on the receiving end of some poorly played games by his teammates, but he also hasn't played well enough when needed. His confidence is down, and even though he played OK in a 34-save performance against the Islanders on Thursday, Thomas will play the majority of the games down the stretch.
Q: Next six games on the road -- if you're the Bruins, how many points are you happy with out of those six games? -- Larry (New Bedford, Mass.)
A: Hey, Larry. With Thursday's 6-3 victory over the New York Islanders, the Bruins have five games remaining on this road trip. Of course Boston would love to earn all 12 points, especially with the race atop the Northeast Division remaining close with the Montreal Canadiens. Boston will be challenged when it faces the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames, but the Bruins should be able to handle the Edmonton Oilers and a pair of games against the Senators. There's no reason why the Bruins shouldn't earn at least eight points on this trip.
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. Ask a question for our next Bruins mailbag here.
Questions continue to come about possible additions for the Bruins.