- Joe McDonald, ESPN Staff Writer
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BOSTON -- With only 12 games remaining in the regular season, the Boston Bruins are attempting to get on a successful roll prior to the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Among the hot topics in this week's mailbag include: The continued development of rookie Tyler Seguin and what his role will be for the remainder of the season and into the playoffs, Boston's offense, Tim Thomas' chances at the MVP and, of course, more Zdeno Chara chatter.
Thanks for participating and we'll do it again next week.
Q: Seguin is great in open space so why not try to boost the awful power play with him? The B's are desperate for a power-play player with Savard-like vision and with his offensive skill set why haven't the Bruins tried him on the PP? His main weakness is being overpowered but being up a man will open up space and won't that make him more of a threat and an asset on the PP? -- Eric (Weymouth, Mass.)
A: Eric, you make a valid point about Seguin's abilities and the power play. Coach Claude Julien has tried almost everything this season to get the power play going. As far as Seguin is concerned, while he is good in open space, I think his decisions with the puck are still a work in progress. Plus, he's had his share of growing pains this season and the Bruins want to keep his transition to the NHL as simple as possible without throwing too much at him. Sure, his rookie status is almost a thing of the past, but he's still learning the pro game. It's also safe to say that once he's completely comfortable, you will see him on the power play.
Q: With the Bruins having Bergeron, Krejci, Peverley, Kelly and Campbell for centers, do you think it would be wise for the Bruins to have Seguin play the whole year in the AHL, next year? I think it would be wonderful for his development to let him score 80 to 100 points as a 19 year old against men that are big and strong but not quite NHL-level. There's no reason to rush him. Also, what do you think of a rule that allows clubs to send 1st round picks, or maybe just Top 10 picks, to the AHL, instead of the NHL or junior being their only options? Tyler Seguin is the perfect example for this, as he was too good for junior but not quite good enough for a contending NHL team. -- Luke (Ottawa)
A: Luke, I agree that Seguin would benefit by playing in the AHL for the Providence Bruins. However, because he spent his entire rookie season in the NHL and was not sent back to juniors, it was a critical year for his development. He definitely learned more in the NHL than he would have in the American League. But if he had played for the P-Bruins, I believe the coaching staff of Rob Murray and Bruce Cassidy would have done a great job helping Seguin transition to the pro game in that environment. I'm also a big believer in allowing top picks to play in the AHL and I'm sure that rule will be tweaked sooner rather than later. I'm interested to see the type of offseason Seguin has and how prepared he is for training camp next September. I think that will be the determining factor of what he learned this season and if he's matured as a person and player.
Q: Why is Tyler Seguin a healthy scratch the norm now? He was on a good offensive pace before the trades were made. Seems odd to have a player earning a little over $3 million being a healthy scratch almost every night. -- Al
A: This is great Seguin talk this week. Al, Bruins management has made it no secret that it will go with experience down the stretch and into the playoffs and I think that's why Seguin's been a healthy scratch for three games this month. The club is also sending him a message that if he can't compete and help the club on a consistent basis, he'll be watching from press level. But, he's proven when he does watch from a bird's eye view this season his game is better when he returns to the lineup. I do think No. 19 will be in the lineup for the remainder of the season and will be given an opportunity in the playoffs.
Q: Do you think Claude Julien's job could be in danger if the B's have an early playoff exit? I personally like him, but hockey teams seem to change coaches fairly frequently. -- Jerry (Florida)
A: Jerry, this subject has been a topic of conversation the entire season around these parts. I do think it's possible that Julien, along with GM Peter Chiarelli, will be in jeopardy if the Bruins are out early. Anything less than a conference finals would have to be considered a disappointment.
Q: Are you guys concerned at all about the offense on this team? I'm worried that if the top line gets shutdown, they don't have any other consistent scoring (i love Bergeron, but on offense he is very streaky) -- Jimmy (Vermont)
A: Jimmy, as well as the top line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton have been playing, I'm not worried about the other lines at this point. Bergeron is having a great season, probably his most consistent since he's returned from the concussion he suffered in 2007. I believe Bergy is going to be tremendous in the playoffs. Also, veteran Mark Recchi is built for the postseason and no doubt you'll see his play improve. Julien tweaked his lines a bit on Thursday in Nashville, putting Michael Ryder on the off-wing with Bergeron in the middle and Recchi on the right. I like that line and also liked the way Ryder played against the Predators.
Q: Chara should have gotten a couple of games to send the message that if you intentionaly commit a penalty you may have to suffer consequences. If I run a red light and get caught, I pay a fine. If I run the red light and crash into somebody, I'm in much more trouble. I don't think Chara meant to hurt him nor do I believe that their past encounters played into this but his illegal actions caused a serious injury. Chara got "star" treatment while Gillies got 10 games for hitting a "pesky" player who had just boarded his teammate. The NHL still doesn't get these things right. Hi Joe! -- Mike Monast (Tiverton, R.I.)
A: Hey, Mike! I hope you're feeling better and I'm sure you'll be back on the ice soon. If my memory serves me right, didn't MCast put a similar hit on you at Driscoll Arena one night? Anyway, when I first saw the Chara hit on Max Pacioretty, I thought there was intent. After watching the replay over and over, I do believe it was an unfortunate accident caused by the placement of the glass between the benches that caused the injuries. With that said, I agree the league acted the way it did on Trevor Gillies because of the type of player he is. Speaking of Gillies, when he first arrived on the scene with the P-Bruins in 2002, I never thought he would ever play in the NHL for an extended period of time.
Q: We are hearing a lot of talk about the turn buckle between benches after the Chara hit on Pacioretty and the possible problems it would cause between teams if removed.. Should the NHL not take it out and impliment a ruling that if you as a Coach or Player get in an altercation or cross that threshold an extreme action by the ruling committee will take place ... 30 game ... 50 game ... season suspension? -- James Davie (Calgary, Alberta)
A: James, As much as I'm all for removing the glass between the benches, and agree with implementing some type of said rule, the game will be best served with a barrier in place. I recently spoke with a member of the bull gang at TD Garden in Boston and he admitted there's already been internal discussions about how the league and the NHLPA should reconfigure that area of the ice. His suggestion (and I agree) is to have one piece of glass between the benches that sits 8 to 10 inches off the dasher. That would allow a similar play as the Chara hit on Pacioretty without the same result.
Q: Should Bruins fans be worried about their struggles against the Canadiens? Just seems like a bad matchup. -- Jerry
A: Jerry, A first-round series with the Habs would be extremely intense. If anything, it would prepare either team for a long run in the playoffs. Given the recent incident involving Zdeno Chara and Max Pacioretty, Canadiens fans will make it hard for the Bruins to play in that atmosphere at Bell Centre. I know the Bruins have struggled against Montreal this season, but once the puck drops in the postseason, it's entirely different. That would be an awesome series, regardless of the outcome. -- Jerry (Portland, ME)
Q: Joe and James: really enjoy reading your stories and the blog each morning. I'm a native of the Berkshires but have been following the B's out of state for about 10 years now. Appreciate you guys keeping me connected! While the Black & Gold fandom sceams for a Cup this year, we all know the playoffs are a completely different beast than the regular season. That being said, I thought coach Claude Julien did not manage the team and players with enough grit and guile last year, especially when Krecji went down and Rask tired. Has he learned his lesson and will he adapt his plans if he runs into a team/system that may knock the Bruins out? Hate to say it ... but anything less than the Cup (or at least a chance at it) will truly put fans like me over the edge. Thanks fellas! -- Evan Pinsonnault (East Lansing, MI)
A: Evan, thanks for reading. Murph and I really appreciate it. As a professional, I'm looking forward to a long playoff run and I'm sure Julien has learned from what works and doesn't work in the playoffs. You're right about last season. The injuries to Krejci and Marco Sturm certainly hurt the Bruins' chances against the Flyers, but what Philadelphia was able to accomplish was quite amazing, too. Now, as a life-long Bruins fan growing up in the area, it would be great for the Bruins organization and the New England hockey community if the Stanley's Cup returned to Boston for the first time since 1972. Prior to the season I picked the Bruins to win it.
Thanks to everyone who sent in questions this week. If we weren't able to get to yours, please continue to participate, especially with the Stanley Cup playoffs on the horizon.
Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox and Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.