Another Bruins mailbag at your service. This week, we're taking a look at the recent additions the Bruins made and whether they were enough to make the team a Stanley Cup contender.
Q: Murph ... I used to work with you at the Holyoke Sun many moons ago. Glad to see you doing well. Too many critics are using the word "bust" when associated with Tyler Seguin. I'm not in that camp. I see a consistant 80-point player in the making. Where do you see him 10 years from now? Thanks, JSM -- John (Chicopee, Mass.)
A: Hi, John. Great to hear from you! That was many moons ago, but my time there in "God's Country," as we like to call that part of the fine state of Massachusetts, is remembered fondly. I hope you're well! To your question on Seguin: I am with you and while I do think his first year could've been handled better by the Bruins (possibly returning him to juniors or letting him play at the World Juniors), I see lots of improvement lately in his game, and it all started with those two games he was scratched for earlier this month. In his first game back, Seguin scored, and since then his two-way game has shown a lot more promise. He is back-checking and hustling out there, and unless that stops I see him playing down the stretch here and in the playoffs. I think the future is bright for this youngster and I agree with you that he could be an 80-point player when he finally finds his stride. That could happen within the next two to three years.
Q: I was looking forward to the Bruins rebuilding through the draft. They picked a great player with Seguin and had a number of picks coming up next year. They gave away a first-round pick and a conditional second-round pick for a 32-year old [Tomas Kaberle] who makes them better, but I don't think all that much. I don't think this makes long-term sense and certantly dosen't make us a lock for a Stanley Cup. -- Peter Pantazopoulos (Belmont, Mass.)
A: Peter, I understand where you're coming from, and yes the Bruins have traded away some high picks lately, but don't forget they still have Toronto's first-round pick in 2011 and in my opinion they have already done a great job of building through the draft. Seguin, Milan Lucic, David Krejci, Zach Hamill, Jordan Caron and Brad Marchand are young players that were drafted by the Bruins and have played with the club this season. While Steven Kampfer and Adam McQuaid weren't drafted by Boston, they were developed in the Bruins' system. Add in Patrice Bergeron, who is still only 25 years old, and that is one strong, young core. Factor in whoever they get with that Toronto first-rounder this June, and you really have a bright future. But the Bruins are in the position to build youth and win now and that's what they're trying to do. They haven't won a Stanley Cup in 39 years and they couldn't pass up the chance to make a strong push this season. They still kept their core of young players together and brought in that puck-moving defenseman they needed in Kaberle and veteran experience, skill and grit in Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly. It was the right time for them to go for it and they did that, but at the same time they didn't really sacrifice the future because their future is already in place.
Q: The addition of Kaberle, along with Kelly and Peverley, appears to give the B's the puck-moving defensemen and depth at center that they needed. In your opinion, have they done enough to fortify the team for a deep playoff run? Were there opportunities for the club to use Toronto's first round pick to acquire a bigger name scorer, or do you believe it was best to hold onto this potentially high draft pick? -- Scully (Lexington, Mass.)
A: Scully, I think the Bruins have the pieces in place, and it is great that they were able to keep Toronto's pick. I had been pushing for Kaberle for a while, and that was based on what team management and players told me, which was they truly believed he or a player like him was the missing piece. Sure, they gave up a lot, but at the same time this team is deep in picks and prospects, and you can only build so much until it's time to go for the Cup. The Bruins needed to do that now. The window was open and they needed to burst through it! I commend Peter Chiarelli, Jim Benning, Don Sweeney, Cam Neely and the scouting staff for the way they went out and made those deals. They still could make more before the deadline, but unless a deal too good to pass up comes along I don't see them dealing Toronto's first-rounder. I definitely don't see anyone on the roster, except maybe Michael Ryder, being dealt, either. Shane Hnidy could be it as far as depth moves go, but maybe they make one more by the deadline.
Q: Who Do you think the Bruins need to get during the Trade Deadline? Who are possiblities for free agents to get in off season for Bruins? -- John (Madison, Conn.)
A: John, I think the Bruins are basically done. If anything they might make a move to add some more depth. They have rounded out their roster the way they wanted to, and now it's time to watch them down the stretch run and get ready for the playoffs. As for the free-agent market, that's a very good question. I think re-signing Kaberle, who is an unrestricted free agent, will be their top priority. They paid a good price for him, and I don't think they plan on him being a rental. I'm told by those close to Kaberle that he loves Boston, so while it will cost the Bruins to keep him I see them getting him locked up long term. They also need to lock up Marchand, who is a restricted free agent.
After they take care of their own, they will look to add more depth at the wing through trades or free agency. If they get the sense that Marc Savard isn't coming back or even worse needs to retire because of concussions, they will have more money to spend and might look at a big-ticket free agent such as Brad Richards. It should be interesting.
Q: James, I'm a New England ex-pat and longtime Bruins fan living in Dallas, Texas. My prized posetions are my Ted Williams classic jersey, my Mosi Tatupu jersey (my dad was his accountant, and he was really nice to me as a boy.), my Larry Bird jersey, and my Bobby Orr and Ray Bourque jersies.I've been let down so many times by the Bruins, it's hard to get excited about them. I want to, but I don't know, maybe it's living so far away, but I just can't. For longtime fans who have fallen away, give us five good reasons to be excited about this team heading in to the playoffs. Thanks guys. -- Brendan Smith (Dallas)
A: Brendan, you share the pain of Bruins fans all over. OK. Here's my top 5 reasons:
1. Depth and balance: The Bruins are very deep up front, on the blue line and in net. They are among the league leaders in goals scored per game (4th) and goals allowed per game (2nd), and with the addition of Kaberle their power play should get better.
2. Goaltending: I know it sounds cliché, but they really do have a solid 1-2 punch if they continue to use Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask wisely. Thomas is the man for sure, but giving Rask some starts gives Thomas much-needed rest as the playoffs approach and gives Rask more confidence in case they need him. I think Thomas will continue to play with the chip on his shoulder he had coming into the season. That will be huge in the playoffs!
3. Power play should be improved: The Achilles' heel of this team over the past few years, especially in the playoffs, has been the power play. As I pointed out above, with Kaberle on board now the power play should improve. I've been watching Kaberle closely for a while now, and he moves the puck and anchors the power play like few others in the league. He gives the Bruins that weapon they really haven't had since Bourque (Dennis Wideman was that kind of player, but he was a huge defensive liability). By no means am I saying he is on the level of Bourque, but he plays that style on the power play. This will allow other players to play to their strengths on the power play.
4. Depth up the middle: If you look at the last few Stanley Cup champions, they were all deep up the middle, and the Bruins have made that a focus over the last few years. Chiarelli didn't want to take a chance this year and went out and got two quality centers in Kelly and Peverley. Add those two to what they had already in Krejci, Bergeron, Gregory Campbell and Seguin, and this team has plenty of options at the pivot position. This will help a lot for matchups and possible injuries in the playoffs.
5. The past two seasons: When the Bruins showed up for camp this past September, there was a sense of having unfinished business and looking for redemption. Players that were there for the historic collapse to Philadelphia last season were very open about how they felt they let the fans and themselves down. Veterans such as Bergeron and Mark Recchi took that to heart, and it has spread through the dressing room. This team knows it has the ingredients to be a contender, and the players want to prove to themselves and the hockey world that they can get it done in the playoffs.
A: Hi, Mike, and thanks for listening! Hope the Guinness is good in "Hotlanta." Let's start with Wheeler because, to be honest, I have no answer for you. He has been an enigma to me. He is gifted with size and skill and should be more than he is at this point in his career, but he never seemed to harness all of his skills into a consistent effort. I thought his physical play improved this year in the first half but it tapered off as the season went on. I'd love to see way more emotion in him, as well. The potential is there but I'm not sure it will ever be reached.
As for Stuart, you got a great leader and a very steady and physical defenseman. For whatever reason, Chiarelli never seemed sold on Stuart, always signing him to one-year deals instead of locking up the guy many in the dressing room considered an unofficial captain. I think he will thrive under Craig Ramsay again and be the type of leader that a growing team such as the Thrashers needs.
Q: Are the Bruins looking at Brad Richards? Its a risky move if they are with all the concussion problems... -- Rich (Amherst, Mass.)
A: Rich, I know they've explored trading for Richards, but I think they felt he would be too much for a rental and they already had enough skill at center. If they had not been able to get Kaberle to help the power play, maybe there would've been more of a push to get Richards. I think unless a center gets hurt before Monday's trade deadline, Richards isn't a consideration. You never know, but that is the feeling here now. I agree that the concussion symptoms made it a risky move, considering how familiar the Bruins are with that.
James Murphy covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. Ask a question for his next Bruins mailbag here.