I keep reading here that the dirty little secret with the Bruins is that their defense is not as good as it seems to be. Or more specifically, aside from Chara, the defense lacks true elite players. Well, obviously they won the cup, so it was good enough. Of course defense is more than just who is playing D, but a combination of how the team plays defense and the goalie who is the last line of defense. Obviously, Tim Thomas played great all season long, and out of his mind in the playoffs. So that last line of defense was was as good as it gets. To complement Thomas the the defensive group, you had a core of very good defensive forwards. Bergeron, Marchand, Peverley, Kelly, Campbell, Paile and Seguin all contribute to aiding the back line (what Seguin? of course not, just making sure you are paying attention). Still, if you believe that the depth at on defense is sub-par, then you must agree that the Bruins are able to compensate with better defense from their forwards.
Back to the point about the actual defensemen, is there room for improvement? Absolutely, aside from Chara, no guy is a bona fide all star. However, each of them bring something to the table. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, but lets be honest, with the outcome of the season, it is pretty unlikely that the Bruins are going to move any of these guys before the start of next season. Right now, as the team is composed, there really isn't the cap room (more on this at the end) to add an elite defenseman. So let's tale a look at what we are dealing with.
Zdeno Chara- not much had to be said here. Chara is an elite player in this league. He may be getting up there in age, but the guy seems to keep himself in great condition. Night after night he lines up against everyone's #1 line and does so with consistent excellence. How about this, how many players would you trade Chara for even up? Even up, one guy for one guy, there aren't many guys who can replace what Chara does for his team.
Dennis Seidenberg- called grossly overrated, I think that is wrong. First of all, who rates him that high? Aside from some local media, the guy is not an all star, so he isn't that rated. Did he play his best hockey when paired with Chara, yes. Did Scottie Pippen play his best basketball when playing with Michael Jordan? Yeah, I know, not a fair comparison, but still you can't penalize him for upping his game with Chara. I think it's pretty unlikely that he starts the season along side Chara, but come playoff time, if they need to be reunited, they will be. Seidenberg is great at pinching the puck in the offensive zone. He was very durable this past season, logged a lot of ice time, but still brought it every night. If this guy is your #2, I think you could do a lot worse. He may not excel at anything, but he is certainly solid in everything.
Andrew Ference- the drop off starts here, and after two guys, that's probably not a good thing. He had a pretty weak regular season, but upped his offensive output in the playoffs (15pts in 70 regular season games, 10 points in 25 playoff games and one middle finger to the MTL fans). He is neither a shut down defender nor a real point producer from the blue line. However, it seems as if he brought some serious leadership to this team, and that is something that counts. Of course, none of us know this for sure because we aren't in the locker room with the team, but the media sure made it seem as if Ference is one of the most respected guys on the team. As mentioned in another post, he is probably the leading candidate for the second "A". So let's just say that he is an intangible guy and leave it at that.
Johnny Boychuk- came up with some big goals in the playoffs, but was far to erratic for my taste. He has a booming slapshot, but not much accuracy. He makes big hits and bone headed plays with about the same regularity. At 27 years old, it's not like these are mistakes attributable to youth. The icing on the cake is that he was paired with Ference in the playoffs, so you had two of the most inconsistent guys out there together for about 1/3 of every game. The thing is, (and this goes for both him and Ference), no one is going to give the Bruins anything better for either of them. Now there is a scenario where you could get rid of one of these guys, but that's for later.
Adam McQuaid- I love this guy. Big, strong, and bad, and that's the good bad. McQuaid outplayed his salary this season, and is locked up for next season too. Has no offensive game, but for now, he is the #6 defenseman, and not may teams have 6 guys in back who get it done at both ends. Also, never afraid to drop the gloves to protect his teammates. You need a guy like him on your team.
Now we get into the question's for next season....
Steve Kampfer-we know he is going to be a Bruin next season, what his role is is up in the air. At 22, he is the youngest guy on the blue line, so in theory his game should be improving. Kampfer showed the makings up a crafty, puck moving defenseman. He also showed us that he needs to improve inside his own blue line. I think he is a candidate for the guy who takes the next step, and can become a certifiable NHL defenseman, where his offensive upside makes up for any weaknesses on defense.
Thomas Kaberle- a lot hinges on him. Obviously #1 being, is he going to be a Bruin next year. Before I get to that, let's state the obvious. Kaberle did not live up to expectations. He was downright terrible versus MTL and TB, but to his credit saved his best hockey for the finals. The question is, was that because he was just starting to feel comfortable in the system, or did he realize how much money he was losing with his play, and ramp it up? I don't know. To the point, I think that for the right money, the Bruins would love to bring him back. If they could, then they get to bring Kampfer along slowly, without much pressure. Also, if you do bring him back, then as the season goes by, the Bruins could deal either Ference or more likely Boychuk to a team in dire need of a defenseman. However, with the cap floor at what it is, there are teams that have to spend money. so prices on FA's are going to be higher then normal. Or, with teams like Florida taking on Campbells monster cap hit just so they can get closer to the floor, they are going to free money up for other teams. Bottom line, I think there is little to no chance that Kaberle is wearing the spoked B next year. He won a cup, now he probably wants to cash in as best he can.
So, with all of that said, I want to bring up one last point. In today's NY Post, Larry Brooks had an article saying that the cap is going to be reduced with the next CBA. If that is true, then the Bruins (and every team) is going to have to be wary about handing out any big money contract. Funny, if you read the article he applauds Philly dumping Carter and Richards... but then makes no mention of them signing Bryzgolov for 9 years. Still, if some situation plays out where the Bruins are in a position to get trade for a guy like Yandle, signing him could become crippling to retaining current core guys. It's certainly a situation worth keeping our eyes on.