2012 Bruins Report Cards: Joe Corvo

That face is about right.

Of all the riddances Bruins fans were prepared to hand out, it's pretty likely that Joe Corvo got the best of them.

And I could spill hundreds, if not thousands of words on why Corvo didn't work out, except for that one shift in that one game that one time. But that's not what I want to do.

Rather, a casual observation: When Tomas Kaberle arrived in Boston by way of Ottawa, New York, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver some 17 months ago, it was supposed to be the dawning of a new era - after four-plus seasons, the Bruins (and Peter Chiarelli) finally had their puck-moving defenseman.

We all know what Kaberle did. In spite of the Stanley Cup, he was pretty much a non-entity, getting fewer and fewer shifts as the Bruins got deeper and deeper into the 2011 playoffs.

Exit Kaberle, enter Corvo, a puck-moving defenseman who actually plays the body sometimes.

Well, I'm still waiting for Corvo to play the body, much less to do it in an intelligent manner. Doubtless he'll be successful at that when he returns to Carolina, where they're overpaying absolutely everyone this offseason. I'm sure that Cam Ward is ecstatic to see the back of Corvo's jersey in front of him for the next 12 months.

It's not just that the Bruins's system isn't a git place for a puck-moving defenseman to prosper (it isn't), it's that the type of player just isn't as valuable as he once was.

I'm as ready as the next guy to watch Dougie Hamilton prove us all wrong there, and if he makes the team and pairs with Zdeno Chara as many think he might, he'll have a lot of opportunity to attack the net and play his game, but here's the thing: that's nothing that Johnny Boychuk, Andrew Ference or Chara himself aren't capable of doing on a day when everything's clicking (or when they're playing the Maple Leafs).

I just don't think that it's going to happen.


The Bruins' breakout is structured thusly: two defensemen play the puck close to the goal line, using the behind-the-net D-to-D pass as their way of getting things started. From there, the defenseman with the puck away from a forechecker has two options: a) take the puck out of the zone himself or, more likely, b) find a winger at the blue line and get him the puck, hoping he can find a way into the attacking zone.

That's rarely how it works. That philosophy leads to dumping and chasing more often than not, a phenomenon that (particularly on power plays) seems to be among the most frustrating to Bruins fans.

When the D (or a forward playing low) take the puck across the blue and red line, the rest of the team seems to inherit an urgency to get to the attacking blue line, usually resulting in a clean entrance and much better offensive chances that are at once more fun to watch and less taxing on any pinching defensemen - a place that Corvo too often found himself in 2011-12.

Some teams are gifted enough offensively that they can attack, bring in a defenseman as a fourth forward and just hope that they don't leave too big a hole in the back end. That's how Vancouver plays, that's how Ottawa plays and it'd be how Tampa Bay played, if it weren't for that idiotic thing that they do. This works to a certain point, but eventually those teams come up against more physical teams that can exploit their aggressiveness, use their physical approach to isolate a defenseman or forward down low and earn a multitude of odd-man rushes.

But the Bruins earn their odd-man rushes just as often from skilled passing and speed (mostly that belonging to the two guys' whose jerseys end in 9) than they do from capitalizing on an opponent's mistakes (again, Toronto doesn't count), which is why the puck-moving defenseman becomes less and less useful as the team settles into their system each season.

Five years ago, a puck-moving defenseman was a big deal. The urgency was heightened in 2011 after Marc Savard went down, and from there it snowballed until Kaberle and Corvo showed up and we all realized that maybe it wasn't so important, after all.

Joe Corvo Dougie Hamilton is not, and if the kid makes it, he'll be making it because of his commitment to playing the system, playing defense first and attacking second. Still, it's my opinion that we're already setting the expectations way too high for a kid who hasn't played a single shift against NHLers, and we all know what too-high expectations can do to a kid in this city.

Oh, and by the way, Corvo gets an F.

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