Defensemen are important. Without good defensemen, you can't get the puck out of your own zone. Without getting the puck out of your own zone, it's very difficult for the puck to get into the other team's zone. Without entering the other team's zone, aside from the puck quantum tunneling it's way behind the other team's goaltender, you're not going to score.
And time has shown that good defensemen lead to winning more often than quantum tunneling. It's an science, people.
With that said, it's universally agreed up on that bad teams have bad defensemen and good teams have good ones. It's also universally agreed upon that the two worst teams in the NHL this year were most likely the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs.
So, it'd be really really bad if the Bruins defensemen were worse than the Leafs or Oilers this season, right? Just to make sure that's not true, let's compare Dmen, player for player, ordered by average TOI/gm, on the Bruins, Oilers, and Leafs. I'm just going to be doing a quick overview of the WARRIOR charts of these players, which by no means is a total 100% evaluation of each player, and having a prettier looking chart does not necessarily mean better play. But, for the sake brevity, let's do it.
#1 D: Zdeno Chara vs. Oscar Klefbom vs. Morgan Reilly
Not exactly a good start. Klefbom is solidly a better player than Chara. It's also hard to argue for Chara over Reilly, considering Reilly's increased production and Chara's noticeable decline this season.
Score: 1-0 Leafs, 1-0 Oilers,
#2 D: Torey Krug vs. Andrej Sekera vs. Matt Hunwick
Krug vs. Sekera is close, but I have to give it to Sekera given he plays in tougher minutes. Hunwick is easily worse than Krug, especcially considering that, like Chara, his numbers have been even worse than this year than this chart would indicate.
Score: 1-1 tie, 2-0 Oilers
#3 D: Dennis Seidenberg vs. Darnell Nurse vs. Dion Phaneuf
The only thing worse about Nurse's stats at this point his career is realizing that the Bruins player an even worse player for their 3rd D. Worse than that, again, is realizing that both of those players are somehow worse than Dion Phaneuf.
Score: 2-1 Leafs, 3-0 Oilers
#4 D: Kevan Miller vs. Jake Gardiner vs. Justin Schultz
No other words, really.
Score: 3-1 Leafs, 4-0 Oilers
#5 D: Trotman vs. Davidson vs. Marincin
Davidson seems like an all-around straight upgrade to Trotman, and Marincin is most likely a top 4 quality guy being underused. Bruins take an L on both
Score: (it was) 4-1 Leafs, 5-0 Oilers
#6 D: Adam McQuaid vs. Griffith Reinhart vs. Connor Carrick
Both of these guys beat McQuaid, but just by a hair.
Final Score: 5-1 Leafs, 6-0 Oilers
Well. Okay then. That's a little eye opening.
Yup, the Bruins had a worse defense than both the Leafs and the Oilers coming into this season. They thought this blueline could compete. Hell, they bet on this blueline competing at the trade deadline. And the Leafs, a team that was trying to be bad this year, somehow managed to play a BETTER set of 6 defensemen than the Bruins.
To anyone paying attention this year, the Bruin's blueline was the reason they missed the playoffs. No, it wasn't because Claude put out one player over another in the shootout one time. It wasn't because he played the 23 year old Connolly over the 21 year old Vatrano because he hates kids. It was because Sweeney gave him a sack of shit with the words "NHL defenseman" written on it and a nose clip and hoped Claude could drag them into the playoffs.
And the craziest part? He almost fucking did it. The Bruins defense actually performed better than anyone would have expected this season. In terms of possession, shots against, corgis against, any stat you can think of to measure defense, the Bruins came out about middle of the road. Not good, but also nowhere near as awful as you'd expect looking at their lineup. And getting players to overperform is called good coaching, people.
It came down to the very last game for the Bruins this year. They're ending the season with 93 points. The Leafs and Oilers both have a nice 69 points at the time of this writing. Now, the Leafs ice a horrible set of 12 forwards every night. But the Oilers? They have some very good players up front. Draistl, McDondalds, Hall, and RNH are all really good players. Not as good as the Bruins forwards, but also not 24 points worse, either. Hell, you could argue that overall, when healthy, the Oilers might have had a better all around roster than the Bruins.
Which, begs the question,
Do the Oilers get in with Julien as their coach?