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Breaking Down The Boston Bruins Offseason: Defensemen

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This is Part 2 of a five-part “Breaking Down the Boston Bruins” series that will run this week at Boston Hockey Now. Today we’ll look at the current and future picture for the B’s defensemen as we head into an important offseason.

On Monday, my BHN partner-in-scribe, Joe Haggerty, looked at what the Boston Bruins may do with their forward group? If Patrice Bergeron retires, that will be the second top 6 center the Bruins have lost in one calendar year after David Krejci departed for his native Czechia last July. As Haggs pointed out, the Bruins, unless Jack Studnicka seizes the opportunity, will need to explore the NHL trade and free agent market regardless of Bergeron’s decision. So, you can officially consider the Boston Bruins in the market for a proven top 6 center or two.

Will Bruins general manager Don Sweeney also be in the market for a defenseman or two as well, just as he was at the NHL Trade Deadline when he acquired Hampus Lindholm? The top pairing of Lindholm and Charlie McAvoy could wind being one of the best top pairings in the NHL next season but there are some big question marks in the bottom six for the Boston Bruins.

Is the top 4 pairings group good and tough enough for the elevated and more physical play of the Stanley Cup Playoffs?

Do the Boston Bruins still need a Kevan Miller-type defenseman on the third pairing?

These questions are just as important as who will succeed Bergeron and Krejci if the Boston Bruins aren’t headed for a rebuild or retool, and don’t want to be one and out again in the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Time To Move On From Carlo Or Grzelcyk?

Let me preface what about to say by stating that I think Boston Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo is easily one of the nicest players I’ve covered in my 20 years a puck scribe in the NHL. He also seems like a great teammate, and does have exceptional skills and mobility for a 6-foot-6, 220-pound defenseman. Now that being said, while Carlo is nice off the ice, he’s absolutely too nice on it!

Carlo has become this Bruins generation’s version of former Boston Bruins defenseman Hal Gill. Like Carlo, Gill and his 6-foot-7, 230-pound frame was expected to be that physical net-front clearing presence. He wasn’t and unfortunately it took the Bruins eight seasons to figure that out. Either the Bruins acquire that big man in front type of player they’ve wanted Carlo to be and accept Carlo for what he is, or they do what they did after eight seasons of miscasting Gill and move on. If the latter, they could try and do a straight up hockey trade and acquire a defenseman that can play that role, or they could use Carlo as trade bait in a deal for a top 6 center.

There’s currently plenty of clamoring from Boston Bruins fans on social media to trade the oft-injured Matt Grzelcyk. Grzelcyk, another classy lad off the ice and by all accounts solid teammate on and off the ice, has sadly proven that he cannot physically stand the elevated forecheck in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Losing Grzelcyk in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final was a factor in the Boston Bruins falling in seven games to the St. Louis Blues and Grzelcyk missing Games 6 and 7 played a role in the Bruins’ recent seven-game series loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The read here is that Grzelcyk has been grossly misused and was wrongly type-casted as Torey Krug’s replacement. Grzelcyk can still provide that powerplay punch and great breakout pass, but he can’t handle Top 4 minutes at this point, unless the Bruins were to pair him with aforementioned defenseman Carlo isn’t.

Just a thought but unrestricted free agent-to-be and Dallas Stars defenseman John Klingberg could be worth looking into on the UFA market. The 29-year-old, 6-foot-3, 190-pound rearguard will be highly coveted and is due for a nice pay raise but if the Bruins aren’t going to go all in building up the middle, then why not solidify what could be a formidable and productive top 4 pairing group?

Will Clifton Be Traded?

While Connor Clifton was one of the Bruins’ better defenseman in the seven-game loss to the Hurricanes, his inconsistency and reckless play could have him being dealt away this offseason. As the season wound down, Clifton and Derek Forbort did finally find chemistry. Forbort became a shot-blocking machine and key cog in the penalty kill. Still, do the Boston Bruins need a more calculated and physical presence like Kevan Miller was, rather than the Tasmanian Devil type like Clifton?

An NHL source confirmed to Boston Hockey Now Monday that Clifton was out there on the NHL trade market at various points this past season so it will be no surprise if he is again now. The question is, who could come in and fill that Miller role?

What about 31-year-old, 6-foot-2, 204-pound and potentially three-peat Stanley Cup champion Jan Rutta who is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 13?

If the Boston Bruins don’t improve their blue line and find the right mix of physicality and skill, not even the best NHL betting odds will have them as playoff contenders.

With 20 years of experience (SiriusXM NHL Network Radio, ESPNBoston, NESN, NHL.com, etc.) covering the Bruins, the NHL, NCAA and junior hockey and more, Jimmy Murphy’s hockey black book is full of Hall of Famers, current players, coaches, management, scouts and a wide array of hockey media personalities that have lived in and around this great game. For 17 of his 20 years as a hockey and sports reporter, Murph covered the Bruins on essentially a daily basis covering their victorious 2011 Stanley Cup run and their 2013 run to the Final as well. Murphy has hosted national and local radio shows and podcasts and also has experience in TV as well.

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YogiB

If I remember correctly Gryz absolutely played in Game 7 of the final, and scored the lone goal.

Last edited 1 month ago by yogain11
JustJim

You’re article didn’t mention Brown. He is just what the Bruins need, so they will probably not re-sign him for next year.

PMarco

How is Clifton a tasmanian devil type? I’m glad you recognized he was one of the better defensemen in the Carolina series. He was also solid towards the end of the regular season. His inconsistency and recklessness is gone and he is the only D man out there landing crushing checks aside from MacAvoy. They need to hang on to him and his toughness.

Rick W Murray

Fire Sweeney

mike

Carlo and Gryzlck and Clifton can go and be replaced by better d-men i think Zboril can be very good with a full season

Alex

What’s going to happen in Boston, Cam and Don will stay and Bruce will get fired, 🤔

William Dalessandro

I believe the root of the problem we Bruins fans have is the Jacobs family’s conflict of interests. So long as the Garden fills, the Jacobs prosper mightily with ticket revenues and, most decidedly, on grotesquely profitable concessions. A re-build of the team (a.k.a. the New York Rangers) is never and has almost never been on the table. So long as we are at least good enough to put butts in seats, that’s A-OK with the Jacobs.

William Mahoney

Bruins need scoring Centers like Jack Eichel! They have great defensemen and Goalies!

[…] Jimmy Murphy of Boston Hockey NOW: Don Sweeney faces a multitude of decisions to be made. Besides Patrice Bergeron, Boston knows that they will not have Brad Marchand for almost two months of the 2022-23 season. Then, there is the defense. That’s a sore spot. […]

[…] Jimmy Murphy of Boston Hockey NOW: Don Sweeney faces a large number of selections to be made. In addition to Patrice Bergeron, Boston is aware of that they won’t have Brad Marchand for nearly two months of the 2022-23 season. Then, there may be the protection. That’s a sore spot. […]

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