This post will profile the Bruins defenseman at the NHL level and also my overall thoughts on the group as a whole.
Zdeno Chara: The 6’9 defenseman has definitely seen better days and it was clear at points last season that he was flat out unreliable. His skating ability has declined over the past two years and is no longer a stable presence in his own zone. He commits too many turnovers and can no longer play effectively for 25 minutes a night. He still is a great leader and he is definitely respected on the team but if you read my last post, he needs to be replaced as captain. If the Bruins can try to limit his ice time he will be a much more effective player but they no longer can rely on him to be their anchor on defense. If the Bruins don’t have a good season, expect Chara to be dealt at the trade deadline.
Torey Krug: Recently signed to a four year $21 million contract, the former Michigan State Spartan didn’t produce as well offensively as the Bruins would’ve liked but he still is a very solid player. In my opinion he plays decently well in his own zone as he doesn’t turn the puck over too much. His size, especially defensively is a bit of a concern but he has great determination and imagination that make him an exciting player to watch. If he can find the fire he had when he first burst onto the scene in Boston, that new contract will be a bargain.
John-Michael Liles: Acquired at the trade deadline, Liles was a consistent player that Claude Julien could rely on to make smart plays and a player that could help stabilize the defense. At this point Liles is only a stop-gap solution as he was signed to only a one-year deal. At 35, he still is in great condition and he can play 20 minutes a night allowing the B’s to give Chara much needed rest. If Liles can just be a little bit of a stabilizing force for the defense, that will benefit the Bruins perfectly.
Kevan Miller: Signed to a four year $10 million contract, Miller has had more than a fair share of rough stretches including bad play and nagging injuries. It pains me to say but this is another classic example of the Bruins overpaying and falling in love with their own players. Miller was one of the worst Bruins players on the ice last season and it boggles my mind that he was re-signed. He has really never shown any kind of improvement and seemed to even regress last season. To give him a new contract is one thing but to say there’s room for improvement is crazy which is exactly the words Don Sweeney used. At 29, Miller has maxed out his potential and is still a huge injury risk. These are the kinds of moves that could get you fired and it surprises me, given them almost certainly Sweeney and Claude Julien are getting fired if the B’s miss the playoffs again, that they would put their faith in a player that really doesn’t belong in Boston.
Colin Miller: We really didn’t get to see Miller enough last season to get a read on his ability. Acquired in the Milan Lucic trade, Miller scored 3 goals and had 13 assists in 42 games with the B’s last season. He has great offensive skills including a bomb of a slap shot. Like many of the Bruins young defensemen, he needs to improve his decision-making and play in his own zone. At 23, the potential certainly is there it’s just a question of whether Miller get reach that next level and if he can it can only mean good things for this Bruins team.
Adam McQuaid: One of the longest-tenured Bruins, McQuaid has had trouble staying healthy in recent seasons. When he is healthy, he’s a tough guy who plays hard and doesn’t take crap from anyone. Can be a liability at times in his own zone but for the most part he is a solid defender that can be relied upon to play 15-18 minutes a night. He is a very good bottom pairing defenseman but at this point he probably won’t improve too much.
Joe Morrow: Another player with good offensive skills and has the potential to be a top 4 defenseman. With more playing time, his play should improve defensively but he is very skilled offensively and could be used on the powerplay if someone gets hurt. With the departure of Dennis Seidenberg, expect Morrow to be a regular in the Boston lineup this season.
Overall, this defensive group is not nearly as stable as it could be and unfortunately could be the downfall of this club yet again. It would be very smart for the Bruins to pursue a decent defenseman still available on the free agent market such as Kyle Quincey who isn’t anything special but could help give the Bruins insurance in case one of the younger players doesn’t live up to expectations. It will be important for the B’s to limit Chara’s minutes as much as possible to keep him fresh. With more playing time, I would expect Colin Miller and Joe Morrow to improve a lot especially defensively and hopefully one or both of them have breakout seasons. If these important issues get resolved, expect the Bruins to be a playoff team and a team that surprises many people.