WEDNESDAY’S MAILBAG: DECEMBER 15 2021

So, this weekly mailbag is gaining in popularity. IF you ever want to send in a question, feel free to do so at any time. You can do so by emailing me at ohlwriters@gmail.com and I will answer your questions every Wednesday.

Mike via email asks

*Mike had a beautifully written, well thought letter with his question. Unfortunately, it was just too long to post the entire letter. The idea behind it was to sign Tuukka Rask and trade him in a package with Jake DeBrusk. The following is an excerpt:

Question – Just imagine the return for Jake DeBrusk AND Tuukka Rask. That is a true game changer. Sure, we can sprinkle some draft picks and depth players in there if we want to get really crazy. Assuming Rask is signed for a 1 year-, low salary UFA deal, he would be an absolute darling to a number of teams looking up to Lord Stanley.

 It’s a move that would give the Bruins a serious return, allowing them to compete this year and in the years to come as they hopefully land a long-term top-2 center solution and picks. It gives Jake some new scenery, and gives Rask the ability to go after a cup this year that just won’t happen with this team. The move also allows Rask to come back to us next year if he’s interested under a 1-year UFA contact. If I’m Rask and I want to win a cup in Boston and retire, that’s how I would do it.

Answer – Mike, I appreciate the well thought out letter and you really put a lot of thought into it. First off, I believe Tuukka Rask when he says the only team, he will play for is the Bruins. And I believe his contract will come with a full NMC.  I also believe every NHL GM believes Rask when he says he will only play for the Bruins. So, they are going to have to do some convincing to get him to join whichever team. Which leads me to the second issue: Every GM can talk to Rask and his agent right now. And one has to believe calls have been made. I ask, if you can’t convince Rask to sign with you now without having to give up assets, what makes you think they could convince him to go via trade? And why would a GM risk giving up assets to lure him when they can’t convince him to sign as a UFA?

I think the writing is on the wall when Rask returns: Jeremy Swayman will go to Providence and Linus Ullmark will man the crease with Rask. I agree with you that a Rask plus DeBrusk package would bring you back a lot more in a trade, but I just don’t see it happening.

I have to admit, I like your thinking and never really considered it until now, but I don’t think it’s a possibility.

Eugene via email asks

Question – Dom will Rask be a Bruin after the New Year?

Answer – Yes.

Dave via Twitter asks

Question – Do the bruins block prospect development continually bringing in vets i.e., Foligno, Backes?

Answer – Not an easy question to answer in a paragraph Dave. I guess I would have to ask you how good you think the Bruins prospect pool is. Who is there that could bump one of the vets out of a roster spot right now? Could Jack Studnicka? As much as he put in the necessary work in the offseason, I don’t think so. At best, he could be a fourth liner right now but he doesn’t play a fourth liner game. As much as it pains me to say it because I have been a Jack fan prior to his junior days, he’s not going to do any better than Charlie Coyle on the second line right now.

Oskar Steen is probably more ready for the big show than anyone else in Providence. But it’s not Nick Foligno, that’s blocking him, it’s Karson Kuhlman. I know fans don’t want to hear this, but waivers play a role. What if Craig Smith went down with an injury and you had waived Kuhlman to get Steen on the roster and Kuhlman had been claimed? You’ve now lost the player you have penciled in to fill that position in that such circumstance. Steen would be the first callup for that spot and he would likely get it over Kuhlman. Actually, he would probably get third line and Foligno would get Smith’s spot, but you get the point.

In the end, I don’t think anyone is being intentionally blocked. We aren’t involved in practices, we don’t know what the coaches are telling the players they want them to work on, do differently and so on. It could be that they just aren’t ready.

Opinions are mine via Twitter asks  

Question – I think Kuhlman is pretty much at his ceiling. I know he needs waivers to go down. I am a fan of Steen and I think he has more upside. What do you think are the main differences between the two? Besides 2 inches in height.

Answer – I kind of touched on part of it with the previous question. But to me, Steen is a much better hockey player in every aspect. Kuhlman can bring a lot of energy with his skating and getting in on the forecheck, but reality is that I don’t see him accomplishing much. I know many fans have liked him a lot in the past, but I just never saw what they saw. He’s the perfect 13th forward though. Steen on the other hand, his upside is much higher. I think he can produce at the NHL level and he will. He just needs a little more time – and his time will come. We live in a fast-food world with a fast-food-mentality. I say we slow down just a tad with Steen, bring him up when an injury occurs and let him keep building in Providence.

Ryan Duffy via Twitter asks

Question – Does the Bruins organization have a problem at Center? Is Coyle good enough at 2C and is there anybody in the system being groomed to take over the top line as Bergeron gets older? Could Beecher / Studnicka / Coyle / anybody else be a 1C in a few years?

Answer – Let me start with Coyle as the second line center first. Is he good enough? He can be. The problem with that line is that Coyle is not a driver and it is dependent on Taylor Hall driving the line, which he is capable of doing. Unfortunately, we have yet to see it. Whether it’s Smith or Foligno on the right side, they aren’t drivers either. The reason why the second line did well last season was because David Krejci was a driver. I don’t think it was unfair of the Bruins to ask Hall to be that guy because as I said, he’s been that guy before.

As for who the organization is grooming someone to take over for Patrice Bergeron: No one. Coyle is not that guy. At his age, he is what he is and to expect anything more is closing your eyes and praying for a miracle. Studnicka isn’t that guy either. I still believe he tops out as a second line center. John Beecher is also not that guy. I believe he tops out as a third line center.

How do they fill that role? Well, the 2022 Entry Draft is a good draft and one could hope someone falls to them like David Pastrnak or Charlie McAvoy or Fabian Lysell falls to them. The 2023 Entry Draft is even better. But those players will take a couple of years to develop. Management has to keep their ears open and the pocket book open in the event one comes up in a trade or free agency, because the answer is not in house.

Corey Micheal via Twitter asks

Question – Do you think there is a chance Pasta will be moved to RW2 with Hall and Coyle to try and jump start that line? Or do you have a different shuffle in mind to help get more offense?

Answer – Well, at this point I guess you have to try something right? Hall and Pastrnak showed some chemistry when Brad Marchand was serving his suspension so we have an idea how that will look. But then Bergeron was in the middle not Coyle. It wouldn’t hurt to try and by try, I mean a couple of games not a couple of shifts.

As for me? I might be more inclined to swap Hall and Marchand. We all know Marchand can carry a line and I would expect nothing less with a Marchand-Coyle-Smith combination. I see Smith having Marchand setting him up for his shot as a better option than Hall. And we already know what Hall-Bergeron-Pastrnak are capable of.

Do I see the Bruins trying that? No. I think I have a better chance of seeing Santa come down my chimney in 10 days.

Travis via email asks

Question – Do you think Cehlarik could come back to Boston and could he help the team? Seems to be having a good season in Europe.

Answer – Actually, I am in the middle of writing a “Whatever Happened to Peter Cehlarik” piece for Dom-Hockey. If you can wait a day or two, your question will be answered in great detail there.

Karl via email asks

Question – Hi Dom, thanks for doing this. In your Monday prospects column, you appear to be disappointed in John Beecher. What do you see as the issue currently and what do you project him as in the NHL?

Answer – Thanks Karl. I don’t know that I would use the word disappointed, but rather giving an honest and fair assessment of what I see and what I think. My exact words were:

“Yes, other parts of his game are developing but John Beecher is now pointless in 9 consecutive games after recording 4 points in 4 games after returning from injury. It doesn’t matter how deep the University of Michigan squad is, it just doesn’t bode well. His first two NCAA seasons saw him be a .5 point-per-game player and right now, it’s a battle to get to that level for him.”

Saying “it doesn’t bode well” was a bad choice of words on my part, but the rest still stands. While I get that his all-around game is developing, and the depth on that Michigan roster means that he isn’t getting top line minutes, or even top six, to me, being pointless in 9 games is a concern.

Let me ask you a question: If he’s not getting top six minutes, is he not going up against weaker opponents? And if he is and he has the talent we Bruins’ fans rave about, why isn’t he producing? I want you and everyone else to think about that and if you still have no concerns, then that’s fine as well.

Jimmy via email asks

Question – Who is to blame for the terrible 2015 Draft?

Answer – Thanks Jimmy. I dread questions about the 2015 Draft, but I’ll give you my honest opinion. But first a little history lesson (or reminder).

On April 15, 2015, the Boston Bruins announced they had relieved then GM Peter Chiarelli of his duties. At the same time, the Bruins also dismissed Ontario Hockey League Scout Mike Chiarelli (yes, his brother) and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Scout Denis Leblanc as well as European Scout Jukka Holtari. That left one scout in Canadian Major Junior, Dean Malkoc. (I assume by 2015 draft you meant the 3 CHL players taken in round 1)

At the end of the day, the GM, Don Sweeney drafts based on input he gets solely from scouts, with the exception of a couple of road trips he makes himself. So, ultimately the blame falls on the GM because he’s the one that hires them. But…

Sweeney didn’t replace those scouts until September 2015, long after the draft. I think it was a foregone conclusion that Keith Gretzky, Director of Amateur Scouting, was on his way out. How much of a voice did he have at the draft? Who else had Sweeney’s ear?

It’s been documented that Chiarelli took a trip to Youngstown to see Kyle Connor, one of the players Bruins fans wished the B’s had drafted, while still GM of the Bruins. There is no telling whether the Bruins would have selected Connor had Chiarelli remained GM, but a GM doesn’t usually make those trips unless a scout has nothing but high praise for that player.

Ultimately, as I said earlier, the buck stops at the GM. But Cam Neely has to shoulder some of the responsibility as Sweeney barely had enough time to get his feet wet.

Today, I was going to join a Black N’ Gold round table discussion, but instead Mark Allred had me on last night to ask some questions. You can find it on Spotify . Other options are here.

Follow me on Twitter @dominictiano

Published by Dominic Tiano

Following the Ontario Hockey League players eligible for the NHL Draft. I provide season-long stats, updates and player profiles as well as draft rankings.

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