For most teams in the NHL, losing a defenseman like Dennis Seidenberg for the season would be a crippling blow. For the first-place Boston Bruins, the injury to one of their top two blue liners is just another hurdle to overcome in a season that has seen the press-box become inordinately full of the walking wounded.
On Friday Dec. 27, Seidenberg got crossed up with Senators forward Coray Conacher behind the Boston net, and immediately came off of the ice. The following day an MRI revealed that the veteran had torn has ACL, and would miss the remainder of the season.
The recovery is expected to take anywhere from six to eight months, and as a result, the Bruins placed Seidenberg on season-ending IR. So, where exactly does that leave the team going forward?
As of today, Boston has Zdeno Chara, Dougie Hamilton, Johnny Boychuck, Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid, and Matt Bartkowski as its top-six with Kevan Miller serving as the emergency seventh man. The fact that the front office made a significant effort to retain so many d-men looks like great work in hindsight.
Dougie Hamilton returned to the lineup just last night, so it is hard to say for sure who will leap into the teams' top pairing for the immediate future. Hamilton's strong sophomore campaign however, makes him the odds-on favorite at this point.
In 29 games this season, the 20 year-old is averaging nearly 20 minutes of ice time to go along with three goals and five assists. More importantly, the former first-round pick has shown to himself to be more confident and reliable in the Bruins defensive zone. In turn, head coach Claude Julien has shown a willingness to put Hamilton on the ice in more critical situations.
The problem for the Bruins is that even if Hamilton's two-way game continues to progress, it will still be very difficult to replicate Seidenberg's value in the playoffs.
Since his arrival from Florida in 2010, the stay-at-home defenseman has raised his level of intensity when the games have mattered most. With the exception of last year's Stanley Cup Finals, there has been no better shutdown pair of defenseman over the last four seasons than Seidenberg and Zdeno Chara.
The only silver lining here is that by placing Seidenberg on season-ending IR, the Bruins can add $ 4 million in cap space (his salary this season). That money should go toward picking up a similar type of conservative defenseman that can, at the very least, contribute in a similar fashion on the back end.
Is the front office going to find the perfect piece to replace Seidenberg's wealth of experience? Probably not.
Can the Bruins find a serviceable rental with the extra money that will allow them to compete for another Stanley Cup? That is a question only the front office can answer, but after a good deal of success, you should expect Chiarelli and company to figure something out.
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