To go along with our '30 in 30' off-season feature, we'll be asking a blogger from each team some of the burning questions surrounding their club this summer.
RLD: 1. How on earth do the Bruins recover from their round two collapse? Mark Marino: The disappointment is certainly still in the back of the Bruins' minds. But come training camp, that historical collapse must be erased from their minds, somehow, someway. Losing in this manner, however, could be used as motivation as well. The team coming back next season is far too good of a club to really fall out of the playoff picture. Somewhere in between the 116-point season of two years ago, and the 91-point team of this past season, is where the Bruins should be.
It's up to the black-and-gold coaching staff and the leaders on that team to keep the entire team focused on this current season, and not dwell on the one that just passed. Plus, landing Hall or Seguin should help ease the pain.
RLD: 2. What are the chances Peter Chiarelli moves up to #1 to draft Taylor Hall? MM: I think the Bruins have the goods to make that possible: decent AHL players and a whole bunch of draft picks. But I don't think Chiarelli will make a deal to swap picks with Edmonton, just to guarantee Hall. Chiarelli said at the NHL combine, that he's excited to be drafting either player, Hall or Seguin, and "Half the time I've seen Tyler, he's been on the wing. He can play wing and frankly, it might be a way to enter him into the NHL, on the wing." Now trading Boston's own first-round pick (15th overall) plus another asset or two -- like Toronto's pick(s) -- to move into the top-7 is more likely of a scenario. Either way, the Bruins' brass will remain very busy from now 'til June 25.
RLD: 3. What is the future for RFA's Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart in Boston? MM: Well, now that Seidenberg is re-upped for the next four years, we're all just waiting for the next signing(s) to be Stuart and/or Johnny Boychuk. The former first round draft pick, Stuart, should be re-signed to a multi-year deal. He's a physical, stay-at-home defenseman and has slowly emerged as one of Boston's on-ice leaders. Inking Stuart, and Boychuk, to a contract for next season -- as well as seeing Seidenberg and Chara return in 2010-11 -- will really solidify Boston's back-end.
As far as Wheeler goes, he was one of the Bruins' players to really have his ups-and-downs. The 6'5" forward added roughly 15 pounds of muscle during last off-season (up to 205 lbs.), but certainly didn't use the newfound size to his advantage. He played soft, inconsistent, showed inability to finish plays and score goals, and must have had 100 annoying off-sides calls called against him.
He was claimed in 2008 under the Chiarelli regime, so he's got that going for him. But his name has been floated around in trade rumors, and I could very well see him getting shipped out of Boston on Draft day. Even if the B's lose him to free-agency, they'll acquire yet another draft pick(s) because of his RFA status. But if the Bruins do in fact re-sign him (much to the fans' dismay) I wouldn't expect anything in terms of a raise headed his way -- or a contract more than a year or two, as the 23-year-old still has a lot to prove.
RLD: 4. Set the record straight... will Tim Thomas will be a Boston Bruin next season? MM: I would be very surprised if Thomas is dealt before the 2011 calendar year. Not only is his age (36) and cap-hit ($5M) unfriendly, but he went under the knife to repair a torn labrum in his left hip late last month. His expected recovery time is three to four months, so that basically puts his trade value at next-to-nothing. He does provide solid back-up duties to Tuukka Rask and should assume that role in October. So I would expect Chiarelli and the Bruins look at the overpayment of a contract for the one-time Vezina Trophy winner, at least until March 3, 2011.
RLD: 5. Should Claude Julien be on the hot seat heading into next year? MM: I go back-and-forth on this one, but ultimately come down to one conclusion: Yes. After the grotesque demise in Games 4-7 against the Flyers, I was pointing the finger at the man behind the bench for sure. On the other hand, Peter Chiarelli didn't do the greatest of jobs in address the club's concern with offensive assistance. Sure, Chiarelli picked up Miroslav Satan for next to nothing in early January -- and was phenomenal in the postseason -- but was essentially stagnant at the trade deadline. A team riddled with injuries and nonperforming players, Julien did a decent job with what he had to work with. But then again he also dished out the same amount of ice time to those players who were, well, bad. (see: Wideman, Hunwick, Ryder).
In between David Krejci's season-ending injury in Game 3, and the emergence of Flyers' forward Simon Gagne in Game 4, was when Julien started to get out-coached by Peter Laviolette. And even though the Bruins just paid-off Dave Lewis' contract from 2006, and Julien's extension begins this year, the 2009 Jack Adams Award winner could be a guy coaching for his job.
We thank Mark for taking time out to answer these burning questions in Boston! You can catch his work over at The Hub of Hockey, as well as The Examiner. I recommend following him on Twitter also.
Our podcast 'RLD Hockey Talk' is LIVE every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 ET/Noon CT. Some of our notable guests in past episodes have been Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Dave Strader, E.J. Hradek, Elliotte Friedman and Jay Grossman.