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Monday, February 14, 2011

Waffle Watch: 2011 Boston Bruins draft pick update Valentine's Day edition: 14 Feb.

Not a bad week for the Waffle Watch. Toronto won a few, lost an OT game to the Devils they should have won, and then got shutout in Montreal, but the teams above and behind the Leafs in the standings won (with the exception of the Oilers who seem like a pretty big lost cause at this point). They've lost three in a row and now hold the dubious honor of being in the NHL's basement. Better luck next year, guys, eh? But, if they finish there, they could align themselves for an outstanding defenseman in Adam Larsson, or they might even opt for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who has been tearing it up in the WHL for the nearby Red Deer Rebels. If Steve Tambellini and co. take RNH, you can bet it will be because they saw enough of him to truly feel comfortable with making him their go-to pivot for the future. Players in the backyard tend to benefit from that kind of geography if they have the goods.

Colorado is in free-fall as well, having lost 7 in a row. They are just four points ahead of the Leafs, with the Panthers just one spot below them in the standings and three points ahead of Toronto. The good news is, the Leafs are entering a tough schedule stretch, and it all starts with a big head-to-head with the Bruins in Boston Tuesday night.

Now as for the Toronto pick, we're hearing more and more that the Bruins want to load up and make their push for the Stanley Cup this year. Based on what was seen in two back-to-back losses against the Detroit Red Wings, they don't have the horses and even a trade for that all-important PMD won't solve all of Boston's woes. That said, when your goalie is having the kind of season Tim Thomas has, the GM owes it to the players and the fans to have the guts to try (there is a cool story about that last phrase- "the guts to try" related to the failed Iranian hostage rescue attempt in 1980- Google it).

Chicago GM Stan Bowman has emphatically declared Brent Seabrook off the market, but is that the whole truth and nothing but, or one of those endorsements akin to the kiss of death that we've seen in the past. Time will tell, but I would guess that unless a team massively overpays for Seabrook, he'll still be a Blackhawk when the deadline passes. Another defenseman who has obvious appeal to the Bruins is Atlanta's Zach Bogosian, former third overall selection in 2008 who was rumored to be a player the Bruins made an effort to trade all the way up for until Don Waddell politely rebuffed them and took the OHL stud himself. Bogosian has struggled in his third NHL season, and if ever there was a time to trade for him, it is now. Question is-- will Rick Dudley be interested in sending Bogosian away? He's got to know what kind of potential the Thrashers have in that kid. Like Seabrook, he'd have to be blown away by an offer, but Dudley has never been shy about making trades before, so this is one dog that could hunt come deadline day.

That leads to one final rumor that seems to have some appeal with some in the Boston media: Tomas Kaberle and Kris Versteeg back to the Leafs for that Toronto 1st. To me, that deal on the surface looks like a move, but the reality is- it would look better on paper than in reality. Kaberle is Charmin soft and soon to be an unrestricted free agent. Yes, he's an excellent puck mover and PP point man, but how good a fit would he be in Boston? And, would he be a rental player for the team that actually thought they'd acquired him two years ago? Kaberle's play has gone south in the months since Boston had that aborted deal for him in Montreal and even if you look at his career playoff stats, he's got 6 goals and 28 points in 77 games-- is that really the guy you think is going to be a postseason stud? As for Versteeg, he'd be likely better in Beantown than he's been in Toronto, where the B's improved depth would serve him better than he's had to be as one of the Leafs' go-to guys. He's more of an improvement than Kaberle would be, but as much as Versteeg's game is what Boston needs, I don't know that he's worth giving up that top-five pick for. I'm sure some will disagree, but that's my position- Versteeg is more of a luxury and not an essential component, though I believe lots of folks would love to have him back. The fact is- he never should have been traded away in the first place.

All things considered, if the Bruins are going to make a big move, they'd be much better off going with one or the other potential studs in Seabrook and Bogosian. Kaberle and Versteeg carry more risk and who wants to see that pick go right back to Toronto and let the Leafs off the hook? I'm sure Toronto fans would dig it. And ultimately, Peter Chiarelli will have to decide if that's the kind of move he's going to make. Sure, it would allow him to address two areas in one transaction, but don't forget the old Frederick the Great quote: "He who defends everywhere, defends nowhere." What that means is, if you're going to use the key assets to make a big move, then get a stud player at one position or the other, don't get a couple of good players who may or may not be the key to an extended run. If Kaberle were a little tougher, that would be one thing, but the guy has been unable to make himself part of even a playoff solution for the Leafs in five straight years. You'd think the Bruins can do better, especially since he'll turn 33 just a few days after the trade deadline. He's not getting any younger.

Bruins are best served going younger with longer staying power in Seabrook or Bogosian or any other defenseman with upside who might be available on the market. None, however, no matter who they are, will come cheap.

And now, here's the standings watch for the week:

1st Round
5th overall- Toronto (52 points; 23-27-6)- Completes Phil Kessel trade.
25th overall- Boston (69 points; 31-18-7) (Boston moves to 25th by virtue of third seed- Northeast Division lead with fewest points of division leaders even though technically lower than other teams in standings)

2nd Round
47th overall- Minnesota (65 points;30-20-5)- Completes Chuck Kobasew trade.
55th overall- Boston

3rd Round
79th overall- Phoenix (61 points; 26-19-9) - Completes Derek Morris trade.
Boston pick traded to Florida; Completes Nathan Horton deal

4th Round
115th overall- Boston

5th Round
145th overall- Boston

6th Round
175th overall- Boston

7th Round
186th overall- Florida (conditional 52 pts; 23-23-6)- Jeff LoVecchio, Jordan Knackstedt to Panthers for Sean Zimmerman, cond. 7th
Boston pick traded to Chicago (Zach Trotman)

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