Would Moving Matt Hunwick to Wing Boost Bruins’ Offense?

Would Moving Matt Hunwick to Wing Boost Bruins' Offense? From a Bruins perspective, the Taylor Hall-Tyler Seguin debate centers around need. The Bruins need an explosive, goal-scoring winger. The Bruins don't need another center.

While the Taylor-Tyler outcome is out of their hands, there may be a solution already on the roster.

The answer could be Matt Hunwick. The recently turned 25-year-old has spent almost all of his two-plus-year career on defense, but his potential on the wing provides the Bruins with an interesting decision to make.

Granted, neither Peter Chiarelli or Claude Julien has said that a move to forward is in the works, but they have done it in the past. Hunwick has helped fill voids left by injuries to forwards, and with good reason. He filled in for Milan Lucic in late February of the 2008-09 season, and he notched a goal and an assist in 13 minutes of ice time while skating alongside Marc Savard and Phil Kessel. It is not the greatest sample size, but it's an indication that it's a role that Hunwick could find success and it's a role for which the team would consider using Hunwick.

And it makes sense. In looking at the defenseman's skill set, defense does not rank at the top of his list. As much as he improved in 2009-10 (his first NHL season as a full-time contributor) in the defensive end, his offensive skills are his strength. He has breakaway speed, giving him the ability to open up ice for his teammates, and he has a quick, hard shot — one that may be doubly effective if taken closer to the net.

Yet while playing defense, his biggest asset is taken away as he skates backward for half of his time on the ice. It may not be the traditional, safe move to move a guy who you've developed for three years and switch his positions, but it could be a risky decision that pays dividends for the Bruins.

It's not a secret that the team went through long stretches in which they struggled to score goals. The Bruins finished dead last in the NHL with 2.39 goals per game, and considering they had the second-fewest goals allowed per game (2.33), it could be the biggest reason why the team finished in sixth place in the East.

They could have been better and they should have been better, but as The Boston Globe explored in great detail this weekend, the biggest problem was at wing.

"If you're going to soft-dump all the time and chase pucks, you've got to have bodies who can get on pucks,'' an NHL source told the Globe. "You need speed and physical guys to win battles and generate offense. That's part of why they didn't score a lot of goals this year.''

While the Bruins are stacked at center with Savard, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, according to the source, "Marc Savard needs the right players [to produce goals]. So do Bergeron and Krejci."

Aside from the need, it simply might be a better use of Hunwick, who's shown great offensive instincts from the blue line. Within the Bruins' system, he's not allowed free range in the offensive end, but when he does decide to step deep into the offensive end, it's typically with purpose. The ability to put that to use consistently could — in a best-case scenario — turn Hunwick from a middle-of-the-pack defenseman to a top-six forward.

Julien, at least to some extent, saw that potential when he moved Hunwick to forward.

"I thought about it and I watched him practice as well," Julien told The Bruins Blog in February of 2009. "I talked to him before the game … and I said, 'I have no doubt that you're going to be successful with your speed, your grit, determination, and that's what that line needed. And he proved us right."

He can prove them right again. It may sting to halt a player's defensive development in its tracks, and it may leave a hole on the blue line, but it could also give the Bruins what they desperately needed for the entire season.

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