Dennis Seidenberg’s Injury Huge for Bruins, Will Put Club’s Depth to Test in Big Way

Dennis SeidenbergThere is no way to sugarcoat the Bruins’ loss of Dennis Seidenberg. He is a top-four veteran defenseman for a team that values strong defensive play. He’s someone with more than a decade of NHL experience. He is one of the team’s most important players.

So the Bruins won’t be able to simply replace Seidenberg, who will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL and MCL. In a season of unfortunate injury luck, the loss of Seidenberg is miles away the biggest.

The German blue liner has been a rock on the Boston blue line since being acquired in a trade with the Florida Panthers in March of 2010.

Since being acquired, Seidenberg has averaged at least 21:50 of ice time per game in each season. That total, just a shade under 22 minutes, is actually his lowest since being acquired. He’s coming off of a season in which he averaged 23:48 per night and 24:02 the season before when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup.

Seidenberg is even better when the playoffs roll around. His work when paired with Zdeno Chara is one of the biggest reasons the Bruins have won a Cup since Seideneberg was acquired and reached the Cup Final last season before bowing out in six games. Seidenberg has been a machine in the postseason logging huge minutes as the chart below shows with the far right column labeled “ATOI” displaying his average minutes per game in the playoffs.

44Photo via Hockey-Reference.com

Injuries are part of the game, and the Bruins know that as well as any team. The Bruins have made a point to build a deep organization, and that true depth — at least on the blue line — will be put to test in Seidenberg’s absence. Perhaps the good news is that the Bruins have already had to scramble to fill holes this season. They’ve been banged up in a bad way all season long and the Seideneberg injury is just the latest in that line. It’s allowed players like Kevan Miller and David Warsofsky to come to Boston and show what they can do. The next man up could be Zach Trotman. Up on an emergency basis in response to the Seidenberg injury, Trotman was paired with Chara  at times during the preseason. The young D-men are well-versed in Claude Julien’s system and have passed those tests for the most part so far, but can that be sustained over a longer period of time? There’s really only one way to find out.

The B’s will now also have to lean heavily on a player like Dougie Hamilton once he recovers from a lower-body injury of his own. Hamilton was really making some nice strides in his second season (first full season), especially in his own end. He’s becoming a more responsible player and looks more comfortable with the puck on his stick in his own end. It’s a little bit unfair to expect Hamilton to be Dennis Seidenberg when he returns, but if Hamilton continues to progress, he could be a very important piece down the stretch. Hamilton also has an added offensive element, both even strength and on the power play, that Seidenberg doesn’t have.

The Bruins’ overall defensive depth is pretty strong, even without Seidenberg. That’s something that’s allowed them to play so well despite all of the injuries as Hamilton, Adam McQuaid and Johnny Boychuk have missed time with injury this season. It’s now more important than ever, though, to try and keep those players healthy. The same is always said for Chara, arguably the team’s most important player. One more long-term injury on the back end and Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli will be putting some serious minutes on his phones.

That could still be an option, too. It’s far too early to say what the market could be for defensemen around the league that might be traded. If Chiarelli feels that the Bruins need to make a move, maybe working quickly would be in his best interest. The market is only going to get more competitive as the March 5 trade deadline will be here quicker than anyone would like to realize. Chiarelli certainly wouldn’t be working from a position of power given the fact that anyone dealing with the Bruins knows how depleted they are at the moment. It’s obviously still a very real option for Chiarelli and the B’s, though.

Whatever the Bruins end up doing — standing pat and testing the organizational depth or attempting to add to that depth from the outside — one thing remains crystal clear. There’s nothing that they can do that will completely make up for the loss of Seidenberg.

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