Bruins Will Miss Michael Ryder’s Playoff Production, Though Loss of Winger and Tomas Kaberle Shouldn’t Significantly Hurt Team

by

Bruins Will Miss Michael Ryder's Playoff Production, Though Loss of Winger and Tomas Kaberle Shouldn't Significantly Hurt Team The Bruins didn't face a lot of questions when they entered the free agency period at the start of the month.

They knew the bulk of their Cup-winning squad would be back for at least another year, with all but a handful of players under contract. But they did lose two relatively big names in the opening days of free agency when Michael Ryder signed with Dallas and Tomas Kaberle moved on to Carolina.

Will the Bruins struggle at all with those losses? Or does the rest of the returning core, plus the replacements they've brought in, more than make up for those departures?

It's a bit of a mixed bag, but overall the Bruins shouldn't be affected too much by the changes, at least not in the regular season. During that 82-game marathon, Ryder was wildly inconsistent, prone to long slumps and frustratingly lackluster efforts. After a 27-goal, 53-point campaign in his first year in Boston, he slipped to just 18 goals in each of his final two seasons. Ryder also went from a plus-28 in 2008-09 to plus-3 the following year and a minus-1 this past season.

But when it mattered most, Ryder always showed up. He never failed to find another gear in the postseason, putting up 17-18-35 totals in 49 playoff games over his three years in Boston. That will be hard to replace.

"Well you know what, in the three years we had him, he was really good in the postseason," Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said after Ryder signed with the Stars. "At the end of the day he provided us with good service when we needed it and it's going to be something that we're going to have to replace. But I like the growth of our guys and our forward group, and I feel confident that they collectively can replace that."

The Bruins signed Benoit Pouliot on the open market. His one-year, $1.1 million deal was far more palatable than the two-year, $7 million contract Ryder signed in Dallas. And Pouliot, while never living up to expectations as the fourth overall pick in 2005, has put up numbers close to Ryder's over the last two years. Pouliot had 13 goals last year and 17 the year before, including 15 in just 39 games with Montreal.

The playoff numbers tell a different tale, though. Pouliot has no goals, just two assists and is a minus-4 in 22 career postseason games. He was benched for the final four games against the Bruins in the opening round this spring after taking a foolish and dangerous penalty with a hit up high on Johnny Boychuk in Game 3.

The Bruins also have options within the system to make up for the loss of Ryder and retirement of Mark Recchi. Tyler Seguin will be counted on to play a bigger role after putting up 11-11-22 totals in 74 games in the regular season and seven points in 13 playoff games as a rookie. Jordan Caron will also get a long look in camp after making the squad at the start of the year and posting 3-4-7 totals in 23 games before being sent down to Providence.

On defense, Kaberle's departure should be far easier to overcome. In fact, the Bruins will likely miss the assets — first- and second-round picks and top prospect Joe Colborne — they gave up to acquire Kaberle more than they will the veteran defenseman himself.

While he settled down as the playoffs went on, Kaberle never quite fit in with the Bruins and failed to provide the impact expected. He was supposed to help Boston's struggling power play, but the Bruins were just 7-for-66 on the power play (10.6 percent) in 24 games in regular season with Kaberle, then 10-for-88 (11.4 percent) in the postseason. To put that into perspective, Florida was last in the league in the regular season, and even the Panthers managed to convert 13.1 percent of their chances.

Despite that, Kaberle didn't have to take a pay cut, landing a three-year deal with the Hurricanes at the same $4.25 million cap hit he had on his previous contract. The Bruins wasted no time finding a replacement, taking Joe Corvo off the Hurricanes' hands for a fourth-round pick.

Corvo has just one year left on his deal at $2.25 million, and his willingness to unleash his powerful shot from the point may be more effective on the power play than Kaberle's patient, pass-first approach. Corvo has scored double-digit goals in four of the last six seasons, including 11-29-40 totals last year.

The Bruins have an internal candidate waiting in the wings at this spot as well, should Corvo falter. Steven Kampfer showed flashes of potential as a puck-moving defenseman last season, putting up 5-5-10 totals in 38 games with the big club in his first pro campaign. He may have to bide his time as the seventh defenseman or down in Providence, but he remains a big part of the Bruins' future on the blue line.

NESN.com Bruins beat writer Douglas Flynn will be answering one question facing the Bruins this offseason each day until Aug. 8.

Thursday, July 14: Are the Bruins set up for a shot at multiple Stanley Cup runs?

 Saturday, July 16: How will the Bruins handle the Stanley Cup hangover?

Previous Article

MLS Continues Growth As Manchester United, New England Revolution Draw Largest Crowd For International Club Friendly in Gillette Stadium History

Next Article

Bruce Feldman Suspended by ESPN for Assisting With Mike Leach’s Book

Picked For You