Adam McQuaid Battled His Way Into Bigger Role on Bruins’ Blue Line, And He’ll Remain Key Part of Defense

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Adam McQuaid Battled His Way Into Bigger Role on Bruins' Blue Line, And He'll Remain Key Part of Defense Editor's Note: Over the next few weeks, NESN.com Bruins beat writer Douglas Flynn will be taking an in-depth look at one Bruins player each day, analyzing that player's performance last season and outlook heading into the 2011-12 campaign.

It was an eventful year for Adam McQuaid. The big defenseman played his first full season in the NHL, emerging as an important part of Boston's blue line corps and contributing to the club's first Stanley Cup win in 39 years. Along the way, he earned a colorful nickname from fellow defenseman Andrew Ference, who dubbed him "Darth Quaider" for the punishing style McQuaid played. After the season, McQuaid earned something even more important, as he gained some security when the Bruins signed him to a three-year extension before he could even begin the final year of his current deal.

2010-11 stats: 67 games, 3-12-15, plus-30, 96 PIMs
Playoffs: 23 games, 0-4-4, plus-8, 14 PIMs
Contract status: Signed through 2014-15, $575,000 cap hit for 2011-12, then $1.567 million cap hit for 2012-13 through 2014-15 on three-year extension signed this summer

Preseason expectations: After an NHL debut that lasted 19 regular-season and nine playoff games in 2009-10, McQuaid impressed the Bruins enough to be re-signed to a two-year deal, with the second season a guaranteed one-way contract. He entered this past season as the club's seventh defenseman, but was expected to see plenty of time and provide a physical presence and steady defensive play on the blue line.

Regular-season evaluation: It didn't take McQuaid long to move up from that seventh defenseman spot. He got an early chance to play when Johnny Boychuk suffered a fractured forearm in late October and performed well. That helped convince the Bruins to part with Matt Hunwick in a trade to clear cap space when Marc Savard returned to the lineup. McQuaid's continued development as a physical, stay-at-home defender also contributed to the Bruins' decision to trade Mark Stuart at the deadline, bringing Rich Peverley to Boston and creating cap space to add Tomas Kaberle in another deal.

McQuaid certainly provided plenty of physical play, finishing second on the team with 12 fighting majors and adding 102 hits. As for his defensive play, 131 blocked shots and a plus-30 rating that trailed just Zdeno Chara's league-leading plus-33 on the team give an idea of McQuaid's contributions in his own zone. McQuaid's plus-minus ranked him fifth in the entire league. He also chipped in some offense as well, especially later in the year as he gained confidence and got more comfortable in his role.

Playoff evaluation: McQuaid had a scare in Game 2 of the second round when he missed a check on Philadelphia's Mike Richards and crashed awkwardly into the boards. He suffered a sprained neck, but missed just two games, returning for the start of the conference final against Tampa Bay. McQuaid continued to play a solid and steady physical game in the postseason, adding 30 hits and 32 blocked shots and finishing a plus-8 while teamed with Kaberle on the third pairing for most of the playoffs. McQuaid even provided a couple offensive highlights, most notably an assist on Nathan Horton's game-winner in overtime of Game 7 in the opening round. McQuaid pinched in deep to start that play, with Milan Lucic then getting the puck out to Horton for his winning blast. McQuaid finished a plus or even in 22 of the 23 postseason games he played, his lone minus being a minus-1 in Game 4 against the Lightning.

2011-12 outlook: The Bruins showed their faith in McQuaid earlier this summer when they signed him to that extension a full year before he would have been eligible to test the market as a free agent. Of the 11 Bruins scheduled to enter the final years of their deals this upcoming season, so far McQuaid is the only one signed to an extension. That gives an indication of the value the club sees in the young blueliner, who doesn't turn 25 until Oct. 12. Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli called him "the poster child for our development" after signing McQuaid to the extension.

"He's progressed to a point where he's a fixture in our [top] six," Chiarelli added. "I see some shutdown ability in Adam. I see a positive two-way component to his game that's improving. His passing is improving. I'd like to say he's going to turn into a top-four defenseman. I'd like to say that at some point."

That point might not come this year with everyone except Kaberle back on the blue line and Joe Corvo added to replace Kaberle, but McQuaid should continue to see more minutes and take on more responsibilities as his game continues to develop.

Saturday, August 6: Joe Corvo

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