Boston Bruins Players Who Will Benefit and Suffer Most from the NHL Lockout
Naturally, it is in the Boston Bruins’ collective best interest to restore normalcy in a swift manner.
They would be keen on repeating the same basic outcome of the 2011-12 regular season and redeeming their shortcoming in the postseason, which saw their Stanley Cup title defense cut off in a mere seven games.
Still, there is a silver-lining to everything and roughly a handful of forwards in Boston’s organization could stand to make the most of the NHL’s extension on summer.
On the other hand, a sprinkling of young players, who were preparing to step into a bigger role or build upon a breakout campaign, are in danger of a drawback.
Leaving aside the rest of the core group, who would be best served by getting back to NHL action but to a less urgent extent, the Bruins’ most prominent prospective lockout beneficiaries and sufferers are as follows.
Beneficiary: Nathan Horton
Horton has sustained two confirmed concussions on June 6, 2011 and Jan. 22, 2012, respectively. That amounts to a span of seven-and-a-half months between injurious hits, and he has not played since the latter.
Under normal circumstances, Horton would have rejoined his fellow Bruins almost exactly eight months to-the-date of his last injury. While that could be a sufficient recovery period on its own, a season-shortening work stoppage could better ensure a full return to stable health and reliable productivity.
Sufferer: Tuukka Rask
Rask’s 2011-12 season likewise ended prematurely, but his injury was vastly different from Horton’s. He was back in uniform and back in the backup slot in Game 6 of the Washington playoff series, exactly 50 days after leaving a game against the New York Islanders.
With Tim Thomas out of the equation, Rask is the natural new starter, and any more time without authentic game action on top of the six months since his injury is leaving him more prone to rust.
His latest reported activity was an informal practice at Harvard’s campus rink with an assortment of teammates and Massachusetts-raised NHLers. While things could still change, there is currently no word of Rask taking his duffel bag overseas.
Rask’s agent, Bill Zito, has even gone so far as to tell the Boston Herald, “(The best plan) may be to stay here and train.”
In that event, “best plan” is not saying much.
Rask needs authentic game action, and he needs it with the Bruins in the NHL.
Beneficiary: Jordan Caron
After two seasons split between Boston and Providence, Caron is on the cusp of garnering full-time NHL employment.
Since he is not going to be given that opportunity in the immediate future, he can seek some good measure on his minor league credits. Furthermore, for the first time in his burgeoning professional career, he can start a season knowing where he will be on opening night and having a reasonable idea of where he will be for an extended period.
Perhaps the lack of activity in the NHL and the resulting continuous stay in Providence will amplify Caron’s benefit, as he can focus solely on one task without having to be on call-up alert.
Sufferer: Tyler Seguin
After the former No. 2 overall draft pick spiked his output from 11-11-22 as a rookie, to a team-best 28-39-67 as a sophomore, anything less than regular NHL action is likely to stunt Seguin’s development.
It will not be anything than cannot be recovered, but the short-run setbacks would be tough for Seguin and the Bruins to swallow.
Beneficiaries: Jared Knight and Ryan Spooner
Without another external acquisition, which would be virtually impossible without shedding substantial cap space, Knight and Spooner are the front-runner candidates to serve as the Bruins’ top spare forward.
Or, at least, they would be if Boston were conducting training camp on schedule.
There is a decent chance that the two rookies would have been trading shifts as one of the top forwards in Providence and as either a stand-in or practice taxi in Boston.
Instead, for the balance of the NHL work stoppage, they will both be staying in one place and smoothly transitioning from playing with teenagers to playing with twenty- and thirty-somethings.
Sufferer: Dougie Hamilton
Because he is still a year too young for the AHL, Hamilton does not have the same fortune as his former OHL adversaries, Knight and Spooner.
He is back with the Niagara Ice Dogs, playing with and against younger and comparatively unripe peers when he should be gearing up for his baptismal fire as a Boston rookie.
As it is with Seguin, Hamilton’s development will receive no favors anywhere outside of The Show. He is coming off a year that saw him place No. 25 in scoring among all OHL skaters and first among defensemen, despite playing merely 50 games.
Perhaps apart from the World Junior Championship, Hamilton will not be sufficiently challenged if he keeps competing with teens this season. Furthermore, assuming the lockout does not abolish the whole NHL season, his adjustment will be compounded by an on-the-fly hop from Niagara to Boston.