Seidenberg last participated in an NHL game on Dec. 27 of this past season. Less than 24 hours after he left that home bout with the Ottawa Senators with a torn ACL/MCL, the club declared his 2013-14 season over.
The Bruins set the initial recovery period at no fewer than six months, a period that is not technically over. Despite entertaining thoughts of hastening his comeback, Seidenberg stuck to that regimen through Boston’s second-round postseason loss to Montreal.
That playoff exit served to guarantee the seasoned defenseman another four months of focusing solely on returning to game shape. One month has elapsed with three to go until training camp.
For those who have followed this franchise since at least the start of the Claude Julien era, this ought to evoke memories of another leaned-on Bruin’s lengthy road back from injury. Alternate captain and two-way connoisseur Patrice Bergeron’s 2007-08 itinerary was cut off on Oct. 27 of that season when he sustained a Grade 3 concussion.
Granted, the two injuries have no resemblance. The length of the resultant waiting periods, however, are comparable enough for Seidenberg to use Bergeron's recovery period as a measuring stick. He can concoct a comparable comeback, which would be no small boon for the Bruins next season.
Bergeron was back on the ice for light twirls four months after his injury in February of 2008. Another five months passed before that evolved into a picture of normalcy with roughly six weeks to spare before training camp.
When he re-emerged for regular-season action, he made an impression with five assists in the first six games of 2008-09. He then tallied his first goal in a year in the seventh game against Toronto on Oct. 23, 2008.
There is no reason why Seidenberg could not pace himself back to his standard role the same way in 2014. He was skating with fellow sidelined blueliner Adam McQuaid as early as April 8.
Two months later, in a report published on the team’s website last Friday, he told author Caryn Switaj: “I mean, it’s not 100 percent, but that’s expected. ... It would have been probably good enough to play eventually, but still working to get it where it should be, and I’m confident it will be by the time we get started.”
The time to build up to training camp will still be another three full months at the least. No extra dewdrop of recuperation and replenishment can hurt.
Seidenberg recognized another key point in his talk with Switaj when he told her, “I haven’t really had a strenuous season behind me so there’s no reason why I should take some time off.”
That sentence accentuates an individual one-two punch of bonus physical rest and a fastidious itch for action. That same combination of tangible and intangible refreshment doubtlessly helped Bergeron with his triumphant reintroduction in October of 2008.
The stay-at-home Seidenberg’s equivalent, if he can achieve it, would not be far off from his abbreviated 2013-14 campaign.
In 34 appearances, Seidenberg was on the ice for 26 opposing goals over 742 minutes and 29 seconds of ice time. Plug those stats into the goals-against average formula, and he had a solid 2.10 GAA on the year.
Remarkably, despite his absence throughout the second half, Boston finished the regular season with a 2.08 GAA for second on the team-defense leaderboard. That was indicative of young stand-ins such as Dougie Hamilton and Kevan Miller wasting no time in assimilating and assuming demanding roles.
Depending on offseason transactions, their biggest task will be to keep elevating their aptitude even when Seidenberg returns.
In a recent write-up by CSN New England's Joe Haggerty, Seidenberg himself said, “I don’t think there’s a reason for big tweaks to the lineup, but that’s up to management. They have to do what they think is best. We’ll see, I guess.”
In the same write-up, however, Haggerty cited another seasoned defender, Johnny Boychuk, as a candidate for offseason export. If nothing else, Haggerty holds, salary-cap constraints could nudge Boychuk out of the equation.
Boychuk and Seidenberg have their share of similarities. Both have had their share of stints working with Zdeno Chara on Boston’s top unit. Since their first full seasons with the team in 2010-11, they have routinely used their minutes to charge up hits and shot blocks in the triple digits.
In the event that the Bruins trade Boychuk, Seidenberg’s assets will stand out with additional importance. If Boychuk stays, it is worth remembering that the 37-year-old Chara is not getting any younger.
During the second half of 2013-14, beat reporters such as Mass Live’s Amando Bruno understandably speculated that Miller is supplanting McQuaid. Even if that comes to fruition, Miller can continue to benefit from multiple sources of veteran guidance during his sophomore NHL season.
That task will fall unto any combination of Chara, Boychuk and Seidenberg. Two or three of those veterans will be crucial to complementing the young half of the blue-line brigade as it strives to follow up on its baptismal fire.
The youth movement is doubtlessly dealing with emotional scars from the outcome of its seven-game introduction to the Bruins-Canadiens playoff rivalry. In that sense, it is not unlike the Bruins core as a whole from 2008, which was the previous time Montreal ousted Boston in the playoffs.
That was a time when forwards like David Krejci and Milan Lucic were taking on more as rookies than they might have if Bergeron were available for all of 2007-08.
When Bergeron returned from his protracted hiatus, he helped to embolden a burgeoning, battle-tested bunch in 2008-09. Although he missed 18 games, mostly in December and January, he never posted more than four straight pointless performances.
Bergeron’s 31 assists in 64 appearances that season were the fourth most on a team that finished first in the conference. He added five helpers in 11 playoff contests as the Bruins improved on their 2008 postseason by one round.
Seidenberg should have similar goals in mind, if not better ones, for 2014-15. Given that Los Angeles had a stingier defense, Boston’s first priority should be to not regress in the regular season.
Defense was not its biggest problem in the 2014 playoffs (that would be the offense’s plethora of posts and other egregious misses). But it could stand to flaunt some growth the next time the Bruins get to the Atlantic Division Final.
Seidenberg’s mere insertion as an active contributor will lend the blue-line brigade some growth from its 2014 conglomeration. Moreover, his exemplary presence and determination to bury the memory of his injury ought to offer Chara a little relief and tug the younger rearguard forward.
As he himself admitted to Switaj, he is ahead of his teammates in terms of storing up for next season. He can devote that extra physical energy to addressing a sharper hockey hunger pang as he builds toward and carries out his 2014-15 season.
It is a simple formula to hit the ice sprinting in September after going without formal game action throughout the calendar year. Both Bergeron and Seidenberg should know how to do it.
Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics for this report were found via NHL.com.
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