Bruins’ timing could be off with regard to scoring
Over the course of his Hall of Fame coaching career, Scotty Bowman found one tool most valuable. Ice time was his silent cudgel and his ultimate carrot.
Known for saying little and explaining less (that touchy-feely stuff is why they hire assistant coaches and team shrinks), Bowman always went with his best performers, which didn’t always mean going with his top players. If the best performers on a given night also were the ones with the most impressive résumés and greatest pedigrees, well, hey, sometimes serendipity just happens, you know?
Bowman was at his best on game night, when the bench was his world, his stage, and all the players his players in it. Once the puck was down, if one or more weren’t up to their specified tasks, be they raw rookie or seasoned veteran, Bowman wasted no time in bumping them to the end of the bench (see: superstar Sergei Fedorov, a regular bumpee in Detroit), amending line combinations or defensive pairings on the fly.
Everyone quickly understood the Bowman Way: arrive prepared and take absolutely nothing for granted - especially the privilege of punching the time card.
The Bruins, frustrated in the offensive end throughout the first half of this season, are among the league’s bottom-feeders when it comes to keeping the players considered to be their most talented offensive performers on the ice.
Is there a connection? Possibly. Although, before we take a closer look at the numbers, let’s remember that coach Claude Julien apportioned ice time among his forwards virtually the same last season when the Bruins finished second only to Detroit in total goals. The allotting of time, and the pulling of a player’s emotional strings along with it, doesn’t always influence performance or guarantee pucks going in the net.
Of the 30 NHL teams, only Boston, Buffalo, Nashville, Phoenix, St. Louis, and Vancouver as of Wednesday did not have a single forward averaging 20 minutes of ice time. Of those half-dozen teams, only the Blues were without a playoff seed through games of Tuesday night.
Headed into Wednesday night’s game against Atlanta, Patrice Bergeron led Boston forwards with average ice time of 18:52. Of the other 29 clubs, only the Blues, with Andy McDonald’s 18:28, had a team-leading forward with a lower average than Bergeron.
Bergeron would not make it into the top three average ice times (forwards only) of 14 other squads. Boston’s second- and third-busiest forwards, Marc Savard (18:24) and David Krejci (17:35), also were among the least-played No. 2 and No. 3 forwards in the league.
No surprise, but big minutes typically translate to big points, as true today as it was in Bowman’s time. Note the top 17 point-getters as of Wednesday morning, with their average ice time. Only Henrik Sedin, Zach Parise, and Dustin Penner were averaging under 20 minutes. And the average time for the top 17 was 21:00.
Player, team G-A -P Time
1. Joe Thornton, San Jose 10-41 -51 20:27
2. Marian Gaborik, NYR* 25-22 -47 22:29
3. Henrik Sedin, Vancouver 16-31 -47 19:16
4. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh 22-21 -43 22:07
5. Alex Ovechkin, Washington 23-18 -41 21:26
6. Dany Heatley, San Jose 22-19 -41 20:13
7. Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim 10-31 -41 22:27
8. Corey Perry, Anaheim 16-24 -40 21:35
9. Zach Parise, New Jersey 15-25 -40 19:45
10. Nicklas Backstrom, Wash. 12-28 -40 20:52
11. Brad Richards, Dallas 10-30 -40 20:10
12. Tomas Plekanec, Montreal 7-33 -40 20:06
13. Martin St. Louis, Tampa 7-33 -40 21:54
14. Patrick Marleau, San Jose 23-16 -39 21:15
15. Dustin Penner, Edmonton 19-19 -38 19:53
16. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles 16-22 -38 21:37
17. Paul Stastny, Colorado 9-29 -38 21:34
* - league leader among forwards
One way for Julien to try to shake his squad from its offensive lethargy could be to increase the ice time of his most skilled forwards. But again, there is no guarantee that will change anything.
What is proven, though, is how Julien has apportioned his ice time among his top three forwards again this year. Last season, he played Savard, Bergeron, and Krejci the most, and the three averaged 18:07. This year, the same three have led the way, with their average at 18:16 as of Wednesday.
If Julien added about three minutes to each of them, and played them the average 21 minutes of today’s top offensive performers, the results could be vastly different. Maybe not. If he added, say, an average 90 seconds to his three other busiest forwards - increasing Marco Sturm, Mark Recchi, and Michael Ryder from 16:10 to around 17:40 - the results could be vastly different. Again, maybe not.
No doubt those “borrowed’’ minutes would leave Boston forwards 7-12 with far more humble time sheets. Some would see their ice time cut in half. The guarantee is that there will be some unhappy campers on Lines 3 and 4, guys who will be clamoring, possibly grousing, for more time.
What we know for sure is that TOI among Boston’s forwards is all but guaranteed. The line combinations change, often because of injury, but the work is constant, measured, and assured. We also know that production is off, significantly.
The greatest challenge for the 2009-10 Bruins has been scoring. The greatest challenge of all for Julien could be from within, taking a less egalitarian approach with who works, when they work, and how much time they’re on the ice. Like Bowman, he has his ways, and those ways earned him Coach of the Year honors last season. But that was last season, and as Bowman proved with his legacy, the only shift that matters is this shift and the one that may not follow.
Sanderson’s struggles headed for silver screenShep Harmon, ex- of Newton and a pal of both Bobby Orr and Derek Sanderson, is some 18 months into a venture aimed at bringing the Turk’s life story to the silver screen.
“It will focus on the art of Derek’s life,’’ said Harmon, speaking by phone from his winter home in Florida, “and his phenomenal recovery from terrifically bad circumstances.’’
Those circumstances, explained the 62-year-old Harmon, included Sanderson’s well-chronicled addiction to alcohol and drugs, “as well as some real black adventures that bordered on the criminal.’’ (Editor’s note: What really went on in that Channel 38 broadcast booth?!)
Chris Pappas, originally from Westborough, is in the process of polishing his screenplay, and it will be produced, said Harmon, by Hollywood’s Aaron Lubin, a partner of Ed Burns. Ideally, a budget and shooting schedule will be finalized in January.
Matt Damon would be a logical Orr double, provided he could mastah the Parry Sound, Ontario, lilt. Maybe the Kelowna, British Columbia-born Taylor Kitsch (“Friday Night Lights’’) as Sanderson? Tough to find someone with all of the mojo of Sanderson, who, when asked during his early ’70s heyday what he had before a game, said, “A steak dinner and a blonde.’’
Sober now for 30 years, the 63-year-old Sanderson has spent the last 16 years as a financial adviser in downtown Boston with Howland Capital, his client list including a number of NHL players.
“Making sure they don’t squander their money aimlessly,’’ Sanderson said, “so when they’re finished, they have something to show for it.’’
The hardest part of staying sober, he said, was giving up the friends and places that made for a destructive social network.
“But fortunately, things change,’’ said Sanderson. “I got sober. I got married, two sons . . . hey, you grow up. It’s never easy staying sober, because you’re only one drink away.
“The hardest part is being able to accept ‘one day at a time’ [the Alcoholics Anonymous credo], you know, get in a program, get a sponsor, do what you’re told, basically. Let go and have faith in yourself and your friends, like Bobby and some other special people in my life. You don’t get better alone.’’