When the Bruins left Colin Miller unprotected for the Las Vegas Golden Knights, Bruina Twitter went into an uproar – self included. The more I thought about it, the more I am okay with it. Does it suck that the Bruins could lose a 24 year old defenseman who could move the puck? Sure. However, if you look at the “cupboard”, it is filled with these type of players.
If you look at the current NHL roster, the Bruins already have Charlie McAvoy and Torey Krug – two guys who are very adept at moving the puck from blue line to blue line.
There’s also a good group of these type of players stockpiled in the minors. Jeremy Lauzon (20) was lauded in the QMJHL as one of the best offensive forwards on an incredibly dominant Rouyn-Noranda Huskies team. Lauzon was over a point-per-game player for Rouyn-Noranda in 2015-2016 and while his 2016-2017 production slipped a bit, he was outstanding in the playoffs for the Huskies.
He’s not the only one either. Matt Grzelcyk is 23 years old and has ever so briefly spent time with the Bruins this season. From Dobber Hockey:
Grzelcyk was fantastic in his last years with Boston University and seems to have taken yet another step forward this preseason. Grzelcyk projects as a puck moving defenceman but doesn’t have good size for a defender.
Not counted in any of this are guys like Joe Morrow, who has shown that he can move the puck (albeit in small doses), and Tommy Cross. Both guys haven’t been given a legit chance to showcase their skills in Boston (and may never get that chance), but both are labeled as “puck moving defensemen”.
The problem with all of this type of talent is that there’s no balance. You can’t have five or six offensive minded defensemen and succeed in the NHL. You still need that hard hitting, defensive type of guy. The Bruins currently have 40 (41 in March) Zdeno Chara, they have Brandon Carlo and they now have Kevan Miller.
Don’t get me wrong here, Kevan isn’t going to set the world on fire, but last season he showed how valuable he can be for the Bruins in a third pairing role. If used correctly like he was under Bruce Cassidy, he was good.
He wasn’t elite.
He wasn’t great.
He was good and good is all you need from your third pairing defensemen.
Defensively Kevan is better than Colin. I don’t think many people will defend that argument, but you’re more than welcome to. Colin Miller is not good on the defensive side of the puck. Can Colin Miller learn the defensive aspects of the game? Sure. Defensive awareness and positioning can be taught but right now Colin Miller is a defensive liability.
So looking at the current group of Bruins (McAvoy, Krug, and to an extent Morrow, Cross) and prospects in the pipeline (Lauzon, Grzelcyk) that mimic the same attributes that Miller brings to the table – Miller looks like he is expendable.
Given that you want a third pairing to be a little edgier, cuntish and hard hitting – a puck moving, offensive oriented, defenseman makes no sense. You would want him on your top four, but a first or second pairing comprised on just offensive-minded defensemen is cause for trouble.
It’s a shame that the Bruins can’t protect both, but Colin Miller’s skillset isn’t one that is irreplaceable. Given how well Sweeney has drafted, its possible Miller would have been bypassed by one of the “kids” in a season or two as it is.
The same goes for Kevan Miller. He could be out of a job next year if Jakub Zboril ever gets his shit together, but for the sake of balance – Kevan Miller makes much more sense than Colin.