Since Claude Julien arrived in Boston the Bruins have had success growing and developing defensemen. Although it has not happened every season, the Bruins have done a good job incorporating younger defensemen into their lineup.
Most examples are the player develops at the AHL level in Providence for a few years and then they will make the Bruins as the 7th defenseman. They then have to endure being a healthy scratch and wait for their opportunity at the NHL level.
With the recent success of Zach Trotman since getting inserted back into the lineup it feels like it is one of those situations where the Bruins have developed a good defenseman that they will be able to rely on. Trotman played the first game of the year against the Jets and then did not see game action again until the 14th game of the year against Montreal. Trotman has been solid since getting put back into the lineup. Tuesday night he logged 19:10 of ice time paired with Zdeno Chara and he was even on the second power play unit. He has shown poise with the puck and is making good first passes on breakouts. He also has shown his incredible strength by throwing some bodies around. Due to injuries to the Bruins blue line last year Trotman saw action in 27 games and he was paired with Chara at the end of the year.
This is very similar to situations that both Johnny Boychuk and Adam McQuaid went through when they first started in the NHL. Boychuk made his Bruins debut on October 12, 2009. It was the 5th game of the season against Colorado. He then played in the next two games on the road (Dallas, Phoenix) before being out of the lineup for almost two months. He was put into the lineup for good on December 5th, 2009 against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Boychuk turned into a top 4 defenseman and helped the Bruins win the Stanley Cup in 2011.
Adam McQuaid also made his Bruins debut in 2009 – 2010 season on December 19th 2009, also against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He played 19 games that season and also played in the playoffs. In the 2010 – 2011 season he started as a healthy scratch not getting into a game until October 11th, which was the 7th game of the season. He ended up playing in 67 games in the 2010 – 2011 season and helped the Bruins win the Stanley Cup as well. The arrival of McQuaid as a reliable stay at home defenseman allowed the Bruins to trade Mark Stuart for Rich Peverley, who was a key member of two Stanley Cup final runs.
All three of these players had to deal with being healthy scratches for stretches at the beginning of their NHL career. Claude Julien and Bruins management deserves credit for not giving up on these guys. The players also deserve a lot of credit for having a good attitude and working hard in practice to improve their game. In Boychuk he developed into a top 4 defenseman. McQuaid is a plus bottom pairing defenseman, but is an average second pairing guy.
Trotman is not at the level of Boychuk, or McQuaid yet, but he has looked really good lately and he deserves to stay in the lineup. He could develop into one of the top 4 defenseman the Bruins need.
So if Trotman is in and with Colin Miller healthy to play in games, who is going to be the odd man out of the right hand shot defensmen? This is hard for me to say since I am a Bruins homer and a University of Vermont homer, but I think the odd man out needs to be Kevan Miller. Now, this might happen due to injury since he missed the second half of the third period Tuesday and was not at practice yesterday. Claude reported that Kevan Miller has an upper body injury. I just think his up and down play right now should not be in the lineup. He has been prone to costly turnovers and mishandling the puck. Kevan Miller’s cap hit is only around $800k, so financially it would be fine for him to be a healthy scratch.
I would like to see the defense lineup be: Chara – Trotman, Krug – McQuaid, and Seidenberg – C. Miller.
This would give Bruins defense some grit/toughness and some skill/puck moving ability on each pairing. The speed of the skilled guys (Krug, Trotman, and C. Miller) can help the slower more physical guys (Chara, McQuaid, and Seidenberg) with loose pucks and getting the puck out of their zone. The stay at home guys would allow for the skilled guys to jump in the play a little bit more because they know some is back covering.
Bottom line, with the cap space the Bruins have they can carry two extra defensemen and it also gives them options when someone’s game goes to hell, or if there is an injury. If Kevan Miller ends up being a healthy scratch with Joe Morrow it will only be temporary because injuries happen and he will get another chance. Then it is up to him to make the most of the opportunity and make the coach keep him in the lineup due to good play.