Hello, folks. It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted any news here on Hockey Independent. I do apologize for the lengthy delay as there hasn’t really been much to talk about in recent weeks. Outside of the ongoing negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement, news in the hockey world has been few and far between since the end of the “free agent frenzy” back in mid-July. I have however been keeping up with the B’s through weekly editions of the “Boston Bruins Prospect Report” over on The Hockey Guys. I’ll have a full list of the reports published here on HI later today.
Early this month National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman went on record about the league’s preparation for a lockout this fall. While I’d like to remain optimistic that we’ll begin the season on time this October, that doesn’t seem to be a realistic goal anymore. As each passing day runs off the calendar and we inch closer to the September 15 expiration date of the current C.B.A., it’s becoming more and more likely that we’ll be seeing the second NHL work stoppage in the past eight years.
Today I’ll be taking a look at how this potential lockout would impact a couple of the players currently under contract with the Boston Bruins.
– When Tim Thomas announced his decision to spend the 2012-13 season in a bunker out in Colorado, Tuukka Rask was immediately elevated to the top of the Boston goaltending depth chart. The 24-year-old Finn has only once previously held the title of “starting goaltender” at the NHL level. It was back in the spring of 2010 when he took over for an injury-plagued Thomas who was dealing with recurrent hip problems. During that season — his rookie campaign — Rask appeared in a total of 45 games, amassing a 22-12-5 record with an impressive 1.97 goals against average and a .931 save percentage. Over the course of the next two seasons Rask would appear in just 52 contests as the B’s back-up netminder. Now, as Rask is poised to take over the starter role once again, it is unclear as to if he will be able to handle the increased workload, which is typically between sixty and sixty-five starts per season.
However, if a lockout is to occur and the season does not begin on-time, it may in-fact benefit the Bruins’ goaltender. Currently, the B’s are scheduled to skate in 22 games during the months of October and November. If the season start date is pushed back to December 1 (or later), the normal 82-game regular season schedule will have to be tossed out. If the season were to start on December 1, the most logical idea would be to create a new 60-65-game scheduling format for the 2012-13 season. Under this type of schedule, the Bruins would be able to limit Rask to between 45 and 50 appearances without the risk of overworking their franchise goaltender. With a lighter workload, one could suggest that Rask will be a more effective goalie as he begins his transition from back-up to number one between the Boston pipes.
– Since being drafted with the ninth overall selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Dougie Hamilton has been earmarked as the savior of the Boston power-play and the missing “puck-moving defenseman” that the team has been searching for over the past three years. His explosive skating, exceptional on-ice vision and ability to post massive amounts of points have had B’s fans drooling over the chance to see him in a Black and Gold sweater since the day he was drafted.
After a remarkable 72-point (17G/55A) campaign in 2011-12 that earned him Ontario Hockey League Defenseman of the Year honors, Hamilton seems to have nothing left to prove at the junior hockey level, despite holding one more season of eligibility. Unfortunately, if a new collective bargaining agreement hasn’t been reached by the end of September, you may see the Bruins decide to return their prized prospect to the Niagara Ice Dogs and the OHL. If the season start date remains in limbo for too long into the fall, general manager Peter Chiarelli and the rest of the B’s brass may believe that playing another full season in junior would be best for Hamilton’s development, as opposed to playing the waiting game without an idea of when the NHL season may begin.
If a lockout is to occur and we are faced with a shortened NHL season, both of these scenarios may in fact become reality. However, there is still plenty of time for a deal to be worked out between the two sides before the September 15 deadline, which would make this entire article moot. Speaking on behalf of hockey followers all across North America; let’s hope for the latter.
S/T to Flickr Users MR_53 (Rask) and slidingsideways (Hamilton) for the photos.
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About the Author: Boston Bruins writer for Hockey Independent. Have written for The Hockey Guys and SB Nation Boston. Follow me on Twitter @_BWoodward or shoot me an email at BWoodward.HI@gmail.com.