Long before the puck drops on the 2022-23 NHL season, Boston Bruins Knew their defensive depth would be tested and tested severely. Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk missed the start of the season recovering from off-season surgeries. Then, after Grzelcyk returned and before McAvoy returned, Derek Forbort was out for a month and broke his finger on Nov. 1 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
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The Bruins’ top penalty-killing defenseman missed his time out of the lineup as the unit struggled, but since his return, they’ve returned to the top of the league. Now after about two months of recovery, the depth test will be done again Brandon Carlo Left a 3–1 win over the New York Rangers on January 19 after blocking a shot early in the second period when Boston was shorthanded. There are options to replace him internally, but in the big picture, this should raise a flag to general manager (GM) Don Swinney that more help on the back end will be needed at the trade deadline.
Bruins option to replace Carlo
If Carlo misses the next game against the San Jose Sharks on Jan. 22 at TD Garden, the easy move for coach Jim Montgomery is to move young Jacob Zabril into the lineup. The move would yield the 13th overall pick in the 2015 Entry Draft. That night, Montgomery dressed seven defensemen and 11 forwards, something he hasn’t done this year. Moving Jabril into the lineup in Carlo’s place was the first-year Boston coach’s thinking after the win over the Rangers. The Bruins’ 13-point lead in the Atlantic Division over the Toronto Maple Leafs could help ease the blow of Carlo’s absence if he misses games from the lineup, and they should be wary of his injury history.
“We will be careful,” Montgomery said. “We’ve got a really good extra defenseman [Jakub] Jabril. If he’s not ready to go on Sunday, we have the luxury of taking Zeboril into the game. We will see when we get home and we will take our doctors.”
Zabril is a left-shot, but he gave Montgomery flexibility when McAvoy and Grzelcyk were out of the lineup and was able to play well offside of him. When the Bruins lost 5-2 to the Florida Panthers before Thanksgiving, Zboril played just 7:07 and found himself in the doghouse in Montgomery, and against the Sharks earlier this month, has played just one game since. He, however, travels with the team and practices almost every day. He is being sent Providence Bruins An option in the American Hockey League (AHL), but he has to be waived, and there’s a very good chance someone claims him and the Bruins lose him for nothing.
Mike Reilly, who is buried in the AHL with Providence, is an option, as is Anton Stralman, who hasn’t played since November, but in this case, Jabril is the better option right now.
Swinney needs to address defensive depth at the trade deadline
In the last two trade deadlines, Swinney has addressed the depth of the defense. In April 2021, he acquired a puck-moving offensive defenseman Acquired Riley from the Ottawa Senators. Reilly made an immediate impact as an offensive defenseman after the trade and was re-signed to a three-year deal that offseason. Since signing that contract, things haven’t gone the way the player and team wanted and now he’s buried in Providence. Last season, Swinney acquired Josh Brown from the Senators in exchange for Jake Senshen and a draft pick. Brown didn’t really work out in terms of depth and had limited playing time before leaving for free agency over the summer.
By 3 p.m. on March 3, Swinney needs to address the depth of the defense. Carlo’s injury history with only concussions should raise a flag for an addition, especially with the physicality of the playoffs. Grjelcik is often injured, but an injury to the top blueliner could be a series-changing injury. Depth will be important in the postseason and the Bruins saw that first hand last spring against the Carolina Hurricanes when Hampus Lindholm took a big hit and missed some time. Right-shot would be the area best tackled, but a run Jacob Chaichroon Also an option at left tackle from the Arizona Coyotes. In any case, an addition needs to be made.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for the hockey writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for various sites and daily newspapers. Writing started as a hobby, but over the years it became a passion for Scott.