The Bruins have struggled as of late and woke up this morning on the outside looking in on the playoff bubble. One of their biggest flaws has become quite obvious for some time now. In a Bruins system where scoring goals has been a problem this season (team ranks 19th in goals for), the defensemen are heavily relied on to keep pucks out of their own net. One defenseman in particular, who has been a valuable part of the Bruins’ recent Stanley Cup runs, is to blame. After Dennis Seidenberg’s performance Sunday against the Lightning where he was on the ice for four of the five Lightning goals and looks to just be wandering around the defensive end, it is official: he is a liability whenever on the ice for the Bruins.
Seidenberg was a key member of the Bruins 2011 Stanley Cup Championship team along with the 2013 Stanley Cup Finalist team while playing on the top defensive pair with Zdeno Chara and maintaining a veteran voice in the locker room. On October 3rd 2013, Seidenberg inked a 4 year, $16M extension with Boston that also included a no-trade clause. At the time it was a very good deal for both sides. While he was aging (32 at the time of the extension), General Manager Peter Chiarelli raved about how Seidenberg is in good condition and plays like a “warrior.” Neither side saw a season ending injury coming on December 27th of that year when Seidenberg tore both his ACL & MCL knee ligaments after colliding with Ottawa forward Cory Conacher. Seidenberg hasn’t been the same since returning from this injury.
Dougie Hamilton has taken over Seidenberg’s spot alongside Chara on the top defensive pairing, but injuries to Zdeno Chara, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller, and most recently Torey Krug have put him back on the top pairing for a majority of the season. Seidenberg is on pace to play over 1500 five-on-five minutes this season which is the most for a Bruins defenseman since Chara’s 1490 minutes in 2010-2011. His play this season hasn’t nearly been good enough as a top paring defenseman on a team fighting for a playoff position.
Looking at Seidenberg’s HERO chart, it is very apparent that he hasn’t been performing up to the standards of his playing time. His performance for a majority of the categories falls under the rankings of a bottom pairing defenseman. His poor play not only affects himself, but his teammates and team as a whole.
Looking at the Bruins’ Corsi (measure of shot attempts for vs. against) with and without Seidenberg on the ice based on a moving 40 game average, his negative impact is very obvious. Seidenberg played extremely well in the lockout shortened season of 2012-2013 and at the beginning of the 2013-2014 season, but things began to go downhill shortly before his major injury. Historically the Bruins have been a fantastic possession team and while this season the Bruins have maintained around a 55% Corsi% while Seidenberg has been off the ice, Seidenberg’s play has hampered the Bruins to below the league average of 50%. More recently, the team’s Corsi has hovered just above a dangerously low 45% with Seidenberg on the ice. This wouldn’t be a major concern if Seidenberg was a sixth or seventh defenseman on the team, but as a member of the top pairing and getting maximum ice time, the team is suffering badly.
Looking at Seidenberg’s individual WOWY (With or Without You) statistics, not one other Bruins’ defenseman plays better with him on the ice rather playing without him. While he has positive WOWY’s (over 50% of Corsi%) with Hamilton and Krug, both players, are likely carrying Seidenberg to that number. The negative performance across the board is a good indication that he is dragging the team down.
Looking at the offensive zone face-off percentages (OZFO%) of the top six point scoring forwards on the Bruins this season, all of them are taking a significant less face-offs in the offensive zone playing with Seidenberg opposed to playing without him. These are the players that are being relied on to put the puck in the net but they can’t be used effectively if Seidenberg is out there with them. As a result of spending less time attacking in the offensive zone, all of these forwards mirror the defensemen by have significantly lower Corsi% while playing with Seidenberg than without him.
Seidenberg has been on the ice for 43 goals for and 51 goals against for a 45.7% goals for percentage (GF%). This GF% is the 2nd worst in the league among defensemen that have played over 1300 minutes this season (13 defensemen qualify including PK Subban, Shea Weber, Roman Josi, and Drew Doughty among others). His goals against per 60 minutes of even strength ice time (2.27) is the fifth worst among this same group. The differential is very alarming because Seidenberg is playing a lot of minutes and the team’s production while he’s on the ice is very poor. This can be expected though as indicated by the team’s negative CF% while he’s on the ice. This season is just the third time in his career that he’s posted a below average GF% and first since 2010-2011.
For the amount of minutes Seidenberg has played this season, he provides very little offense. In 73 games this season, Seidenberg only has 11 points, three of which are goals. Of his eight assists, only two have been primary assists (though one could argue secondary assists are just as important, if not more important than the primary assist). Looking at his individual Corsi statistics further proves his lack of offensive support to the Bruins. His individual Corsi per 60 minutes of even strength ice time (iCorsi/60) is a mere 7.84. Seidenberg is only directing approximately 8 shots attempts towards the net for every 3+ games the Bruins play (he’s averaging 18.5 even strength minutes per game this season). This is 3rd lowest on the Bruins team behind McQuaid and injured forward David Krejci on a Bruins team that is generating the 6th most shot attempts this season.
Seidenberg also leads the team in shorthanded time on ice, at about two and a half minutes per game. Seidenberg is a liability when his team is at even strength and is even more so when the Bruins are on the penalty kill. His defensive flaws are being exploited in this situation as he’s been on the ice for 16 of the 41 power play goals the Bruins have given up this season (39%). This is the third highest total on the team behind Chara and Patrice Bergeron.
Despite all of this, as mentioned before, Seidenberg is a top pairing defenseman on the Bruins and is regularly sent out by head coach Claude Julien for 20+ minutes per night in both even strength and shorthanded roles. Many times this season, Seidenberg has been counted on to play over 25 minutes in a close game.
For the Bruins to be successful, Seidenberg cannot be in the Bruins lineup. Seidenberg’s current contract carries a $4M cap hit for the next three years. Though Chiarelli didn’t sign him to a bad contract at the time, his performance post-injury has made this a bad contract for a Bruins team that is ready to compete for the Stanley Cup now. They have a window of about three to five years with the current roster where they can be really competitive in the Eastern Conference and challenge for the Stanley Cup. The Bruins are currently strapped against the salary cap and with the cap not increasing much next season, every contract is important.
The number one option right now is for the Bruins to buyout Seidenberg’s contract. This option is very favorable after manually calculating the cap hit of a bought out player (formula used is from CapGeek (RIP Matthew Wuest) and verified on War-On-Ice). Before the buyout can occur, a player would have to clear unconditional waivers. While he would likely clear waivers anyways, Seidenberg has a no-trade clause and has the right to avoid waivers and immediately be bought out.
The Bruins would have to pay Seidenberg a total of $7.33M (2/3rds of the remaining salary owed as he’s over 26 years old) of the $11M owed after this season ($10M in base salary + $1M in signing bonuses) over the span of six years (double the remaining years left on the contract). This would save the Bruins almost $3M in cap space over the next two seasons and just under $2M in cap space in the third and final season of Seidenberg’s current contract. With this one transaction, the Bruins removed a struggling player from their roster while freeing up cap space to acquire new pieces to further help their lineup.
A negative impact to this comes in seasons four through six of the buyout where the Bruins would have an additional $1.22M cap hit that they wouldn’t have if they kept Seidenberg. But, by 2018 it is expected that the salary cap will be further increasing (possibly to around $80M) so this cap hit would be very minor in comparison.
Another negative is that Seidenberg’s minutes have to be replaced one way or another. Chiarelli was happy with his organization depth at the defense position at this year’s trade deadline and felt that he could help could come from within if needed. With a healthy young core of Krug, Bartkowski, Miller among other prospects within the system, it is very likely the Bruins could fill the spot left void by Seidenberg. If not, the Bruins could likely go out on the free agent market and pick up a depth defenseman without having to overpay too much. A blockbuster trade (possibly including forward Loui Eriksson among others) could land the Bruins another defenseman as well.
A second option is burying Seidenberg in the minors, similar to what Los Angeles did this season with Mike Richards in hopes that he would rediscover his game. This would only save 925k against the salary cap and is it unlikely that Seidenberg will ever play up to the level he was at during his prime with the Bruins from 2011-2013 again, but would free up a roster spot and a little cap space.
While one can argue that this may be a drastic measure to take on a player that is having one poor season, the signs are not pointing in Seidenberg’s favor to bounce back in the future. Seidenberg will be 34 years old at the start of next season and isn’t the same player that he was before his knee injury. He has looked lost on the ice most of this season and hasn’t shown promise of returning to his old reliable self.
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