BOSTON (CBS) — I should, and will, preface this column by saying I did not see the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League, the Bruins’ farm team, play a single game this season.
Nor have I seen a P-Bruins game for several seasons.
But if I was on the kind of roll Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli and his staff has been on the past couple seasons, I would keep on rolling the dice and summon defenseman David Warsofsky in time for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference second round series against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.
After Matt Fraser was called up from Providence and potted the game-winning goal a little more than 24 hours after he was summoned away from a Rhode Island Chipotle, the Bruins’ hot streak of getting instant impacts from call-ups continued.
It’s obvious that when the Bruins brag about organizational depth, they’re not lying.
Everyone remembers defenseman Torey Krug’s emergence as an offensive force with four goals in his first five Stanley Cup Playoffs games against the New York Rangers last season. Defenseman Matt Bartkowski also contributed a playoff goal after getting called up, as he lit the lamp in the dramatic Game 7 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
This season, we’ve already seen Justin Florek pot a crucial goal against the Detroit Red Wings in the first round. Now Fraser shocks the Canadiens in the second round. Considering the way Bartkowski and veteran Andrej Meszaros have been messing up while playing a game of “can you do worse than this?” on the Bruins’ second defense pair, it’d be worthwhile to give Warsofsky a shot. By the accounts of several writers who’ve watched him, Warsofsky has been outstanding for the P-Bruins.
But this isn’t a column to debate the deep, dark hole that is the left defense spot on the Bruins’ second pair. It’s about organizational depth. And it’s also about raising that depth.
Sometimes teams seemingly draft well or sign the right free agents, but they don’t pan out after being highly touted. That doesn’t seem to be the case with the Bruins. Bartkowski, Krug, Florek and Fraser all spent a short time with the parent club to varying levels of success before getting sent back down. Upon returning they all visibly improved.
In the most recent case, Fraser’s 14-game stint in Boston over the winter featured two goals, two fights and a lot of looking like he was skating with glue on his blades while everyone else on both teams had rockets on their heels. He was clearly not ready for the NHL. Four months later, Fraser was one of the Bruins’ best forwards in the biggest game of the year even before Carl Soderberg set him up for the overtime clincher.
Not only have Chiarelli, his assistants and his scouts found the right players, but it’s obvious Providence coaches Bruce Cassidy and Kevin Dean have a little bit of a magic touch in getting these prospects to both improve their games and readying them to plug right into Boston coach Claude Julien’s system when the times comes to pull them up from the Ocean State.
One could argue that at 23 years old Bruins forward Jordan Caron’s growth was stunted by the fact that he would’ve had to go through waivers before getting more seasoning in Providence this season. There wasn’t much improvement in Caron’s game this season while he stayed in Boston as the 13th forward. And now he’s at least the 14th forward with Fraser’s, and before him Florek’s, emergence.
Could Warsofsky be the magic cure for what ails the Bruins on the back end? If I had the Bruins’ track record, I’d take the chance.
Whether they go that route or not in the Montreal series or beyond, at least the Bruins know they’re pumping out players that live up to the hype when given their shot.
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