BOSTON (CBS) — The right side of the Bruins’ defense corps was rescued this season by the emergence of two inexperienced players who matured into key members of the NHL roster this season.
Second-year defenseman Dougie Hamilton developed into a top-pair performer and 26-year-old rookie Kevan Miller solidified the third pair after Adam McQuaid was lost to injury. The Bruins didn’t have to make a panic move at the trade deadline or thrust waiver pickup Corey Potter into action because they had players on hand to maintain a high level of play on the blue line.
Here are grades for the right defensemen for the entire 2013-14 season:
Contract status: One more year left on his entry-level deal, so the Bruins will either lock him up long-term this summer or wait until next year when they’ll definitely have to pay him whatever he wants.
Injuries slowed Hamilton for part of the first half of the season, and he made his share of rookie mistakes when given the playing time. However, in the playoffs he performed like a veteran and lessened the blow of Dennis Seidenberg’s injury absence by pairing with Zdeno Chara against top lines. Hamilton’s offensive upside continued to blossom and there’s no doubt that he’s ticketed for stardom once he gets bigger and stronger and passes the U.S. drinking age, finally.
Contract status: Should maybe be a little worried that he has just one year left on his contract and his no-trade clause is limited.
Sometimes it’s difficult to quantify what Boychuk does for the Bruins. But he had his best offensive season in the NHL with 23 points in 75 games and was plus-31. His physical presence is unmatched. He had some playoff struggles, but that might’ve been because of the rotation of lackluster players Boston had playing next to him. His love of the Bruins will probably make him sign a below-market deal to stay and the Bruins will probably resist the temptation to deal him and try to get by with younger, cheaper players in this position. Right-handed shots with Boychuk’s experience and ability are hard to find.
Contract status: Earned a two-year NHL extension even before he became the heir apparent to McQuaid’s job.
Considering the expectations for Miller when he first signed with the Bruins and then didn’t make the team out of training camp, the rookie made a meteoric rise to prominence in the team’s plans. Miller also proved he was a team player when he accepted an early-season demotion to avoid waivers. Lesser men would’ve complained and maybe even refused the assignment. The playoffs exposed his deficiencies, but his work ethic should pay off in improvement as he gets more NHL seasoning.
Contract status: Needs to stay healthy to make the most of his last season on his current deal.
McQuaid had a nondescript 30 games with one goal and a plus-12 rating before injuries ended his season early. The Bruins, though, really don’t expect much more out of him. His physicality and willingness to defend his teammates were missed in the playoffs. Although there have been whispers about trading McQuaid, he’s like Boychuk in that he’s a right-handed shot that contributes in a lot of areas – a tough commodity to replace.
Contract status: If you blinked, you missed the Corey Potter Era in Boston. He’s an unrestricted free agent who’s likely going elsewhere.
Three regular-season games and one playoff game are insufficient for grading Potter. The only way he comes back is if he’s willing to take a two-way deal with a likely season skating for the Providence farm club.
This is the second installment in a six-part series grading how Bruins players performed over the course of the 2013-14 season. You can read the report card for goaltenders by clicking here.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.
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