Everyone is scouring the Boston Bruins' roster and pounding away at their projection calculators (not actually an existing tool of the trade) trying to figure out how the Bruins are going to make up for Phil Kessel's 36 goals from last season now that the winger has finally been traded.
But what about the Bruins' task of physically replacing Kessel on the ice? The speedster spent the better part of last season on the right wing next to center Marc Savard and opposite hulking winger Milan Lucic. While it's not written in stone that Lucic will be Savard's left winger, the 21-year-old's chemistry with Savard and his net-front presence make him the leading candidate to be back in that slot. So that leaves Kessel's former home vacant.
Let's break down each candidate's odds for skating on Savard's right as of eight days and four games into training camp. As always, odds are completely fictitious and not for gaming purposes:
Michael Ryder (3-to-1): It's hard to know whether Ryder's season-starting slump last season was due to a lack of chemistry with Savard or his adjustment to playing in a new city, or both. All we know is that Ryder didn't come alive until he got lined up with David Krejci. Ryder was brought here with the intention of making a connection with Savard, so the Bruins will probably give this combination a chance to ferment.
Blake Wheeler (5-to-1): Wheeler, who is already more developed as a two-way player in just his second season than Kessel was after three years in the NHL, could make some noise with Savard dishing him the puck. However, Wheeler really thrived on the left side last year, and the Bruins still need one righty to play on his opposite side.
Marco Sturm (8-to-1): Considering the above-mentioned shortage of left wings, it's doubtful the Bruins would shift Sturm to the right side. But he skated there Saturday in preseason action and would replace Kessel's speed on this line. A more likely scenario would have Sturm on Savard's left and someone else (Wheeler? Chuck Kobasew?) on the right side.
Mark Recchi (12-to-1): The Bruins probably want to keep an eye on Recchi's minutes, and the 41-year-old might get overworked logging first-line minutes plus power-play time. However, occasional spot duty for Recchi on Savard's line could be a secret weapon for head coach Claude Julien when he's looking for an emergency offensive spark.
Chuck Kobasew (20-to-1): The gritty winger has had some problems finishing the last few years despite his solid goal totals. With Lucic already providing the physical juice on this line, Savard really could use more of a sniper to his right.
Patrice Bergeron (50-to-1): There is a school of thought that says Bergeron's speed and rebuilt strength make him a fit on the wing. And when Krejci is healthy, the Bruins are pretty stacked down the middle. But the Bruins have shown little interest in shifting the six-year veteran, and his value as a shutdown defender and faceoff man will probably keep him in the middle.
Before heading up to the Quebec City for Sunday night's 2-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens, the Bruins made a bunch of expected cuts.
Goaltenders Adam Courchaine and Matt Dalton; forwards Jordan Knackstedt, Matt Marquardt and Lane MacDermid; and defensemen Alain Goulet and Rob Kwiet will all head to camp with the Bruins' American Hockey League farm team in Providence. That camp opens Monday.