Before we start, I'd like to thank everyone for writing in this past year and for reading here at ESPNBoston.com. It's obviously been a great year for Bruins fans and a great year to cover the team. Thanks for the support, and all the best in 2012. So without further ado, here is our last Bruins mailbag of 2011:
Q. Do you think Rich Peverley's health is going to be something to worry about? I've been really impressed with him this season. He's just a good all-around player and makes that third line really dangerous. -- Sean T (Boston)
A. Sean, considering that Claude Julien is on record as saying the undisclosed injury Peverley is suffering from very well could be something he and the Bruins will have to deal with for the remainder of the season, I think one should be worried about it. However, thanks to some favorable scheduling and smart handling of the situation, I think the Bruins and Peverley are in control of the effects of the injury at this point. I agree with you on the assets Peverley brings to that third line, but luckily for the Bruins, their depth has paid off. Zach Hamill is beginning to realize the potential that made the Bruins take him eighth overall in the 2007 NHL entry draft.
Q. Mele Kalikimaka me ka Hau'oli Makahiki Hou! So with the Bruins 2nd line playing better than most any other teams number 1 line, why not give them more ice time and switch the top two lines around? Maybe this is would be the extra motivation the current Lucic/Krejci/Horton line need? -- Kent McKenzie (Aiea, Hawaii)
A. Kent, I must admit I answer with envy thanks to the frigid temperatures here. But I also must say I am glad you still have hockey on your mind in such a tropical climate. With regards to your question, I have noticed Julien doing that in-game, and I agree he should do this more often. But that being said, with there being so much depth on this team, I wonder whether demoting one or more of Milan Lucic, David Krejci or Nathan Horton would work better. Of course, you don't want to disrupt the chemistry of the other lines, but Julien could turn to that. Or he could do it in-game, as he has done at points this season. But what a luxury Julien has in terms of depth to have such options.
Q. As good as the Bruins have been there seems to be room for improvement in the back four of the defense. Who are some defenseman that they could target as it gets closer to the trading deadline? -- Rob (College Park, Md.)
A. Rob, I agree that depth on the blue line should be the Bruins' main goal leading into and at the trade deadline. They still need to improve their transition game, and I'd imagine Peter Chiarelli -- with all the salary-cap room he has -- is hard at work exploring options already. As for what those options might be, I'd keep an eye on some upcoming unrestricted free agents such as Jaroslav Spacek or Kurtis Foster. Another defenseman to keep an eye on who could be available, should the Islanders continue to falter, would be Mark Streit. He would be a perfect puck-moving defenseman for the Bruins. I know Bruins fans are salivating at the thought of Chiarelli making a pitch for Nashville defensemen Ryan Suter and Shea Weber -- who are yet to sign -- but he would need to give up a boatload for either of them and therefore needs to have an indication that he can sign one of them long term.
Q. After Tyler Seguin's hot start he has cooled down quite a bit. Do you think that the Bruins should send him down a line and bring up the hot Chris Kelly? It could help make sequin realize that he needs to keep working hard, and it could give Kelly time with a better group of guys. What do you think? -- Ben (Newton, Mass.)
A. Ben, I've been asked this question a lot over the past few weeks, and while a few weeks ago I would have agreed with you, I see Seguin doing a lot of good things out there right now. Maybe the points aren't as frequent as they were before, but one thing he is doing that he wasn't doing consistently while registering points is hustling and playing a responsible two-way game. He's digging for pucks and he's critical of himself when he doesn't. That wasn't part of his game last season, and the fact that it is now is why I think fans should be patient. This kid is learning to be a better all-around player.
Q. Like a lot of B's fans, I was worried about a letdown for Brad Marchand this season. Glad I was wrong about that. Next to Bergeron, I think he's been the Bruins best forward on a night-to-night basis. How impressed have you been with Marchand this year? -- Nathan (Vermont)
A. Nathan, I was the same way heading into this season, and while Marchand has had his ups and downs and is always learning how to walk the line in terms of discipline, I agree that the effort has been consistent. I also love the relationship he has with Julien. He really seems to listen to Julien's advice and criticism, and apply it on the ice in games and in practice. I think he deserves a lot of credit for that, and his willingness to learn and improve.
Q. If the B's keep this up do you think Claude Julien will get any coach of the year consideration? I know he's not a dynamic personality, but I don't think Julien gets the credit he deserves. -- Rick (Boston)
A. Rick, as I pointed out above with regards to his relationship with Marchand, Julien does indeed have great coaching skills. I think you need to look no further than the steady improvement of Benoit Pouliot. Pouliot was absolutely lost early in the season, but thanks to the communication lines between him and Julien, he has found his game and is looking more and more like the former fourth pick overall that he is. Julien really has this team all on the same page, and the players believe in his system. I realize his team is skilled and deep, but he still deserves credit for making the players play to their potential.
James Murphy covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. Ask a question for his next Bruins mailbag here.