Wednesday Countdown: Struggling Bruins; Lombardi's loyalty; Crosby, McDavid's starts

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Boston Bruins Zdeno Chara calls for the puck on the first day the full team skated during an NHL training camp practice at TD Garden, Friday, Sept. 18, 2015, in Boston. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)
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(Ed. Note: Beginning this week, Puck Daddy will run NHL power rankings as devised by our editorial staff on a biweekly basis. The PUCK DADDY POWER RANKINGS, written by Ryan Lambert, will hence be known as Wednesday Countdown going forward.)

9. A name change

Folks, this is the same Puck Daddy Power Rankings you've all come to know and 100 percent love with each individual fiber of your being. The one with all the insight the one you will tell your kids about having brightened every Wednesday for a period of many years. The one you print out at the office for the express purpose of going home and snuggling up with by the fire. I love and appreciate it, I can tell you.

But it's just not called that any more for reasons that will soon become apparent. I love you all.

8. The Bruins

Boston is off to a terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad start. With a defense like this, Zdeno Chara on the shelf, and Brad Marchand concussed, maybe you say it was unavoidable.

But the fact that they've given up 5.33 goals a night in their first three games seems, well, worse than anyone should have had any right to expect. And it's not just that their luck is going against them; they have awful possession numbers too. It's a bad situation all the way around, and one that doesn't really seem to have much of an end even if Chara comes back because Kevan Miller will still be a top-four defenseman in all likelihood. Kevan Miller, guys!

But man, this has to make things uncomfortable for the not-fired-yet-as-far-as-I-know-but-these-things-feel-pretty-touch-and-go-right-now Claude Julien. The sword of Damocles doesn't seem like it's dangling over his head so much as it is doing that thing bullies do in teen movies where they pretend they're gonna punch the nerds and then they don't and everyone laughs like it's really funny that the nerd thought he was gonna get punched by a guy who has a clear history of punching other nerds in the past? I don't know. Point being another loss or two and it's craptown for Claude, seems to me.

Of course, there are the rumors being circulated by some members of the Boston media — in what one can only assume is a beach-softening campaign for when the veteran trades do indeed come later this year — that the club is considering moving Chara and/or Brad Marchand, among others. Okay fine.

But that's, like, what a GM should be doing every day on the job. Talk about value of every player in the system on a continual basis, then occasionally call up another GM and say, “What's the market for so-and-so?” and kind of gauge what that means for the club versus keeping him, etc. It's just weighing your options continually. That's the job.

Some Bruins fans may not like to hear it, and it almost certainly isn't happening with those guys in particular, but it's definitely happening. There are plenty of reasons to disbelieve the rumors about these specific players — well-placed sources for other journalists who immediately refuted them, etc. — but there can be little doubt that these are questions the Bruins ask themselves internally, and other GMs externally, literally every day.

So please don't get yourself all twisted up about any specific Bruins rumors you hear, because basically what it boils down to is that they're likely not-not-true, which means they are true in the strictest sense of the word, but that nothing is imminent or even likely to happen on this front. It's clickbait plain and simple. It's barely a step above Eklund, who also claims to have all these sources and inside information, but used to break stories just often enough that the garbage he puts online every day gets some validity.

This goes for just about any trade rumor you see, and that's true of guys like Marchand in particular. Teams don't move them as a first resort unless they're blowing it all up.

Which they might. A month and a half from now. If the losing continues. But if the losing continues you have much bigger problems than maybe-trading a 200-year-old defenseman.

7. Dean Lombardi

The NHL has always had a funny relationship with morality. It is applicable in a lot of cases (diving is bad!) but not others (sometimes guys like Raffi Torres might try to kill you but that's literally why we hire him!).

But the line between moralism and opportunism in the league got just a little bit blurrier this week, as Dean Lombardi was all, “You guys I feel, like, SO used by Mike Richards oh my godddddd!” Can you believe this player who has ready access to all the pain killers he wants was caught with an extremely small amount of pain killers? Lombardi literally can't!!!! That's why they terminated his contract, because he Trusted Mike Richards and Mike Richards Betrayed Him.

Mike Richards was a party-boy? You don't say, bud. Never heard it before so why wouldn't you be surprised? I bet Alex Burrows was just saying that Richards likes to smell ice shavings way back in 2012. No other intent or meaning could be inferred there.

If you think Richards has a substance abuse problem, fair enough, but let's not act as though that supposed knife in your back in any way slowed your ability to get the contract-termination papers faxed to the league office as soon as news of the arrest broke.

It's opportunism, pretty clearly. Richards had an awful contract that Lombardi knowingly took on in his pursuit of a Stanley Cup (and hey, it worked twice!), and this was the perfect out. Again, fair enough if you say hockey's a business and leave it at that.

But the maudlin, weepy, “Mike Richards was my best friend and he turned his back on all that to carry a bottle of pain killers clearly intended for personal use,” crap was indefensible. If Richards was really your Derek Jeter, maybe you stick by him and help him get help for his apparent substance abuse problems. Especially when a lot of that substance abuse might just come because he gave his brain health for his teams — what's his “official” concussion count? At least four? — and the constant pain that comes from being a physical hockey player.

So let's just say it in no uncertain terms: Mike Richards didn't betray Dean Lombardi. Dean Lombardi betrayed Mike Richards.

And then cried about it to the media to make himself the victim. “At times I think I will never recover from it,” Lombardi wrote. Maybe the Kings will pay for him to go to rehab. It's more than they did for Richards.

6. The Blue Jackets

Sure the start is bad, and sure it's early in the season, and sure the start of every season in Columbus has been bad for years now. But this feels like a special brand of bad, doesn't it? Not that Sergei Bobrovsky is going to carry an .850 save percentage forever, but Columbus doing poorly in the preseason is something everyone should have seen coming.

That defense is awful. Flat-out bad.

They signed Gregory Campbell in the offseason. Why would anyone do that?

Nick Foligno is actually expected to be good again.

Boone Jenner might never live down the humiliation of getting torched on that early-season trademark Jack Eichel goal.

Lots of problems here, predictably enough. Don't know why anyone bought into them at all.

5. Greatness delayed

Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid haven't done very much in the first few games of the season and people are worried.

The Oilers, new-look though they're supposed to be, had just one goal in their first two games and McDavid, savior though he's supposed to be, wasn't on the ice for it.

And not only did Crosby not have a point, he didn't even have a shot on goal in his first two games.

Now, there are mitigating factors in both cases, as you probably guessed. McDavid's first two opponents? The stingy, stingy Blues and the stingy, stingy Predators, both on the road. Pretty easy to line-match against arguably the greatest hockey talent in the league when you're at home and you're a veteran team with a good coach. And four shots on goal isn't a bad total for an 18-year-old playing in his first two games against mega-tough teams. Especially when linemate Taylor Hall had 12 (TWELVE!). Then he only got a tip-in goal in his third game. Wow, can you believe it? He didn't score early, but I'd bet a pretty hefty amount of money he'll make up for that by scoring often instead.

This is similar to Crosby's predicament. Phil Kessel and Kris Letang were taking all his looks (nine and 10 shots, respectively, in the first two games) and that's fine. Unlike with McDavid, we knew Crosby was going to start pouring the puck on goal any damn minute now to a certainty, since that's all he's ever done in this league. However, you have to say the draws of “at Dallas” and “at Arizona” aren't quite so difficult as what McDavid has faced.

Not that you wouldn't want to see Crosby attempt more than one shot in two games, or maybe try getting above 45 percent CF, but hey. It's Sid Crosby. Let's not worry too much.

4. This anecdote

The Islanders signed Eric Boulton this week for reasons that elude everyone but Garth Snow. But it at least gave us this beautiful thing. It's good:

This sport is good sometimes.

3. Anyone with a goalie to sell

Robin Lehner is out 6-10 weeks for Buffalo. That's a long time to start Chad Johnson.

Good news: Some teams (Anaheim, Carolina, Calgary, and Toronto just off the top of my head) are probably looking to offload a goaltender, and Tim Murray has some assets to play with. Not to get all HFBoards here, but there has to be a deal to be made out there with, like, a second-round pick and a B prospect. Prices get pretty steep when someone sees that you're desperate.

Of course, it could be that Murray's just figuring, “Whatever,” and letting the chips fall where they may for the next two months or so. Buffalo wins a bunch? Great, they're a decent team with good players at every position, so that could totally happen. Buffalo goes .500? Yeah that sounds about right. Buffalo loses a ton? Oh no, they're gonna get another high draft pick.

Knowing Murray's attitude toward a lot of things in hockey so far, I bet the last of these choices is something with which he is 100 percent fine.

2. Pretending like there's a concussion protocol in place but there isn't really

Rookie forward Robby Fabri had a hell of a start to a season, but now it's cut short by a concussion. That's bad enough.

Then the revelation from Ken Hitchcock that was basically saying, “Pretty surprised he has a concussion since we put him out there for another three shifts and didn't die or throw up all over himself anything.”

Three extra shifts!

Hey, don't we have people that are supposed to spot potential concussions these days? What happened with them, eh?

But on well, it's not everyone that's behaving inappropriately regarding concussions. Here's Brad Marchand displaying a reasonably healthy attitude toward how to properly handle concussed players (i.e. not just telling them to stop being babies and get back into the damn lineup because you're losing games:

“It’s early in the year, and I’m not going to rush back because of the results now. I’d rather miss another game or two than miss potentially a couple of months if I get hit again. It is very tough any time you sit out, especially if the team loses, but at the end of the day, it’s more beneficial to the team and for myself if I come back 100 percent and I don’t get injured again.”

All blessings and good health be unto you, Brad.

1. Jack Eichel

So this kid is good. Wanna watch that goal again? Sure you do. Here ya go.

Eat it McDavid!! Eichel should have been first overall!!!!!!!

(Not ranked this week: The Bruins/Canadiens rivalry.

Okay, rivalries are all well and good, yeah? But this one is getting too acrimonious. Brad Marchand gets a concussion, Torrey Mitchell slewfoots someone, etc. etc.

Is someone going to have to be carted off the ice on a stretcher before everyone goes, “Wow, maybe we should tone it down,” or what? These games aren't fun to watch any more because there's a real chance that someone is going to get very seriously hurt by the cheap garbage that comes with these games and, from what I've seen in other “heated” rivalries — not just the ones on Wednesday nights, baby! — no one is out there literally trying to kill someone.

Next time out, Zac Rinaldo is literally going to put someone in the hospital. Can't wait. Love the atmosphere. And so on.)

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

(All statistics via War On Ice unless otherwise noted.)

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