Recently, the Boston Bruins signed four different players who will most likely help strengthen the Providence Bruins and perhaps see some play time with the big time club, too. As a Bruins fan, I'm eager to see what this quartet will bring to the table and what roles they will play in the organization.
The team brought in two veteran defensive presences when they signed Aaron Johnson on July 18 and Garnet Exelby on July 11. Johnson's most recent experience is with the Columbus Blue Jackets, where last season was a career-high for him in terms of assists and points. That built off a 2010-11 spent with the AHL's Milwaukee Admirals, in which he scored nine goals, added 26 assists and totaled 35 points--another career-high season for goals, assists and points. So, he's had two consecutive big years: one in the NHL, one in the AHL. He has experience with other NHL teams and time with other AHL teams as well. Plus, over time he's learned to be more disciplined by increasing his offensive output and decreasing his penalty minutes.
Like Johnson, Exelby is a defenseman who has lots of experience at both levels of the game. He won the AHL's highest prize, the Calder Cup, as part of the 2001-02 Chicago Wolves, an experience that may be great for his younger teammates to hear about and use as inspiration. In his six years with the Atlanta Thrashers, he generally scored about 10 points total and racked up the penalty minutes, part of what he describes as being as unfriendly as possible to the other team while playing. Through his time with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Rockford IceHogs (the Chicago Blackhawks AHL team) and Grand Rapids Griffins (the Detroit Red Wings AHL team) he kept up this unfriendliness, but improved his offense too. He was even captain of the IceHogs.
Both Johnson and Exelby will bring veteran experience, and a past AHL championship in Exelby's case, to the Providence locker room. Perhaps they can mentor some promising young players and put them on the right path to success.
The Bruins also renewed their commitments to Matt Bartkowski and Lane MacDermid on July 12 and 11 respectively. Bartkowski is a young, promising, award-winning defenseman. Though he's only played nine games in Boston, he's made quite an impact in Providence. His 23-point season in 2010-11 led the team's blueliners for scoring and brought him Best Defenseman honors in a teammates' vote. He also won Best Defensive Player during his college days with Ohio State University and was named Most Valuable Freshman in his first year there. This season, he had 22 points, which is still a nice output.
MacDermid is the only forward of these four recent signings. In his five-game call-up to Boston this past season, he earned his very first fighting major in his first shift of his first game. With Providence, he's had three consecutive years with at least 120 penalty minutes--that's two hours of penalties! However, he does have a championship to his name, too: he was part of the 2008-09 Windsor Spitfires team that won the Memorial Cup. His experiences are interesting because he grew up immersed in hockey--his father Paul played almost 700 NHL games, many for the Hartford Whalers. This puts the younger MacDermid in the company of Christian Hanson and Chris Bourque, two other new Bruins acquisitions whose dads were in the hockey world too.
The Providence team needs to be strong and talented because it is a pool of potential talent for Boston to draw from as needed. Their head coach knows his team needs to be better. As a fan, I want the organization to be at its best from top to bottom and these four recent pickups could be just what Providence needs to find more success.
Emma Harger is a Bruins fan who wonders if any other sons of famous players are looking for a new team to join because in Boston (or Providence), they would find good company.