Pre-Season Preview: Boston Blades

Boston Blades

The Blades finished second in the league last season, with 26 points on a 24-game season. This is quite a bit behind league leader Montreal, who finished with 42 in 23 games. It was in the Clarkson Cup tournament, however, that Boston stole the show from Montreal, looking like the clear top dogs — until Toronto upset them in an overtime victory.

Over the course of the last season, Boston had some of the worse special teams in the league, with a power play of 12.61%, and a penalty kill of 83.51%. Their power play is actually a tiny improvement over the previous year, but their penalty kill was a pretty big fall off, as it had been 96.69% in the previous 2012-2013 season. This fall off can probably be laid at the feet of their missing Olympians, particularly the loss at their blue line of Gigi Marvin, Anne Schleper, and Kacey Bellamy. Notably, they also lost Caitlin Cahow, their captain in the 2012/2013 season, first to Team USA before the Olympics and then to retirement from the league. They also lost both of their goaltenders — Geneviève Lacasse to Canada, who started the majority of the 12/13 season and had a .925 SV%, and Molly Schaus to the US, who had an .888 SV%.

While Boston remained one of the stronger teams in the league last year, it was despite a clear loss of some of their core players. They had several players step up to take on this challenge, particularly Jillian Dempsey, who was the 2014 Rookie of the Year, and finished the season 5th in the league for scoring. Brittany Ott, who started most of the games for Boston, was also a rookie in the 2013/2014 season, and in fact lead the league in save percentage, with a .921 SV% over 17 games. Blake Bolden, another 2013 rookie, also stepped up to try and fill that hole on the blue line — she had 19 points in 23 games with the Blades. She was also, however, the most penalized player on the Blades, with 44 PIM, twice as much as the next most penalized player. That’s a bad habit for a player on a team that’s having a harder time killing penalties. Overall, however, Boston was one of the least penalized teams.

So, this is supposed to be a preview of the upcoming 2014/2015 season, not a rehashing of last season–what are the Blades going to look like this year? And the problem is, I’m not quite sure.

Boston is currently without official commitments from Marvin, Schleper, Schaus, and Hilary Knight. On Knight in particular, there’s some speculation that she’s going to be trying out for a Swedish men’s league. Also, Meghan Duggan is going to be an assistant coach with Clarkson, which is six hours at least from Boston. (Or so Google Maps tells me). That’s quite a trek if she’s also going to be playing in Boston. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her time with the Blades greatly reduced, if she’s on the team this season. However, I’m told that Tara Watchorn will be moving to Boston, as her fiancée works there. I’d expect to see her end up on the Blades. Watchorn was very solid for Calgary’s defence, as well as for Canada in Sochi.

Jenny Potter at the 2010 Olympics
Jenny Potter at the 2010 Olympics

Even if the Blades are losing some of their more elite and veteran players, they made moves to address that in this year’s draft. Their first pick overall was Jenny Potter, the 35-year old forward previously of the US National Team and the Minnesota Whitecaps. She actually won the Clarkson Cup with the Whitecaps in the 2009/2010 season, making her a member of the unofficial Triple Gold Club, with the 1998 Olympic gold, the Clarkson cup, and gold in the Women’s World Championships. I’m actually a little surprised to see Potter go to the CWHL — I had thought she was focusing more on coaching these days.

Monique Lameroux while at the University of North Dakota
Monique Lameroux while at the University of North Dakota

With their second pick, the Blades picked up Monique Lamoureux, of Team USA and University of North Dakota. She’s listed by Team USA as a forward, but North Dakota lists her as D/F — I’ll be interested in seeing how that shakes out in Boston. She was often right behind her twin sister Jocelyne for scoring leader in North Dakota, and I’d expect her to bring that to Boston. She’s a very physical forward who likes to crash the net, but I’ll be honest — I’ve mostly seen her play for Team USA, and I’ve never seen her without her sister. Let’s hope they’re not as much like the Sedins as they’re painted, and can be just as good without each other.

Another excellent forward from Team USA, Boston picked Brianna Decker in the third round. She was the 2012 Patty Kazmaier winner while with the Wisconsin Badgers. In her last two years with them, she finished first in points for the team — ahead of both Carolyne Prevost and Hilary Knight, I’d like to point out. 🙂 Her first two years, she finished in the top three.

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Decker at the 2011 Women's Worlds. Photo by Becaro.
Decker at the 2011 Women’s Worlds. Photo by Becaro.

 

Boston took the most players in the draft, with 19 players in total drafted. The number is so high due to the geographical constraints of players having to live and have a job near their team.

Boston is going to be DEEP AS HELL next year. We don’t know exactly who they’re going to have, between uncertain commitments and the fact that you can only roster 25 players. Based on how we’ve seen their defense fumble when they’ve had major personnel disruptions, I’d suspect their blue line is going to have some friction coming together, particularly if Gigi Marvin doesn’t come back. It’s always been my impression that the Blades’ defense was largely built around Marvin. However, I’m hopeful that the added veteran presence will smooth out their transition, and Digit Murphy is a good coach who will hopefully be able to re-mold them into a cohesive team. I’d expect them to remain strong in the league, but I’m also anticipating early season struggles, on the ice even if not on the league board. I think their goalies are good enough to shore up a rough defense, but that’s not a long-term solution.

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EDIT: According to a September 16th USA Hockey article, Duggan intends to continue playing for Boston while coaching at Clarkson.

2 thoughts on “Pre-Season Preview: Boston Blades”

  1. AFAICT, Kelli Stack has also not yet reconfirmed for the Blades, and the fact that she’s not at the National Evaluation Camp this week makes me wonder if she’s taking time off. That would be a very sad loss.

    You also have to suspect that if Duggan is playing for anyone, it’ll be the Stars (just as Julie Chu did while coaching at Union, which is a longer drive to Montreal than Clarkson is). I had heard that she had wrist problems and might be taking a break from playing, but I’d be surprised if she could stay away all season.

    Marvin I expect to come back based on her presence at camp. Schleper I think we may have lost for good, which is a shame, she was great at the Olympics. But Gagliardi will help shore up weaknesses there.

    In net, maybe Schaus has decided not to come back (she was tweeting recently about an organization that works with ex-athletes to help them find work). But Ott is an absolute rock and, based on what I saw at the Women’s Beantown Classic this summer, she loves hockey as much as she ever did. So I have no concerns there.

    The other nice thing about the Blades season is they have a relatively stable home venue at U Mass Boston; almost all their games are there, and it’s a great place for them, handy for a lot of people to get to and with good parking. Looking forward to the games!

  2. Yeah, I’m really hoping that the more stable home arena means more people going to games– I obvs. don’t know Boston, but from just creeping on GMaps, it looked a lot better to get to. Hopefully would make it easier for them to do more non-game stuff too– they did a bunch of meet and greet stuff last year, as I remember.

    Kelli Stack! How did I forget Kelli Stack, she was even in my outline! Yeah, that’s going to be a big loss for Boston. After not seeing her at the National Eval, I was wracking my brain trying to remember if there’d been any talk of injuries for her– maybe it’s just taking a break. Sad tho.

    If Duggan’s playing for Montreal, in whatever capacity, Montreal would have to formally release her/trade her, right? So we should see an announcement of that if so. Glad to hear Marvin was at camp though– I’ve always thought Boston relied *heavily* on her/her style of play, and I’d really like to see them get that back end back in order. Gagliardi is def. going to help there tho, I think you’re right.

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