It’s no secret that defenseman Adam McQuaid is a tough cookie. The 212-pound Prince Edward Island native is no stranger to giving up his body for the sake of the team and that means he is also no stranger to injury. Just two weeks into the regular season on October 19, McQuaid sustained a broken leg after taking two pucks to his right leg in an effort to block them. His efforts left mixed feelings as the Boston Bruins beat the Vancouver Canucks 6-3, but they were also down one of their best veteran defensemen. It’s been roughly eight weeks since McQuaid’s injury and, according to head coach Bruce Cassidy, his return is “imminent” at this point.
McQuaid could be ready to go as early as Monday night’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets who have been struggling with a 5-4-0 record in their last nine games, seven of which were backed by elite goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. While the Blue Jackets have been struggling, the Bruins are not anticipating this will be an easy win and they would love to have McQuaid back in the lineup. That being said, McQuaid returning means the Bruins have to sit a defenseman and that won’t be easy considering how well everyone has been playing as of late.
Cassidy said “we’ll fit the pieces together when he’s truly ready to play” and it seems that time will be coming this week. The Bruins have a few options in terms of combatting the abundance of defenseman (not something Bruins fans thought they would ever hear based on how injuries have been flying left and right for their team):
1. McQuaid could be put back with his original defensive partner Torey Krug which would mean moving right-handed Kevan Miller to the left side. This would have him paired up with 21-year-old Brandon Carlo who has had his fair share of struggles this season. This option also involves sending Matt Grzelcyk back down to Providence. While that seems logical seeing as Grzelcyk was the last defenseman called up, he has played extremely well and has seemingly earned his place on the roster.
2. As stated above, Carlo has had quite an up-and-down season so the Bruins could conceivably sit him out and play McQuaid in his place, likely with Krug since the duo has played well together before. This could prove a problematic solution because sitting Carlo means potentially prolonging and interrupting his development which could cost the Bruins in the long run.
3. The final option is to do something the Bruins have done a few times before and that is to sit a winger and dress seven defensemen. This usually means one or two defensemen getting little ice time in comparison to the other five, but it allows all of them to play.
In the end, Cassidy and the coaching staff will have to make that decision, but they aren’t rushing a timetable for McQuaid return at the moment. Cassidy said that while McQuaid is “getting close” and has been practicing with the team, “I don’t know if Monday will be when he’ll be cleared… I just don’t want to pinpoint an exact date.” While he’s not giving a definitive date, Cassidy is looking forward to the competition that will result from McQuaid’s return.
McQuaid was all smiles as he talked about his return saying “I’d like to get back as soon as I can obviously. I’ve missed a lot of time, but it’s a process. I just try to approach it like I’m not getting my hopes up too much…I’m just out there trying to get closer, but I’m excited about where I’m at and the possibility of moving forward. It’s been fun watching the guys, but I can’t wait to get back in there and be part of a winning hockey team again.”
Some rust in his game and a short adjustment period may be necessary for the veteran after missing 24 games, but being able to have McQuaid at their disposal is very important and exciting for the Bruins, especially since he can act as a protector for forward Brad Marchand who has been on the receiving end of some borderline dirty hits as of late. As Steve Conroy of Boston Herald pointed out: “In the long term his presence adds more size, strength and toughness in the defensive zone.”
It’s clear the return of McQuaid, while the cause of some issues or competition among the defenseman, is highly anticipated and exciting for the team, the coaches, and the fans since he’s a hard-nosed defenseman who does not give up easily. It’s always nice to have someone willing to give themselves up for the sake of the team and that is something Adam McQuaid never thinks twice about. He truly embodies the phrase “big, bad Bruins” and it’ll be great to have him back.