The Bruins addressed their size issues on defense when they signed Derek Forbort in the off-season, but the move didn’t quite address the style of big defenseman they need. Rumored trade target Jacob Middleton would.
Boston is among the teams that have shown interest in Middleton ahead of the trade deadline, according to Pierre LeBrun. And 98.5 The Sports Hub’s own Ty Anderson endorsed the idea of trading for him in the newest episode of the Sports Hub Underground podcast with myself, which you can listen to above.
Middleton makes sense for a Bruins defense that has had trouble preventing teams from scoring in the high-danger areas. The stats bear out that Middleton excels in that area, particularly on the penalty kill.
“I think he’s a guy that makes sense based on league trends – a bigger defense, make it harder to get through to prime scoring areas,” Anderson said of Middleton on the “Sports Hub Underground” Thursday. “I look at his numbers, his advanced metrics, and I say ‘he’s a guy who does that.’ He’s a guy who makes it harder to get to high-danger areas, which – the more of those guys you have, the better off you’ll be, I think.”
About those advanced metrics … the Sharks have allowed only 2.03 power play goals per 60 minutes with Middleton on the ice, the best rate in the NHL among all defensemen with at least 50 penalty kill minutes, per Natural Stat Trick. He’s also eighth in high-danger goals allowed under the same criteria. Contrast that with Forbort, who is 80th in GA/60 and 79th in HDGA/60 shorthanded.
Oct 24, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins right wing David Pastrnak (88) controls the puck while San Jose Sharks defenseman Jacob Middleton (21) defends during the first period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
A big plus: Middleton isn’t afraid to drop the gloves. He has eight fighting majors on the season, tied for fourth-most in the NHL. The Bruins could use a bit of that nastiness for when things get out of hand.
One of the downsides is that Middleton is a left shot, so he’d represent depth but wouldn’t be guaranteed a spot every night. Ideally, the B’s could find a Middleton-type defenseman for the right side. And he may not solve similar defensive issues at 5-on-5 like he would on the PK.
But as a bottom-pairing, depth penalty-kill specialist, and a guy who can help police things physically, Middleton makes sense. It’s not surprising that Don Sweeney has looked into him.
Oct 24, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins defenseman Connor Clifton (75) skates with the puck while San Jose Sharks defenseman Jacob Middleton (21) defends during the first period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 16, 2021; San Jose, California, USA; Winnipeg Jets defenseman Logan Stanley (64) punches San Jose Sharks defenseman Jacob Middleton (21) during the second period at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 16, 2021; San Jose, California, USA; San Jose Sharks defenseman Jacob Middleton (21) lands a punch on Winnipeg Jets defenseman Logan Stanley (64) during the second period at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 20, 2020; Newark, New Jersey, USA; San Jose Sharks defenseman Jacob Middleton (67) and New Jersey Devils center John Hayden (15) fight during the first period at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 25, 2018; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames left wing Matthew Tkachuk (19) and San Jose Sharks defenseman Jacob Middleton (67) battle for the puck during the second period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @mattydsays. You can also email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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