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Soda the Savior

Posted By Matt Preston On Apr 14 2013 @ 6:57 pm In Boston Bruins | No Comments

It was one of the first trades ever made under his watch, about a year after taking over the office. Now in the seventh year of his regime, Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli is finally going to get to see the pay-off as the Bruins formally announced their three-year, one-way deal with Carl Soderberg prior to Saturday night’s, 4-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. The 6’3, 200 pound Swedish center has finally cleared customs and is en route to the United States.

Despite being traded to Boston in a 2007 swap with the St. Louis Blue that sent goaltender Hannu Toivonen west in exchange for the rights to Soderberg, the 27-year old has never shown any interest in leaving his native land until this spring. After leading the Swedish Elite League in points this season, it seems the time as finally arrived for the Malmö native to finally make his way to the game’s highest level.

The Bruins’ newest savior.

At least that is how some amongst the Black-and-Gold faithful have touted the mysterious Swede since it was rumored he would finally be making his way to North America last month. That dream seems to finally becoming a reality now that all the red tape has been cleared up with the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation, who had been attempting to block the move after Soderberg was released from his contract with Linkoping of the Swedish Elite League team in order to sign with Boston.

For those hoping for great things from Soderberg, his arrival could not come at a better time. As it stands, with just seven games left in the regular season, the Bruins are an offensively starved team, completely devoid of any sort of consistency in their lineup. Head coach Claude Julien, never known to be one to ever change his lineup, has been rolling the dice with new line combinations on a nightly basis in hopes of finding some sort of stability in the absence of top center Patrice Bergeron, who has missed the past six games with a concussion.

The Bruins are in desperate need of some sort of fix up front, but is it really fair to expect a man who has never played a game in the NHL to come in at this point in the season and be the savior?

The B’s offense was struggling two weeks ago when they brought in Jaromir Jagr, a hockey legend for his on-ice accomplishment, and he has not able to bring any sort of stability to the team. How is it Soderberg, a hockey legend in Boston for his enigmatic status, can be the silver bullet?

Truth be told, what is really known about Soderberg?

When he arrives on Wednesday, it will be the first time Soderberg has skated with the Bruins organization since his rights were acquired in 2007. Reports, however, have the Swede listed as a big-bodied center who has some grit and a decent scoring touch, as evident from his 31 goals in 54 games for Linkoping. Coupled with his +18 rating this season – the pivot has not had a minus rating since his third professional season – Soderberg has makings of a player who will fit right in with the Bruins and Julien’s systems.

To be the savior, though, might be a bit much when it comes to Soderberg. To see him as a finalizing piece to a Stanley Cup puzzle, however, may not be too far out of line, albeit unlikely. All of that is going to depend on how quickly he can adjust to life as a Bruin.

There is always an adjustment period for a player when they join a new team throughout the course of the season. Swedish players have also had mixed results when they first jump from the comforts of home and the wide-open ice of the Swedish Elite League to the unfamiliar landscape of the National Hockey League.

At 27, Soderberg is an older, more mature player than most when they first make the jump, which will work in his favor. Yet, he is not scheduled to join the Bruins until Wednesday, which means it will likely be Friday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the earliest Soderberg will be available for game action. That would give him all of five games and about three weeks to get adjusted to North America before the NHL playoffs begin.

With Bergeron set to return to the lineup in the coming days and the Bruins strong depth at center, Soderberg will also have to be able to transition to playing the wing, as well as his new surroundings, if he is looking for a regular place in the lineup.

If he can make the adjustments, Soderberg can become a valuable piece at the bottom of the Bruins offensive rotation as the team looks to find their edge down the stretch and into the playoffs. He will, however, be just a piece.

Soderberg alone cannot fix what ails the Bruins at this moment and too much of an unknown to be a cure-all for their sluggishness. The current Bruins are still going to need to turn their game around. The best to be hoped for is he can spark some life into the roster and his presence can give Julien a number of options over the team’s remaining games to help nurse his team tired squad back to health.

It is more likely Soderberg’s presence in the Bruins’ locker room will not be felt until next season. Assuming Bergeron and Brad Marchand, also currently out of the lineup with a concussion, can return to full health, with the addition of Jagr, there is little room for a regular spot in the lineup for Soderberg. At best, he would find himself with Jordan Caron and Kaspars Daugavins as more offensive possibilities for a fourth line wing position if Julien decides to keep Shawn Thornton’s grit or Jay Pandolfo’s experience out of the lineup in the playoffs.

None of this, however, should take away from the excitement of finally getting to see what the long-awaited Swede is all about. Much of the Bruins’ early season offensive struggles centered around the team’s inability to find a player who meshed on the third line with Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly. He may not become a superstar or be the savior, but if Soderberg’s game can translate to professional hockey in North America and he can live up to the hype, he becomes a likely candidate to be in the running to help stabilize that spot next winter.

Just temper the expectations.

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