We all know the Boston Bruins are an “Original Six” franchise of the NHL. But the team may truly be one-of-a-kind when it comes to media mass hysteria — and I’m not talking about the kind where dogs and cats are living together ala Peter Venkman from Ghostbusters.
I’m referring to the stop-what-you’re-doing-and-pay-attention-to-what-I’m-making-up-on-the-spot kind of rhetoric that engulfs Bruins fans more so than most others. Whether it’s roster related, a contract conundrum, a management move or just spurious speculation, the social media subject line of the B’s buzzes more than the ones that bumble. And that’s why if you’re not careful — or get caught up too quickly in all the hype — you’ll be left a bumbling mess before the season even starts.
So, here’s something to help you wade through all the recent hubbub in the Hub of Hockey (and you know the fervor is legit because Bruins Nation is focused more on the puck than Putin or Panarin these days, which is scarier than a Hannu Toivonen highlight reel as seen below).
Gotcha. It doesn’t exist. But what does? These three simple reminders for you to actually keep in mind as you scroll through the interwebs catching up on all things Black ‘N Gold.
1. Hot Takes… Can Be Cold As Ice
You don’t need to be a fan of Foreigner to appreciate the above reference. But you do need to be “willing to sacrifice your love” of believing all-things Bruins whenever they pop-up in your feed. Just take a look at some recent “Trade Tuukka” Twitter talk (and to quote a certain POTUS, if memory serves me, there are good people on both sides of this debate):
The best part of the Bruins goaltending situation being in the news rn is that my beautiful dad Mike Felger won’t be anywhere near the studio when we all talk about how solid Tuukka Rask is
COLUMN: With Jaroslav Halak now in place as the backup, it raises a lot of questions about the efficiency at the goaltending position for the Bruins…and what they should do about it in the next two seasons https://t.co/GXEQTTbNpZ
Damn! #NHLBruins Twitter has been hilarious this morning. Love the insight from fans after the offseason goaltending controversy erupted again. Thanks #BruinsFam for keeping me entertained. #Boston#NHL
The takeaway from the above tweets: keep yourself entertained like @BlackAndGold277 suggests and remember the phrase about that whole “grain of salt” because, without it, your recipe for offseason success–and sanity–won’t taste good.
2. Don’t Press The Issue
When most of us were growing up and following our favorite teams (and yes even some of you millennials will know what I mean by this), we opined for the opinion & sports pages when it came to the most up-to-date info. And in Beantown, the best of those newspapers (yes, that’s what they were called) usually came with the Sunday Sports Section. Wait until the end of the weekend to finally get caught up on all-things Bruins? That’s how it once was if you can believe it.
Now, it’s a veritable free-for-all from where — and who — you can get your hockey and B’s fix. Forget weekly updates, forget even daily updates… you can get up-to-the-minute facts, figures, faces and more all thanks to the internet, social media and the plethora of TV/streaming/web channels only catering to your fandom. AND in some cases, you don’t even need a subscription for these readily accessible and timely sources.
Which brings me to my point — don’t feel the need to ONLY stick to one source. Make the most of all the talented and dedicated Bruins writers, bloggers, media & press who are putting themselves out there for the benefit of the fans & team. Sure, you’re going to watch, listen to, and read from “personalities” you don’t like or agree with, but that will benefit the overall conversation surrounding the team. If you’re too into just one person, one source, one account or one site, then you’re doing yourself a disservice to the big B’s picture.
If you’re the type of person/fan who can’t help but comment on the Bruins power play as it happens, almost as if you’re in the NESN booth with Jack & Andy themselves, then I’ve got an idea for you…
If you’re the type of person/fan who constantly updates your feed or checks the B’s status or logs into email hoping for news (any news) on the team, then perhaps you should pay attention…
And if you’re the type of person/fan who always wants to share what you think about all things Black N’ Gold–from trades to stats to playoff positioning and more–then here’s a suggestion…
WRITE ABOUT IT!
That’s right, WRITE! Don’t be afraid to let your voice be heard. Take a shot at sharing what you think about the Bruins. Who knows, you may be able to offer insight and a unique perspective that no one else has yet. You may be able to offer a sense of humor or history that hasn’t been explored yet. You may be able to make others think about their top team in a way they never have yet. But you can’t take advantage of the man–or woman–advantage unless you go on it. And it looks like the opportunity could be now:
In honor of today’s date on the calendar being the actual calendar date in your phone or computer’s “emoji” list (you know, those goofy little faces, figures & icons that have taken the place of meaningful words, phrases and communication tools), I present to you one of the most iconic and memorable plays in all of hockey history, let alone Boston Bruins history, and perhaps even broadcasting history:
Can you guess which historic moment this is? Do you need a few hints? Ok, here are a few more in, you guessed it, emoji form:
The 🗣who 🎙 the game on 📻&📺worked for the 🎶’s!
Any luck yet? How about if I told you that it produced one of the single-most recognizable images in all of sports — one that hangs proudly in Boston dens, offices, living rooms, man caves, bars and even the Hockey Hall of Fame! Would this help:
The 🖼was memorably 📸’d while 🚣♂️was in mid-💨‼
Without further ado, on #WorldEmojiDay, here is the legendary clip called by the great Dan Kelly, which will forever be remembered by Bruins fans, hockey fans, and all fans of sporting entertainment, long after the “emoji” days have passed.
After (H)all, some ICONS will stand the test of time more than others😉.
(Photo Credit: Evan Michael, Bobby Orr & Ray Lussier)
Providence has had a long and storied history with ice hockey. One which dates to December 1926 when the Rhode Island Reds played the Springfield Indians in the now-defunct Canadian-American Hockey League (C-AHL). While the Reds lost heartily that day, the fervor for the game that was never to be quenched. At the time the Reds were known more for their pugilistic acumen than their talents with the puck, but as the years flew by they gained their footing and truly made a name for themselves winning the Fontaine Cup in 1930, ‘32 and ’34, coming in second in 1931 to their very first foes, the Springfield Indians.
The demise of the Canadian-American Hockey League at the end of the 1935-36 season would not end the era of ice hockey for Rhode Island. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of both the C-AHL and the IHL (International Hockey League), the International-American Hockey League (I-AHL), later to be renamed the AHL, was formed in 1936 with 8 foundational teams. The Rhode Island Reds being one of these elite eight.
The Reds barely noticed the changed in leagues. Refusing to fall far behind and capturing their first and second AHL titles back to back in 1939 and 1940. World War II was hard on everyone, but the team and the community struggled through these times together coming out the other side stronger and wiser for their efforts. The war had changed everyone, values were slightly altered, and emphasis was placed more on the moment. Capturing the Calder Cup was in the cards only 2 more times for the ultimately ill-fated team; 1949 and 1956 saw the last two years the Reds were to celebrate their ultimate victories. However, as many looked back, they remembered that while winning was an incredible experience the journey along the way, the ups, the downs, the comradery and the friendships. That is what made ice hockey mean so much to Rhode Island and Providence. Therefore, when the affiliation with the Rangers ended in 1975 and in 1977, after 51 years, the Reds said goodbye to hockey, everyone knew it would not be gone for long.
Not long can be a very relative term, I get it, Trust me. My father is a paleontologist/geologist and as he would remind me, <using best dad voice> “Jennifer, not long, geologically speaking, could be billions of years.” Whereas, to my teenage daughter, a web-page taking ten seconds to load is <teenage whining> “forever.” So, let us settle somewhere at a more reasonable in between. Our beloved Providence Bruins, the official AHL affiliate of the Boston Bruins, brought hockey back to Providence proper in 1992. But the Road to Providence started, almost fortuitously, in 1977 in a little town you may have heard of, Portland Maine.
Portland Maine was abuzz with the news that a new hockey team was to follow the construction of Cumberland County Civic Center. Multiple teams bid to be “that” team, but the Philadelphia Flyers were the only one of the bunch willing to commit their top-level farm team to the great white north of Maine. Voila, the Maine Mariners were born. The Mariners opened their inaugural season on October 15, 1977, in front of a crowd of over 6,000 and carried that momentum throughout the season being the first team in the AHL to ever win the Calder Cup on their first go. As affiliations go, in 1983 Philly decided to change direction and sold the rights of the Mariners to the New Jersey Devils. The Devils loved the ready-made franchise idea but wanted them a little closer to home so, in 1987 New Jersey up and moved the team to Utica New York re-branding them the Utica Devils. This franchise was eventually purchased by the Calgary Flames organization and has undergone many iterations, including a few seasons of dormancy, but currently live on as the Stockton Heat, their AHL affiliate.
Portland, Maine refused to be left out of the hockey mix and here is where it really gets good. The AHL approved an expansion team to be supplied from the Boston Bruins, to be located in Portland Maine, and to be named… wait for it… the Maine Mariners.
Internal Dialogue:Wait… What?!? Didn’t they just leave?? A team called the Maine Mariners left Portland for Utica and changed their name. Now we were issued a new team, also called the Maine Mariners, but stockpiled with players from Boston????
Okay got it, I am totally on board. Good deal, carry on smartly.
This, my friends, is where our Providence Bruins began, with the second incarnation of the Maine Mariners. A roster filled with Boston Bruins players, a new black, white and gold color scheme and the Mariners were ready to take to the ice that fall finishing first in their division. After five seasons in Portland, a deal was struck to relocate the franchise and rename it the Providence Bruins.
Don the Spoked P, lower the lights and queue the organ, your Providence Bruins hit the ice for the first time in 1992 ending the 15-year drought. In the 25 seasons since taking root, the team has three regular Season Titles, five Division Championships, one Conference Championship and one Calder Cup. Their per game attendance average has hovered a little over 8000 since climbing from a low of 6000 in 2007. With the continued support of the fans and the community, this team will continue to make future history for both Providence and the Boston Bruins!
The Atlantic Division has seen some major moves and improvements so far this offseason. The Toronto Maple Leafs won the John Tavares sweepstakes and inked him to a 7-year contract, the Tampa Bay Lightning extended Ryan McDonagh for 7 years at just under $7 million a year. Rumors have been swirling in Tampa that Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Erik Karlsson could be headed there via blockbuster trade. The Buffalo Sabres drafted a generational talent on defense in Rasmus Dahlin with the 1st overall pick and brought back a significant return for center Ryan O’Reilly.
The top teams in the Atlantic are significantly improving their rosters, so where does that leave the boys in black and gold?
Exactly where they were in 2017-2018, finishing the regular season at or close to the top of what is now arguably the most competitive division in hockey. It looks to be a three-way battle for the top spot this coming season between the Bruins, Lightning, and Maple Leafs. Soon enough the Sabres will be nipping at those teams’ heels, and the pesky Florida Panthers can’t be forgotten after nearly missing the playoffs this past season.
The Bruins are right where they should be in the so-called arms race in the Atlantic Division. There isn’t and shouldn’t be a need to make a blockbuster trade or signing this offseason. Don Sweeney’s best option is to stand pat and stay the course of drafting and developing a strong crop of prospects that can quickly make the jump to being full-time NHLers. It’s proven to be successful so far, with the likes of Ryan Donato, Jake DeBrusk, Charlie McAvoy, and Danton Heinen making significant impacts at the NHL level this past season. We all remember the impact DeBrusk has made so far, but in case you need a reminder:
There’s more to come too, forward Jack Studnicka’s goal is to make the big club out of training camp, and the Bruins’ highest pick in 2017 at 18th overall, defenseman Urho Vaakanainen has looked strong and will be making his Providence Bruins debut this coming season. He’s not far from wearing the Spoked B on Garden ice.
Not everyone thinks of prospects when it comes to the offseason and the big moves that are made, but the young kids are on their way, and many have already arrived. They’ll be able to bring the competition to the other improved squads in the Atlantic Division this year and for many more years to come.
Prospects are all well and good, but what else have the Bruins done this offseason?
Quite a bit actually. Don Sweeney hasn’t made any blockbuster moves this offseason, but the moves he made have shown his belief in the course the team is currently on. The most significant acquisition was the signing of New Jersey Devils left-shot defenseman John Moore to a 5-year deal with an average annual value (AAV) of $2.75 million on the opening day of free agency. The 27-year-old stands at 6’3″ and 203 pounds. The Bruins have been searching for a left-shot defenseman recently, and they found their guy in Moore. In the last 2 seasons, he’s accumulated 19 goals total, scoring 12 in 2016-2017 and 7 this past season. It’s a bit early to judge the move just yet, but Moore looks to impress the Bruins faithful with his strong slapper from the point as seen below:
At the forward position, the Bruins picked up depth forwards Joakim Nordstrom formerly of the Carolina Hurricanes and Chris Wagner formerly of the New York Islanders. Both of these guys will be battling with many of the young guns for the final roster spots in the bottom 6 for opening night. The more competition, the better in this case. They’ll push both themselves and the other guys vying for those spots to bring their best game night-in and night-out. It’s doubtful that we’ll see consistent 3rd and 4th line combinations the first few weeks of the season. Here’s a quick look at what Wagner can bring to the table, somewhat reminiscent of former Bruin and 2011 Stanley Cup Champion Daniel Paille:
Lastly, the Bruins signed goaltender Jaroslav Halak, also out of Long Island to replace last year’s backup goalie, Anton Khudobin. Halak has faced his fair share of criticism over the years, partially due to being consistently put into a starter role behind a not-so-great defensive team. With much less responsibility placed on him in Boston while backing up elite goalie Tuukka Rask, his chance for success increases quite a bit.
The moral of the story of this offseason is that the Boston Bruins are not falling behind in the arms race that is the Atlantic Division. The combination of developing young players and prospects and the important (but not blockbuster) free agent signings this summer put the Bruins right where they should be, fighting for the top spot in the Atlantic Division.
The Boston Bruins announced today that the club has come to an agreement with forward Colby Cave. The 6′-1″ 201-pound Battleford, Saskatchewan, Canada native signed a two-year, two-way extension worth $675,000 at the National Hockey League level. Cave, a 23-year-old restricted free agent ended his three-year entry-level contract that he signed in early April of 2015 this year and is expected to be in the running for the American Hockey Leagues Providence Bruins captaincy vacancy with the departure of former B’s defenseman Tommy Cross. Fellow Black N’ Gold Productions colleague Jen Stasio mentioned Cave and a few others that could be considered for the leadership role in her article ( CLICK HERE ) on July 6, 2018.
The undrafted forward came to the Bruins organization after a five-year career with the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League where he appeared in 287 games posting 95-107-202 numbers. Spending a majority of his pro career with the Bruins top minor-pro affiliate in Providence, Cave has contributed 37-60-97 numbers in his three seasons in the AHL. Colby has seen some time in the NHL as an emergency call-up but has zero points in three appearances but could be considered for the third line center role for the upcoming 2018-19 season for the Bruins organization. If Cave doesn’t make the NHL club out of B’s training camp he’ll once again be an important member of the depth of this organization and a leader as he served as an assistant captain for the last two seasons with the Baby B’s.
#Bruins sign their lone remaining RFA, Colby Cave to a 2 year/2-way contract. The deal will pay him league minimum in each of those 2 seasons at the NHL level.
One of the burning questions within the Boston Bruins’ forward core is what to do at the third line center position. Riley Nash, who held the third-line center role consistently last season, has since moved on to Columbus as an unrestricted free-agent –– now it is time to replace him. The competition for the position is steep.
Well known as the fourth-line buzzsaw at the center position, Sean Kuraly earned himself a three-year contract extension with an average annual value of $1.275 million. Will he able to handle the promotion, or is he better suited in an energy role on the fourth-line.
His left-wing, Tim Schaller, has moved onto Vancouver in free agency, and Noel Acciari is still in the mix for fourth-line minutes next season. Chris Wagner and Joakim Nordstrom were brought in via free agency to reinforce bottom-six depth. I wonder if a bit of a different vibe in the bottom-six provides confidence in the idea of giving Kuraly a promotion and reshaping the fourth line next season and possibly beyond.
Colby Cave is the dark horse on this list. It is reasonable to expect that Cave will re-sign with the Bruins at some point over the summer as he is currently a restricted free-agent. Although he has only seen three games of regular season action in his tenure as a Bruin. Last season as a Providence Bruin, Cave potted 11 goals and added 22 assists, good for 33 points in 72 games.
What makes his case for the vacancy at third-line center is his two-way game and his smarts on the ice. He plays the game methodically, focusing on making smart decisions rather than being a big-time scorer –– a decent offensive skillset is definitely present, but other intangibles shine in his game the most.
Cave is only 23-years-old and no matter if he plays in Providence, or Boston, his presence will be felt. Replacing Riley Nash on the third line would be especially weird for Cave, because he looks like his twin. Look it up.
One of the new additions that could be in the mix is Chris Wagner. Although I don’t see this happening, the possibility is certainly there. To me, Chris Wagner is exactly what you want in a fourth-liner –– a player who has wheels, forechecks hard, and hits like a freight train. Lose Tim Schaller, add Chris Wagner to a fill a fourth-line void. But, if they value a freight train in the middle of say Danton Heinen and David Backes, he is the guy to fill the void.
Nordstrom has an interesting case in the bottom-six as one of the newer Bruins. A left-handed forward who can play left-wing and center provides versatility, along with his penalty killing ability and decent skating –– he won’t put up a lot of points, but will find other ways to contribute.
When it all comes down to it, I see Nordstrom playing a fourth-line role or a 13th forward role. He will wear number 20 with the Bruins, just like Riley Nash and the third-line center job could be his, but he certainly has a lot of competition for that ice-time.
One of a few prospects vying for the third-line center position is former Wisconsin Badger and 2016 Bruins late first-round pick Trent Frederic. For a 20-year-old, he plays a very composed game reminiscent of someone who has been around a while. His three-zone ability, hockey IQ, and finishing ability allow him to thrive wherever he plays.
After wearing an “A” on his sweater as a sophomore at Wisconsin and putting up 32 points in 36 games, he played 13 regular season games with the Providence Bruins on an ATO. Eight points were amassed over those 13 games, plus one point in three playoff games.
I remember watching Wisconsin take on Ohio State in a regular season game last season. Midway through the game, the play-by-play broadcaster with Fox Sports Wisconsin, who is clearly familiar with Frederic’s game due to the fact that his place of work is based in Wisconsin, said that he believed Trent Frederic was already NHL ready at the time, if not in the 2018-2019 season. From what I’ve seen, I agree. This doesn’t mean some AHL time would be a step down for him, look what it did for Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen –– just to name a couple. He is definitely going to make the Bruins’ coaching staff think for quite a while on who gets the third-line center job.
From Boston University to Providence, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson has carried quite the hype with his name. With 58 games of AHL experience under his belt in which he put up 32 points, JFK has his eyes set on an NHL gig sooner rather than later. His case to be an NHLer is backed by his three-zone game, smooth skating, and playmaking capabilities.
Talent in all three zones and point producing capability is what Riley Nash brought to the third line, JFK could be the next in line to hold that role and pick up where Riley Nash left off. If he doesn’t crack the lineup, he is still young at 21-years-old, so some more AHL time won’t hurt him.
It’s either Oshawa or Boston for the 19-year-old Jack Studnicka, per the NHL/CHL player agreement. The NHL/CHL Player Agreement would prohibit him from going to the AHL because he is under the age of 20. The reason he saw 5 games of AHL action following the conclusion of his third season in Oshawa was because he was on an ATO, not an official contract.
Take the first four letters of his last name and that gives you a first impression of him –– he’s a stud. Jack is a truly dynamic, intelligent centerman with high upside as a scorer in the NHL who will create havoc for opposing defenders. He was 27th in the OHL scoring this past season with 22 goals, 50 assists, and 72 points in 66 games.
If Studnicka does in fact go back to Oshawa to play for the Generals, he will be a key contributor. Allowing him to gain confidence in his game and grow as a player wouldn’t be the worst thing, as there are plenty of other options for the third-line center vacancy if he doesn’t earn it out of camp.
With each passing off-season day, hockey fans pining for the puck’s return can at least find entertainment in the weekly stories about where their sport’s most cherished chalice–The Stanley Cup–is going or has already gone. For, it’s a Summer tradition for the winning team’s players to take it on a myriad of individual journeys — from hometowns to Alma maters to theme parks to dive bars (here’s my favorite story so far featuring Natick’s own John Carlson of the Cup-winning Caps).
For me, personally, the Cup-touring Summer season was most memorable exactly seven years ago to the week when I found out that Bruins goalie / 2011 playoff hero Tim Thomas was bringing a special silver trophy (actually three special silver trophies as you can see above) to his high school in Davison, Michigan. Right on the (skate) heels of the B’s epic postseason run which successfully brought The Cup back to Boston for the first time in nearly four decades, I discovered the briefest of press releases documenting this buried underneath the police scanner reports — a fitting place, one could argue, since Thomas did in fact steal a few wins on his way to claiming the Vezina, Conn Smythe and every save-related goaltending honor you could think of during those magical and memorable ’11 playoffs.
At the time, I was the morning anchor for the local CBS affiliate in Lansing and also produced a feature series about “the good news stories” happening across the state. I figured this timely Tim Thomas trip would most certainly qualify but with press credentials limited and almost all going to the sports reporters and anchors in the market, I knew it was going to be a near-impossibility for this lifelong Bruins fan in the heart of Hockeytown to “B” there. Or, so I thought:
Who would’ve ever imagined that a pair of flowy black slacks, a whispy white shirt and a dusted-off gold tie could make for a winning wardrobe combo good enough to qualify as a “beat reporter”!? Well, that’s what I was wearing when I emailed in my request to be in Davison and faster than a Zdeno Chara All-Star slapshot, my credentials arrived, complete with a Cardinals / Bruins hybrid lanyard.
Naturally, I made sure to wear the exact same outfit to the event itself, proving for cameras across The Mitten and Mass. that the Black ‘N Gold were indeed a part of my professional life just as they much as they were/are my personal life. Even “TT” himself took notice after the press conference when I went to shake hands and say hello, thank you, congrats, thank you, good job, thank you and the like.
Do I regret not being able to say anything clever with my :15 seconds of Summer time Cup fame, as evidenced by my tongue-tied Tim Thomas tomfoolery in the above clip? Sure, I do. I definitely wish I could’ve spouted off some impressive stats or witty anecdotes or historical how-do-you-do’s befitting of my skills as a broadcaster and bespoke-d Bruins fan.
But considering how looonnngggggg the off-season can be for hockey fans, journalists, bloggers and beat reporters, I was “B”-yond happy to have such a lasting and unforgettable experience next to not only The Stanley Cup, but also a modern-day Bruins legend of the crease. And it’s this reason why we all should be paying attention to where The Cup is going, who’s sharing in it and celebrating with it, and who’s scheduling it to be near YOU!
(Photo Credit: WBZ-TV)
Former Bruins assistant captain and heralded postseason D-man Andrew Ference proved this exact point in the Spring when he brought The Cup back to Boston to revel in the amazing memories of the 2011 campaign with WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche. It didn’t take long for social media to enjoy this or for anyone around New England who was watching. There’s just something special about the shine of that silver reflecting the face of a favorite player on YOUR team (I tip my cap to you, Patrice Bergeron). It’s captivating. It’s motivating. It’s what the game is all about.
2011 Stanley Cup champion Andrew Ference in the house tonight!
That’s why the Summertime can be just as exciting and eventful for us humble hockey-ites. If there’s not something to immediately look forward to, then there’s definitely something close by worth remembering. I don’t know if that’s how it goes for you, but thanks to July and August of ’11, that’s how it will always “B” for me!
The Boston Bruins have made some minor free-agent acquisitions this July. General Manager Don Sweeney inked defenseman John Moore, goaltender Jaroslav Halak, and forwards Joakim Nordstrom and Chris Wagner to deals, soaking up roughly $7.75 million in cap space.
After reports of the Bruins talking with some of the best unrestricted free agents available this summer, namely John Tavares and Ilya Kovalchuk, it is easy to understand the disappointment – the moves the team has made clearly pale in comparison to what could have been. Even having had a horse in the race is a good sign, however: the Bruins are clearly looking to make some big transactions. But often times the wisest moves are made late in the summer.
The Big Picture
While Boston barely contributed to the early-July fireworks, now is not the time to panic. With the signing of Moore, the Bruins now have a surplus of defensemen, meaning they could easily part with one to fill the hole on David Krejci’s right wing. Depending on the player shipped off, it may require draft picks and prospects to sweeten the deal, but it is certainly feasible.
Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Fans on social media seem to be calling for Sweeney’s head, however. In reality, the GM is likely doing the right thing in playing the waiting game. Rushing a deal early in the offseason often results in overpaying. It is a business, after all, and sometimes you need to wait out a trade partner in order to strike a better deal for your team. At times this tactic may result in a sought-for player finding another suitor, but the Bruins are not in a situation in which they should overextend themselves.
Boston’s hockey club is in the midst of a transition. They have successfully avoided a complete rebuild by netting prospects who are ready to break into the NHL before the team’s core is forced to hang up the skates. The foundation is certainly strong enough to bear the weight of sustained success as the team moves into a new era. It is surely important for Sweeney to better the Bruins this summer, but it is even more important to stay the course of a seamless transition.
After a successful 2017-18 campaign which included a second-round playoff appearance – a drastic, and somewhat unexpected, improvement over the 2017 postseason’s early exit – Bruins fans are catching the Stanley Cup fever. However, it must be remembered that it is okay if this team doesn’t win a cup this season or even next season. The big picture is consistent victories moving forward, not necessarily right now. Boston is competing for the Cup which is a win in itself and this team is capable of claiming hockey’s greatest prize in the Bergeron Era – even if that doesn’t occur within the next 365 days.
Photo Credit: Matt Stone
That is not to say claiming the throne is out of the question this season, but realistic expectations entail a slightly lower feat: improving upon the 2017-18 campaign. The Bruins ought to find their way to the Eastern Conference Finals; taking the next step towards raising a banner to the rafters of TD Garden. The goal should certainly be crowning themselves as the NHL’s champions, but there is a major difference between goals and expectations.
Sweeney will undoubtedly improve Boston’s roster heading into the 2018-19 campaign. It’s also not the end of the world if the Bruins fail to claim the Stanley Cup this upcoming season – there is a bigger picture in mind, one that could very well result in multiple championships in the near future. In short, be patient, Boston. There is a long road ahead but success is likely at the end of it.
Max Pacioretty #67 of the Montreal Canadiens skates during the warm-up prior to the NHL game against the Calgary Flames at the Bell Centre on December 7, 2017, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The Calgary Flames defeated the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 in overtime. (Dec. 6, 2017 – Source: Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images North America)
It’s the middle of free agency frenzy, and once again the Boston Bruins are in the thick of it. Every once in a while, a respected foe (or bitter rival depending on your mood) ends up in the trade rumor mill. This time around it is Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty, who just found out the bleu, blanc, et rouge want to move him out of the Bell Centre as fast as humanly possible.
The 29-year Pacioretty is a 10-year NHL veteran. He’s spent his entire career in Montreal where he has stitched his name into the ancient rivalry between the Habs and the Boston Bruins. He’s certainly received his own fair share of stitches after numerous run-ins with various members of the Black and Gold.
Pacioretty became one of those players that Bruins fans could either respect or loathe, and his antics (especially as their captain) certainly made B’s/Habs tickets a coveted item these last few years.
It’s been a troubling time for both Pacioretty and the Montreal franchise. Pacioretty had a rough go of it last season. He put up just 37 points (17 goals) in 64 games for the Habs last season. That was a severe fall off from his last four seasons, where he tallied at least 30 goals. The Montreal captain missed the last 18 games of the 2017-18 season with a sprained MCL.
Over the years, the Habs often had the better of the B’s. But not last year. The Canadiens were a mess last season. The Habs finished 28th in the overall NHL standings with an abysmal 29-40-13 record. There wasn’t much to cheer about at the Bell Centre as Montreal finished 29th in offense and 25th in defense. The Black and Gold ran over the Canadiens all last year sweeping the Habs for the first time in over 20 years.
So, can the Bruins make a move for Pacioretty?
Pacioretty is only 29. He’s still young enough to be a force in the NHL. He’s a solid playmaker who could easily find himself a spot in the top or middle six in Boston. (He’s also from Connecticut, so there is that ‘local gritty guy’ argument that keeps popping up with New England players.)
Pacioretty can’t be blamed for the Canadiens’ troubles last season. The Habs had a weakened blue line. The team didn’t seem to click like it used to. They had traded away several marquee players, and Carey Price’s rough year certainly reflected in the Canadiens ugly spot in the rankings.
With all that Pacioretty brings to the table, could the Black and Gold find a way to bring the Habs outgoing captain to Boston?
It’s highly unlikely. The Canadiens and the Bruins organizations rarely make deals with each other. The last thing the Habs are going to do is give their former captain to their most hated rival.
There is also the youth movement that is going on at the TD Garden right now. Signing Pacioretty would move a lot of people around, and that would hurt the development of players who the B’s are trying to get on the ice.
The B’s are also pushing the edge of their salary cap. The Black and Gold have just under $3 million left at the moment. There is no way the B’s can shoehorn in Pacioretty without having to make moves that Bruins general manager Don Sweeney would object to.
Had the Habs made this announcement a few days earlier, the Bruins might have actually given him a serious look. Once again, the Habs seem to have made a bad move at a bad time, and will likely suffer for the mistake. It’s almost sad enough to make a Bruins fan not chuckle at their misfortune.
What do the coaches and scouts of the NHL Bruins and Julius Caesar have in common? Well, besides having an affinity for all things black and gold, they are both believers in an old Roman proverb:
“Usus magister est optimus.”
Thanks to the four years of high school Latin I took while back in the Berkshires of Western, Massachusetts (I knew it would finally pay off!), I can tell you what it means:
“Experience is the best teacher.”
And you’d be hard-pressed to find a more accessible, capable and successful organization, as of late, which brings that experience behind the bench–and behind the scenes–than in Boston. From the coaching staff to the professional and amateur scouting departments, the Bruins organization is filled with the ideal mix of resumes all with the right amount of know-how when it comes to selecting, developing and ultimately pushing young talent to the tops of their game.
Just in the past two years, we’ve seen it happen with the likes of Brandon Carlo, Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk and Ryan Donato, to name but a few of the up-and-coming B’s players that could easily wind up future all-stars and/or impact players. And there’s no reason right now to think that won’t happen with players like Danton Heinen and Anders Bjork (ready for NHL play) or Zach Senyshyn, Trent Frederic, Urho Vaakanainen or Jack Studnicka (on the cusp of NHL play). And the big reason why all of the above has been possible is because of the names listed below:
Bruce Cassidy – Head Coach
(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
If you want Experience with a capital “E” then there’s no better man on the B’s to look at. Sure, tons of writers and bloggers and beat reporters have profiled Coach Cassidy before (so I won’t do that again here), but here’s an impressive reminder of why “Butch” has one of the best working-with-young-guys track records in the game (and winning records–68-28-13 to start his regular season Bruins bench boss career) AND what each of these bullet points means for developing the Sundance Kids.
1st Round Pick — Cassidy can relate to the expectations and pressures of not only being selected high in the draft (18th overall), but also by an Original Six team (Chicago).
5 pro seasons, 3 European seasons — He knows what it takes to play at the most competitive of hockey levels, in two very differing leagues, and can translate that to today’s NHL game.
Coaching positions in the ECHL, IHL, OHL and AHL (then of course the NHL) — There’s no better way to develop youth than to see it up close in all its hockey stages and watch players as they grow, encouraging them along the way.
All of this is in addition to his time as an assistant and later head coach in Providence and then assistant under he-who-must-not-be-named in Boston. In short, Butch Cassidy has exactly the right amount of experience to lead the Sundance Kids currently on his roster, and the ones pushing to be on it soon, for the foreseeable future. With a talented communicator, teacher and mentor like this behind the B’s bench, sometimes a big trade isn’t necessary as @bruinswriter12 Max Mainville recently BlackNGold Hockey blogged about!
Jay Pandolfo, Joe Sacco & Kevin Dean – Asst. Coaches
BOSTON, MA – APRIL 4: Head Coach Bruce Cassidy and Assistant Coach Jay Pandolfo of the Boston Bruins shake hands after clinching a play off spot against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the TD Garden on April 4, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo Credits: Getty Images/NHL.com)
You can add three more former pro players and coaches to the “Experience” list now with Kevin Dean (top left), Joe Sacco (bottom left) and Jay Pandolfo (shaking hands with Cassidy) returning to the B’s bench for the upcoming season. And all from varying backgrounds with the ideal combination of leadership, wherewithal and hockey sense.
Pandolfo is an ex-Bruin player and former 2nd-round pick who played 15 years in the NHL after a national championship winning career at Boston University. This is a guy who understands how young players think, how they translate success from the college ranks to the professional ranks, and how they can make the most of their unique skills. He honed in on recognizing those particular skills and talents as a Bruins player development coach then later the Director of Player Development. So there are no better hands to be in for young B’s players than Jay Pandolfo’s.
Sacco, a 4th-round pick by another Original Sixer (Toronto), also cut his teeth at BU before a very successful 13-year NHL playing career followed by a decade of coaching across the AHL and NHL. Additionally, he played for USA hockey in the World Ice Hockey Championships and at the 1992 Winter Olympics. Who better to groom the likes of McAvoy, Donato, Carlo, Acciari and other USA kids playing on the B’s (and also hoping to follow in his footsteps at the Worlds or the Olympics) than a guy with this kind of past and pedigree.
Kevin Dean, like his fellow assistants, played college hockey in New England (UNH) and was a 5th-round pick, thus giving the B’s 4 coaches from 4 different rounds in the draft and 4 different success, hard work and determination stories to share with their youthful players. Furthermore, Dean helped turn the Baby B’s into one of the best AHL teams during his time as a Providence assistant and head coach. And as @hockeygirl29 aka Jen Stasio recently wrote here, he’s the type of coach who knows how to pick “The C” on a player’s jersey. His familiarity with many of the organization’s prospects has been key to their improving skills (and personalities) over the past few years and he’ll undoubtedly continue to hone in on that with more new talent coming up the Pike.
Bob Essensa – Goaltending Coach
Perhaps my favorite of all the Bruins coaches, especially after the above went down, Bob Essensa has been with the team since 2003, working closely with all the B’s netminders — from starters to backups to prospects — both in The Hub and down in Providence. He played for a dozen seasons in the NHL before becoming a full-time coach, but it was his unprecedented junior & collegiate success in Canada and at Michigan State University where he made a name for himself between the pipes. In particular, Essensa was coached by the legendary Ron Mason of MSU and CCHA lore (Central Collegiate Hockey Association) and learned a lot from one of the greatest hockey coaching minds in the game (Pierre McGuire concurs–just hit play below).
The Bruins were smart to recognize all of this when they brought Essensa on 15 years ago and many of the B’s best goaltending prospects and players have greatly benefited from it no matter where their careers went (Andrew Raycroft & Manny Fernandez = thumbs down, Tim Thomas & Tuukka Rask = thumbs up). This is very exciting news for aspiring Number 1 B’s netminder Dan “Darth” Vladar, as @markallred27 our Editor-In-Chief pointed out in a recent blog post!
Jamie Langenbrunner – Player Development Coordinator
(Photo Credit: Associated Press)
Anybody who appreciated Jamie Langenbrunner as a player, and as a Devil, would never have their expectations bedeviled in his current capacity. Langenbrunner is now in his fourth season as the B’s Director of Player Development, working extensively on exactly what his job title suggests: the successful development — both as players and smart hockey gentlemen — of the Bruins prospects.
Candid, yet cautious, optimistic yet realistic, Langenbrunner’s personality is exactly what the current core of Bruins up-and-comers need. And the fact he’s consistently on-the-ice pushing them, as well as in the front office pushing his friends in management, goes to show you he wields influence, admiration and respect similar to the way he did as a player — a player with his name engraved on the Stanley Cup twice! Solid motivation for the young guys to see and be around.
PJ Axelsson, Matt LindBlad, Dean Malkoc – Scouting Department
(Photo Credits: Getty Images/NHL.com)
I’ve always thought it sport savvy for any organization to utilize former players as scouts. They have a feel for the team and management, they appreciate the passion and drive of the fans, they know the ins-and-outs of the city and playing environment, and they can speak genuinely about their time on and off the ice. The Bruins have the made the most of these connections since hiring PJ Axelsson, Matt Lindblad and Dean Malkoc as scouts after all of them spent time wearing the coveted Black ‘N Gold. Here’s why they’ve made an impact, and continue to make one, on some of the B’s best and brightest:
Axellson was one of the toughest, most skillful Bruins forwards for the better part of a decade and it showed by his adoration and appreciation from the fans, teammates, coaches and management. Who didn’t want to feel the need for Swede whenever he was on the ice or in the locker room? Well, now a part of the draft room, Per-Johan is the Per-fect international scout, helping acknowledge and nurture talent from Europe and North America, building the B’s brand both abroad and at home. He’s an invaluable asset for new players like Joakim Nordstrom & Chris Wagner who play similar on-ice styles to his while also being a role model for current role players like Noel Acciari, Sean Kuraly, Danton Heinen, Anders Bjork and JFK.
Linblad’s tenure with the Bruins, like his NHL career, was cut short due to injuries and bad luck. But that didn’t stop the Dartmouth alum from recognizing the off-ice intangibles he brought to the rink everyday in other youthful players: balance and speed, puck-moving skill, skating power and defensive positioning. He currently scouts California and the West Coast for the Bruins.
While Malkoc was never known for offense during his brief NHL career, he did have a reputation as a hard-nosed, utility D-man and proved it during his limited playing time in Boston. His time as an amateur prospects scout, however, has been much more successful, as he works throughout Western Canada to highlight top prospects that could bring the same rugged characteristics befitting the spoked-B that he did.
Svenake Svensson, Mike McGraw and Tom McVie – Veteran Scouts
(Photo Credits: Twitter/NHL.com)
If an organization decides your expertise, wisdom, hard work and most importantly, Experience, are worthy of having your name etched onto the Stanley Cup as a Scout, then you know you’re good at your job and doing things the right way. That can definitely be said for Sven Svensson, Mike McGraw and Tom McVie — all long-time Bruins scouting experts and team ambassadors who’ve helped the franchise stay relevant, entertaining and competitive for the last 30 years (give or take a few forgettable campaigns — I’m talking about you, 1996-1997).
Svensson, you could say, is the man who taught Axelsson everything he knows about scouting throughout Europe while based in Sweden (I call it the sson-to-sson relationship) since he’s been doing it successfully for almost three decades. Many prospects the Bruins find in both the Finnish Elite League or the SHL come with his recommendation so fans should be thankful to see all the upside in players like Urho Vaakanainen, Axel Andersson, Joona Koppanen, Victor Berglund and Oskar Steen, among many talented others.
McGraw works to find, critique and recommend high-end talent from high school, college and the USHL and with North American hockey producing recent studs like Auston Matthews, Matthew Tkachuk and the B’s own Charlie McAvoy in the draft, it’s an integral part of the Boston scouting machine. However, the Bruins have also had recent success taking players directly from college like Torey Krug from MSU (Bob Essensa would be proud), Noel Acciari from Providence College and the recently departed Austin Czarnik from Miami. So McGraw’s pipeline to talent is timely and needed for the B’s to maintain their current growth.
Tom McVie is nothing short of a Hall-of-Famer in this aspect of hockey, having earned respect in all facets of the game throughout his illustrious career (which you can expertly read about thanks to the “My Expansion Story” articles NHL.com did last year). He currently scouts from professional leagues on the West Coast so if the Bruins are looking to add top-notch talent from the West and Pacific divisions of the ECHL, he’s your man.
It’s obvious the Bruins have stocked their system with talent in more ways than one, as evidenced by the aforementioned roster of coaches, scouts and player personnel who bring the Experience factor to the game the same way this current group of young players will bring the Excitement factor.
And unlike Caesar’s last Shakespearean words, “Et tu, Brute,” I think it’s fitting to say “Et tu, Bruins” these days.
Because yes, “Even You”, Bruins fans, can be encouraged by the men Behind the B’s for 2018-2019 and beyond!