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!
Boston Bruins General manager Don Sweeney speaks to the media during the 2016 NHL Draft on June 25, 2016 in Buffalo, New York. (June 24, 2016 – Source: Jen Fuller/Getty Images North America)
The Boston Bruins have finished their first week of ‘free agency frenzy’, and many fans feel a little underwhelmed. The Black and Gold signed several players that they believed would provide skill and depth to their current roster. The B’s biggest catch so far has been the signing of goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who has been brought on board to back up Tuukka Rask next season.
The B’s also made a splash by signing veteran John Moore to a five-year deal.
While it cost the team several players, the Bruins front office believe they made the right choices as the B’s head into the 2018-19 season. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney knew that the Bruins had to rebuild the bottom half of their forward core after Riley Nash and Tim Schaller signed with other squads.
“Well, the skating component of all the players we added today, I think, was paramount,” offered Sweeney on the team’s summer acquisitions. “Joakim is a great skater. Wags will be forechecking, he’s real hard on the puck. John, from a recovery standpoint, from getting back on pucks, being able to play against different line matchups in situations for us.
“But overall, I think we have better balance in terms of what we can present each and every night as a matchup for our team.”
The Bruins knew they needed to find strong skaters. They were a major player in the John Tavares sweepstakes, but lost out to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“I would’ve preferred it not in our division,” said Sweeney on Tavares’ signing with Toronto. “The overall process was a really good process and structural to have somebody else dive inside our own team, and we were thankful for the opportunity to present. [Tavares’ agent] Pat [Brisson] and his group and John himself were really good about it, and he was well prepared, and we felt we were.
“We put our best foot forward and it didn’t fall our way. But, again, to be in that situation is something that our group should be happy about…. it’s, obviously, a reflection of our current players and a testament to them….it’s a reflection of our entire organization.
No matter what happens, there will be Bruins fans who believe the front office failed because they couldn’t get Tavares. Still, the B’s missing out on Tavares might have been a blessing in disguise. The Bruins would have spent an awful lot of money on a single player. That would have forced the B’s to dump a player or two at a discount price in order to stay underneath the cap.
Factoring in all the choices the Bruins have made, the B’s still have just under $3 million left to work with. The Black and Gold still have a little room to manuver and they might pick up a couple of two-way players just before the B’s start training camp in September.
There are a few things that are out of the Bruins control when it comes to the salary cap. The B’s have to deal with the retained salary of Matt Beleskey and the buyouts of Dennis Seidenberg and Jimmy Hayes. Those three players levy a four-million dollar hit against the cap ($3,933,334).
The Bruins will still have to deal with Seidenberg and Beleskey next year, and that three-million dollar hit will certain have ramifications as the team tries to keep the youth movement going in the 2019-20 season. The B’s will also have to juggle several of their entry-level players and that will cause problems for the team.
If the Bruins are looking to find anyone else, they’ll have to make some kind of move with their remaining roster. That means at least one defenceman could be moved. While a lot of people believe that Torey Krug is the player most likely to be moved, it seems unlikely that the B’s would give away a player that put up 60 points last season. Fans should expect to see some kind of deal that sees Kevan Miller or Adam McQuaid being moved off to another squad before the start of the season.
The Bruins have made responsible choices during this offseason. While they weren’t able to bring some ‘A-list’ players to the TD Garden, they’ve been smart about their moves. Don Sweeney hasn’t repeated the mistakes of Peter Chiarelli, and that’s a good sign for the Black and Gold as they get ready for the start of the season.
Tuukka Rask has become somewhat of a lightning rod in Boston. Often labeled a “choker,” “quitter,” or “soft” by some Bruins fans the Finnish backstop also gets criticism for his contract and seemingly any goal he concedes.
The hate is irrational as it feels like the stinging pain from that 2013 defeat to the Chicago Blackhawks still resonates. However, that was five years ago, and to Bruins fans, I say its time to let it go.
Tuukka Rask since 2013 has won a Vezina Trophy, been named an All-Star, and has posted a win/loss record of 136-77-31. Many other teams in the NHL would love a goaltender as capable as Tuukka Rask which is what makes it so perplexing that some fans want to see Jaroslav Halak replace him as Boston’s number one option in goal.
The addition of Halak was a strong one by the Bruins. He brings a veteran presence and experience and has performed admirably behind a disorganized and aging Islanders club. He should fill into Anton Khudobin’s spot with ease playing 30 or so games keeping Rask’s workload below the 60 game mark. That’s all Halak will be for the two years he was inked to. He’ll provide stability and act as a stop-gap while Dan Vlader and Zane McIntyre compete in Providence. Don Sweeney didn’t sign 33-year-old Jaroslav Halak to take over for Tuukka Rask, and any rational fan would see that yet, it seems the majority of anti-Rask folks aren’t rational.
Yes, he didn’t play great in game 7 against Toronto, and his 5-7 record and .903 save percentage this past spring leaves a lot to be desired. However, also let’s not forget this was a goalie that won 34 games, went on a 19-0-2 run, and was in the leagues top ten for goals against average and save percentage amongst goalies with 50 or more games played. When it comes to the postseason, he’s started 65 games, and he’s been to two Stanley Cup Finals as a starter and a backup. At 31 he’s a veteran with plenty of experience, and no matter how you slice it he’s one of the game’s higher end talents in net.
A well rested, and healthy Tuukka Rask will be a major factor as this youthful Bruins team looks to compete for a Stanley Cup with its aging core. Halak will allow for Bruce Cassidy to deploy a similar strategy as he did with Khudobin to help control Rask’s workload and that will only benefit the Bruins as a whole. Halak, however, isn’t going to usurp Rask and if anything it’d be a massive downgrade if the Bruins moved Rask and inserted a tandem of Halak and or Vlader/McIntyre.
Goaltending is arguably the most important position in hockey, and you truly can’t win without it. If the Bruins are going to contend and try to win another championship, Rask will be at the forefront of it and for the time being he’s still the guy in Boston, and that’s that.
Last season the American Hockey Leagues Providence Bruins agreed to accept goaltender Jordan Binnington on loan from the St. Louis Blues organization because the team from The Show Me State didn’t have a top minor-pro affiliate throughout the 2017-18 campaign. For the upcoming 2018-18 season the Blues new AHL affiliation will be with the San Antonio Rampage and all team players that were scattered around North America in search of ice-time for one season will be welcomed back to the organization with a new home in the great state of Texas.
With news of the Blues developing youth and depth veterans returning, yesterday the St. Louis team announced that they’ve agreed to a one-year, two-way contract worth a reportedly ( Unconfirmed per Cap-Friendly ) $650K at the National Hockey League level. While on loan playing in Providence, the 24-year-old Binnington appeared in 28 games for the B’s posting a 17-9-1 record, a 2.05 Goals-Against-Average, and .926 Save Percentage working with depth netminder Zane McIntyre.
The departure of Binnington back to the Blues organization creates a fantastic opportunity for Boston Bruins prospect goaltender and 2015 third-round draft pick Dan Vladar. The 6′-5″ 185-pound netminder has spent the first two seasons of his minor-pro career with the Bruins “AA” minor-pro affiliate the Atlanta Gladiators of the ECHL after signing his three-year, entry-level contract in April of 2016. Atlanta was a great place for the now 20-year-old Vladar to learn the pro game as both goaltending positions were occupied at the higher AHL level in Providence.
In 59 games with the Gladiators team, Dan posted a record of 22-27-2, a 3.42 GAA, and .899 Save% but his time in the AHL with the Baby B’s has been impressive when called upon for emergency coverage. With Vladar’s limited time with Providence, he’s shown he can handle the higher competition and step up when needed with a better-structured core in front of him over the lower-level ECHL Atlanta franchise. In 12 AHL appearances with the B’s spanning over two seasons, he posted a 6-2-1 record with an impressive 2.42 GAA and .922 Save%.
When it comes to ranking the goaltending depth, I can see Vladar taking a huge step in his development in the upcoming AHL season and be given more time in the crease over future teammate Zane McIntyre. The 25-year-old McIntyre has one-year remaining on his current two-year deal and will most likely be the last year in the Bruins organization as netminders in the developing systems below will seemingly push him out of the picture and that roster spot may be needed for continued progression forward for a younger player such as goaltender Kyle Keyser who will spend at least another season in the Ontario Hockey League with the Oshawa Generals.
McIntyre, who was drafted in the sixth-round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft has played at the AHL level for three seasons now and has a record of 61-29-10 and a 2.41 GAA and .914 Save% in 109 career games. His best season with Providence came in his second season in the league (2016-17) when he posted a 21-6-1 record and took home AHL All-Star game recognition and the Leagues best goaltender when it came to save-percentage. His ability to perform at the NHL level is most likely the reason why the organization is preparing to move on from his talents as he’s only appeared in eight games posting a 0-4-1 record and hasn’t seen the ice at the highest level of hockey in the world since the 2016-17 season when he was called up, and former Bruins backup goaltender Anton Khudobin was sent down for his season-long struggles.
🎥B’s goalie prospect Dan Vladar on the camaraderie at Development Camp: “Nothing better than doing this together.” pic.twitter.com/1zLZfsGKXZ
It’s hard for me to calculate just when a goaltender like Vladar is going to make an impact in the NHL, especially with starter Tuukka Rask under contract for another three seasons and the recent free agent signing of veteran netminder Jaroslav Halak for two years is an interesting predicament. A young goaltender like Vladar needs the benefit of playing more games and with the upcoming hockey season being the last year of his entry-level contract, I can see the Bruins organization take the approach like they did with McIntyre and sign him to a two-year, two-way extension and reevaluate the situation. Vladar is certainly a work-in-progress, and it remains to be seen if he can be the next netminder to take over as a franchise player if in fact Rask is not extended past the 2020-21 season.
Dan has a great attitude on and off the ice and has certainly gained the trust throughout his development from Bruins management who’ve spoken highly of him at every development camp he’s attended since 2015. Vladar had this to say in an article ( CLICK HERE )by Boston Globes Matt Porter at last week’s development camp from the Warrior Ice Arena in Brighton, Massachusetts. “I feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be, whether it’s in Atlanta or Providence or here for the playoffs,” said Vladar, who served as Boston’s third-string emergency goalie for Round 2 of the playoffs against Tampa Bay and did not see action. “I feel comfortable everywhere. I just try to stop the puck. That’s all that matters.”