Boston Bruins Offseason Preview

Don sweeney

PHOTO CREDITS: (Bill Sikes/Associated Press)

By: Court Lalonde | Follow me on Twitter  @courtlalonde

When the final buzzer went on the Boston Bruins season, I had a mixed bag of emotions that had me feeling disappointed and proud at the same time.  At the start of the season, many people in the hockey world either had the Bruins as a fringe playoff team or not making it at all.  Instead, we got a team that had a slow start but became a cup contender in December and never looked back.  That’s where the disappointment sets in because you started to believe that this team could win it all and you start drawing comparisons to the 2011 team in your head that won the cup before the playoffs had begun.  I got caught up in the hype, and when they blew out the doors of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first two games of the playoffs, the hype train had left the station.  The team came back down to earth but did eventually win the series in a game seven for the ages and advanced to the second round.

That’s when they ran into a team that most thoughts were the better matchup for the Bruins and that some people including myself thought they would beat.  The reality of this is that the Tampa Bay Lightning where the better team and the Bruins failed to compete with the Lightning 5 on 5 and lost the series.  People will give excuses that the refs missed calls, which they did, or that Tuukka didn’t play well, which he did.  Now that the playoffs are over for the Bruins they get to move on to the offseason, where the speculation begins with fans and when Don Sweeney works as the boys prepare for next season.

What To Do With Rick And Riley

Rick Nash came over to the Bruins just before the deadline and made an immediate impact and warmed the hearts of Bruins fans across the country.  His tenure as a Bruin seemed to have derailed when he suffered his concussion near the end of the season and lost all momentum and energy he brought to the team after the trade.  When he came back from injury, he didn’t look like the same player the Bruins acquired and struggled on the ice even to win puck battles.  I think he came back too soon from his injury and wasn’t fully healed and was having more bad days than good but is me speculating.  Only he can let us know if that was true and I doubt he would give us an honest answer or even use that as an excuse.  He said all the right things on Breakup Day “The organization was great, the guys were awesome, so it was a great chapter here, and hopefully it can continue” Nash said.  I know it’s not the popular opinion, but I would have him back, but it would have to be on a team friendly deal that was no longer than two years, so the odds aren’t in my favor and more than likely he won’t be returning.  If he doesn’t return I don’t see it as a cause for concern because of the youth that seems poised to step into that second line role.  Both Ryan Donato and Anders Bjork shoot left, but that doesn’t mean they can’t slot into the right side and learn that role for the intern.  With the play of Jake Debrusk during the regular season and the playoffs, it doesn’t look like he will be moving off the second line left wing spot anytime soon.

That brings us to Riley Nash who for a guy making $900,000 a year was lights out for this franchise and did everything that was asked of him and then some.  The 29-year-old finished the regular season with 41 points ( 15 Goals, 26 assists) as the Bruins third line center and filled in for Bergeron on the top line when he went down with an injury near the end of the season.  My thought on Riley is he played himself out of a contract in Boston because he deserves a raise and will get a raise on the open market.  The Bruins in the past have rewarded third line players with extensions that have come back to bite them like Chris Kelley, and I don’t see them repeating this.  I have no doubt they will offer an extension to Riley but doubt it will be in the 3.5-4 million dollar range that he could get on the open market.  The Bruins have the likes of Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Austin Czarnik, and Ryan Fitzgerald that could impress and take that spot on the third line next season at a considerably less cap hit.  I don’t see Riley coming back because I’m sure he isn’t interested in signing a short-term deal and is looking for a long-term contract in the 3.5 to 4 million dollar range.

Does Dobby Come Back?

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PHOTO CREDITS: (NHL.com)

Anton Khudobin will become an unrestricted free-agent on July 1 and will have many suitors for his services because he showed the league that he is one of the top backup goaltenders in the National Hockey League.  The backup position has been a challenge over the years for the Boston Bruins, and some might think it has been an afterthought for upper management since they have had so many different ones since Tuukka Rask became the starter. Khudobin solidified his role as a top backup last year when at the beginning of the season Tuukka hit a rough patch, and he stepped in and helped win some games for the Bruins.  He started out this season a lot better than the previous year which saw him struggle at the start of the season and even got him sent down to the minors at one point because he couldn’t win a game.  He came back at the end of the season to help the Bruins make the playoffs.  This season he was less than stellar at the end of the season and only registered one win in his last six games.  I hope that he does return because he has played exceptionally well in the backup role and has provided Tuukka with the much-needed rest during the regular season and has given his team a chance to win on most nights.  Currently, his salary is $1.2 million a season, and you would think based on his play he would be asking for raise.  The current projected cap space is $9.6 million for next year but still have to make some decision on the restricted free agents and the unrestricted free agents.  I just spoke about two unrestricted free agents that I don’t think will be returning so that does possibly open up some room for Khudobin to get a raise which I’m hoping would be in the 1.5 million dollar range on a two-year deal.  With the fact that both Dan Vladar and Zane McIntyre haven’t shown any signs that they’re ready to make the jump to the big club I think the obvious decision is to bring back Dobby.  I think Khudobin would take a team friendly deal to stay with Boston and have some stability in his life plus stay in a city he enjoys.

Should They Stay Or Should They Go?

Moving onto the remaining free agents on the Bruins roster who are restricted or unrestricted.  I think it would be safe to say that Brian Gionta, Nick Holden, and Tommy Wingels will not be returning next year.  If anything maybe Wingels might return because it seemed as Bruce Cassidy had some confidence in him during the playoffs.  Wingels isn’t a bad option to have as your energy guy that can come into your bottom two lines throughout the season when needed.  Sean Kuraly I can see getting a slight raise from his $808,750 he made last year but nothing that will break the bank.  My guess is he will get a deal in the 1.5-2 million dollar range something like a Jay Beagle in Washington who is making $1.75 million a season with similar stats and role.  Tim Schaller is an interesting one because he is an unrestricted free agent and the Bruins have so much youth down in Providence waiting to get a chance to make this lineup.  I see things in his game that I like and I see flashes on offensive output sometimes and gave him the nickname “silky mitts” this year with some of his goals.  He has played well enough to earn another contract and has chemistry on that fourth line with Noel Acciari, and Sean Kuraly.  He made $775,000 last year, and I don’t see a big raise in his future.  He is a local boy that added energy to his line but does have some defensive issues in his zone from time to time, but you could almost say that about a lot of players.  Could Peter Cehlarik, Anton Blidh, or Jesse Gabrielle fill his role next year or do the Bruins look to free agency?  My guess is if he is willing to be paid close to the same cap hit he could be back on a one-year deal.  Last but certainly not least we have Matt Grzelcyk who I had my doubts about and couldn’t see what everyone else saw in him all year.  People were calling to trade Krug and slot him in that spot near the end of the season.  I didn’t agree then and still don’t agree now but did think he played well in the playoffs and proved me wrong.

His defensive game is better than I originally thought but still tends to make the mistakes that most kids his age make with regards to forcing passes in his zone sometimes when he should be holding onto the puck.  I do think he will get a three-year deal in and around 1.5 to 2.5 million dollar range a year.  I don’t see him taking the torch from Krug just yet but do see the potential the kid has and hope he improves next season.

This offseason is going to be a difficult one for Don Sweeney and his team because moves he makes this offseason can have an impact on the next offseason when he has some big names to resign and decisions to make if there is another expansion draft.  The big names I speak of are Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Ryan Donato, and Danton Heinen.  McAvoy is going to cost the most with regards to the cap, and I’m sure Sweeney will be thinking about future cap when he is making some of his decision this summer.  I’ve put my faith in Sweeney when becoming the GM, and he has made some questionable trades and signings, but I also feel he has done some great moves and signings and has been thinking about the future of this franchise just as much as the present.  So yes I’m disappointed in the second round exit but I’m still excited to see what the future of this franchise will look like and I’m already counting down the days to training camp.

Boston Bruins May Have A Hart Trophy Winner On Their Hands With Patrice Bergeron

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Photo Credit: Matt Stone

By Court Lalonde              Follow Me On Twitter: @courtlalonde

The Hart Memorial Trophy is awarded every year to the player judged most valuable to his team.  In January the Professional Hockey Writers Association voted on the mid-season awards for the first time since 1968.  At that time the top three players were Nikita Kucherov, Nathan Mackinnon, and John Tavares.  All three of them are fantastic players and at the time of the voting well deserving of the votes.  Patrice Bergeron was on the list but for the Selke Trophy as always and was at the top of that list for the award at the mid-point of the season.  If he does win it again this year, it will be his fifth Selke Trophy and will pass Bob Gainey as the player to have won it the most.

The Selke Trophy awarded wasn’t even given out by the NHL until the  1977-78 season and to my surprise, only one player won both the Selke and the Hart in the same season.  That player was Sergei Fedorov when he was playing for the Detroit Red Wings in the 1993-94 season.  The reason I say it surprises me is that you always hear coaches saying how valuable a two-way game is and it’s always the number one critic a young rookie in the National Hockey League faces.  Why is it then that only one player has won both awards in the same season?  You would think that preventing goals and scoring goals should be measured the same.  We all know this is not the case but could be this year because of the play of one of the best two-way forwards in the game and one of the tops of all time.

In his first 23 games, this season Patrice Bergeron had only five goals, and the Boston Bruins struggled coming out of the gate.  Fast forward to last night at the 10: 00-minute mark of the second period and Bergeron was scoring his 24th goal of the year which happened to be a short-handed goal.  Bergeron has scored 14 goals, 8 assists, for a total of 22 points in his last 16 games.  One of the Bruins weakness over the past couple of years was beating the Toronto Maple Leafs.  A big reason for that was the youth and speed and the play of young Auston Matthews.  The last time the Leafs played the Bruins, the Bruins won, and Matthews when playing against Bergeron 5 on 5 didn’t record a single shot while Bergeron got 4 and scored a goal.  It showed Matthews that he had a long way to go when it came to his two-way game, and it showed the Bruins that they could shut this kid down.  Bergeron put his team on his shoulders that game and made a statement on the ice with his play.

 

The news across the league after that game was that the Bruins were a top team in the league and their current winning record was making them the talk of the NHL.  I live in Toronto, and they talk hockey 24hrs a day here on the TV and the radio.  The Bruins had been on a remarkable winning streak and have a goalie in Tuukka Rask that hasn’t lost in regulation in 21 games (19-0-2), yet I still didn’t hear a lot about them.  Since beating the Leafs last Saturday, I can’t turn on my TV or radio and not hear them talking about the Boston Bruins.  The one constant I keep hearing is the play of Patrice Bergeron and what he brings to his hockey club.

The Boston Bruins are currently one point out of first place in the NHL behind the Tampa Bay Lightning with a game in hand.  Both teams are +49 goal differential, but the Bruins have only been scored on 124 times which is the lowest in the league.  To say that the Bruins are winning because they’re outscoring their opponents would be incorrect.  Their winning because of their two-way play as a team lead by the best two-way player in the league Patrice Bergeron.

Earlier in the year, NBC Boston Bruins beat writer Joe Haggerty suggested Bergeron’s best days might be behind him. (Bergeron hearing the footsteps of father time) The good news is this is not the case at all and currently, Bergeron has 24 goals, 22 assists, 46 points, with a plus 26 rating which doesn’t put him in the top of the league scoring like Kucherov.  That’s not what the Hart Trophy is about though, they have a trophy for that already in the NHL called the Art Ross.  Bergeron is tied for the most game-winning goals on his team with Jake Debrusk with four.  He leads the team in goals scored with 24 and leads the team in shots with 173.  He has 8 power-play goals, and as always his faceoff percentage is exceptional at 56.19%.  If they had to do their mid-season vote again, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bergeron’s name was at the top of the list.  You take Bergeron off this hockey club, and they’re not where they are in the standings, and we would be talking about another missed season for the Bruins.  My hope that his play continues and I don’t see why it won’t and we will have the first Selke and Hart Trophy winner for the Boston Bruins in the same season.  If he doesn’t win the fans will be ok because Bergeron has been the most valuable player to Bruins fans since he first wore the spoked B.

Boston Bruins Have A lot Of Hockey Left

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Photo Credit: Michael Tureski (Icon Sportswire)

By Court Lalonde                Follow Me On Twitter @courtlalonde

We’re three weeks into the Boston Bruins 2017-18 season, and fans are already starting to point fingers and overreact.  The team has a 3-3-1 record and aren’t in last place and currently only three points out of a playoff spot with games in hand.  In the 2011-12 season, the Bruins started out with just three wins in their first ten games and went on to place first in their division.  If you looked at social media, you would think the season is already over, and the team is playing towards getting the first overall pick in next years entry draft.  Some fans have already started to shout “fire Cassidy,” “trade Tuukka,” and the ever so popular “make Bergeron captain.”  I want to start off by saying that none of these things I just mentioned would help or is the problem.

I was lucky enough to be able to attend the NHL Alumni Gala last night in Toronto to honor Mario Lemieux with the Keith Magnuson ‘Man of Year’ award last night.  Craig Cunningham received the Ace Bailey ‘Award of Courage’, and if you don’t know Craig’s story, I suggest you stop reading this article and look it up right now because that man personifies the word courage to me.  Craig spoke of his dream growing up being a professional hockey player and one day paying off the mortgage of his mom’s house.  He spoke of the incident and what eventually lead to losing his leg.  Craig mentioned what an honor it was when the Boston Bruins drafted him and was able to wear the spoked B on NHL ice finally.  He didn’t complain about what had happened to him and didn’t want people to feel sorry for him.  Craig wanted people to know that now he looks forward to his new career with the Arizona Coyotes organization and that he will be able to pay off his mom mortgage.  He was just happy to receive an award in the same ceremony as one of the greatest players of all time, Mario Lemieux.

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I spoke to many players last night from all generations of the game, and I seemed to find this recurring theme over and over.  They all missed playing the game they loved and never told stories of the bad times and only focused on the good.  They showed respect to the greats of the game and were able to be in the same room as Gary Bettman and not boo him, in fact, Glen Healy thanked him for growing the game of hockey and creating more jobs for players by doing so.  I got to watch my dad’s eyes light up when he got to see someone he had seen in years and from I saw brought him back to a time when the game was simpler.

Us as fans take the players for granted sometimes, I’m just as guilty everyone, and I should know better, I grew up around the game.  My father played for the Boston Bruins for two seasons in the late 70’s, the early 80’s.  He sacrificed a lot to play the game he loved, including the birth of his second child.  We all are too quick to judge the players on this current Boston Bruins roster and spout out nonsense that they’re playing with no heart and that they don’t care.  I can guarantee that every player on the roster wants to win every game and are never giving a lackluster effort out there.

It’s way too early to give up on this years Boston Bruins because they haven’t so are we.  We never heard the payers give an interview in the room blaming Torey Krug on the loss against Buffalo, but the fan base sure did.  I always find it funny that we all seemed to blame one player when it’s a team game, and there are six players on the ice per side.  We lost 4-0 a couple of weeks ago, and we blame the goaltending, I forgot Tuukka Rask could score goals.  We have this sense of entitlement because we’re fans and we pay money to watch them play but should we?  I know they make a lot of money and salaries always seem to be a hot button for fans, but no one of us would ever say “don’t pay me that much.”

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Photo Credit: Fred Kfoury (Icon Sportswire)

We should just try focusing on the positives that have come from the start of this season.  The play of Ander Bjork, Jake DeBrusk, and Charlie McAvoy.  These kids are part of the future of this franchise and right now working as hard as they can to try and win every game.  Sure they will make mistakes, but everyone does, that’s part of life.  I’m going to look at things a little differently then I did after last night, try to remember that I wish I were these guys I watch on TV and not try and pick apart every mistake because it’s going to be a long season if I do.  We always remember the last mistake we see on the ice, but we seemed to forget the five that lead up to that one are just as important.  The next time you want to call out a player on this Bruins team, ask yourself if you think the player already knows he did something wrong.  Maybe call out the thing he did right in the game to boost the confidence instead of knocking it down more.  Players are people too and maybe, just maybe we should treat them like that sometimes.

Boston Bruins: Patrice Bergeron Leads Whether He’s The Captain Or Not

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Photo Credit: NHL.com

By Court Lalonde                    Follow me on Twitter:@courtlalonde

With a 1-2 record to start the 2017 season, the Boston Bruins are searching for answers to what they can do to right the ship.  Many fans have taken to social media to show their displeasure and are blaming the usual suspects like Tuukka Rask and Zdeno Chara.  There seems to be a lot of questions surrounding the team’s leadership and the goaltending.  They have scored seven goals over the past three games, but that includes being shut out by the Colorado Avalanche at home the other night.  The Bruins penalty kill which is strong year after year hasn’t played well and has allowed three goals against out of eleven times a man down.  One of the biggest glaring holes is the absence of Patrice Bergeron for the second straight start to the regular season.  Bergeron has a lower-body injury and is day-to-day right now.  The thought of the team is that he might play this weekend, but nothing has been confirmed as of yet.

The loss of Bergeron is a huge one for this organization who have been spoiled to have a player of his caliber for 13 seasons coming into his 14th season with the club.  He is a leader on and off the ice and is well respected around the league for his two-way play, and winning the Selke Trophy four times which ties a National Hockey League record set by Bob Gainey.  You could say that Bergeron is the best two-way player in the game today and you would have a hard time trying to find someone to argue that with you.

We all know that when Zdeno Chara is no longer with the Bruins organization that Bergeron will become the next captain of this hockey club.  I will even go out on a limb here and say that when Bergeron retires his number 37 will hang from the rafters of the Garden.  Lately, social media has been suggesting that Chara should give his captaincy to Bergeron.  People are even blaming this slow start to this factor along with Rask as per usual.  Bergeron is part of the leadership group with the Bruins along with Chara, David Backes, David Krejci, and Brad Marchand.  The one difference is that Chara has a C on his chest and speaks to the refs when its needed during the game.

 

A team captain is someone the teams listen to or follows by example. Bergeron does all of those things for his team even without being the captain.  It’s a great honor in the NHL to be named a captain, and a duty that is not taken lightly by the players that wear the C.  Zdeno Chara is a future hall of famer and could also have his number up in the rafters at the Gardens.  Some of the reasoning that Chara shouldn’t be the captain anymore is that he is “too old” or that he “can’t compete.”  Right now Chara leads the Bruins in average ice time like he does every year and leads the team in plus/minus with a +2 rating.  The 40-year-old Chara was eighth on the team in points last year, tied for plus/minus with a +18 rating and first on the team in average ice time.

Just because Bergeron isn’t the captain of the Boston Bruins doesn’t mean he doesn’t impact the team in a leadership capacity. He doesn’t need the C on his jersey to lead this team and its young players.  When he returns, we will see a change in this current Bruins team and Bergeron will lead by example on the ice.  One day Bergeron will be the captain of the Boston Bruins, and it will come soon, we all just have to wait because he isn’t rushing Chara out the door.

A Conversation With Bruins Writer Mick Colageo

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By Court Lalonde               Follow me on Twitter @courtlalonde

We all read every article we can about our favorite team the Boston Bruins but rarely do we get to know the person who is writing the article. I was lucky enough to sit down with long time Bruins writer Mick Colageo the other day and pick his brain. At age 60, Mick has been covering the Bruins for nearly half his life either in print, on the radio, or on the internet. “It was during my radio era and in the 1991-92 season that I began covering the Bruins, credentialed by a nationally based overnight radio show called The Sports Final,” Mick told me. He did it for free but did get to go to Bruins games and cover it. “I would make short radio reports that I recorded or gave live over the pay phone at Boston Garden’s press room door,” said Mick.

He began writing Bruins columns regularly for The Standard-Times in 95-96. During the year the Bruins opened the Fleet Center (TD Garden as we know now). “For a season or two, I wrote my column for the small daily papers owned by my full-time employer’s parent company, but returned to the first arrangement with the Standard-Times in 2000.” He became their full-time writer for the sports department and as a staff writer. He was able to cover the Bruins on a more consistent basis during the Bruins playoff runs in 2011 and 2013 and was able to travel for some away games. Mick was lucky enough to be able to cover Game 7 in Vancouver on June 15, 2011, and see the Bruins hoist the Stanley Cup.

He considers himself a hockey geek even though now covering the Bruins is a part time thing with his paper. “I have a passion for hockey and have always intensely followed the Bruins. It’s the most fun I could ever have at a job being able to structure my thoughts on the team and players and fans interact with them about it” said Mick. When I asked him what his biggest moment was covering the Bruins, he couldn’t give me just one, and I didn’t expect him to. Speaking to me about the time he was at Boston Garden for the Last Hurrah night. It was against the Montreal Canadians which be a fitting end to once hallow halls of the Boston Garden. He grew up a fan of the Boston Bruins, and now he was allowed to watch them for work. Which brings us to June 15, 2011, and being able to see the Bruins become team number one in Boston sports again. “The Cup was on the first float; the fans had wait long enough, and the news of confirmation moments before the parade began that it was the largest gathering in Boston’s history gave me a tremendous satisfaction proving what I’d been telling people for years, that the Bruins had fans just like all of Boston’s previously more successful teams” Mick said to me.

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(Above Photo Credit: Bob Frid/Icon Sportwire)

I asked him if he finds it hard to be objective when he is writing about the team because I know it is one of the toughest things I have to do when I write. His answer was “Yes, the biggest change from now as opposed to 20 years ago is I don’t write the angry fan letter anymore.” Over the years he has learned to appreciate the challenges each management team has faced while covering the Bruins and began to empathize with them. He tries to remember when he is writing about the Bruins that it’s a person he is writing about. He enjoys writing about the present players, and they’re a nice group of guys he says, from Zdeno Chara on down. “Patrice Bergeron is as nice a guy as I’ve ever met. I also enjoyed talking with Tim Thomas, and Tuukka Rask is always engaging.” He has found it harder lately because he has been spending less time with the club. “Suddenly Bergy’s an old guy, which means I’m a very old guy” Mick was telling me.

We talked about the current Bruins players move, and he said to me that he thinks that Danton Heinen will be their most improved player next year and I hope he is right. When I asked him what he is most looking forward to about the Bruins next year, he said development. The Bruins are a team full of youth on their roster next year and have some young piece of their defense core that is maturing into everyday defensemen sooner rather than later. “McAvoy was a small sample, but we saw a guy that could make a spectacular blunder but could recover quickly because he had a physical commitment and the save to understand how to get better.” He feels that it looks Charlie McAvoy will climb the depth charts quickly and reminds him a lot of Dennis Potvin because he is fast on his feet and gets where he needs to go.

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(Above Photo Credit: Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire)

We spoke about how sometimes players and management get a bad rap. He said to me that “Krejci doesn’t have a bad contract, just bad support” and I couldn’t agree with him more. Next season hopefully with David Pastrnak returning to David Krejci’s line he will have constancy that he hasn’t had since the days of Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic. Mick even suggested to me that the Bruins try David Backes on his off wing on the second line with Pasta and Krejci. He did say that they will probably have a look of Bjork on that line as well along with trying the kid on the line with Bergeron and Brad Marchand. I shared my opinion that Pastrnak should be on the second line because it balances the scoring, but Mick suggested that also it’s a good idea because Marchand now is a player that likes to have the puck and Pastrnak is that type of player too. At this point in Bergeron’s career, it would be a waste of his talent just to have him be the guy that covers for the defense and has a support role on the line. I had never thought of it that way before, but after Mick told me this, I won’t look at it any other way. He said that one of the times Peter Chiarelli deserved the biggest slack from the fans was in 2014. Dennis Seidenberg goes down with an injury, and he replaces him with Andrej Meszaros, and Claude Julien doesn’t even play him and instead goes with Matt Bartkowski and Kevan Miller. This team won the president trophy that year and should have beat the Montreal Canadians, but the loss of Seidenberg was too big of a hill to climb. The rumor at the time was that Chiarelli wasn’t able to acquire a higher caliber defenseman at the time because he wasn’t willing to part with Ryan Spooner.

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(Above Photo Credit: Michael Tureski/Icon Sportswire)

We talked about the Bruins defense core and what the future holds, and he said something to me that rings true “Chara should get some of that Tom Brady love for being so good at his age, and he gets none.” He said to me that it was a hard choice for Don Sweeney to chose Kevan over Colin Miller during the expansion draft. Kevan had been one of the Bruins best defensemen near the end of the season and during the playoffs stepped up and became more reliable than Colin and learned from his mistakes. Sweeney was able to have the guts to walk away from Colin who he acquired in the Milan Lucic deal that he projected high on but it just didn’t work out the way he thought it would. With the increasingly good play we have seen from Torey Krug and from what we saw from Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy the defense is something we shouldn’t have to worry about anymore and in the future. Him and I both agree that it does look like the Bruins are poised to make the playoff’s once again this season but will have some competition from the other clubs in their division.

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(Above Photo Credit: Jason Kopinski/Icon Sportswire)

I feel like I could have talked with Mick for hours and never get bored with the conversation and his knowledge of the game was astounding. I do know some of the people reading this may want to become a writer someday and Mick gave me some advice that I want to share with everyone. He said to me that any young writer, especially in today’s atmosphere of white noise, when you finally know something, ask yourself some more-or-less questions like “why report it?”.  If the primary answer is for your career, it might be worth more to sit on it, learn how to keep something under your hat and become a reporter a GM doesn’t mind talking to. Don’t predicate that on some golden nugget but on how much more you’re likely to learn and grow from the conversations hockey people will be willing to have with you.

My All-Time Boston Bruins Starting Lineup

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By Court Lalonde @courtlalonde

Growing up a fan of the Boston Bruins during my lifetime has had its ups and down along with moments of pure ecstasy. I only started watching the Bruins in the mid 80’s because of an excellent reason; I was only born in 1979. I never got to see the great majestic skating, pure talent of Bobby Orr. I heard many stories from the media to fans of the Bruins. I can say without question, that he is the single greatest player to lace up skates for the black and gold. I was lucky enough to get to watch the second best player to wear the black and gold, which to me is Ray Bourque. Until I even knew who Bobby Orr was, I thought that no other defensemen in the game could play the way he did.

I got to watch Cam Neely destroy opposing players with his thundering body checks and the occasional fight. He would score goals that as a young kid I would only dream of being able to do. I then get told about players when I’m older like Esposito and Middleton that made scoring goals like that a regular occurrence. I sure all Bruins fans could tell you where they were when the greatest moment being a Bruins fan happen to them. When you ask a fan who their favorite player is? Nine times out of ten you will get a different answer. Some will say a current player, like myself I would say Patrice Bergeron and some would say a former player. If I were to pick a former player, I would pick Ray Bourque, and that might be a head scratcher if you know me. My father played for the Boston Bruins in the late 70’s early 80’s for two seasons. The reason I didn’t pick him is, I never got to watch him. I have never even seen a video of my father playing hockey for the Bruins unless I count seeing replays of when the Bruins climbed into the stands at Madison Square Gardens to say a friendly hello to some lucky New York Rangers fans. I do wish I got to see him play and even more so than the great Bobby Orr.

I always put together every couple season a starting lineup of the Bruins teams I watched growing up to the present. I made such a list the other day and posed the question to people on Twitter. I made a selection of three forwards, two defense, and one goaltender. I didn’t pick from any Bruins teams that I didn’t grow up watching. My choices were Cam Neely, Adam Oates, Patrice Bergeron, Ray Bourque, Zdeno Chara, and Andy Moog. I got many different answers from twitter, and more than one of them brought a smile to my face for reminding me of a former Bruin great.

So my question to you, the reader is simple, who would be your all time starting line up be? Let me know in the comments or send me a message on twitter who you would pick. I would like to have an honorable mention of Joe Juneau who almost made my list. I look forward to hearing from you, or if you would like to let other members of the Black N’ Gold Hockey Blog know, they would love to hear from you.

Lalonde: My Bruins Picks For The 2017 NHL Draft

Robert Thomas of the London Knights. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.   7spits

(Photo Credit: Terry Wilson, OHL Images (Left) Jason Kirk, Windsor Star (Right)

By Court Lalonde @courtlalonde

It’s that time of the year again when teams get to start with a clean slate and think about their future. The National Hockey League entry draft is today, and the excitement around the league seems to be about what trades are going to be made more than who teams are going to select in the entry draft this year. I can understand some of this excitement because we had an expansion draft this year and the Las Vegas Golden Knights decided to accumulate more draft picks over taking the best player available. I’m intrigued because this draft is being pegged as a weak draft compared to previous years and that we don’t have any superstars available.

I have been looking into who the Boston Bruins might be able to take, and I think this draft might surprise people down the road. I don’t believe that they will be Connor McDavid type players, but this draft seems to have players that will play in the NHL. This draft is full of potential role players and second line players; some have the ability to become first line players. We also seem to have a healthy crop of goaltenders in this year’s draft, which is good because (spoilers) I’m going to suggest the Bruins take a goalie with their second round pick. I stated on the Black N’ Gold podcast last week that I think the Bruins should take Isaac Ratcliffe from the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League with the 18th overall pick and Michael Dipietro from the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL with the 53rd overall pick. I still think the Bruins should choose Dipietro, but I have changed my mind on Ratcliffe. I feel now that the Bruins should go with Robert Thomas from the London Knights of the OHL.

Boston Bruins 18th pick in the 2017 NHL entry draft is Robert Thomas from the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League

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(Photo Credit: CHL Images)

When you look at Thomas at first, you see 6-0 centermen, 188 pounds that only played second line minutes last year in the OHL. What you need to realize is, he is a second line center that played on one of the offensive juggernauts of the OHL. He was able to have 16 goals, 50 assists, 66 points, with a plus 44 rating with only second line minutes. He thinks defense first and worries about the offense later and is known as an unselfish player by his teammates.

“Robert is a good 200-foot player, he’s intelligent,” Matt Ryan of NHL Central Scouting said. “He’s an excellent passer and has a good vision of the ice. He can create in traffic, doesn’t panic and makes smart decisions with the puck, He’s a natural playmaker.”

His hockey IQ is off the charts and was touted as one of the best playmakers in the OHL last year. I went looking back into what scouts said about current Bruins Patrice Bergeron, and it’s uncanny how similar the scouting reports are. I’m not saying he is the next Bergeron, but he plays a similar style of game. Thomas knows how to win and won a Memorial Cup with the London Knights in 2016 and will get a chance to play for team Canada this year as he has been invited to camp for the Canadian World Junior team. He seems to me to be the prototypical Bruins, and if he is available when Don Sweeney steps up to the podium for the 18th pick, I hope they take him.

Boston Bruins 53rd pick in the 2017 NHL entry draft is Michael Dipietro from the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League

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(Photo Credit: Adrian Wyld, The Canadian Press)

The knock on Dipietro is that he is short and at 6-0 for a goalie, I guess you can say that with the goaltenders nowadays in the league. I have never believed a goalie has to be tall to succeed in the NHL, and the Bruins own Tim Thomas who backstopped us to a Stanley Cup Championship is a prime example of that. Thomas came in a 5’11 but played like he was Zdeno Chara’s size. Dipietro knows how to win big games as well, his Spitfires won the Memorial Cup Championship this year and he was 4-0 with a 2.00 GAA and a .932 SV%. His coach Rocky Thomspon said, “When we make mistakes we have a great goaltender who can make a save for us.” This season he tied a Spitfires franchise record with a GAA of 2.35 for the season and set the shutout record with six. Three of the shutouts were in a row, and he stood on his head all three games. He has a strong mental focus and plays big for his size. He grew up idolizing Johnathan Quick from the Los Angeles Kings and has quick reflexes like him as well. Boston is a hard city to play in for some players, and the pressure can get to some.

” I like that I can be a game changer, a factor, I love the pressure,” said Dipietro.

He played for team Canada at the Ivan Hilinka Tournament this year and had a .920 SV%. He has been invited to camp as well for the Canadian World Junior team, and if the NHL players don’t go to the Olympics, he might represent his country there. I want the Bruins to select a goalie in the second round because it’s a strong draft for goaltenders this year and goaltending prospect haven’t worked out lately, and it’s time to refill the cupboard. My hope when Don Sweeney announces their second round pick, he calls the name of Michael Dipietro.

Bruins Pastrnak Is A Top Priority This Summer

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Photo credit: (Greg M. Cooper / USA Today Sports)

By Court Lalonde  @courtlalonde

Don Sweeney has a lot of things to be optimistic about after the season that just past. The Boston Bruins made the playoffs, which I’m sure was his goal and wasn’t on board with the crazy goal the Jacobs family had, which was a deep playoff run. I still think that if the team didn’t get decimated with injuries they might have just had one because of the way the matchups went. Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy showed fans that the future of the Bruins defense will be in good hands. Brad Marchand was able to make his new salary worth it by almost having an MVP season minus a couple of minor blemishes. David Pastrnak had a breakout season and was on many highlight reels throughout the year.

The last offseason Sweeney was looking to add to the roster and was looking for defensive depth and scoring to replace the departure of Loui Eriksson. The good news is, not signing Loui last summer turned out to be a huge bullet dodged by Sweeney because he had one of the worst seasons of his career. The good news is that some of that defensive depth he was looking for ended up being in the system and didn’t cost him cap space. He ended up signing David Backes to replace Eriksson, and some fans aren’t happy about the term but can’t deny that the play type of Backes was a welcome addition. As the salary cap goes up year after year, the Backes deal won’t look as bad anymore.


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This offseason Sweeney is going to be looking to maybe add a capable backup at a low cost and a scoring winger to play on the second line. His biggest priority though is going to be the resigning of David Pastrnak. Pastrnak has made it know that he wants to come back. “I’m not a person who would want to go from (team to team),” said Pastrnak. “I love it here. It’s where I got the chance to play in the NHL. I would wish to end here.” Let us hope he takes a hometown discount, but it’s not likely. It does mean that he is willing to negotiate and sees a future playing with the Bruins, unlike Phil Kessel and Dougie Hamilton in the past.

When looking over comparable contracts around the National Hockey League, a couple of them stood out to me. Nikita Kucherov did take a hometown discount in Tampa and is making 4.7 million over three years and had 85 points last year and 66 points the year before his new deal. Artemi Panarin is making six million over the next two years and got that contract after a 77 point season. Both these players have a knack for scoring goals and are considered skilled players like Pastrnak.

This past season we saw him score 34 goals and record 36 assists for 70 points splitting his time between Boston’s top two lines. He played well at the beginning of the season on a line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand but found himself at the end of the year playing with David Krejci. Having him on the second line with Krejci, allowed Bruce Cassidy to have two lines that provided scoring and made it harder for teams to focus their plan of attack. These stats alone will be a big reason why he should be expecting a big raise.

 

We all know he can score goals and generate offense, but it’s his defensive game that needs to improve. He did show flashes of it during the regular season but did seem lost at times during the playoffs in his end and wasn’t strong enough on his skates. He spent the offseason bulking up and working on his game, and it did show, but he still has areas to work on to make him the elite player he can be. These areas might allow Sweeney to shave some dollars off his new contract.

I feel that Pastrnak will sign a new long-term contract with the Bruins and that the number is going to be in the range of 5.5 to 6 million dollar range per year. I think Sweeney is going to try and lock him up long term because he is the future of the Bruins offense. The term will more than likely be in the range of four to five years when looking at comparables because the bridge deals don’t seem to be working out well. P.K. Subban is a prime example of too many short term deals that ended up costing the team more financially in the end.

Whatever this summer brings, one thing is for certain, sign David Pastrnak first and then move on to other needs.


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Kevan Miller, My Choice For Being Protected

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Photo Credit: (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

By Court Lalonde (@courtlalonde)

With the recent playoff exit to the Ottawa Senators in the first round of the National Hockey League Playoffs, we have to start thinking about the future. This summer is going to be different than other off-seasons because we will be welcoming an expansion team into the NHL, the Vegas Golden Knights. One of the biggest decisions for GM Don Sweeney will be who to protect in the expansion draft. He can either decide to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender or protect eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goaltender. I feel the obvious choice is the first option and protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goaltender. You have to protect players with no-movement and no-trade, so the decision with the forwards have almost all been made with a few spots open.

At the beginning of the season and the halfway point I had made up my mind on who I thought should get that final spot on the back end and it was Colin Miller. The two no-brainers are Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug, but after that, you can have a debate over the last spot. I’ve even gone as far to ask the Twitter world but ended up not coming to the same conclusion. During the last month and the playoffs, one defenseman stood out to me over all the others.

You can make a case for Colin Miller because he has speed and is a young skilled puck moving defensemen.  He needs a lot of work in the defensive zone and needs to be stronger on the puck and in the corners.  Miller has a cannon of a shot and can generate offense along with a very reasonable contract at one million a year until the 2017-2018 season.  With the emergence of Charlie McAvoy, I feel Colin Miller has been moved down on the depth charts.

Kevan Miller was never drafted by any team in the NHL but was able to sign an amateur tryout with the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League back in 2011 and played six games for them. He never actually made his NHL debut until 2013 when he was called up to play against the St.Louis Blues in November of that year. He was in and out of the lineup for the rest of the year but was able to get a contract extension at the end of the year; at the time I was wondering what Sweeney was thinking, to be honest. Miller has a physical presence and can make a quick first pass and will drop the gloves when needed. During the playoffs this year he got the shot to show his worth because the blueline became decimated with injuries. He was playing top minutes and averaging just over 24 minutes a night, but that includes a couple of overtime games. Intern coach Bruce Cassidy was relying heavily on Miller to soak up the ice time in the absence of the injured players. Miller didn’t let him down and became the second pairing shutdown defensemen in the playoffs this team had been looking for. He was taking the body, blocking shots and shutting down some of the top players on the Ottawa Senators. In the playoffs you get to see what a player is made of, some just can’t handle the pressure and fall flat. He was able to deal with the high typo of playoff hockey and excelled in it.


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The defense pairings for next year would look solid in my opinion and I feel Charlie McAvoy is a lock for a roster spot next year after his performance in the playoffs as well.

Zdeno Chara      Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug         Charlie McAvoy
Kevan Miller      Adam McQuaid

Kevan Miller is not the most flashy defensemen, and you could say he’s not the sexy pick, but he would be my pick if I had a say. He is not going to be the guy you expect to generate offense on the ice, but when he does, it’s a bonus. Miller’s a player that is going to stick up for his teammates and have the no surrender attitude. He showed me at the end of the year that I was wrong about him, and I’m glad he did.

Bruins Torey Krug, Leader On The Point

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(Photo Credit: Matthew J.Lee/GlobeS)

By Court Lalonde (follow @courtlalonde)

Torey Krug has always been known for his offensive ability but has lacked a two-way game. Just never seemed like the defensemen the Boston Bruins could put on the ice when the game was on the line. This year started a little different for him because he was one of the veterans on the blue line and was going to have to change a couple of things, so the team didn’t have the same outcome. Krug has been one of the whipping boys for some Bruins fans along with fellow defensemen Zdeno Chara.


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This season I believe he has turned some opinions and heads of Bruins fans and around the National Hockey League. Currently, he is tied for fifth in scoring amongst NHL defensemen with Dustin Byfuglien and Duncan Keith at 51 points. He is ahead of Shea Weber and Drew Doughty just to name a few. Out of the eights goals he has scored this year, six of them along with 19 assists came on the power play to help give the Bruins the seventh best power play in the league. He has been the power play quarterback the Bruins always wanted him to be and then some. His production on the man advantage has him tied for third amongst NHL defensemen for goals. He scored one of the nicest looking goals a Bruin has scored all year against the Ottawa Senators after a small altercation with Dion Phaneuf.

 

It has been more than just his offense this year that we his fans are noticing on the ice. We have seen his strong play on the defensive side of the puck and is fourth on his team in blocked shots with 82. During this six-game winning streak, Krug along with his partner Adam McQuaid have been two of the best defensemen on the ice for the Bruins when we have needed them to be. In the last six games, he has one goal, two assists, but has been plus five and has been playing in most situations for the Bruins. Bruce Cassidy even used him on the penalty kill against the Dallas Stars during this winning streak, and he didn’t miss a beat. If the Bruins are going to win any series this year in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they’re going to need Krug to continue his play and even ramp it up.

During the 2013-14 playoffs, he had two goals, eight assists, for ten points in 12 games. The playoffs are where I first noticed Krug during the Bruins last run to the Stanley Cup finals in the 2012-13 season. The good news is he has a history of playing well in the playoffs and will be going into with a career year and a coach that has confidence in him. With Chara not getting any younger, this will be a different playoff run with a different look. The team will rely on Krug to carry the load when it comes to offense from the point and chip in on the defensive side as well. If he can carry over his play from the season into the post season, we shouldn’t have any concerns.