The Best Bruin To Ever Wear The Number One

(Photo Credit: George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images)

By Joe Chrzanowski  |  Follow Me on Twitter @jchrz19

Welcome to the first of what will hopefully become a long and very entertaining series of articles. I am going to look at the best Bruin’s player to wear each number throughout the organization’s long and storied history. I will be skipping the retired numbers because it’s pretty self-explanatory who the best Bruin to don each of those revered numbers was.

Just to get it out of the way, in case anyone has forgotten, these are the current retired numbers in Boston:

#2 – Eddie Shore, #3 – Lionel Hitchman, #4 – Bobby Orr, #5 – Dit Clapper, #7 – Phil Esposito, #8 – Cam Neely, #9 – John Bucyk, #15 – Milt Schmidt, #16 – Rick Middleton, #24 – Terry O’Reilly, #77 – Ray Bourque.

Eleven numbers may seem like a lot, but it still leaves us 88 more to contemplate.

The best place to start this series, numerically anyway, is pretty obvious, and that would be with the number one. Generally speaking, the number one is worn in the NHL by goaltenders, and the greatest players to ever sport that number in B’s history were no exception. In an organization that has been around as long as the Bruins have, you would think that the competition would be pretty fierce? Normally, that would be a safe assumption. Unfortunately, in the case of the number one, the competition IS fierce, but it’s not for first place, it’s for third. That said, there is still a worthy discussion to be had for the runner-ups.

(Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Bruins have two goalies that played their careers primarily in the 1930s and 1940s that have without question locked up the first and second spots as the greatest B’s players to ever wear the number One. Those two guys are Cecil “Tiny” Thompson and Frank “Mr. Zero” Brimsek. While it is difficult to compare players across different eras, these two players were able to pile up more than enough wins and hardware to leave no doubt that they were the top dogs in this contest.

Thompson was the preeminent goaltender of the 1930s. During that decade (and in 1928-29,) he played in 468 games for the Bruins, had a GAA of 1.99 (Save Percentage was not a stat yet), and a whopping 74 shutouts. He won 252 games for Boston, and both his games played and win totals are 2nd all-time for the B’s. They were 1st until recently being eclipsed by Tuukka Rask. In addition to those impressive numbers, Tiny won a Cup in 1929, had four All-Star game appearances, and four Vezina Trophies on his resume. In that era, the Vezina was given to the goalie whose team allowed the fewest amount of regular-season goals. This was no slight as Thompson was largely responsible for that. In 1936 he became the first goalie in NHL history to record an assist in a game. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1959. For my money, he is the best player to wear number one for the Bruins.

Frank Brimsek played for the Bruins from 1938-1948. Somewhat ironically, it was Brimsek that forced out and took over for Thompson in 1938. Tiny suffered an eye injury, and Brimsek played so well in his stead that the Bruins dealt Thompson to Detroit in November of 1938. It would mark the beginning of an impressive nine-year run in the Boston goal. Brimsek would suit up for 444 games (tied for 3rd on the B’s all-time list), winning 230 with 35 shutouts. During that time, he would also win two Stanley Cups and two Vezina Trophies, along with being named to the All-Star team eight times.

(Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

Brimsek earned his famous “Mr. Zero” nickname after recording six shutouts in his first eight games and setting a league record for consecutive scoreless minutes in the process. Brimsek was born in Eveleth, Minnesota, which is notable because he was one of very few Americans in the NHL in the 1940s. The United States Hockey Hall of Fame was established in Brimsek’s hometown in 1973, and he was part of the original group of 25 to be inducted. In addition, an award given to the best senior high school goalie in the state of Minnesota is named after him. He joined Tiny Thompson in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966 and is a close second to him for best Bruin to ever wear the number one.

There are a number of other goalies that have worn the number one for the Bruins over the years. Some have been goalies that made their fame with other teams and wore it briefly for the Black and Gold. Guys like Terry Sawchuk, Rogie Vachon, and Marty Turco fall into this category. While they were great netminders, they were not in Boston long enough to warrant consideration.

The next trio of goalies I considered were all players that fell short of third place for one reason or another, whether it be lack of tenure or performance. Andrew Raycroft had good numbers with Boston (2.62 GAA, .908 Save %), but he only played 108 games and had a losing record before being traded to TOR for Tuukka Rask. Pete Peeters played 171 games in Boston and had 91 wins, but his stats were not great (3.00 GAA, .883 SP), and he had more games and years in a Flyers uniform than a B’s sweater. Last but not least was Reggie Lemelin, who, while he was in Boston, was beloved by the fans for his “fist pump” celebration after games. In six years in Boston, he played in 182 games, had 92 wins, but the numbers were average. His GAA was 3.09, and his save percentage came in at .884. All three of these players were good, but not good enough for the top three.

(Photo Credit: Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

Third place for the best to wear the number one in Boston came down to two goalies in my estimation, Eddie Johnston and Gilles Gilbert. Readers younger than myself are probably much more familiar with Gilbert than Johnston, who played primarily in the ’60s for the B’s. Gilbert was known for being on the losing end to Philly and later Montreal in the ’70s under Don Cherry.

While Johnston might be lesser-known to today’s Bruins fans, he has a very respectable resume. He played in Boston from 1962 thru 1973, amassing 444 games for the B’s (tied for 3rd all-time with Brimsek), winning 182, with a GAA of 3.22 and a .900 Save Percentage. He was the starter before Gerry Cheevers established himself and backed “Cheesy” up in the late 1960s and early ’70s. His numbers were very comparable to Cheevers,’ and he actually played in more games for the Bruins. He was also a key contributor on both Stanley Cup teams, playing 37 games in 1970 and 38 games in 1972. Despite these solid stats, Johnston may be more well-known as a successful coach and GM for the Penguins in the 1980’s and 90’s?

Last but not least, is Gilles Gilbert, the acrobatic French-Canadian goalie with the memorable flow. He played in Boston from 1974-1980, totaling 277 games for the B’s, winning 155 of them. His GAA was 2.95, and he had a save percentage of .890 over that time. I remember Gilbert as being a key component in net for the highly effective “Lunch Pail AC” teams. Despite their success in the regular season, those teams came up short in the playoffs. Unfortunately, my most lasting memory of Gilbert will be of him falling to the ice after he gave up Guy Lafleur’s game-tying goal as time was running out in Game Seven of the 1979 Stanley Cup Semifinals. That goal is not the reason I am going with Eddie Johnston as the third-best to wear number one for the Bruins…but it didn’t help either.

So, there you have it, the three best players to wear the number one for the Bruins are Tiny Thompson in first, followed by Frank Brimsek as a close second, and Eddie Johnston as a distant third. I hope you enjoyed this look back in B’s history. Next up on the agenda is the number six, where there should be a lot more debate for the title.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 187 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 187 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Who Is The Bruins Biggest Rival Today?

(Photo Credit: AP/Nick Wass)

By Joe Chrzanowski  |  Follow Me on Twitter @jchrz19

 

If you have been a Bruins fan for more than 10 years, you should have a healthy, hotter than the heat of a thousand suns, passionate hatred for the Montreal Canadiens. Good vs. Evil…Night vs. Day…Heat Miser vs. Cold Miser…none of those have anything on Boston vs. Montreal. As a boy, I went to a B’s vs. Habs playoff game in the late ’70s and witnessed a drunken Montreal fan on crutches “mouthing off” to a group of Boston fans and subsequently being beaten with his own crutches until police intervened. That’s how bad it was it was between the two fanbases at the time. Let’s take a quick look at this historic rivalry and decide if they are still the B’s most hated foes today.

Being two of the NHL’s Original Six franchises means that the Bruins and Canadiens have been facing off for a long, long time. They first met in December of 1924, with Montreal defeating Boston 4-3. This first game was sort of emblematic of the rivalry as a whole for many years, with the Bruins coming close, but ultimately losing to their rivals from North of the Border. Since that time, the two teams have played each more times (regular season and playoffs combined) than any other two teams in NHL history. The series stands at 469–345–103–10 in favor of Montreal, who has dominated at times. They have also met 34 times in the postseason, with the Canadians winning 18 straight series from 1946-1987.

(Photo Credit: La Presse)

I started following the Bruins in 1972, and while I was just a youngster, there was not a team I despised more than Les Habitants. If the earth had opened up and swallowed Dryden, Lafleur, and Robinson, I probably would have been the happiest six-year-old on the planet. As I was starting my decades-long fandom with the Bruins, they actually took a brief hiatus from the rivalry with the Canadiens, meeting them only once in the playoffs from 1970-71 (the Dryden series) through 1975. It would not last very long, but for that period, Montreal was on the back burner.

During those years, the B’s had a pretty healthy rivalry with the Rangers that briefly eclipsed the one with Montreal. Boston met New York in 1970 and 1972, defeating them on the way to two Stanley Cups. New York eliminated Boston in 1973. After that, it was the Flyers for a few seasons. Philadelphia and Bernie Parent (a former Bruin) beat Boston in the Stanley Cup Final in 1974 in a grueling six-game series and also eliminated them in 1976. The Bruins had the upper hand in 1977 and 1978, besting the Flyers in the semi-finals both of those seasons. Not to worry though, Montreal was already marching back to the forefront of Bruin’s fan’s hit-lists.

From 1977-1979 the teams met in three straight postseasons, with the Habs winning all three series, two in the Finals. As an avid 11-13-year-old B’s fan and hockey player during that stretch was particularly hard on me, with some tears being shed. I had the pleasure and good luck to attend Game Four’s in both 78 and 79, both 4-3 OT wins for the Bruins. I have not experienced that kind of atmosphere at a hockey game since, and have attended many. My absolute joy both years was obviously short-lived. Despite the Canadien’s dominance an amazing stat for that era…from 1965-1979 Boston (2-3) and Montreal (10-1) took up 16 of the possible 30 spots in the Finals during those 15 years.

The 1980s were not much kinder to Boston, as they lost five of the six series in that decade when the teams faced off (1984, 85, 86, 87, 89). The lone exception was 1988 when a Bruins team led by Cam Neely and Ray Bourque defeated the Canadiens in five games in the Adams Division Final. This series victory broke a 44 year and 18 series stretch of Montreal victories. The B’s would go on to defeat New Jersey and lose to the juggernaut that was Edmonton in the Cup Finals.

The 1990s would bring a much-needed change to the rivalry from the Bruins perspective, with Boston taking all four series played that decade. From 2000-2014, the two Eastern Conference foes faced each other another six times, with Montreal holding a 4-2 series edge. At that point, the rivalry appeared to be alive and well, despite the fact that the NHL changed the season format between division teams. At one time, the two teams could have as many as nine meetings in the regular season alone, and it was down to four or five.

The one-time automatic opponents have not faced each other in the playoffs since the 2013-14 season. While the regular-season matchups are still intense, it lacks something without adding the intensity of postseason games to the mix. In my opinion, the two things most directly responsible for the slippage of this once-great rivalry is the NHL’s lack of emphasis on division games and Montreal’s lack of competitiveness in recent years. The Bruins are headed to their fourth straight playoffs, while the Canadiens have missed “the chase” two of the last four seasons, and are only going this season because of the expanded 24-team playoff format. While I am positive that this rivalry is not dead, it certainly is on life-support at this juncture.

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If not Montreal, which NHL team now makes the blood of Bruins fans boil? Pittsburgh? I guess you could make a case for the Pens, but the Bruins have not faced them in the postseason since 2012-13. Matt Cooke is gone, and while I like nothing better than hating on Sid and Geno, there just isn’t enough meat there. Tampa Bay? The Lightning have been one of the better teams in the East for the last decade or so. Boston has faced them twice in the playoffs during that time, but only once in the last five seasons. It’s close, but I would say that the Bolts are #2 on the hit list, until Boston sees them more regularly in the postseason.

I think if you ask most fans, the answer to the question, who is the Bruins’ biggest rival at this moment, is a pretty easy one. And the winner is…the Toronto Maple Leafs. In addition to being in the same division, the Bruins have faced the Leafs three times since 2012-13 in the playoffs. All three series have been absolute barn burners, going seven games with Boston winning each Game 7, one in extremely dramatic fashion. Toronto is a very talented team that just needs to get over the hump. Unfortunately for them, the B’s seem to be their kryptonite, like the Habs once were for the Bruins. Toronto has not won a playoff series against Boston since 1959.

Some might question whether Boston vs. Toronto is a legitimate rivalry with the series being somewhat lopsided? I would say the answer is yes for a couple of reasons. First, the last three times they met, it went to seven games, all the games were very close, and the Leafs could have easily won all three series. Second, the Toronto fans are easily the most dis-likable group since Montreal, and some would argue they are worse. At least the Canadiens had a history of winning, while Leafs fans are the most entitled I have come across. One would never know from talking to them that their team has not won a playoff series since 2004 (close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades).

So, while it is a little disappointing that the Bruins rivalry with the Habs has simmered in recent years, it’s good to know that their neighbors to the south and west have picked up the torch until Montreal gets back on their feet. Here’s to another seven-game series this postseason, with the B’s winning their fourth straight against Toronto in heartbreaking fashion (fingers crossed).

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 184 that we recorded below on 6-28-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!

Does Bruins Cassidy Deserve The Jack Adams Award?

Ottawa Senators v Boston Bruins

(Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

By Joe Chrzanowski  |  Follow Me on Twitter @jchrz19

For the last three years, I have watched the NHL awards nominations and the subsequent awards show and wondered when Bruce Cassidy is going to get some recognition as one of the best coaches in the league? Even though he was nominated in 2017-18, everyone knew that Gerard Gallant of Vegas was winning the award that year (despite the B’s finishing with more points than the Knights. When will his time come, if ever?

Cassidy received his first NHL head coaching position in 2002. He was 37 years old and took over a veteran-laden Washington Capitals team with eight regulars that were over the age of 30. It must have been a pretty daunting proposition for the Ottawa native in his first kick at the NHL coaching can? His initial year in Washington went relatively well. The team had an above-average season, finished with 92 points, and made the playoffs after missing the season before under previous coach Ron Wilson. The Capitals were eliminated by Tampa in the first round in six games, but all in all a decent start for Cassidy.

Unfortunately, the following season was a different story. The team got off to a rough 8-18-1-1 start under Cassidy and he was replaced by Glen Hanlon (who fared no better). There were rumors of issues between veteran players and their young head coach. Any time players are only a few years older than the coach and things don’t go well, this is a possibility.

Cassidy had less than six seasons experience as a professional head coach and had been the coach of the year in the AHL in 2001-02 for Grand Rapids before making the jump to the NHL. It was a rapid rise and Cassidy may not have been fully prepared for the rough road his second season in Washington?

He returned to coaching in 2005-06 as an assistant for the Chicago Blackhawks. He would spend the next ten seasons honing his craft in the OHL and AHL before returning to the NHL as an assistant coach with the Bruins under Claude Julien in 2016-17 at the age of 51. The team had narrowly missed the playoffs the previous two seasons and after 55 games were only three games above .500. This was an unheard-of proposition for the proud Original Six franchise and GM Don Sweeney decided to make a change.

He installed Cassidy as Julien’s replacement with 27 games to go and the season in the balance. The B’s went 18-8-1 during that stretch, finished with 95 points, and qualified for the playoffs. After some key injuries, they were eliminated by Ottawa in the first round in six games. Probably not what Cassidy and the team had hoped for, but a solid beginning. It was no surprise that Cassidy would not get Adams Trophy consideration for 27 games, but I’m not sure what the reasoning has been since that time?

The following year (2017-18) would see the team take another step forward under Cassidy. They finished with a record of 50-20-12 (.683), and 112 points, good for 2nd in the Atlantic (one point behind Tampa). After a thrilling seven-game series and victory over Toronto, the Bruins appeared a bit overmatched vs Tampa Bay and were eliminated by the Bolts in five games. Still, it was a step forward for the organization, reaching the 2nd round of the playoffs for the first time in four years.

Cassidy was nominated for the Adams but ended up finishing 2nd to the Vegas Knight’s coach, Gerard Gallant. As I mentioned earlier, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that Gallant would win because of his success with an expansion squad, leading them to the Stanley Cup Finals. In retrospect, seeing the advantages this expansion team had over its predecessors and how well they were constructed, perhaps this vote should have been a lot closer than it was?

In 2018-19 it was more of the same for Cassidy and the Bruins. They finished the regular season at 49-24-9 (.652), with 107 points, and finished 2nd to Tampa Bay again in the Atlantic. One could argue that Cassidy did an even better job that regular season than the year before (despite having five fewer points). The B’s didn’t suffer any season-ending injuries, but they did have a variety of injuries to key contributors on the top two lines, both forwards and defensemen. Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, Torey Krug, and Zdeno Chara all missed 15-20 games, with Charlie McAvoy missing almost 30. Cassidy plugged guys into the holes and the team didn’t miss a beat.

While the 2018-19 postseason started off the same as 2017-18, with a seven-game series win over the Maple Leafs, what followed hadn’t been seen in Boston since the 2012-13 season. The B’s followed up their opening-round victory with wins over Columbus and Carolina (in the Eastern Conference Finals), and faced St. Louis in the championship round. Ultimately, the Bruins lost a heartbreaking seven-game series to the Blues. Obviously not what the organization envisioned, but it was another big step forward.

Cassidy was not nominated for the Adams. That honor went to Barry Trotz for turning the Islanders around, Craig Berube for doing the same with the Blues, and John Cooper for a record-setting regular season. Ultimately the award went to Trotz after engineering a 23-point improvement for the Isles. Unfortunately, the Jack Adams Award is based solely on regular-season performance, otherwise, I feel like Cassidy would have had another strong candidacy. Despite the tough loss to St. Louis, the Boston front office had seen more than enough from their head coach the prior two-plus seasons and signed him to a multi-year contract extension in September of 2019.

Which brings us to the 2019-20 hockey season, one like no other in history (unfortunately). There was a lot of talk last summer about Stanley Cup hangovers and teams struggling after losing in the Finals. Cassidy and the Bruins showed no sign of these maladies, getting off to a quick start, and finishing October with a record of 9-1-2. Despite predictions by many of an angry Tampa team coming out hard after their first-round elimination last season, it was Boston that led the Atlantic pretty much start to finish.

When the NHL recently announced their “return to play” plan and the regular season was officially over, the Bruins became the 2019-20 President’s Cup winners, finishing the year with a 44-14-12 record (.714) and 100 points. Because of the expanded playoff system, Boston will have to take part in a “play in” round to determine the top four seeding order in the East, along with Tampa, Washington, and Philadephia. This despite being the dominant team in the league all season (but that’s another discussion).

Cassidy replaced a coach who had won a Stanley Cup in Boston, which is no mean feat itself, but he also has made fans forget about Mr. Julien. His adherence to two-way hockey is nearly at the level of his predecessor, but unlike Clode, Cassidy appears to want his defensemen to “activate” and join the rush whenever possible. His demeanor with the press is also very different. I have been a Boston sports fan for a long time and his candid statements to the media are refreshing. At the same time, Cassidy manages to do this without being abrasive or disrespectful to the players. You get the feeling that “what you see is what you get” and that he has the same straightforward approach with the team.

Bruce-Cassidy-Bruins2

(Photo Credit: John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Cassidy led the team to the playoffs as an interim guy. Followed that up by winning a playoff round the next season, and leading the team to the Stanley Cup Finals the following year. Not content to rest on his laurels, this season the Bruins finish with the most points in the NHL. Over three-plus seasons, Cassidy has compiled a staggering .682 winning percentage. He is second in wins to Tampa and John Cooper but has enjoyed more playoff success.

Due to the change in the season schedule, the NHL Broadcaster’s Association, which is responsible for voting on the nominations and winners of the Jack Adams Award, will not be announcing anything until an undetermined date later in the summer. Is there anything else Bruce Cassidy needs to do to get his name on that trophy? We shall see.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 184 that we recorded below on 6-28-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!

Should The Bruins Retire Tim Thomas’ Number?

Tim Thomas

( Photo Credit: AP/The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward )

By Joe Chrzanowski  |  Follow Me on Twitter @jchrz19

Whenever hockey fans get together to discuss whether a certain player’s number should be retired, the conversation is bound to get hot and heavy. When that player happens to be a goaltender, the discussion seems to be even more heated than it normally is for some reason? I’m not sure whether it is as simple as because goalies wear such a limited range of jersey numbers (so people don’t want any retired) or because goaltending statistics seem so much harder to quantify than skaters who play out of the net?

Whatever the reason, there are only 17 goalie numbers that have been retired in the history of the NHL (Patrick Roy’s #33 is retired twice, for both the Canadiens and the Avalanche). The Bruins are the only Original Six franchise that does not have at least one netminder’s number hanging in the rafters. Toronto (Broda and Bower), New York (Giacomin and Richter), and Montreal (Roy and Plante), have two each. Detroit (Sawchuk) and Chicago (Esposito) have one apiece.

In recent months, with the NHL season suspended, many sports channels have taken to replaying past series and games in order to fill in the gaps left by the lack of hockey. NESN was no exception and they recently replayed the Bruins memorable Stanley Cup playoff run in 2011, highlighting Boston’s first championship since 1972. There were many key contributors during the run to the Cup, but the most valuable was deemed to be Tim Thomas. In 25 games, Thomas posted a .940 Save Percentage, a 1.98 GAA, and had four shutouts en route to winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

The recent re-airings of these Cup classics have people talking about Thomas again and many have brought up the question of whether or not Thomas’ #30 jersey is worthy of being raised to the Garden rafters. On the surface, it would appear that perhaps a goalie like Gerry Cheevers is just as/more deserving, and what about Tuukka Rask? Let’s take a deeper look at Thomas and some of the other potential candidates the B’s have to offer.

Thomas2

( Photo Credit: Brian Babineau/NHL via Getty Images )

Thomas is a pretty familiar story by now to most B’s fans. He played hockey for the University of Vermont (along with fellow future-NHLer Martin St. Louis), and was drafted in the 9th Round by the Quebec Nordiques, but was never signed by them. From 1997-98 through 2005-06 Thomas kicked around a number of leagues including the IHL, AHL, SHL, and Finnish Liiga before playing in the NHL for Boston. His season for Jokerit during the lockout in 2004-05 was what likely catapulted him to finally getting a legitimate NHL opportunity. With a lot of NHL talent playing in Finland that year, Thomas dominated the goaltender position playing 54 games with a 1.58 GAA and .946 save percentage during the regular season. In the playoffs, he was nearly as good with a 1.83 GAA and .938 save percentage, leading his team to the finals. 

It must have been quite a transition in 2005-06 for Thomas to go from a European powerhouse to one of the worst teams in the NHL when he became a regular in Boston, and eventually took over the starting job from teammate Andrew Raycroft. The Bruins finished as the 5th worst team that year and 8th from the bottom the following season. Despite the horrible team in front of him, Thomas put up respectable numbers. The 2007-08 season would bring a number of changes, including new head coach Claude Julien, whose defensive style was much more “goalie-friendly” than the prior regime. Thomas’ stats would reflect that as the B’s returned to the playoffs. 

From that year through 2011-12 (his last with the Bruins), Thomas was a monster in net for Boston, winning a Stanley Cup, a Conn Smythe, and two Vezina Trophies as the NHL’s best goaltender. He was, without a doubt, the league’s best during that period of time. During his eight years with the B’s, he played in 378 regular-season games, winning 196 with a 2.48 GAA and .921 save percentage. Generally speaking, those are fantastic numbers, and even more impressive when you add the hardware. 

The knock against Thomas (when you are talking about retiring his number) is and has always been his longevity. He did not become a regular in the NHL until the age of 31, and while he made up for his lack of quantity in the league with a great deal of quality, there are people who will always hold this against him. If you want to compare him to some peers, he’s middle to the low end of the pack for NHL games played. Of course, that was out of his control to a large extent due to circumstances. 

The two names that I hear mentioned the most in comparison to Thomas when it comes to potentially retiring numbers are Gerry Cheevers and Tuukka Rask. Of the two, the far easier comparison is Rask, because he played in the same era as Thomas. It is extremely difficult to compare players from two different eras and even more so when it comes to the goaltender position because the position has evolved more than any other in the game in my opinion. 

In these situations, I think the only fair thing to do is to look at the player’s stats and rankings among their peers of that era. In my opinion, this is a far more relevant way of looking at it, as opposed to just comparing the two players, regardless of when they played. Cheevers played a total of 418 games (171 in the 60’s, 247 in the ’70s) over an NHL career that spanned 13 years (compared to nine for Thomas). If this seems a little low, it’s probably because Cheesy left the B’s for four years in the mid-’70s to play in the newly formed WHA, registering nearly 200 games there. 

Gerry-Cheevers-Bruins

( Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images )

When you dig a little deeper, Cheevers ranked 14th for games played in the 1960s. His 2.97 GAA  was good for 19th place, while his .907 save percentage placed him 18th. If we do the same for the 1970s, he is 23rd for games played, 14th for goals-against average (2.97), and 23rd for save percentage (.895). Personally, I tend to look more closely at the save percentage numbers because goals against can be reflective of the strength of the team in front of a goalie. To be perfectly honest, before I started this article, I expected Cheever’s stats to be better than they were, relative to his era. In his defense, if he had stayed with the Bruins, the four years he was in the WHA likely would have been some of his best and bolstered his numbers considerably. For intangibles, Cheevers has two Stanley Cups, including the first in 29 years for the B’s in 1970. 

Thomas’ teammate Tuukka Rask is a much easier comparison when it comes to the numbers. Through this year, Rask’s career has spanned 13 seasons and he has played in 536 games (50 in the 2000s and 486 in the 2010s), surpassing both Cheevers and Thomas. His statistics are impressive when compared to his peers. Just looking at this decade, Rask is 1st in GAA (100 games or more), with a 2.29 mark and 2nd for save percentage at .921 over a span of almost 500 games. The only black mark over this period (and it’s huge for some) is that he has been unable to lead Boston to a Cup as a starter, losing in the Finals in both 2013 and 2019. 

If we do the same for Tim Thomas at his stats for his era, they are very good for the most part. His 2.61 GAA in the 2000s was 35th among goalies with more than 100 games played. I think this number is largely reflective of the two years the Bruins were awful when he became a regular. His save percentage (.918) is much better placing 8th. In the 2010’s his 2.38 GAA is good for 4th and his .924 save percentage is 1st (ahead of Rask). 

Boston Bruins v Carolina Hurricanes - Game Three

( Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images )

We have looked at three goalies and to me, they represent three different situations. Cheevers has the worst stats by far among his peers, but he has the most Cups with two and has four prime years missing to the WHA. Thomas has very good numbers in his era, along with a lot of hardware (one Cup, one Conn Smythe, and two Vezinas). Rask has the best statistics of the three men, also has a Vezina Trophy, but lacks a Stanley Cup. 

I can see why some Bruins fans think that Cheevers number 30 should be retired (he also wore 31 earlier in his career), despite the lack of great stats. I can also see why a lot of B’s faithful think that Thomas’ number 30 should be retired (obviously problematic) despite his lack of longevity. This may be somewhat controversial, but I don’t believe either of those guys should have their numbers raised to the rafters. If I had to choose one, it would be Rask, who has been statistically the most dominant goalie of this decade, despite him not having a Cup. I say this because in both playoff runs where he went to the finals, Rask has been nothing short of phenomenal (1.88 GAA, .940 Save% in 2013 and 2.02/.934 in 2019). He could not close either series out, but the Bruins don’t get there if not for Rask in both instances. Agree? Disagree? That’s why discussing sports is so much fun.

( I want to thank both QuantHockey and Hockey Reference for their invaluable statistics)

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 181 that we recorded below on 5-31-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

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Bruins Alumni: Happy Birthday Tim Thomas

Thomas 1

(Photo Credit: Associated Press)

By Joe Chrzanowski  |  Follow Me on Twitter @jchrz19

Happy 46th Birthday To Boston Bruins Legend, Tim Thomas!

Thomas was born on April 15th, 1974, in Flint, MI, and was drafted by the now-defunct Quebec Nordiques in the ninth round (217 overall) of the National Hockey League Entry Draft in June of 1994. After graduating from Davison High School, he attended the University of Vermont from 1993-97.

The Catamounts went to the NCAA Tournament in both the 1995-96 and 1996-97 seasons. In addition to Thomas, their roster boasted future NHL players, Martin St Louis, and Eric Perrin. In 1996, they made it to the Frozen Four for the first time in school history before being eliminated by Colorado College. In 1997 they returned to the tournament but were eliminated by Denver, 6-3, in the Regional Quarterfinals. Thomas still holds the school’s single-season saves record with 1,079 stops during the 1996-97 season, and the four-year record with 3,950 stops.

Thomas would attend his first professional training camp in the Fall of 1997, with the Colorado Avalanche. Despite all the success and great statistics at Vermont, it seems that coaches and scouts did not view his unconventional, “helter-skelter” style of play as sustainable at the NHL level. He disagreed, and after a few minor league games in the IHL and ECHL, he found his way to the Finnish Liiga, where he played 18 regular-season games, with a 1.62 GAA and a .947 Save%. He continued his stellar performances during the playoffs with a 1.52 GAA and .926 Save% in nine postseason games.

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(Photo Credit: Matthew West Boston Herald)

The Michigan native would spend the next four seasons putting up very solid numbers in a variety of leagues across the world, including the AHL, IHL, SHL (Sweden), and the Liiga (Finland). In 2002, he signed with the Providence Bruins, and played in 35 games with the Baby B’s, putting up decent numbers (2.87, .906). He got into four games in Boston that year as well. The following season he would put up even better numbers in 43 games for Providence as their starter (1.84, .941). Unfortunately, his opportunity for an NHL job would have to wait yet again as the 2004-05 was lost to a lockout.

Undeterred, he would go back to Finland that year and put up ridiculous numbers playing for Jokerit. His 54 games, 1.58 GAA, and .946 Save% were all-league bests. Even more importantly, he did this while several NHL goalies were also playing in Finland. His statistics were better than established netminders like Tomas Vokoun, Dwayne Roloson, and fellow B’s goalie, Andrew Raycroft. It must have caught someone’s eye in the Bruins front office because the following year (2005-06), at the ripe old age of 31, Thomas finally got his chance to be an NHL starter. Over the next two seasons, Thomas would play in 104 games for Boston, and put up decent numbers for a team that was not very good, and failed to qualify for the playoffs both those years.

However, the real turning point in Thomas’ Bruins career would come in 2007-08, after the Bruins fired Dave Lewis, and replaced him with the more defensive-minded Claude Julien. In his first season under “Clode”, Thomas would play in 57 regular-season games (top 20) and had a .921 Save% (Top 10). The following season (2008-09), he would better those numbers in both the regular season and playoffs and take home the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goaltender. The unheralded goalie who could not get an NHL opportunity until after the age of 30 had reached the top of his profession.

That offseason, GM Mike O’Connell would make one of his shrewdest signings, extending Thomas and inking him to a four-year deal that would pay him a total of $20 million. It appeared as if things could not get any better for Thomas, but there would still be some bumps in the road for the reigning Vezina winner. He would put up good regular-season numbers, but he was not his usual self. It turned out that he had been playing through a torn labrum that would require surgery and keep Thomas out of the postseason. His team would suffer a crushing seven-game series loss at the hands of the Flyers, after leading three games to none at one point.

If 2009-10 had been a time of trials and tribulation for Thomas, the 2010-11 season would prove to be a revelation and one of redemption. First, he would fight off a challenge from young backup Tuukka Rask to retain the starting position. Then, he would put up stellar numbers during the regular season (2.00, .938). After a shaky first few games versus Montreal, Thomas would find his game and lead the Bruins back to the Cup Finals, culminating in a Game Seven win in Vancouver. Thomas would not only help bring the Cup back to Boston after a 39-year absence, but would also take home both his second Vezina, and the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP.

Unfortunately, after his dream season, Tim Thomas would play only one more year for the Bruins. The end of his tenure in Boston would be marked by some acrimony due to his political beliefs and disagreements with management, and he would be traded to the Florida Panthers in 2013-14. Personally, I choose to forget about this period of time and concentrate on the story of a guy who went from being unwanted to the oldest Stanley Cup MVP ever at the age of 37.

Recently, it appears that Thomas and the Bruins have made efforts to mend fences and Thomas made some comments publicly at his induction into the Hockey USA Hall of Fame after years of silence. It turns out that the game he loved also took its toll on him in the form of multiple concussions that had a profound effect after he retired. Thomas appears to be recovering and I hope that we see him honored in Boston before very long. It’s only befitting of a man that is arguably the best goalie in Bruins history.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 174 that we recorded below on 4-12-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!

Bruins Alumni: Happy Birthday Hal Gill

( Photo Credit: Phillip MacCallum / Getty Images )

By Joe Chrzanowski  |  Follow Me on Twitter @jchrz19

Happy 45th Birthday To Former Boston Bruins Defenseman Hal Gill!

Gill was born on April 6th, 1975, in Concord, MA, and was drafted by the Bruins in the eighth round (207 overall) of the National Hockey League Entry Draft in June of 1993. The 6′-7″, 243-pound behemoth of a man was drafted out of Nashoba Regional High School in Bolton, MA before attending Providence College.

He was a four-year starter for the Friars and captained the team his senior year before turning pro for the 1997-98 NHL season. The four years of NCAA play apparently served him well as he would play only four games in the AHL before being called up to the big club, and never looked back. Gill would spend the next 16 years in the NHL, logging more than 1100 games with the Bruins and five other organizations.

He was a fixture on the Boston defense for the next eight seasons, playing with guys like B’s legend Ray Bourque, and current GM, Don Sweeney before they moved on. Gill was a steady, stay at home defenseman who did not put up many points, but was very solid defensively. It was my experience that Gill was a bit of a whipping boy in his years in Boston. I think that was because despite his massive size he was never much of a fighter, although he did fight some heavyweights like Kocur, Godard, and Chara (when he was with OTT). His teams made it past the Quarterfinals only once during his tenure (1998-99) and failed to qualify for the playoffs three times, which was unacceptable to a fanbase that was accustomed to winning.

Gill would move on to Toronto in 2006-07, but not before accumulating 626 games with Boston, more than three times as many games as he would play for any other team. He spent only a year and a half with the Leafs before being dealt to Pittsburgh in 2008 for their playoff run. Like his former teammate, Bourque, Hal Gill would find postseason success outside of Boston. He won a Cup the following year (2009), raising Lord Stanley’s hardware with the Penguins. After that, he played with Montreal, Nashville, and closed his career with a brief stint in Philadelphia.

Hall Gill 2

( Photo Credit: NBC Sports )

While Gill did not enjoy much playoff success in Boston and was underappreciated here, personally I will always think of him as a Bruin. I could never get used to him in a Hab uniform in particular and felt bad that he was wearing that uniform while the B’s went on to win their Cup in 2011. Hopefully, he had an enjoyable 45th birthday today and remembers only his good times here in the Black and Gold.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 173 that we recorded below on 4-4-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!

Report: Krug Asking For Six-Year, $49M Deal From The Bruins

Krug

( Photo Credit: Patrick Smith / Getty Images )

By Joe Chrzanowski  |  Follow Me on Twitter @jchrz19

There has been a great deal of speculation about the status of Torey Krug and the contract negotiations between his camp and the Bruins. Krug has said he would like to remain in Boston and Don Sweeney has categorized the talks as “cordial”. On Saturday, reporter Shawn Hutcheon threw a little gasoline on the fire with this tweet:

Right off the bat, I want to say that I am a huge Krug fan. My son is an undersized defenseman as well, so I have always had a soft spot for players like that. Krug started off as an undrafted college free agent and through hard work transformed himself into one of the top offensive D-men in the NHL over the last five years or so.

Krug became a regular in the 2013-14 season and from that time to the present, he’s 8th in the NHL for scoring by defensemen. The names in front of him: Hedman, Karlsson, Burns, Carlson, Josi, Yandle, Barrie, are regarded as some of the best D in the game. The majority of them are also paid that way. Erik Karlsson tops the list at $11.5m, with perennial Norris contender Drew Doughty coming in at $11m. Roman Josi and PK Subban are next at $9m, with five players at or around the $8m mark (Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Brent Burns, Jacob Trouba, Thomas Chabot, and John Carlson).

A defenseman that many consider the closest comparable to Krug, Minnesota’s Jared Spurgeon, just signed a seven-year deal worth $7.575m per this past offseason. Spurgeon does not provide the offense that Krug does, but plays more minutes and is generally considered to be better in the defensive zone.

Which brings us to the elephant in the room when it comes to Krug, his defense. While everyone acknowledges that he is one of the best offensive catalysts in the NHL, Krug is not in the same category as guys like Josi and John Carlson when it comes to his two-way game. As important as the offense is from the back end these days, many fans (and some GM’s) don’t seem to think it’s prudent to pay a defenseman a huge contract unless they can contribute at both ends of the ice.Carlo and Krug ( Photo Credit: Stuart Cahill/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald )[/caption]

Even with all that, I just can’t see the Bruins giving him $8m plus over six or seven years on a new deal. I’m not saying that sum is not fair, given what other defensemen have signed for, or that it is not “market value”. However, that’s not the way that Boston has done business for a number of years. A lot of players talk about taking a “hometown” discount, but members of the Bruins have put their money where their mouths are when it came time to negotiate their deals. Last year during the playoffs, in an interview with SI’s Alex Prewitt, Brad Marchand was quoted as saying,

“If you want to try to make every dollar you can, unfortunately, that’s not going to be with this group.”

Pastrnak, Marchand all took less than what they could have demanded based on performance. This past summer young veterans Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo took very team-friendly deals in comparison to some of their peers, in what appeared to be moves designed on keeping this group of guys together. A lot of credit has gone to Don Sweeney for the recent signings and while he does deserve some praise, these deals would not have been possible without the players buying in and legitimately wanting to be in Boston, surrounded by guys that feel the same way.

In recent days Krug has talked about balancing being paid fairly while playing for a winning team. However, he also said, “The Bruins are going to do whatever they need to do and their situation.”

When I look at the way the Bruins have approached these contracts in the past and what other players have done, unfortunately, I only see this going one of two ways. Either Krug follows the examples set by so many other players in the room and takes less than market value to stay. Or, the Bruins try to make another strong run at the Cup and let Krug walk this summer. The question that remains for Krug and Boston is what qualifies as “taking less to stay”? My guess would be a number around $6.75m for six years. If Krug cannot live with that, I believe his days as a Bruin are numbered.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 167 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!

Why Did Bruins Fans Dislike Danton Heinen So Much?

heinen

(Photo Credit: NHL.com)

By: Joe Chrzanowski| Follow me on Twitter @jchrz19

This is a topic that has been weighing heavily on me for the last year or so. With the Trade Deadline behind us and Danton Heinen off to Anaheim, perhaps it’s a moot point? However, the question remains, what was it about Danton Heinen that was such a turn-off for so many B’s fans?

If you spend any amount of time on Bruins Twitter, you couldn’t go more than 10 minutes without some sort of derogatory comment about Heinen. Most commenting on his lack of toughness, physicality, or production. I would say that Tuukka Rask was probably the only player on the team that was more polarizing than Heinen.

So what was it?

By all accounts, he was well-liked in the dressing room. Given his reaction to the trade, he obviously wanted to be in Boston. He played up and down the lineup and performed reasonably well wherever Bruce Cassidy put him. His salary of $2.8m is a little high based on his production this year but is in line for what players of similar age and production earn. He was extremely durable, having missed only one or two games to injury in almost three NHL seasons.

His detractors say he provides no offense. That he’s soft, never wins board battles and constantly gives the puck away. Obviously, if these were all true, he would not have been taking a regular shift for one of the best teams in the NHL, but why bring common sense into the equation?

For his career, the 2014 4th Round pick played in 220 games, had 34g/69a (103 pts), and was a +23 for the Bruins. Also had 138 hits, 103 blocks, 105 takeaways, and 87 giveaways. That equates to a .47 points-per-game average, which is average to above average for most NHL third-line players. This year Heinen was off his career pace a bit, with only 22 points in 58 games, which no doubt led to increased frustration with him by the fan base.

Not to pick on specific players but when you look at these stats in comparison to some other B’s guys, the “Heinen-Hate” doesn’t make a lot of sense. Jake DeBrusk, who is loved by most of the B’s fanbase, has been stapled to Krejci’s hip in the Top 6 since he entered the NHL. His career totals: 198 games played, 61g/58a (119 pts), +14 (.60 ppg). Throw in 147 hits, 65 blocks, 96 takeaways, and 67 giveaways. Better than Heinen in some categories, but not overly impressive for the 14th overall pick in 2015.

Smaller sample size, but another player B’s fans love is Anders Bjork. In 107 career NHL games, he has only 14g/20a (34 pts), +6 (.32 ppg). He also has 71 hits, 44 blocks, 47 takeaways, and 33 giveaways. The majority of those numbers are actually below Heinen’s totals, even when you double them to get close to his total games. I’m not sure how often people look at stats like this before they tweet out their opinions on Heinen, but given the actual numbers, it’s probably not very often?

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( Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images )

The supposedly “soft” Heinen has similar hit totals to both Bjork and DeBrusk and blocks significantly more shots than either. In my humble opinion, stepping in front of a slap shot takes a lot more guts than checking a player or face-washing someone in a scrum when the refs are sure to break things up, but to each his own I guess.

One of the legitimate issues fans had this year with Heinen was definitely his production in comparison to his salary. He got a raise after his ELC expired and was having his worst statistical year as a pro. If he was still making $800k, there would have been less noise about it for sure.

The flip-side to this is that it happens a lot with players. You can only have them on short money for so long, and I didn’t hear anyone complaining when Heinen put up 47 points on the first year of his ELC. As big a Heinen fan as I am, I would agree that he didn’t play to his contract this year as a Bruin. That said, I still don’t believe that his salary was the primary reason that Boston fans disliked Heinen.

So, if it wasn’t the production and the salary was only part of it. A relatively small part that really doesn’t explain the venom with which people went after Heinen. Then what was it exactly?

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(Photo Credit: Amy Irvin/The Hockey Writers)

More than anything else, I believe it was simply a perception that Heinen was not passionate about the game and didn’t care because of his cerebral and “quiet” style of play. He went about his business as a Bruin very calmly and without any fanfare. Goal celebrations were muted and there was no tugging on the spoked B of his jersey. Instead of big, attention-grabbing hits, opponents were efficiently ridden off the puck. Instead of flashy steals and end-to-end rushes, lanes were clogged and passes sent off the mark or deflected.

Ever since the “Big Bad Bruins” of the early 1970s and Don Cherry’s “Lunch Pail A.C.” teams of the late ’70s, Boston fans have identified more with players they see as gritty, nasty, and tough than they do with guys who are skilled and play a quieter game. I don’t have enough time or space to debate the merits of that approach in this article, but it is the way a lot of Boston fans think. Heinen was not the first B’s player that was disliked by fans because of his style of play and he won’t be the last. He’s just the most recent example.

Blake Wheeler was not physical enough for his size. Reilly Smith was too quiet. Loui Eriksson was a piss-poor return for Tyler Seguin and wasn’t edgy enough. Even a long-time Bruin like David Krejci is not immune to this bias. For years, despite evidence to the contrary, he has been considered “soft” and too cerebral by much of the fanbase he has given so much to. Anybody who watched him fight Pavelski the other night and saw the look of absolute glee on his face as he was throwing punches should realize you don’t judge a book by its cover.

I don’t think we will see Heinen exchanging haymakers with opponents in ANA any time soon, but it won’t be a surprise if he does well there. Hopefully, the deal ends up working out for both teams and both players.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 167 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!

Lauko Will Reportedly Miss A Couple Of Weeks

Garrett Pilon, Jakub Lauko

(Photo Credit: Steven Senne/AP)

By Joe Chrzanowski  |  Follow Me on Twitter @jchrz19 

Jakub Lauko, the Bruins 2018 3rd Round pick (77th Overall), was super-excited about the prospect of playing before his native Czech crowd in the 2020 World Junior Championships. That excitement lasted all of one shift as Lauko was injured 53 seconds into the first game versus Russia. The CZE team held on for a 4-3 upset, but after the game, it was reported that Lauko had suffered an MCL injury and was done for the remainder of the tournament.

 

Details were lacking about the severity of the injury, and are still not crystal clear, but Lauko apparently underwent an MRI this morning. Lauko himself told Czech NHL,com hockey reporter Michael Langr , “it looks like I will miss a couple of weeks”. This is good news for Bruins fans and would indicate that the injury is a Grade 1 tear, which normally requires anywhere from a few days to a week and a half off before the player can return to hockey activities.

While it is a postive development if Lauko only misses a couple of weeks, it would be a bitter pill for him to swallow. He had been playing well in his first professional year for the Bruins AHL affiliate in Providence (4g/4a, 20 PIM’s, +4, in 18 games), but suffered an “upper-body injury” in a game against Utica on Decemeber 7th, and not played since. There was some question of whether or not he would be healthy enough to play for the Czech Republic, but he cleared last week.

Lauko’s injury would be a big loss for the Czech team. He was a returning member of the 2019 WJC team (1g/1a in 5 games) and was being counted on for scoring and leadership.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 159 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!

Potential Bruins Trade Target: Tyler Toffoli

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(Photo Credit: John Wilcox-Boston Herald)

By Joe Chrzanowski  |  Follow Me on Twitter @jchrz19

The season is more than a third over and the infamous “United States Thanksgiving” measuring stick has passed with Boston securely in a playoff spot. Despite the B’s great start, there is always room for improvement.

With that sentiment in mind, this is the first in a series of articles that will look at some possible trade targets for the Bruins as they “gear up” for what is (hopefully) another long playoff run. I just did an article about the logjam the Bruins have on defense, so while you can never say never, I am going to assume Boston will be looking at bolstering their forward depth. The most obvious need appears to be a 2nd line RW, but if the B’s found a 3rd-line center they really like, that would allow them to move the right-shot Coyle to the RW2 spot if they wanted.

The first target I want to examine is LA Kings right-wing, Tyler Toffoli. He has been linked to the Bruins for a while now, going back to last season’s trade deadline, before they opted for Marcus Johansson instead. His name has popped up again this week in connection with Boston. It’s easy to see why, as he is a right-shot RW, playing for a franchise that’s currently last in the West, and who will certainly be a “seller” before too long.

Toffoli was a 2nd-round pick (47th overall) in the 2010 Prospect Draft. The same draft where the B’s took Tyler Seguin 2nd overall. It’s a bit ironic in that they could have had Toffoli in the 2nd round twice, instead of selecting Jared Knight (32nd) and Ryan Spooner (45th), neither of whom are still in the NHL.

Toffoli played for the Ottawa 67’s of the OHL and put up 37-42-79 totals in 65 games in his draft year. The six-foot, 200-pound Scarborough native proved those totals were no fluke. He followed that up with seasons of 108 and 100 pts before making the jump to the King’s AHL affiliate, Manchester Monarchs, in 2012-13. After getting a 10 game NHL cameo that season, Toffoli established himself for the good the following year with a very respectable 12g/17a in 62 games with the Kings. He then chipped in 7g/7a in the playoffs, helping LA win their second Cup in three years.

Toffoli 2

(Photo Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

The following season he would score 23 goals for LA and be producing like a legitimate Top 6 forward. In 2015-16 he really broke out, scoring 31 times at the ripe old age of 23. Unfortunately, over the next three seasons, Toffoli’s numbers would reflect the fortunes of an LA team that was slipping from its perch at the top of the NHL standings. He recorded 34, 47, and 34 points during those years. Not bad totals, but not what you would expect from a former 30 goal-scorer.

Despite the down years, Toffoli still remains an attractive trade target for a number of teams, including Boston. This is true for several reasons, not the least of which is that he has become a reliable three-zone player as he has matured. We all know that even if you are an elite scorer if you want to play for the Bruins, a strong 200-foot effort will be required by the coaching staff. That will not be an issue with Toffoli, who also has some other things going for him, besides his two-way game.

Even though the Kings are “rebuilding”, Toffoli has maintained above average advanced statistics this year. His Corsi, Fenwick, Shot, and Scoring Chance percentages at even strength are all in the mid-upper ’50s, despite grinding for a last-place club. On a stronger team like Boston, one would assume that he would at least continue to be good in those areas, and potentially improve.

While his 6-7-13 numbers in 30 games are not going to blow you away, 10 of his 13 points have come at even strength, and he would be tied for 7th on scoring for forwards in Boston. These numbers are more representative of a 3rd line player than a legitimate second-line player, but there are a couple of things to consider. First, the Kings are not a very good hockey club. Second, we heard the same thing about Johansson last year, who was also coming from a bad team and was one of the better playoff performers for the Bruins.

Toffoli 3

(Photo Credit: Rogers/Sportsnet)

Toffoli is in the last year of a four-year deal worth $4.6m per season, and it is unclear at this point whether the Bruins would consider him a pure rental or try to re-sign him. Some fans have expressed some concern about continually trading for rentals, as opposed to players with the term (like Coyle last year). While I understand the concern, a player in the last year of his deal will demand a lower return. With the Bruins cloudy cap situation and the free agents they have, Boston may want a player they don’t have to worry about fitting under the cap for next season.

If you are looking for negatives in regards to Toffoli, there are a couple. Since his 31-58-69 numbers in the 2015-16 season, his totals have declined. He bounced back in 2017-18 but then regressed again last season. Some of that can be attributed to the team he is playing for, but it is definitely a red flag. The other “issue” is that Toffoli is not overly physical. He’s not small, and he doesn’t avoid the “dirty” areas, but he also doesn’t play an overly gritty game. In a little over six NHL seasons, he has less than 400 hits, which works out to roughly 60 hits a season. If a “heavy” style of play is your cup of tea, Toffoli is not going to be your guy.

While he has some warts (most players do), I believe Toffoli would be a good fit in Boston, even if he’s not the 30 goal scorer he once was. With LA being at the bottom of the standings and him being in the last year of his contract, it would seem that he would be available and not overly expensive. Personally, if the Bruins are interested, I would like to see them make a move around the first of the year and not wait until the trade deadline. It might cost a bit more, but in my opinion, it would be worth it to allow the players extra time to develop some chemistry.

That wraps up our look at Tyler Toffoli, Part two of the series will take a look at another right-wing, Columbus Blue Jacket, Josh Anderson.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 157 that we recorded on 12-8-19 below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!