A Continued Push For Former Bruin Willie O’Ree

January 18, 1958 - Willie O'Ree Takes to the Ice - Guelph Local
(Photo Credits: K.C. Alfred)

By: Liz Rizzo | Follow me on Twitter @pastagrl88

The Congressional Gold Medal is one of the highest civilian awards given in the United States. The medal is given to those individuals or groups “who have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient’s field long after the achievement.” One such individual who has garnered support since last April is former Boston Bruin and 2016 Hall of Famer Willie O’Ree.

Last year, Senators Tim Scott and Debbie Stabenow made the push for the award to be given to O’Ree for his numerous contributions in the world of hockey. Known as the “Jackie Robinson of ice hockey”, O’Ree unknowingly broke the color barrier when he debuted on January 18th, 1958 with the Boston Bruins. He would continue to play professionally for 21 years.

“At the time, he was unaware of the significance, only learning of the historic accomplishment when he read about it in the newspaper the following day. As the sole black player in the league, Mr. O’Ree endured bigotry, and prejudice from players and fans on and off the ice.

“Willie O’Ree is a pioneer in the game of hockey and is deserving of the distinguished honor of a Congressional Gold Medal.”

U.S. senators Tim Scott and Debbie Stabenow 

Bill H.R 2504 was introduced on May 2nd, 2019 to “award a Congressional Gold Medal to Willie O’Ree, in recognition of his extraordinary contributions and commitment to hockey, inclusion, and recreational opportunity.” Around 290 House members must co-sponsor the bill in that chamber, and at least 67 senators must support the bill for it to be considered.

The proposed bill identifies numerous findings that make O’Ree a perfect candidate for the award. His remarkable story starts in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada where O’Ree was born October 15, 1935. The youngest of 13 children and a descendant of Paris O’Ree, whose name appears in the famous historical document “The Book of Negroes”, he was raised in a predominantly white town where hockey was deeply rooted within the culture.

(Photo Credits: NHL.com)

While initally looking to pursue a professional baseball career, O’Ree focused back to hockey after coming face to face with culture shock in the United States. Growing up in Canada, O’Ree was not subjected to the traumatic racism he faced when he went out for tryout in Georgia.

After an incident at a local drugstore where he and his teammates had slurs hurled at them, he headed back up north to pursue his first love: hockey. While playing amateur hockey, he would lose his eyesight in his right eye after being struck by a puck (which was not disclosed while he played professional hockey), O’Ree continued with his dream. Throughout his career, he would be subjected to racist slurs on the ice. Despite having things like cotton balls thrown at him during games and constantly fighting to protect himself, O’Ree persevered.

In 1996 after retiring from hockey, the National Hockey League hired O’Ree as the first-ever Diversity Ambassador. In this new position, the former Bruins would help grow the sport by providing access and opportunity to children of all races, ethnicities, origins, and abilities. Because of his unrelenting work with the youth, more than 30 nonprofit organizations, (the “Hockey is for Everyone” programs), were developed across North America. The program is committed to offering minority and underserved children an opportunity to play hockey all while installing positive values.

The Hockey is for Everyone programs provide numerous services that extend beyond the ice. SAT and academic tutoring, mentoring, nutrition education, college counseling, and community service opportunities are provided. Through hockey, both the social and emotional wellness of young athletes have also improved their academic performances in school. O’Ree continues to inspire generations of hockey players from all different social aspects, spreading his love of hockey to diverse communities.

Former Bruins right winger Anson Carter recently reminded fans of Willie O’Ree’s candidacy for the medal. He recently tweeted:

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To find out more about the proposed bill and to learn more about Willie  click here to be directed to the NHL community.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 194 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 The Bruins Might Be Able To Sign Taylor Hall

(Photo Credit: CHRISTIAN PETERSEN / GETTY IMAGES)

By: Andrew Taverna | Follow me on Twitter @andrewtaverna

The Bruins are en route to a massive offseason. With rumors flying that Jake DeBrusk could be a trade chip, the Bruins are checking in on Oliver Ekman-Larsson, which would likely lead to moving Brandon Carlo. All signs point to the Bruins are gearing up to make a splash on the market. Additionally, with Torey Krug’s contract negotiations being up in the air, one of the most intriguing scenarios this season would be Taylor Hall coming to Boston.

First mentioned by Greg Wyshynski and Emily Kaplan in their ESPN article on each playoff team’s offseason, the idea of Hall to Boston is a “pipe dream.”

“Our favorite Bruins pipe dream? That Taylor Hall decides to take a page out of the NBA and chases a Cup for one season in Boston, serving as the talented left wing Sweeney has coveted in his lineup for years,” they write.

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While I understand the idea may be a “pipe dream,” as Wushynski and Kaplan describe it, there are two scenarios where this could potentially work. If Hall is willing to take a short-term, one-year deal to play for a Cup contender or he would be willing to take a mid-term deal in a higher pay range, the Bruins could feasibly be part of that conversation.

One-Year Deal Scenario

A one-year deal seems like pure insanity, but Hall put that rumor out there himself by insinuating a cup is more important to him than the money, especially during a flat-cap year. More specifically, when speaking to the media, Hall said, “Any player at this stage in their career that has had the career that I’ve had, 10 seasons, only make the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs twice, that’s really what I’m after,” The 28-year-old continued to say “But yeah, I’d say it’s pretty much all winning. I don’t think the money’s going to be what it was maybe before COVID or before the season, but that’s fine. I think we get paid a lot of money to play a game, and we’ll see what happens.” There’s a lot to unpack here, including the usage of phrases like “I don’t think” and “pretty much,” but at the end of the day, if Taylor Hall is serious about going to a Cup contender, Boston could be an option.

Why a one-year deal? Hall is coming off arguably two of his worst seasons since joining the NHL ten years ago and has taken a significant slide since his 2017-2018 Heart Trophy, 93-point season. That kind of performance for a top-line scorer could lead to him wanting a gap year while the world settles down around him. If that is the case, the Bruins are in their prime to be making a final push, and Hall would undoubtedly help add that offensive upside missing from the last two seasons. The question then comes down to, would Sweeney prefer to pay Krug or Hall 7.5 – 8 million?

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Mid-Term, High Dollar Deal

The second scenario, and one I think is slightly less realistic, is a multi-year deal in the 8 million dollar range. Scott McLaughlin from WEEI puts it best, “The Bruins certainly won’t be the team that offers Hall the most years or money. But if they don’t re-sign Krug, they could potentially jump into that pool of Cup contenders who might be hoping Hall is willing to take something along the lines of five or six years worth maybe $8 million a season in order to have a real shot at winning the Cup.”

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With many teams in tight situations and the Bruins looking to potentially do something dramatic, signing Hall and letting Krug walk is a valid option. Hall could help bring down the team’s age slightly and solidify scoring on the team’s core for a few more runs at the ultimate prize.

Ultimately, if Hall’s goal is to lift Lord Stanley’s Cup high above his head, the Bruins are a legitimate team where he could do that. The value he’d bring to the table with his ability to score and his ability to allow the Bruins to shuffle lines around might be just enough for Don Sweeney to make a move.

It may all seem like a “pipe dream,” but if the Bruins are looking to make a splash in the UFA market this offseason, then they should explore this opportunity.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 194 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!!

Is Pasta a 2nd Line Dish That Could Be Served For The Bruins In 2020/21?

( Photo Credit: Getty Images )

by Matt Barry | Follow me on Twitter @oobcards

When the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011, production was coming from all four lines. Even in 2019, the additions of Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson provided depth and solid 5 on 5 play from the third line. But the second line has provided inconsistent play and was a detriment to Bruce Cassidy’s team in the second round against a deeper Tampa Bay Lightning team this past season. A major offseason focus should be to finally get David Krejci a legitimate scorer on the right-wing. Could it be that the answer is already on the roster?

The “Perfection Line” of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak is widely considered one of the top lines in the National Hockey League. In recent seasons, the trio has dominated 5-on-5 play and had been a threat to score nearly every shift. However, this past season, the Bruins production numbers at even strength dipped which included their top line. The Bruins scored just five even-strength goals in their five-game series with Tampa Bay. The power play was excellent all season, but even-strength play will need to improve for the Black and Gold to get back to contending for a Stanley Cup.

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General manager Don Sweeney will certainly attempt to address this need in the offseason. The Bruins could look outside of the organization to fill the second line right wing hole or try to give Ondrej Kase more time to build chemistry with David Krejci. The more creative move might be to move Pastrnak, one of the top goal scorers in the league, to the second line and give Krejci his first real goal-scoring threat since Nathan Horton. If Jake DeBrusk is re-signed, Boston could have a second line of DeBrusk-Krejci-Pastrnak. This would be more effective if someone like 21-year old Jack Studnicka, who showed flashes of being a top-six forward at the NHL level. The team could also deal DeBrusk and try to get a more consistent scorer who can possess the puck.

I would not advise the team to move third-line center Charlie Coyle up to the second line. Coyle has been terrific on the third line with his size and physicality. Ideally, Anders Bjork could continue to develop with Coyle or coach Bruce Cassidy could possibly slide Kase down to third-line duty. It will be imperative for Sweeney and team President Cam Neely to create more offensive attack across all four lines. The fourth line should still have Chris Wagner and Sean Kuraly providing good puck pursuit and some scoring ability. Former University of Wisconsin star Trent Frederic could slot in on that line as Joakim Nordstrom will probably not be retained. Par Lindholm has one year left on his deal, but did not provide much offensive production.

Having Pasta play with Krejci on the second line could create the offensive balance the team seeks. Much of this scenario depends on Studnicka. The thought here is that the team gives Studnicka a long, hard look on the first line. If it works out, it could provide a much better result than the team could find elsewhere, and at a much cheaper cost. If not, the Bruins will need to use money and, possibly, resources to find a linemate for Krejci.

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Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 194 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 Boston Bruins X Factor?

( Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett / Getty Images )

By: Joey Partridge | Follow Me On Twitter @joey_partridge

All over social media, you’ll find rumors circulating around the Boston Bruins. Within the Boston media, this tends to happen. You’ll hear the Bruins are chasing this player or have expressed interest in this player. There will almost certainly be changes coming to the roster for the 2020-2021 season, but what if I said that a player that can make a huge impact is right under our noses?

By now, every Bruins fan knows who Jack Studnicka is. Studnicka was drafted in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft in the 2nd round after the Bruins took Urho Vaakanianen with their first-round pick. Studnicka has been impressive ever since. In his first season after being drafted, he put up 72 points in 66 games as the Oshawa Generals captain in the Ontario Hockey League. After Oshawa was eliminated, he got a taste of the American Hockey League, putting up five points in five games with the Providence Bruins.

Jack Studnicka Oshawa Generals
( Photo Credit: Terry Wilson/OHL Images )

It was at this point where Studnicka started to make some noise about competing for a roster spot. The problem, and it’s a great problem to have, is that the Bruins have a decent amount of depth, so it was challenging for Studnicka to crack the NHL roster at 19 years old.

He ended up getting sent back to juniors and didn’t miss a beat. He put up 83 points in 60 regular-season games between the Oshawa Generals and Niagara Ice Dogs. He even added a gold medal to his trophy case, winning the World Junior Championship with Team Canada.

Entering training camp again, he showed off his confidence. “My goal every year is to play in the NHL; it’s every player’s dream. I just want to be as comfortable as possible, limit my nerves, and play well,” Studnicka said. He got looks on the top line with Pastrnak and Marchand in some preseason games. Again, the depth was too deep for Studnicka to make an immediate impact, but he took some valuable lessons. “The leadership in that room speaks for itself, the older guys are really nice and made it really easy on the rookies and draftees. Being on a line with Marchy and Pasta was really cool, they were talking and trying different plays with me,” Studnicka said. “The biggest difference I noticed is the players, the pace is higher than juniors. It’s amazing how they just keep working and play at a high level so consistently. You can’t take a stride or two off otherwise, you’ll get beat.”

( Photo Credit: Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images )

He ended up going back to Providence and having a tremendous 2019-2020 season in Providence leading the team with 23 goals and 49 points in 60 games. He played well enough to make his NHL debut and even added an assist in his two games in the big leagues. He even impressed so much in the bubble that he got into some playoff action.

Here is where I and every Bruins fan should get excited. The kid has raw talent that you just can’t teach. He kept up and even looked good in his NHL games. Keep in mind, he is only 21 years old. I like to compare his development to that of David Pastrnak’s. In no way am I setting some unreachable limit for Studnicka because that is a pretty hefty comparison, but let’s look as how far Pastrnak has come. Pastrnak spent some time in Providence and took to the NHL being smaller and having a tough time adjusting to the NHL level. Studnicka is in that same spot right now. What happened next? Pastrnak got older, gained experience, got bigger, and bloomed into a superstar. I think this offseason will be huge for Studnicka to get stronger and really be at that prime NHL level.

( Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer / Associated Press )

We all know Studnicka has the skill and the heart to succeed. I had the pleasure of talking to him in his junior days, and I can tell this player is confident, loves being in the Bruins organization, and wants to succeed. I firmly believe he can be a massive asset for the Bruins next season and the years to come.

Get ready Bruins fans, the future is here.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 194 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!!

Do The Bruins Have A Potential Trading Partner In The Calgary Flames?

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

By: Dan Anderson | Follow Me On Twitter @DanAnderson5970

As the aging core lineup for the Boston Bruins has limited time to win another Stanley Cup, Don Sweeney has been busy trying to find the right combination of players to put the team over the top. Trades for Rick Nash and Ondrej Kase in recent seasons have not worked as planned. With free agency pending October 9th, 2020, the Bruins are looking, aggressively, for upgrades.

One such team that the Bruins could target is the Calgary Flames, and two players specifically: Noah Hanifin and Johnny Gaudreau. Hanifin is a similar player to Brandon Carlo in both age and playing style but plays left defense. There is a difference in contracts in that Carlo becomes an RFA after next season while currently making $2.85M. Hanifin is under contract through 2024 at $4.95M. With Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara both UFAs as of October 9th, and Matt Grzelcyk an RFA at that time, John Moore is currently the only left defenseman on the roster.

Would the Bruins consider a straight-up trade? In theory, Hanifin and McAvoy become the first line, Grzelcyk and likely Jeremy Lauzon become the second line, with Chara coming back for one more year paired with Connor Clifton on the third line. Calgary might like this trade to add a right-handed shot, as they currently are overloaded with left shooting defensemen.

Gaudreau is apparently on the trading block. Arguably their best player, he isn’t far removed from thirty plus goal seasons and close to one hundred points. He would undoubtedly be an immediate upgrade if the Bruins decided to trade Jake DeBrusk, an upcoming RFA, who will be looking for a pay raise over his 863K rookie deal. Gaudreau is four years older and carries a contract that pays him $6.75M through the 2021-2022 season. Both Gaudreau and Hanifin played at Boston College for Jerry York’s Eagles. Hanifin was born in Boston.

While on paper, this deal would appear to favor the Bruins short term, Gaudreau and Hanifin for Carlo and DeBrusk with other possible add ons, there are some concerns. If this trade is made, it is highly unlikely the Bruins could sign Torey Krug. Might his rights be part of the deal? I don’t know that Krug would want to play there, but Calgary doesn’t have an offensive defenseman. Calgary is also weak at left wing, with ex-Bruin Milan Lucic on the third line, and at center, where the Bruins have several prospects. Could Nick Ritchie be sent to Calgary? Gaudreau would address some offensive concerns but adds another smaller player to a team trying to get bigger. Adding cap space might be attractive for the Flames as they are likely rebuilding.

The Bruins are also light on picks early in this year’s draft with no first or second-round choice currently. Calgary is without their third, and fourth-round picks this year, so a draft pick exchange would seem unlikely and make a possible trade harder, but it’s not hard to see why the Bruins might want to add both Hanifin and Gaudreau.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 194 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!!

Could Boston’s Charlie McAvoy Be A Norris Trophy Contender Next Season?

( Photo Credit: Jana Chytilova / Freestyle Photography / Getty Images )

Tyler Smith | Follow Me On Twitter @foxboro_ty

After the sting of a second-round postseason loss, unfulfilled expectations, and a window closing, the Bruins have many questions going into next season. One development that could go a long way toward keeping the Boston Bruins Stanley Cup contenders for the next decade is the emergence of Charlie McAvoy and his potential as a Norris Trophy candidate as the best defenseman in the National Hockey League.

I know…I know…you are probably thinking to yourself, “Emergence?” McAvoy is already the Bruins’ number one defenseman as he leads the team in average time on ice with over twenty-three minutes per game. The former BU standout was the leader among all Bruins’ defensemen in blocked shots and hits while posting a +24 plus-minus rating in 2019-2020. McAvoy’s defensive game is exceptional and continues to improve game to game. Charlie’s offensive game has shown improvement as he tied a career-high in points with thirty-two; however, McAvoy’s defensive game is still ahead of his offense. Some say McAvoy would be better suited to play with a more mobile partner like Matt Grzelcyk to open up his offensive game. With the almost certain reduced roll of Zdeno Chara (if he returns), it appears McAvoy will get that chance.

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Charlie McAvoy has had moments where he takes over games and is the best player on the ice. The 22-year old is making great outlet passes, rushing the puck, jumping up into the offense, shooting more often, and delivering bone-crushing hits. This is the player the Bruins need on a more consistent basis. Developing this consistency is the difference between the elite players in the league and the very good players. Jake DeBrusk is a perfect example as the left-winger is streaky and looks like a forty goal scorer for a month and then disappears for games at a time.

Victor Hedman is widely regarded as one of the best defensemen in the game today and had his breakout season with the Tampa Bay Lightning five years into his career, one of those years being a strike-shortened season. Essentially it was four full years into the league before Hedman established himself as elite. The 2020-21 season will be McAvoy’s fourth year in the NHL. It is time for the young star to put it all together. Though the defense is there and is getting better, it is the offense that needs to make “the leap.”

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McAvoy needs to shoot the puck more. The Bruins rearguard has 257 total shots in 184 career games. That is not enough for a top-pair defenseman with his skill set. Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators had 260 shots on goal in 2019-2020 alone. Not having enough power-play time is affecting those numbers. The Bruins defenseman should see more time on the first power-play unit this upcoming season with the probable departure of Torey Krug. McAvoy’s passing has always been exceptional and will be an asset if inserted as the power-play quarterback and increases his point totals.

McAvoy is an underrated skater with a powerful stride and good speed, which allows him to join the rush while having the ability to recover if plays do not materialize. Charlie delivers big hits and physicality, some of which change game momentum and energize the team. With a few improvements and continued development, the Long Beach, New York native has all the tools to be the next great Bruins defenseman and become the dominating presence on the back end that the Bruins envisioned when selecting him in the first round of the 2016 draft. I am predicting a breakout season for McAvoy with over 10 goals and over 50 points. The twenty-two-year-old may sneak into the Norris conversation, and once number 73 gets talked about in that regard, he will remain there for years.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 194 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!!

Should The Boston Bruins Trade Youth For Experience?

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

By: Matt Barry | Follow Me On Twitter @oobcards

As the National Hockey League offseason approaches, The Boston Bruins seem to be at a crossroads when it comes to their roster for the 2020-21 season and beyond. General manager Don Sweeney will look to add some pieces to a squad that won the President’s Trophy as the best team in the league before the pandemic hit. When the team returned to play, a second-round exit was just around the corner, exposing some of the flaws that prevented the Bruins from reaching their ultimate goal.

First, we must consider the salary cap situation that faces Sweeney. Defenseman Torey Krug is an unrestricted free agent and seeking top dollar on the open market. The Bruins have approximately fifteen million dollars available and signing Krug seems to be a long shot. The void created by Krug’s departure creates a hole on the blue line and on the power play. The Bruins are already thin on the left side defensively. In-house options for Sweeney are young defensemen Urho Vaakanainen and Jakub Zboril who have each played sparingly at the NHL level. Let’s keep in mind that the Bruins Stanley Cup-winning team in 2011 had only one defenseman younger than 27, and that was Adam McQuaid.

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Another left-shot defenseman, Zdeno Chara is approaching 44 years old and wants to return for maybe one last season with the team. The Bruins will probably sign him, but his skills have declined and he has struggled to match the speed of today’s game. Matt Grzelcyk is a restricted free agent and would be a logical choice to assume some of Krug’s responsibilities and ice time, but he is 26, and taking on a bigger role has its risks.

The 2011 team had a great mix of young talent and wily veterans. Brad Marchand was 22, Tyler Seguin was 19, and even Patrice Bergeron was only 25 years old at the time. The question for next season’s Bruins team is; Can the Bruins expect to be a legitimate Stanley Cup contender by filling their needs with some of their younger, inexperienced players? Or does Sweeney go all-in for one last time to get one more ring for Bergeron, Chara, and David Krejci while mortgaging some of the future?

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Let’s consider two factors when determining how to shape the roster. The expansion draft will take place after next season, as the Seattle Kraken creates its very first roster. All teams will have to decide whether to keep eight players and one goalie or seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie. The team has suggested that they will choose the latter, meaning that any roster addition could be added to that group. Also, winger Jake DeBrusk is a restricted free agent along with Grzelcyk which presents a decision for the Bruins. The team would like to bring back DeBrusk, who will turn 24 years old in October, but the second-line left wing has stated that he could be seeking five million dollars per year. You would have to think that the Bruins would not want to commit quite that much salary to a fairly inconsistent player.

The options are to trade DeBrusk, Grzelcyk, or maybe even young right-shot defenseman Brandon Carlo, who will be a restricted free agent after next season. Or the Bruins could just re-sign DeBrusk and Grzelcyk now and then Carlo next offseason. The issue would be that the roster would not see much change and the cap would prevent a major free agent signing like former number one pick Taylor Hall or move for defenseman Matt Dumba from Minnesota or former Boston College star forward Johnny Gaudreau. Signing DeBrusk and Grzelcyk does not leave the team with much cap room when the next trade deadline arrives. In 2011, the Bruins relied heavily on veterans such as Chris Kelly, Michael Ryder, and Gregory Campbell. Will there be Bruins prospects who can step in and play important roles on a Stanley Cup contender?

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The Bruins could also use some young players in their system for trade bait. Anders Bjork makes an affordable salary and could be traded as could restricted free agents Karson Kuhlman and Zach Senyshyn. Sweeney will have to decide if Bjork can be a factor on the third line after creating some chemistry with Charlie Coyle and if Trent Frederic can slot into a fourth-line role to replace Joakim Nordstrom who will likely not be re-signed. Look to Sweeney banking on 21-year old, rookie center Jack Studnicka to be inserted into a top-six role. If Studnicka can produce, he may be the 2020-21 version of Seguin and be a great low-cost value.

Look for the Bruins to try to sign Grzelcyk to a deal similar to Carlo’s last deal, which was a two-year bridge deal at roughly three million dollars annually. DeBrusk’s negotiations might be a little stickier. Sweeney’s hand may be forced to deal DeBrusk for a similar player who would be a little more cost-effective. I see DeBrusk re-signing with the Bruins for maybe four million per year over three years. I would think that the Bruins would certainly want to move John Moore’s $2.75 million contract. Ondrej Kase might also be someone on the block as Sweeney could look to gain some draft picks while trimming salary.

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Many moving parts will happen this offseason, and Sweeney, who went to Harvard, will have to use all of his book smarts to create some roster flexibility while being mindful of the cap and upcoming expansion draft. I do not see the roster having many additions from outside the organization, as there are some intriguing options within. The management of the Bruins has been loyal to the core of this group for years, and other than the departure of Krug, I see that continuing for at least one more year.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 194 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!!


Bruins Would You Rather: Torey Krug Or Oliver Ekman-Larsson

( Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara / USA TODAY Sports )

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Ever since Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman mentioned the Bruins and Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson in the same breath in his latest edition of 31 thoughts, speculation has started to swirl. This has me thinking that Bruins GM Don Sweeney is scouting potential replacements for Torey Krug, if he is to test the free agent market. When it comes down to would you rather between the two blueliners, people are divided.

Both defenseman are in similar situations to an extent, and have fairly similar playing styles. They’re both excellent puck-moving, transition defensemen that are 29-years-old. While Ekman-Larsson is locked up through 2027 at $8.25 million AAV, Krug is looking for a new contract that could last around that long, and be of similar dollar value and length.

One thing that makes Ekman-Larsson’s position as a trade asset an interesting one is his NMC that lasts the entirety of his contract, while Krug is a pending unrestricted free-agent in line for a substantial payday. I’m here to make the case for either player.

Torey Krug

Bruins fans know what Torey Krug is at this point. The quarterback of the Bruins power play, and their best puck-moving defenseman. Over the past three seasons, he put up 161 points (29-132-161) in 201 regular season games. Additionally, he put up 36 points (5-31-36) in 48 playoff games. Quite the offensive resume. Playoff experience is an advantage he has that Ekman-Larsson doesn’t have much of, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t be an effective playoff performer in the future.

He’s a proven, consistent contributor in Boston. For an undersized defenseman, he holds his own in the defensive zone, more often than not. This is despite what some observers choose to believe. I think the notion that he is bad in his own zone is overblown. He makes the occasional mistake, or gets overmatched by a bigger adversary in front of the net, but stuff like that happens. It’s one of the challenges of being undersized. He makes up for it with his bulldog mentality, offensive production, and power play prowess. Not every defenseman is a defensive stalwart.

The COVID-19 pause ended up putting him one point short of achieving the milestone above. The biggest area of concern regarding his future is term and dollar value on his next contract. There’s reason to expect as we’ve seen with countless players signing long-term deals in their late 20’s, that a 6+ year long deal could look ugly towards the tail end of it.

Additionally, something to consider is the fact that Krug could sign for cheaper than the $8.25 million AAV that Ekman-Larsson makes. He could also sign for more, but more likely the same amount or less. There’s plenty of reason to re-sign Krug.

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Oliver Ekman-Larsson

Captain of the Arizona Coyotes for the past two seasons, Ekman-Larsson boasts quite the resume himself. Finding himself at #4 on TSN’s latest trade bait list, trade speculation has come to the surface. Unlike Krug, bringing in Ekman-Larsson would require a trade, which outside of dollar value and term, makes his situation a bit different, obviously.

Acquiring Ekman-Larsson would require significant assets going the other way, while signing Krug would come down to signing on the dotted line and not giving up any assets. Ekman-Larsson has the size advantage on Krug at 6-foot-2, 201 lbs., per Elite Prospects. I think it’s fair to say he is better defensively too, not to say Krug is bad defensively, as I previously made the case that such a narrative is overblown.

What stands out to most people about him, I feel, is his offensive production and puck-moving prowess. Over the past three seasons, through 229 regular season games, he put up 116 points (37-79-116). In nine playoff games this season, he put up a goal and three assists. While not as many points as Krug, the numbers still support that he is very effective offensively. Like Krug, he also has a big role on the power play.

Wearing the “A” on his sweater for four seasons, and the “C” for the past two, Ekman-Larsson could bring valuable leadership experience to this team and it’s younger players. Also, the idea of him potentially on Charlie McAvoy or Brandon Carlo’s left is worth getting excited about. He could be an excellent mentor for the Bruins defensive core, a lot of which are still in their early 20’s and paving their way in the NHL. In the right trade, Ekman-Larsson would be an adequate replacement for Krug if he signs elsewhere.

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It’s going to be very interesting to see what the defensive core looks like for the Bruins next season. Will Krug return? Will Ekman-Larsson replace him via trade? Will neither player be on the team next season? Only time will tell at this point.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 194 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.

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Big Offseason Decisions Lie Ahead For The Bruins

Torey Krug explained that his value is 'at its peak' ahead of free agency |  Boston.com
Photo Credit: Elsa/Getty Images

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Across the NHL, the Bruins have one of the more intriguing offseasons ahead. Primarily because they hold the fate of one of the league’s top unrestricted free agents, Torey Krug.

Krug’s decision ultimately leaves Bruins general manager Don Sweeney with a variety of options. If he stays, the Bruins retain their power play quarterback for the near future, and things are peachy. If he leaves, decisions have to be made. Do you try and trade his negotiating rights, or do just move forward and decide on what to do with the extra cap space?

The Bruins currently don’t have their first or fourth round picks. If a deal can’t be reached with Krug, Sweeney could try and deal his negotiating rights for some draft capital. Carolina Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell did this recently with UFA defenseman Joel Edmundson.

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If Krug walks in free agency, Don Sweeney is tasked with making use of that cap space. Does he add on defense, add up front, both? Oddly enough, Krug’s defensive partner, Brandon Carlo has popped up in trade rumors as of late. His name was most recently due to the Athletic’s Craig Custance’s NHL Trade Big Board, published earlier today.

Carlo is an interesting trade chip. Regardless of whether Krug re-signs or not, Carlo could be leveraged in a trade for a legitimate top-six scorer. He is set to hit restricted free agency in the summer of 2021, and holds a pretty reasonable $2.85 million cap hit at just 23-years-old. He has plenty of trade value. But, as mentioned by Custance, trading him is a bit of a longshot.

Another potential trade chip that I have mentioned in the past is Jake DeBrusk. I think the case to move DeBrusk is to upgrade at the second-line left wing position with someone like Nikolaj Ehlers, or someone else. Other than that, I don’t see much of a reason to move him. Like I have also said in the past, I’m not campaigning to trade DeBrusk, but it’s possible that he is moved.

Not many people may be thinking about pending UFA winger and blocked shot machine, Joakim Nordstrom, but he has an interesting offseason ahead of him. In a world where the Bruins have more cap space and don’t have Trent Frederic knocking at the door for NHL fourth line duty, I think Sweeney would love to keep Nordstrom around. There’s a chance he re-signs here, but it’s looking more likely that he signs elsewhere.

His relentless, bullet train style is going to make him an attractive free agent option for a team with a bad penalty kill. Nashville, Ottawa, and Detroit are a few teams that come to mind. He had an excellent postseason especially, always being one of the more noticeable players on ice, flying around and hitting everyone in sight. I anticipate a big market for him in free agency.

While there are other matters to take care of with the team, those are the big decisions to make for Sweeney, in my eyes. This is the most important offseason of his career. This veteran core isn’t going to be around forever. It’s up to Sweeney to put a team that can make some noise together for the 2020-2021 season.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 194 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!!

Is Bigger Actually Better For Next Seasons Boston Bruins?

( Photo Credit: Stuart Cahill / MediaNews Group / Boston Herald )

By: Matt Barry | Follow Me On Twitter @oobcards

The Boston Bruins have been one of the top teams in the National Hockey League for the last decade. The Bruins have been to three Stanley Cup Finals and won the ultimate prize in 2011. Boston has done it with a solid nucleus led by captain Zdeno Chara and assistant captains Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. Over a ten year period, the team has had two varying styles. Former head coach Claude Julien preached a more conservative style based on fair defensive play and careful exit from the defensive zone. The Bruins perfected this style in winning the Stanley Cup in 2011 and advancing to the Cup Finals in 2013, only to lose a heartbreaking Game 6 to the Chicago Blackhawks.

But Julien’s style was wearing thin in Boston, and management wanted the Bruins to play a more up-tempo style with more speed and skill and jettisoned Julien for Bruce Cassidy. Cassidy implemented a more offensive attack that emphasized advancing the puck ahead and attacking, which would elevate the skill set of goal scorers Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.  Bergeron also experienced an increase in point production under Cassidy. Under Cassidy, the Bruins have a .682 points percentage and have been an elite team. It is hard to argue that the change in style has been an excellent move for the organization.

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However, in the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals against a heavier, more physical St. Louis Blues team, the Bruins seemed to wear down, which resulted in a Game 7 home loss and a missed opportunity that could haunt the organization for years. The loss also had many diehard Bruins fans screaming for something they always harp on, “They need to be more physical!! Now, after a second-round exit courtesy of a bigger Tampa Bay Lightning team, the Bruins are faced with a decision of whether to find more speed and skill to coincide with today’s fast NHL or get back to their roots, which is physical, heavier play.

Traditional Boston Bruins fans love blue-collar players who play hard and sacrifice every night, even they lack elite talent. This is why fans loved Milan Lucic, but great frustrated with David Krejci. Krejci is entering the argument of a top ten player in Bruins history, while Lucic’s game is now in Calgary and has deteriorated quickly. But it is hard to tell Bruins fans that the game has changed. Players in today’s game have a hard time playing heavy and banging bodies every night for eighty-two games plus the postseason. The league has become more about puck possession and speed. The Bruins have been amongst the best in the league in both categories, but have eventually lost to bigger, stronger teams.

So what does general manager Don Sweeney do now? The team has some holes to fill and could use a right-wing to play with Krejci and some bottom-six depth. The Bruins could fill these needs within the organization with 21-year-old Jack Studnicka and maybe grinding center Trent Frederic. The other alternative would be a go outside the organization to improve the club and add some scoring and more physicality. Other young prospects in the Boston system are more diminutive like Karson Kuhlman and Zach Senyshyn, and neither player may be an upgrade from what is there now. The Bruins tried to add some size at the trading deadline by acquiring Nick Ritchie in exchange for Danton Heinen.  Ritchie did not bring much of a physical presence and had difficulty generating offense. The result was a reminder that acquiring bigger, physical players is not enough.

So, from here, Sweeney and team president Cam Neely, the ultimate power forward in a much different NHL of years ago, must find some scoring touch to create more balanced scoring and increased productivity in five on five play. While doing this, the Bruins must get bigger to fend off teams like the Lightning. Bruins fans would love a big winger like Josh Anderson (6’3”, 222-pounds) from the Columbus Blue Jackets or Zack Kassian (6’3”, 207-pounds) from the Edmonton Oilers. Maybe one of those wingers finds a home in Boston and settles in on a line with Krejci or third-line center Charlie Coyle. But there is always the concern that one of these heavy power forwards becomes another Nick Ritchie rather than Cam Neely, regardless of how much Bruins fans clamor for more “old-time hockey.”

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 194 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!!