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Don Sweeney: Nobody blocking young defensemen from making Bruins

09.15.16 at 3:14 pm ET
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Brandon Carlo

Brandon Carlo

BRIGHTON — The Bruins’ top two priorities this offseason were “IMPROVE THE DEFENSE” and “DON’T FORGET TO IMPROVE THE DEFENSE.” They went 0-for-2.

So what do you get when you don’t fix a blue line that was the worst it’s been in years? A room full of prospects smiling ear-to-ear on the first day of rookie camp because they think they’ve got a shot at playing in the NHL this season.

Boston has seven defensemen signed to one-way contracts, but the team will be better off if younger players show they have more to offer than one (or more) of those seven. It helps that there’s maybe only two top-four defensemen on the roster right now (Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug), so the opportunity is there to push someone out.

“I told them today, the best players will play,” Don Sweeney said. “If they [outperform] the guys that are here, the incumbents that are here, then they’ll have that opportunity [to make the team]. There’s no blockers from this standpoint. We’re in a situation where we need to get better. I’m adamant in saying that, and if that player’s better, he’ll play.”

The Bruins’ rookies will spend the coming days playing in a prospect tournament against the Sabres and Devils in Buffalo. While Boston’s rookies include some high-ceiling defenders such as Jeremy Lauzon, players like he and Jakub Zboril might need more junior seasoning before legitimately pushing for an NHL job.

One player who could be pushed out is Adam McQuaid. The Bruins opting to sign Kevan Miller (a similar player making less money) made that a possibility anyway, and the Bruins are high enough on Brandon Carlo that it wouldn’t come as a major shock to anyone if the 2015 second-round pick ended up going straight to the NHL in his first NHL season. Plus, being that McQuaid is a legitimate NHL defenseman whom other teams would conceivably want, the B’s could probably get something for him.

While the 6-foot-5, right-shooting Carlo might have the best chance of Boston’s current rookie camp players to make the NHL out of main camp, the rest of the defenders are taking the possibility just as seriously.

“There’s an opportunity and the guys realize that,” first-year pro Rob O’Gara said. “Everyone’s working their tails off to make the most of it and see if they can make an impact because they need guys to make an impact. From the top to the bottom, everyone has that pressure on them to perform. It’s very exciting and you can feel it in there. The guys are ready to go.”

Read More: Adam McQuaid, Brandon Carlo, Don Sweeney,

Bruins announce rookie camp roster

09.14.16 at 8:45 pm ET
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The Bruins revealed their rookie camp roster Wednesday evening, a group that as expected does not include right wing Zach Senyshyn. The 2015 15th overall pick is recovering from an appendectomy performed on Sept. 4.

After undergoing off-ice testing on Thursday, Boston’s prospects will head to Buffalo to play in a rookie tournament against prospects of the Sabres and Devils. The roster is as follows:

Forwards: Anton Blidh, Colby Cave, Peter Cehlarik, Domenic Commisso, Jake DeBrusk, Jesse Gabrielle, Colton Hargrove, Danton Heinen, Justin Hickman, Sean Kuraly, Matt Mistele, Mark Naclerio, Drake Rymsha, Simon Stransky, A.J. White

Defensemen: Linus Arnesson, Josh Atkinson, Brandon Carlo, Matt Grzelcyk, Jeremy Lauzon, Rob O’Gara, Bailey Webster, Jakub Zboril

Goaltenders: Zane McIntyre, Dan Vladar

Bruins in awkward situation with Zac Rinaldo

09.14.16 at 3:06 pm ET
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Zac Rinaldo

Zac Rinaldo

BRIGHTON — When the Bruins added the forwards they did this summer, there were ample questions about what it would mean for incumbents in Boston’s bottom-six. They’d signed David Backes, Riley Nash and Dominic Moore and invited Peter Mueller to camp, but what about Ryan Spooner? What abut Noel Acciari? Isn’t Seth Griffith still a thing?

Nobody asked about Zac Rinaldo. Maybe that’s because they already knew the answer and it’s awkward, but Rinaldo is still here, with one year on his contract with a team that decided they were better off without him last season. He’s also got a five-game suspension waiting for him if and when he ever makes it back to the NHL.

“I guess ultimately you could speculate to what might happen — there’s a number of different scenarios that could unfold — but any time that I’ve spoken to B’s management, it’s been, ‘We expect him to be here. Have a good summer, come back in here and be an important part of this club,’” Rinaldo’s agent, Todd Reynolds, told Wednesday. “That’s why they acquired him, for those reasons. It didn’t end great last year, obviously, but their hope is that that’s just a moment in time.”

Last summer, the Bruins traded a 2017 third-round pick to Philadelphia for Rinaldo, whom nearly every statistic alleged did not belong in the league. Hockey is a sport where decision-makers believe that numbers can lie, however, so the Bruins took on the speedy forward despite him having more games suspended than goals scored in his career.

It didn’t take long to see why the Bruins liked Rinaldo, because the B’s care more about personality than they probably should. For all of the dangerous plays he’d committed in his career, Rinaldo was quickly recognized as a high-character guy by teammates and his desire to strive for the relatively unglamorous role of fourth-liner and penalty-killer was respectable. Fans often (unwisely and inaccurately) gauge their liking of a player on their own perception of the player’s commitment, something that should have curried favor for Rinaldo with the locals more than it did. Never at any point, however, did it seem that trading what they did for him was a smart move.

One might argue here that was just a third-round pick (and a future one at that) and that it’s not worth lamenting the loss of such a selection. It is when you lose one for something worth much less, as Rinaldo was a sixth-rounder himself and had not dramatically improved his stock since coming into the league. No, the Bruins didn’t trade a top pick for the player, but elite players can be had in the middle rounds and the best way to get one of them is to pick as often as possible. If the Bruins traded a seventh-round pick for Rinaldo, it likely would have yielded a shake of the head and everyone would have moved on. It was harder to do because the Bruins made the stakes (and thus immediately unrealistic expectations) higher.

We all know how things turned out. The Bruins pulled the plug prior to the trade deadline, waiving Rinaldo with the intention of sending him to Providence if he went unclaimed. He did just that (meaning they spent a third-round pick on a player no other team would take for free), but, in playing one last NHL game that night while on waivers, committed a hit on Cedric Paquette that earned him a five-game NHL suspension. He was sent to Providence before he could serve it, but earned a five-game AHL suspension in his first game for the Baby B’s for a hit on Kane Lafranchise of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

Rinaldo was never brought back up to Boston, finishing the season in Providence after having not played in the AHL since the lockout. Rinaldo has declined to speak with the media since arriving for captain’s practices last week, but players say he’s dealing with his situation well.

“I didn’t really get to know him that well [last season], but here, now, he’s a great guy,” Acciari said. “Very friendly, very vocal; he’s a locker room guy. Even when I went down to Providence [at the end of the season], he had hurt his ankle but he was always vocal in the playoffs down there and just a good locker room guy. He was great to be around.”

The Bruins showed by waiving Rinaldo last season that they don’t feel beholden to the player just because they traded a decent commodity for him. As such, the only way Rinaldo will end up on Boston’s roster this season is on merit. That’s an uphill climb for him given the number of bodies the Bruins have up front, but his teammates aren’t counting him out.

“He’s phenomenal,” Acciari said. “He’s a good player and a great person. Good things will happen for him.”

Read More: Zac Rinaldo,

Don Sweeney latest to not say much about Brad Marchand’s contract

09.12.16 at 4:29 pm ET
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Don Sweeney

Don Sweeney

BOLTON — Since we last heard from Brad Marchand, the only way he’s gotten richer is by making a $104.4 million friend in World Cup of Hockey linemate Sidney Crosby. The high-scoring Bruins winger is still waiting on his own payday, however.

Speaking at the Bruins’ golf tournament Monday, general manager Don Sweeney gave the latest in what’s been a series of vague comments regarding the free-agent-to-be. Marchand, 28, is the Bruins’ best scorer and is due for a sizable raise from his team-friendly $4.5 million cap hit.

“We’re working on it,” Sweeney said. “As I’ve said, we’re never going to comment publicly, but we look forward to hopefully finding traction and getting something done.”

Marchand said prior to leaving for the World Cup of Hockey that he would like to sign a new contract with the Bruins. His deal would figure to be a longterm pact in excess of $7 million annually given that his 37 goals last season made him one of just eight players in the NHL to score at least 35.

“This is an incredible organization and one that I think we’re all very fortunate to be part of,” Marchand said earlier this month. “It would be great to be able to be here my whole career, and you see how rare that is nowadays. It doesn’t happen often, so it would be an incredible thing, but a lot of things have to line up for that to happen, not only now but down the road, so we’ll play it year-by-year.”

Read More: Brad Marchand, Don Sweeney,

Bruins put ‘B’ on the ceiling, might actually know what they’re doing

09.08.16 at 3:38 pm ET
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The Bruins’ dressing room at their new practice facility. ( photo)

There are three generalizations made about sportswriters: They eat a lot, drink a lot and complain a lot. Like many generalizations, they often aren’t true, except for the last one. Sportswriters who don’t complain aren’t really sportswriters.

Twitter has only heightened this. Sportswriters send angry tweets to airlines about delayed flights as often as they send misguided tweets about Bruce Springsteen being one of the greats. With teams controlling more and more of the message, lack of availability has also become a common gripe from media members.

The plane thing is silly. If a plane can’t fly, it can’t fly. Adding any risk to your flight or someone else’s hardly sounds appetizing, so the flack writers catch for whining to airlines is well-deserved.

Yet the one complaint that is beyond mocking and completely warranted only applies to hockey writers, and it’s the “Stop telling me where to stand” complaint.

For those who don’t follow any hockey reporters on Twitter, many teams have giant logos in the middle of their dressing rooms, with the teams forbidding anyone from walking on them.

(Just to make sure you’re keeping up, “it” here means “the floor.” No walking on the floor. It’s like when kids call certain parts of the playground “lava,” only the hockey version is way more childish.)

When people accidentally step on The Sacred Part of the Floor, they’re often barked at by team employees, interns or the children of that team’s players. It is truly the most ridiculous part of a sport in which men chase each other around with sticks trying to hit one another in the penis (and then defend the guys who do it to them).

The Bruins are among the teams with such logo placement and such rules. As newcomers to the room are scolded time and again, veterans of the beat are left to shake their heads and mutter, “If you don’t want people stepping on it, put it on the [expletive] ceiling.”

On Thursday, the Bruins answered the prayers of so many who had to pray over such a dumb thing. When the team opened the doors to its new practice facility at Warrior Ice Arena, the Bruins’ dressing room featured a magnificent three-dimensional logo with carefully placed lights to accentuate the eight-spoked B… on the [expletive] ceiling.

“I never liked to put the jersey on the floor; I don’t know why the logo was on the floor,” once-perceived-fledgling-team-president-but-now-actual-genius Cam Neely said. “The whole concern about people stepping on it, that seemed to take up a lot of energy. I just felt that it was time to move it.”

Now, Bruins devotees might note that this isn’t really a change at all. After all, the dressing room in their former practice facility (Ristuccia Arena) did not feature a logo on the floor; the real chaos has always happened at the Garden, where the team plays its games. One time, in fact, the son of a player barked at a veteran reporter over stepping on the B. The reporter shouted something not-so-nice back at the kid, making “Don’t step on the B!” an actual thing that yielded screaming matches between children and grown men.

That’s where the real good news comes in. In explaining his confusion over the don’t-step-on-the-B hubbub, Neely said that renovations to TD Garden will affect the Bruins’ dressing room, at which point that carpet has a good chance of going bye-bye.

“In the very near future, the side of the building that faces the empty lot right now is going to be bumped out, so when that happens, we’ll probably renovate our locker room place,” he said.

Asked specifically if the logo will be taken off the floor, Neely replied, “That will happen.”

This change won’t help the Bruins’ in the standings. It won’t show up in box scores, and even the most advanced of stats won’t detect any change that this small move will bring, but it will indeed matter. For so many people (and Justin Bieber), it will bring peace of mind.

He’s made his share of mistakes (check out for more on that), but with this move, Cam Neely made has made his case for being the smartest guy in hockey. It’s hard to have any argument against that right now.

Read More: Cam Neely, Justin Bieber,

John Whitesides out as Bruins’ strength and conditioning coach, transitions to community role

09.08.16 at 1:40 pm ET
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John Whitesides

BRIGHTON — John Whitesides will no longer serve as the Bruins’ strength and conditioning coach, Cam Neely confirmed to Thursday. Whitesides, who has been with the Bruins for 15 years, will transition to a role that sees him head up a community fitness program through the Bruins, while Mike Macchioni will take over as Boston’s strength and conditioning coach.

Neely said that the shakeup was Whiteside’s decision, and that he asked to transition out of his longtime role and into the burgeoning “B Fit” program.

“John had approached us last year about an idea he had to get more involved in the community, getting out there in schools and maybe firehouses to show them the proper way to train and work out,” Neely told “This summer, he had asked if there was an opportunity to transition to the community relations and foundation. It’s an area that he was looking forward to jumping into. We said, ‘If that’s what you want to do,’ we ended up creating this opportunity for him.”

Neely added the the team has also hired two additional physical therapists as they look to strengthen their overall program.

Prior to coming to the Bruins, Whitesides served as an assistant strength and conditioning coach for Boston College’s men’s hockey and women’s basketball. He became something of a fan favorite with Bruins fans in recent seasons, as he was frequently shown barking at his players with expletive-laced speeches on NESN’s “Behind the B.”

Macchioni has worked with the Bruins for a number of years, serving as the Providence Bruins’ strength and conditioning coach in recent seasons and also acting as an assistant strength and conditioning coach for the B’s. Prior to that, the Warwick, R.I. native was a strength and conditioning coach for Providence College. Macchioni was on hand for this summer’s development camp, as he had been in previous years.

“He’s always been helping out at development camp,” Neely said. “He’s worked with Providence, so our group knows him pretty well. He’s excited about the opportunity.”

Read More: Cam Neely, John Whitesides,

Photos: Bruins unveil new practice facility, Warrior Ice Arena

09.08.16 at 1:17 pm ET
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BRIGHTON — The Bruins finally unveiled Warrior Ice Arena, their new practice facility that could also be the location of the team’s morning skates.




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