|08.11.15 at 11:25 am ET|
Thirty-eight-year-old Shawn Thornton is entering the final year of a two-year deal with the Panthers. He doesn’t know if it will mark the end of a long playing career.
“It’s tough to [say],” Thornton said Monday. “I don’t know. I’m OK either way. Going into my 19th year pro, for my job, I’m very happy with what’s happened over my career. I’m OK if I have to shut her down. If I have a tough year and that’s it, then so be it. If I happen to have a good year and things work out and somebody wants to give me a paycheck for another year, I’m more than happy to [keep playing].
“I love competing. I love staying in shape. I love the game, I love being around the guys. I’ve said if before: I’ll play until they rip the skates off me. If that happens to be [next] summer, then it is. If it happens to be the summer after, even better.”
Though he has been an NHL regular for the last nine seasons, Thornton has been playing professionally since 1997-98, his first of four seasons with the St. John’s Maple Leafs of the NHL. Out of 19 professional seasons, this will be the third in which he makes $1 million or more. He made just over a million in 2013-14 before taking a deal with Florida that pays him $1.2 million annually.
Thornton, who lives in Charlestown, plans to work in the media after his playing days are done. He has good relationships with both sports radio stations and both sports television channels in town. He got a head-start on his future career by working as on-air talent with Comcast SportsNet late in his Bruins career.
He added to his post-playing resumÃ© in the spring when he worked as an analyst for NBC Sports’ coverage of the NHL playoffs, working alongside Mike Milbury and Keith Jones. While Thornton found the work challenging, he said it reaffirmed his desire to make it a profession in the coming years.
“That was an experience,” Thornton said. “I liked it. I really liked it. The second night was probably a little bit better than the first. [I was] a little bit more settled in. [It was] a little nerve-wracking, I’m not going to lie to you. I didn’t go to broadcasting school, so it’s a little different when the cameras are right on you.
“But those guys were great helping out. It was great to try it. Jonesie and Millbury were really, really good about in between takes, giving me some advice here and there. I really enjoyed it.”
Thornton politely passed when reminded he could always try to become beat writer.
|08.10.15 at 3:52 pm ET|
MIDDLETON — Last season, Tuukka Rask turned had the heaviest regular-season workload of any Bruins goalie in over 50 years. His 70 games played tied the Bruins’ franchise record, making him the first to hit that mark since Eddie Johnston played all 70 of Boston’s games in the 1963-64 season.
That’s not a good thing.
Sure, you want one of the best goalies in the league to play often, but not quite all the time. The reason Rask had to play so many games was because the Bruins didn’t think they could win games unless he was playing. Had the Bruins actually made the playoffs, there’s no telling when all of that work would have taken its toll on Boston’s wiry star. [For more on the Bruins’ use of goaltenders, click here.]
The Bruins didn’t have faith in last season’s backup, Niklas Svedberg, who departed for the KHL in the offseason. Barring a trade, they likely won’t have a sure thing behind Rask this season either. The candidates to man the No. 2 job in Boston this season are Malcolm Subban (one career NHL game), Jeremy Smith (zero career NHL games) and Zane McIntyre (zero career professional games).
“I’m sure things are going to sort out,” Rask said Monday at Shawn Thornton‘s Putts and Punches for Parkinson’s golf tournament. “There’s good young guys wanting to battle for a spot on the roster. Whatever, whoever it’s going to be I’m sure is going to be very capable of playing games. We’ll see how it plays out, but I’m sure there’s no reason to worry.”
Rask’s previous high in games played during a regular season was 58 games in his Vezina-winning 2013-14 season. After the Bruins missed the playoffs last season, he lamented the toll that playing every game (15 in a row in January, 12 in a row to end the season) took on him.
“Honestly, it felt like [I] played like 15 playoff series out there, but we battled and I battled and just tried to give us a chance to win every game,” Rask said after the final regular-season game. “The last I don’t know how many games, it felt like if I let in more than two goals, it’s going to be done. Obviously it drains you mentally, but we battled.”
Rask said Monday that while he was drained from having to handle as much work as he did, he hasn’t needed extra recovery time this summer.
“Not crazy,” he said of resting up. “Obviously it’s mentally draining when you’re battling for that playoff spot and you play a lot of games in a row and stuff like that, but you always feel kind of exhausted afterwards. Then when you do nothing for a week or two, you’re kind of like, ‘OK, let’s play hockey again.””
The lack of an established backup and some question marks elsewhere on Boston’s roster (particularly defense) could point to another busy season for Rask. He didn’t seem to like being overused as much as he was (only Braden Holtby and Jonathan Quick played more), but he’s willing to do it again this season.
“I don’t think you can put a number on it, but a lot of things depend on how tight the games are and how many games you play in a row and stuff like that,” he said. “Last year, it happened to be 70. If it’s going to be like that, it’s going to be like that again.”
Boston’s group of star players got smaller this offseason, as the team lost two in Dougie Hamilton and Milan Lucic. Though the team did add Matt Beleskey and make an interesting swap of Reilly Smith for Jimmy Hayes, the roster is not better now than it was last season. Bounceback seasons are expected from many Bruins, but Rask understands that the B’s are no longer viewed as the powerhouse they once were.
“I think we’ve been through so many different scenarios in past years that people put us up on a pedestal and pick us as the favorites,” Rask said. “Maybe now that’s not necessarily the case, so we know where we stand when we talk as a team and when we practice and play as a team. We just try to focus on our own thing and not try to worry about what people on the outside say. Our approach has always been that we’re doing our thing and we’ll do it as good as we can and see where it leads us.”
|08.10.15 at 1:42 pm ET|
As such, when he said that he isn’t concerned about the state of the Bruins’ defense — a group that made his life hard last year before it lost Dougie Hamilton — his outlook should be taken with a grain of salt.
“I don’t think there’s a reason to worry,” Rask said of Boston’s defense Monday at Shawn Thornton‘s Putts and Punches for Parkinson’s golf tournament. “I haven’t been worried.”
Rask knows better than anybody how much the Bruins needed to improve on the back end, as his play had to make up for a rough season on the blueline. Between having to play nearly every time the B’s took the ice (70 of 82 games) and facing tougher challenges as a result of the team’s defense, Rask was overworked as a result of the team’s shortcomings.
So when Boston’s defense lost Hamilton, a 22-year-old restricted free agent who wanted out, it would have been understandable for the 2014 Vezina winner to head to the dairy section of his local grocer and go H.A.M. on some milk crates.
Instead, Rask took an it-is-what-it-is attitude when asked about Hamilton’s trade to the Flames.
“Obviously I was surprised,” Rask said. “I think everybody was surprised, but there’s always the truth somewhere. I haven’t heard what happened, but if he felt like he had to move on, he had to move on.”
While there was something (however small) to the chatter that Hamilton wasn’t the most popular guy in the Bruins’ dressing room, it would have been hard for Hamilton’s teammates to take issue with the way he played. Hamilton was clearly Boston’s second-best defenseman behind future Hall of Famer Zdeno Chara and he was in line to eventually take the torch from Chara as the next in a long line of great Bruins blueliners.
Hamilton’s fit with his teammates was not a big deal in the Bruins’ eyes, which is evidenced by the fact that they tried to re-sign him. Whether it was his teammates, the city or coach Claude Julien, it has not been made clear why Hamilton wanted to leave.
“I thought he felt comfortable with everybody,” Rask said, “but what you feel deep inside is a different thing and he felt like he needed to move on.”
Thornton laughed off a question about the Hamilton situation by saying he didn’t care, but he admitted he found the departure to be a bit odd.
“Listen, I’m a little surprised,” Thornton said. “I loved Boston, obviously, and for someone to want to get out of it, I don’t get it ‘ especially in the first few years. But it’s his world. He had decisions to make and that’s the one he made. Hey, hopefully he’s happy in Calgary.”
The Bruins received a very underwhelming package of three draft picks in exchange for Hamilton, who will co-star on a terrific blue line in Calgary. The deal did not help the Bruins for 2015-16 at all, as the team used the three picks on prospects Zachary Senyshyn (15th overall), Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson (45th overall) and Jeremy Lauzon (52nd overall).
|08.03.15 at 5:05 pm ET|
Major League Baseball Advanced Media will take over the NHL‘s web operations, apps, streaming video and more in 2016, multiple sources told WEEI.com Monday. The partnership, which is expected to be announced on Tuesday, will also involve Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM) taking over the NHL Network.
In addition to running MLB.com and all 30 MLB team sites, MLBAM runs the websites for Minor League Baseball, the YES Network and SportsNet New York. It also provides the backend infrastructure for WatchESPN, the WWE Network, CBS Sports’ March Madness and HBO Now, among others.
It remains to be seen how much change will come from MLBAM taking over the NHL Network, which was launched at the beginning of the 2007-08 season, but the partnership is expected to provide several improvements. In addition to shows focusing on highlights and analysis such as NHL Live! and NHL Tonight, the NHL Network carries multiple games each week during the season.
While the NHL‘s digital presence will change, it is unknown how staff members of the NHL‘s websites (NHL.com and team sites) and the NHL Network will be impacted. A source noted that multiple employees of Bell Media in Canada, who operated NHL Network, have already lost their jobs as a result of the change. According to the source, multiple producers were not retained past July 1.
As for the online side, MLBAM could simply train those currently in place rather than hire new staffs, but staffers throughout the league had yet to hear as of Monday.
The news of the partnership was initially met with some concern that the partnership could put an end to the growing community of in-game animated GIFs on social media (which could cost some people their part-time gigs) and YouTube videos, but MLB’s strict policy on footage is their’s, rather than MLBAM’s. Because the NHL owns the rights, they would make the decision on whether such content could continue to be posted.
|07.29.15 at 6:28 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Since Capgeek.com was taken down in the final months of founder Mathew Wuest’s life, hockey fans all over have been without a state-of-the-art, up-to-the-minute destination for the NHL‘s ever-changing salary cap scene. They have options, but none are as good.
With Capgeek, Wuest created a site that listed where teams were in relation to the cap down to the dollar in a format that displayed team rosters in terms of individual players’ cap hits.
When the ailing Wuest took the wildly popular site down before succumbing to colon cancer in March, many wondered who would step up with a proper replacement. The NHL‘s official site seemed like one feasible option, but Gary Bettman poo-pooed that in late February, saying that such a feature was ‘not something that seems to be driving fan interested as much as perhaps the [media].’
That foolish statement was rightfully criticized and has been proven wrong time and time again in the months since. Not only do fans want it, but even B’s president Cam Neely made a tongue-in-cheek reference to GM candidates not being able to prepare for job interviews as well without the site.
Given all of this, Bettman was asked Wednesday if any more consideration has been given to making cap information available in a one-stop destination.
“No,” he replied.
There was no elaboration, so in the meantime everyone will have to settle for the myriad of sites doing their best to manage the nearly impossible task of carrying on Wuest’s work.
At this point, war-on-ice.com, perhaps the best NHL site these days for NHL statistics, does the best job. It isn’t perfect (ex. details of no-trade provisions), but that’s where the opportunity exists for the NHL to step in and make the perfect option. It’s silly for them not to.
|07.29.15 at 4:14 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Don Sweeney remains active in trying to find the Bruins help on defense. Whether that means signing top remaining free agent Cody Franson, seeking other free agent options or making a trade remains to be seen.
“I’m not shutting the doors in terms of picking your team in July,” Boston’s general manager told WEEI.com at Wednesday’s Winter Classic press event. “We’ll continue to look and talk and have those types of conversations, not just in the free agent market, but around the league.”
The Bruins and Franson’s camp have had discussions, as Franson revealed last week. The 27-year-old 6-foot-5 right shot would figure to be a plug-and-play option to anchor Boston’s second pairing, which would at least move the B’s closer to what they had prior to trading Dougie Hamilton.
Asked whether he felt the team was close to signing Franson, who said there were four or five other teams in on him, Sweeney replied, “I don’t know whether or not anybody can say ‘close’ because you don’t know what other conversations are happening.”
This has been something of an odd offseason throughout the league, but Sweeney acknowledged that the traditional waves of movement (the draft and free agency) have been as expected. A third wave may be presenting itself now, however, with at least one big name still unsigned in Franson and Tuesday’s trade of Brandon Sutter to the Canucks.
“There’s less chatter, but there’s some seeds being planted they we may want to revisit as well with our staff, and sort of going over all these – after I have one conversation, sending it out to our group and sort of seeing where we’re at. Coaches have some input in that as well. Now that we’ve had a little bit of time to see where our group is, we’ve got to forecast from here on out.”
Sweeney acknowledged the potential need to shed cap space if they do sign a higher-priced free agent. The B’s currently sit about $4.42 million below the salary cap’s upper-limit with 21 players on their roster. They have seven defenseman on one-way contracts as is (Zdeno Chara, Zach Trotman, Dennis Seidenberg, Adam McQuaid, Torey Krug, Matt Irwin and Kevan Miller), so a trade of a defenseman could be one way to clear space. Boston could also trade one of its veteran forwards, such as Chris Kelly.
Sweeney expressed a desire to shed cap space before making a signing, should such a situation present itself, as he did when he traded Reilly Smith and Marc Savard minutes before signing Matt Beleskey on the opening day of free agency. He also noted that if he feels the team would have space-saving options that could be executed at a later date if they were to pull the trigger on a signing beforehand.
“I think when you’re up against it, it presents pressure on the other side. Theoretically, you’d like to plan to be under and have some flexibility, but in the same vein, if you’ve had conversations that you think could foster something down the road, and you want to improve your club, then you may take that risk,” Sweeney said. “There will always be an assessment in that period of time.”
Should the Bruins not add outside help, a defense that figures to miss Hamilton dearly will be in for an uphill climb. It’s expected that Trotman will have a full-time job, but opportunities will be given to other young players such as former Penguins‘ first-round pick Joe Morrow and trade acquisition Colin Miller.
“We’ve got five of six guys returning,” Sweeney said in reference to Chara, McQuaid, Seidenberg, Krug, Miller and Trotman. “I think it’s been lost a little bit that Kevan Miller is coming back to our group because he’s been our for so long, and we’ve got young players that at some point in time have to recognize that a situation presents itself and take advantage of it.”
Added Sweeney: “We have institutional knowledge as to how much they’ve developed and where we think they can get to. Are they plug-and-play? No, [not] like you would describe some of the other guys that have had the the level of success that they’ve had. We have to balance that. There’s definitely a bit of forecasting involved in both of those decisions.”
|07.29.15 at 1:16 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Among the most notable revelations from Wednesday’s Winter Classic press event were the logos that the Bruins and Canadiens will use when they play at Gillette Stadium on July 1.
The following image were displayed on the big screen and around the field during the NHL‘s event, featuring what appeared to be an updated version of the Bruins’ logo from 1924 through 1926:
Courtesy of SportsLogos.net, here is a cleaner image of Boston’s 1924-1926 emblem:
The Canadiens’ logo in that image appears to be something of a new take on one of their older logos, with it most closely resembling the one the Habs wore for a brief time from 1922-1925.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman also said at the event that there will be another all-access show that follows the teams leading up to the annual outdoor game. He did not specify which channel would carry the series, though it could be Epix given that the show switched to that channel after years at HBO.
Information on tickets will soon be made available, with season-ticket holders of the Bruins, Canadiens and Patriots having access to a pre-sale.
Wednesday’s event was emceed by former Patriots broadcaster Gill Santos. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and Patriots owner Robert Kraft were among those to speak, with Patrice Bergeron, Torey Krug and Jimmy Hayes sitting alongside Montreal forward and Lynnfield native Brian Flynn. Bruins president Cam Neely was joined by fellow Hall of Famers Ray Bourque and Canadiens great Yvan Cournoyer.