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Lucic ready to remain in Boston ‘a long time’

10.08.09 at 10:02 am ET
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Milan Lucic said that he wants to stay with the Bruins "for a long time"

Milan Lucic said that he wants to stay with the Bruins "for a long time"

WILMINGTON, Mass — Milan Lucic made it clear after signing his three-year deal with the Boston Bruins that it wasn’t even remotely about the money.

That being said, B’s winger Shawn Thornton told the rookie to forget about taking the veterans out to celebratory dinner. He’s expecting designer watches for all his teammates following the 21-year-old winger’s big contractual score.

“I want watches with that contract,” said Thornton. “Forget about dinner. We want Breitlings.”

All joking and designer watches aside, Lucic made it clear to Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli and head coach Claude Julien during last year’s exit interview meetings that he loved Boston. When it came time to think about his NHL future, he didn’t want to play hockey anywhere else. Not even in his hometown of Vancouver where the Canucks — among other NHL teams — would have made a run at the overpowering left winger had he reached restricted free agency.

“He expressed to me that he loved being a Bruin, and that he wanted to a Bruin for a long time,” said the B’s front office man. “I love the way Milan plays. I love the way he carries himself on and off the ice. He’s a very humble person and he deserves this.”

The B’s general manager didn’t immediately jump into extension talks with Lucic, and instead first dealt with David Krejci, Phil Kessel and the rest of his roster-building decisions over the summer. But once the team was solidified and Kessel’s situation was mercifully addressed, the two sides quickly found some mutual ground and finished negotiations on a three-year deal worth $12.25 million.

For Lucic, it’s a hefty reward for throwing his body the last two plus seasons and relishing the physical style that has come to define his game. The hulking forward has enough skill to skate with top-line players, and could end up being an annual 25-goal scorer when it’s all said and done. He’s one of the most ferocious, punishing physical forces in hockey. There aren’t many that combine those two brutish and beautiful skills into one player package, and there isn’t a better place than Boston to incubate such a talent.

What made this such a good fit for Lucic when there might have been a Kessel-esque $5 million plus per year offer sheet waiting for him on July 1?

“My first year here was a great experience for me, and the culture that we created in the room as teammates and the coaching staff wanting us to get better,” said Lucic. “Peter [Chiarelli] wants us to be competitive and be up there with the other three teams in Boston. Just the city itself is such a great sports town, and you want to be a part of that for a long time. I know I do.”

It’s a whopper of a raise for Lucic, who jumps from this season’s rookie salary of $685,000 to the $4 million mark next season, but it also continues a trend of huge second contracts for young NHL stars coming out of their entry-level rookie deals. Chiarelli said the second-contract phenomenon was something he continues to be uncomfortable with, but assured it was a league-wide issue likely to be addressed during the next CBA negotiations.   

“Milan has been a very good performer for us. His skill set, his character set and his physicality are all tremendous assets to our organization, and typify what it means to be a Bruin,” said Chiarelli.

Lucic’s contract gives the Bruins roughly $42 million in salary dedicated to next season’s team with plenty of free agents hitting the market next summer. Blake Wheeler, Mark Stuart and Tuukka Rask will all be restricted free agents while Marc Savard, Derek Morris, Steve Begin, Andrew Ference and Thornton will all be unrestricted free agents come July 1. Per CBA rules, Chiarelli can negotiate with players like Savard, Ference and Thornton all through the year, but has to wait until Jan. 1 to potentially open talks with Morris and Begin. 

Not all of Boston’s free agents will be returning given the expected movement downward of the $56.8 salary cap level for next season.

“It’s a difficult task because not only are you talking about the [RFA's], but you’re also talking about other guys who are in the last years of their contracts and want to stay here,” said Chiarelli. “It’s not easy. There are a lot of uncertain things that you’re waiting to see happen, so you can plan better. We obviously just went through a lot of this stuff with Phil [Kessel]. I do my best and this is certainly a piece of the puzzle.

“It’s just my day-to-day business. We have to make the tough decisions, and act proactively.” 

The pact also allows Chiarelli another round of winnable negotiations with Lucic, who will still be an RFA after the 2013 season when his three-year extension expires. It’ll be interesting to see how close Lucic gets to the hockey idol he’s most closely compared to — Cam Neely — and how his body handles the jarring physical style the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder plays over the next four years.

Savard has skated with Lucic on Boston’s top line for the better part of two years, and sees a young hockey pup that still has plenty of room to grow moving forward in his career.

“He’s your prototypical Bruins, I think,” said Savard. “It’s good for him and organization. They made a big step forward today. He’s a young leader right now and I think he’s going to take bigger steps in that role down the line.

“We’ve talked about [Lucic's upside] a lot. I’m always going to push him for more, and I know he wants more. He’s always hungry and he always wants to help the team win. He wants to produce every night, and I think that’s a bonus. He’s a big guy for somebody to be taking them under their wing, but I’ve definitely taken him under my wing. I’d like to be here with him to continue watching him grow.”

With Lucic now in the books through the 2012-13 season, it might just be Savard’s turn to make a big contract announcement over the next few months. There’s no telling what Thornton will expect for gifts if that deal ever comes to fruition.

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Stuart confirms new position as B’s player rep

10.08.09 at 12:16 am ET
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WILMINGTON — Mark Stuart said it wasn’t official as of Wednesday morning, but confirmed he’ll be stepping into the NHLPA player representative role for the Boston Bruins in the next few weeks. The 25-year-old blueliner is actually one of the longest-tenured B’s going back to his first few rookies game with Boston in 2005-05, and he’ll be replacing veteran defenseman Andrew Ference as acting player rep.

“It’s not official yet, but I think so,” said Stuart, when asked if he was the team’s new player rep. “I’ve been the assistant for a while behind Andy, and he decided to step down. He put in his time and decided he didn’t want to do it anymore. I was the next guy in line.”

Stuart served as the assistant player rep along with Ference last season, and the young defenseman was the logicial first choice when Ference reportedly stepped down from the position this week. Stuart indicated Ference was giving up the post to spend more time with his wife and two children, but the B’s blueliner has also been under a burgeoning level of criticism for his key role in the dismissal of former NHLPA Executive Director Paul Kelly.

Ference was a part of the NHLPA ad hoc committee that investigated complaints about Kelly last summer, and ultimately made the presentation to the rest of the players before overwhelmingly voting to remove the executive director from his post. There appears to have been several reasons for Kelly’s dismissal — including reading unauthorized minutes from a players-only meeting — but there’s also been a continual stream of unsavory aspects to the swift union action. 

According to a report in the Toronto Globe and Mail, Mark Recchi was poised to run for player rep against Ference after being highly critical of the process leading to Kelly’s firing. When Ference agreed to voluntarily step down from his post, Recchi backed off and Stuart was able to assume the position of player rep.

With all that in mind, the NHLPA is clearly at a crossroads. Mistrust and sabotage seem to be high on the list of adjectives used to describe the NHLPA after the sacking of Kelly, and that’s not exactly a sea change from the union’s past practice. Stuart recognizes that it’s an important time for the hockey player’s union to change both their perception and their process, and readily concedes there’s quite a bit of work ahead.

“Yeah, obviously there’s a lot going on. So it’s important to be informed and to know what’s going on,” said Stuart. “I think for everybody to get involved at some point [would be good] because it’s been kind of a mess as of late.

“It’s interesting to me. I wouldn’t have [taken] the assistant [job] if it didn’t. Stepping into this role means there’s some pretty big shoes to fill, and I need to just inform myself as much as I can. Be a lot more involved.”

There’s the matter of choosing another director to replace Kelly, and serious alterations to the union’s constitution following the ridiculous 3 a.m. setting that served as Kelly’s backdrop for his unceremonious dumping. Further down the hockey road, there’s a Collective Bargaining Agreement set to expire after the 2010-11 season and mandate to avoid another work stoppage at all costs.

One other thing Stuart wanted to confirm: there’s no divide in the Bruins locker room despite some differences of opinion on union matters. The turn of events leading to Ference’s departure and Stuart’s ascension have effectively put to bed any conflict over the issues — and it was reportedly a pretty level-headed conversation between all parties that ultimately led to the NHLPA position changes.

“Andy did some great work for us over the last two years. It’s a big time committment,” said Stuart. “He put in a lot of time over the last two years, and it was mostly about the time. As far as the locker room goes, there’s nothing going on. He stepped down and I’m taking over for him. That’s about it.

“Guys are getting more involved and want to know what’s going on, and I think that’s good. We need to work as a group. My role is like any leader — to be that voice between the guys in the group and the rest of the [NHLPA]. It’s not me just voicing my opinions on issues. It’s me coming to the group, getting their thoughts, forming an opinion as a group and then going from there.”

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Milan Lucic on D&H, 10/7

10.07.09 at 7:30 pm ET
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Bruins left winger Milan Lucic appeared on the Dale & Holley show this afternoon. Check out the full audio here, and read some of the highlights below.

lucic_milan-practiceWhen did you start talking about contracts?

During the preseason, right around the start of camp. Peter [Chiarelli] came up to me and we had a little meeting. We talked about extending and staying here. It all started last year during our year-end meetings. I had a meeting with Peter and I talked to him and told him I wanted to be a Bruin for a long time and it was my goal to stick around in Boston. Because it’s such a great organization. I love playing at the TD Garden and playing in front of the Bruins fans because they’ve been so great. I’ve grown to love this city and I just love being here, everything about it.

Was it an easy negotiation?

It went pretty smoothly. I think both parties came to an agreement pretty well. In the end we’re both happy, we’re both thrilled, we’re both excited and that’s the main thing.

Were you worried about it being a distraction?

Maybe, a lot of guys tend to think about it a little too much, when it’s a contract year. It’s always sticking in the back of your head. You’re always thinking about it. But now that it’s over for me I don’t have to think about it anymore and I can just go out there and play and help the team win.

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ESPN The Magazine reveals the ‘Full Chara’

10.07.09 at 5:42 pm ET
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ESPN The Magazine is debuting "The Full Chara" this month

ESPN The Magazine is debuting "The Full Chara" this month

Great get by the always enjoyable and thoroughly educational Puck Daddy hockey blog over at Yahoo! Sports on Wednesday afternoon, as they were able to unearth the “Full Chara” photos that will be a big part of ESPN The Magazine’s body issue this month.

Rumblings of the Zdeno Chara photo shoot in his birthday suit filtered through the B’s dressing room days ago, but this is the first photographic evidence of the minimalist photo spread with the Bruins Captain.

Can’t imagine what kind of grief the Norris Trophy winner is in store for when the magazine hits mailboxes and bookshelves all across the country. A fan base like Montreal, that boos Chara each time he touches the puck, could get awfully creative.

 But at least it’s a tasteful nude rather than something with a series of Austin Powers-esque strategically-placed pieces of hockey equipment.

It’ll be interesting to see what noted art critic Shawn Thornton has to say about “The Full Chara” when he gets a look-see at the sneak preview. To check out the full gallery of athletes chosen for the body issue — including Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson,  Texas Rangers slugger Nelson Cruz and tennis player Serena Williams – check it out at ESPN.com.

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Lucic, Bruins back to work this morning

10.07.09 at 11:55 am ET
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WILMINGTON — The Bruins are just wrapping up a full practice day in anticipation of the Thursday tilt with the Anaheim Ducks. Newly-signed Milan Lucic is out in front of one of the nets working on tipping and redirecting pucks that Derek Morris is firing at him from the right point.

Lucic’s production directly in front of the net in the offensive zone is one of the areas that the hulking left wing will be working to improve on now that he’s a $4 million plus man beginning next season. Lucic and B’s GM Peter Chiarelli are set to meet with the media momentarily at the B’s practice rink in Wilmington, and there will be full coverage at the Big Bad Blog.

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Lucic Signs Three-Year Extension

10.06.09 at 5:35 pm ET
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The Bruins issued the following press release about the three-year extension to which they signed Milan Lucic, which will keep the bruising power forward under team control through the 2012-13 season. ESPN is reporting that the deal is worth $12.25 million.

Boston Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced today that the club has signed forward Milan Lucic to a three-year contract extension through the 2012-13 NHL season. Per club policy, financial terms of the deal will not be disclosed.

The 21-year-old Lucic set career highs in all major statistical categories last year after recording 17 goals and 25 assists for 42 points, in addition to tallying 136 penalty minutes and a +17 rating. He netted his first career hat trick and a career-best four points on October 25, 2008, after a 3-1=4 performance against the Atlanta Thrashers.

During the 2008-09 postseason, the 6’3’’ 228-pound winger had three goals and six assists and a team best +12 plus/minus rating in 10 games. In his rookie year in 2007-08, Lucic registered 8-19=27 totals and 89 penalty minutes in 77 contests. Lucic earned the team’s “Seventh Player Award” for his efforts, an award voted on by the fans and given to the Bruin who performs above and beyond expectations. He also contributed two goals in seven postseason games.

Lucic has skated in both games during the 2009-10 season and has notched one assist and five penalty minutes.

He was invited to – and participated in – Canada’s National Men’s Team Orientation Camp this past August, in advance of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games and 2010 IIHF World Championship. The 2010 Olympic Winter Games will be played in Lucic’s hometown of Vancouver, British Columbia.

Originally drafted by the Bruins in the second round (50th overall) of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, Lucic helped the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League capture the 2007 Memorial Cup Championship.

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Morris has been a dead-on power play hit

10.06.09 at 3:50 pm ET
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Morris has added plenty to Boston's power play since escaping from the mess in the desert

Morris has added plenty to Boston's power play since escaping from the mess in the desert

WILMINGTON — It wasn’t a common sight last season, but there was at least one Bruins practice that involved the Boston defensemen corps firing pucks through bright orange traffic cones.

The traffic cones were placed near the right and left point areas in the attack zone, and the drill was designed to achieve pinpoint accuracy on the all-important power play blasts. The big gun shots from the B’s defensemen are oft-times the trigger to jolting Boston’s man advantage attack. With that in mind, there were times when a normally mighty power play lost some of it’s bite for the B’s last season when those point shots were nudged a little too far off the mark.

It wasn’t the sheer power of the long-range bids because guys like Zdeno Chara and Dennis Wideman have slappers capable of obliterating glass behind the net — with the assistance of some good wood, of course. But there were times when the shot would fade wide to either side, or an aggressive penalty kill would smother a shot with one brave sacrificial body.

“That’s the one thing that we lacked last year. At times we really had some trouble getting our shots through,” said B’s coach Claude Julien. “Teams are blocking shots and getting into the shooting lanes, and its getting harder to get shots off.”

Despite the intermittent bouts of wildness with their point shots, the Bruins still boasted a 23.6 percent power play success rate, and ranked fourth in the entire NHL. Only the high-powered units in Detroit, Washington and San Jose ranked higher last season.

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