|10.19.09 at 2:47 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Chuck Kobasew was a beloved member of the Bruins, and if trading him to the Minnesota Wild Sunday was a message of dissatisfaction from management — as it was articulated by both general manager and coach in its aftermath – well, then the cannon ball shot was received loud and clear by the players on Monday morning.
The 27-year-old Kobasew stumbled out of the gate this season with only a single assist in seven games, and seemed to be an unwitting victim of a hibernating Bruins unit unable to snap out of their prolonged .500 slumber. The hard-nosed veteran and 20-goal scorer was traded for both salary cap reasons and a little bit of good-old fashioned message-sending from B’s GM Peter Chiarelli.
The B’s top decision-maker hopes that the addition of some young P-Bruins blood in Vladimir Sobotka and Brad Marchand can spark a team that’s been the very definition of lethargic for far too long this autumn. The Black and Gold have been unable to shake a funk of inconsistency to start the season, and have flashed little passion or anger in their game — aside from a revenge special against the Carolina Hurricanes. Chiarelli felt it was time to make things a tad bit uncomfortable in the B’s dressing room. Judging from the reaction of the players at practice and after the session was over, it was mission accomplished.
The B’s executive also admitted that he couldn’t have summoned Marchand and Sobotka from Providence without jettisoning Kobasew and effectively unlocking the salary cap handcuffs wrapped around the team. The reports that the team had $1.6 million in cap space prior to the deal appear to have been greatly exaggerated. The B’s couldn’t even afford to keep Sobotka in Boston to begin the season, which spurred his demotion to Providence.
“It’s a combination of a number of factors. Certainly our play has been on and off and that was part of it,” said Chiarelli, who had been in discussions with several clubs for a period two weeks. “The two guys we brought up have been playing pretty well in Providence. It also gives us a little of salary cap flexibility for this year and for next year, so it was a good time for all those things. But it was primarily based on our play.
“The fellows we brought up our young, energetic and enthusiastic, and I thought that we needed an injection of that into our lineup. It’s a little bit of [frustration]. It’s not a complete reactionary move. It’s something that addresses a lot of things. I’m not satisfied with our start. Friday night, I thought we a terrific game in all areas and then it was disappointing to see Saturday. Work is being done and we’re turning the corner a bit, but in large part on a game-to-game basis I don’t see the passion that I saw before. We have to get that back.”
Tim Thomas was a little more succinct.
“My gut feeling tells me that [the trade] is a shot across the bow. Wake up or else changes will be made,” said Thomas. “My first reaction was surprise. I guess I hadn’t been thinking along those lines of any trades at all. It’s a funny business where a guy can be a teammate for going on three years, and then he’s gone.”
The deal obviously clears Kobasew’s $2.3 million from the books both this year and next year — which could become a factor in extension talks with Marc Savard — and allows Boston much more financial flexibility moving forward. Kobasew’s cap hit was something of a luxury for a third-line grinder in this brave, new world of salary cap era hockey.
All that being said, Kobasew is another veteran leader in the B’s dressing room that has now moved on, and joins a leadership exodus that included Aaron Ward, Stephane Yelle, P.J. Axelsson, Shane Hnidy and now the veteran right winger.
The move perhaps hit closest with 23-year-old Patrice Bergeron, who has watched several great friends move on from Boston after the two-way center developed close relationships with them. First it was Marty Lapointe that mentored Bergeron and allowed the rookie to live with his family during his first NHL season. Then it was Brad Boyes after Bergeron had formed into a dynamic scoring tandem with the natural goal-scorer before his trade to the St. Louis Blues. Now it’s Bergeron’s roommate during road trips, Kobasew, that has been shipped off to a different NHL locale.
It’s all part of the pro sports business, but the move should certainly shake up the B’s locker room’s comfort level. In the view of the decision-makers, the players still seems to be daydreaming about the Stanley Cup rather than rolling up their sleeves and working toward it. Bergeron said he spoke with Kobasew on Sunday following the deal, and the gritty forward was understandably reluctant to leave his home for the last three seasons in Boston.
“You never worried about his work ethic. He was my roommate on the road too. It’s always hard to see somebody go, but it happens. It’s tough, but at the same time it’s a business,” said Bergeron. “I really wish him the best. He’s such a good guy. The type of guy you always want on your team. But with the way things were going, that’s something that’s going to happen. We just have to deal with this as a team when somebody like that has to go because of the situation.”
The Bruins have now paid a price for their sluggish seven-game start to a season filled with sky-high expectations. It’s up to the remaining Black and Gold skaters to heed the unmistakable message and act on it.
|10.19.09 at 12:26 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — The Bruins doled out more good news at Monday morning practice when Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli revealed that Milan Lucic had surgery Sunday for a broken right finger, and will miss 4-6 weeks with the injury. Claude Julien corrected the diagnosis at his press availability and revealed that the hulking left forward underwent surgery for a broken right index finger.
“Anytime you lose a guy like Looch, you’re losing a player that usually has a pretty good impact on the game when he’s on top of it,” said Julien. “It’s certainly going to hurt. I think we saw him more like the player we wanted him to be against Dallas. So it’s going to hurt, but it’s going to give somebody else an opportunity a chance to step.
“We’ve always been a team that’s responded well to that in the past.”
Lucic was placed on long term injured reserve list Sunday amid a flurry of moves by the Bruins, and that requires that the bruising left winger miss at least 10 games and 24 days due to the injury.
“He’ll probably be [out] anywhere between 4-6 weeks. He had surgery on his [finger],” said Chiarelli of Lucic’s injury.
|10.19.09 at 11:01 am ET|
WILMINGTON — The Kobasew-less Bruins have taken the ice at Ristuccia Arena and there’s absolutely a crispness to the player’s normal business today. Injured defenseman Dennis Wideman (left shoulder) is back out on the ice practicing with the team, and both Providence recruits Brad Marchand and Vladimir Sobotka are skating with the team.
Marc Savard, Guillaume Lefebvre and Shawn Thornton are all missing from the practice ice this morning, and B’s GM Peter Chiarelli is scheduled to address the media about the Chuck Kobasew deal following Monday morning’s practice.
|10.19.09 at 9:30 am ET|
There was a little bit of Bruins talk during Don Cherry’s Coach’s Corner segment on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada last weekend, and it centered on Phil Kessel and Marc Savard. Grapes talked a bit about the growing groundswell of pressure loading up on the 21-year-old Kessel with the Toronto Maple Leafs struggling badly out of the gate. With each loss the 2010 first-round pick traded to the B’s for Kessel gets higher in value, and the expectations increase on a young player coming back from shoulder surgery with a mid-November return date.
Cherry also tossed a few attaboys at Savard while decrying his Olympic snub by Team Canada, and painted some other invitees are skating around “with minus-15′s” already this season. Good stuff as always from Dandy Don. Here’s the video courtesy of youtube with the Bruins-related stuff coming up around the 3:15 mark.
|10.18.09 at 8:40 pm ET|
Following a deflating 3-4 start to the season, the Boston Bruins finally reacted to mediocrity on Sunday night and traded Chuck Kobasew to the Minnesota Wild for the rights to unsigned draft choice Alexander Fallstrom, forward Craig Weller and a 2011 second-round draft choice in a deal that also obviously loosens up room under the salary cap. Fallstrom began his freshman year at Harvard University this fall and Weller had played the first five games of this season for the AHL’s Houston Aeros.
Following the trade, the B’s placed Milan Lucic on long term injured reserve with a broken right index finger, and recalled Guillaume Lefebvre, Brad Marchand and Vladimir Sobotka from the Providence Bruins. Marchand had scored five goals in six games with the P-Bruins after impressing B’s officials during this fall’s abbreviated training camp.
The deal was clearly done largely with the salary cap in mind as the Bruins were forced to head out on a two-game road trip through Dallas and Phoenix with the bare minimum 20 players. Once Lucic was hurt against the Stars, the B’s were forced to call Lefebvre up as an emergency forward and fly him the same day to Phoenix for a Saturday night game.
Clearing Kobasew’s $2.3 million off the books allows Chiarelli plenty of cap room to bring up extra bodies from Providence, and also allows B’s coach Claude Julien to introduce the bench to players that aren’t giving their full effort out on the ice. Kobasew had a single assist in seven games this season, and really hadn’t been much of a factor skating with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi.
There wasn’t much roster competition when the B’s couldn’t afford to carry any extra players on their active roster through the first handful of games, and now Julien has that tool in his coaching bag. A quick calculation of the money saved by trading Kobasew, placing Lucic on LTIR — for which he must sit for at least 10 games or nearly a month’s time — and calling up the minor leaguers: roughly $1.15 million.
The hockey swap also clears Kobasew’s $2.3 million off the books for next season when the team has a number of players looking for new deals including Marc Savard, Blake Wheeler, Mark Stuart and Tuuka Rask. Minnesota’s second-round pick in 2011 adds to the bulging toy box of draft picks that Chiarelli and Co. have accumulated over the last two seasons, and gives Boston nine picks in the first two rounds over the next drafts.
The draft picks give Chiarelli an abundance of bargaining chips once big-time scorers become available around the trade deadline. Boston is clearly in the best position to wheel and deal at the deadline, and now has even more bargaining power with another pick. Those expecting another trade shoe to drop in the next few weeks may be disappointed, however, as it’s likely that this is more along the lines of preparation for the March 3 trade deadline.
NESN.com’s James Murphy originally reported that the Bruins were talking trade with the Minnesota Wild on a deal that centered around Kobasew. Chiarelli was unavailable for comment on Sunday night, but planned to meet with the media at the Bruins practice facility in Wilmington on Monday morning.
|10.18.09 at 5:34 pm ET|
Boston Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced Sunday afternoon that the club has loaned forward Guillaume Lefebvre to the Providence Bruins for the AHL club’s Sunday game against the Portland Pirates at 4:05 p.m. ET in Providence. Lefebvre was recalled by the Bruins for Saturday night’s game against the Phoenix Coyotes on an emergency basis — in place of the injured Milan Lucic — and played 11:01 in the club’s 4-1 loss in Phoenix last night.
|10.18.09 at 4:31 pm ET|
In the wake of the dismissal and questions behind the process involved, there’s been a bit of upheaval within the NHL player representation that included the Bruins. Andrew Ference was the player rep for the last two seasons and perhaps the biggest name behind Kelly’s firing, and he’s been replaced at the position by defenseman Mark Stuart – with Dennis Wideman stepping up as the assistant player rep.
There had been whispers of discontent among some Bruins players about the dismissal and the actual process used by the NHLPA following the 3 a.m. setting of Kelly’s firing and in-house positioning for the position that’s taken place since the Kelly move. Several Bruins players are expected to be part of an NHLPA-sponsored conference call on Sunday afternoon where all of the issues will be broached, and the players will discuss their next step as an organization badly in need of a new leader and a revamped constitution — along with a complete reputation makeover.
Mark Recchi was one B’s player unhappy about the process behind Kelly’s sacking, and wasn’t all that shy about his disapproval. There had also been some philosophic discussions between the two players during the first few weeks of the season that some characterized as heated debate within the dressing room.
Both Recchi and Ference publicly stated that there’s no lingering animosity or negative feelings permeating through the Bruins dressing room since Ference decided to step down as player rep, but NESN analyst and former Bruins Mike Milbury seemed to hint that things may still be festering among the B’s concerning the NHLPA mess during his weekly visit with NHL Live! on XM Radio Thursday afternoon.
Milbury opined about the reported demise of the Lighthouse Project and Wayne Gretzky among other things, but his Bruins analysis proved the most interesting.
Here’s what Milbury had to say when Rob Simpson and Bill Jaffe asked the NBC and Hockey Night in Canada commentator what had to be done to improve a struggling B’s team:
MM:Everything. Huge expectations for the Boston Bruins. They’ve got a Vezina Trophy winner, a Norris Trophy winner and the coach of the year and they come out the gate with everybody dreaming of a Stanly Cup. Tim Thomas has been average and everybody has been running around like crazy. I can’t believe the kind of mental errors the Bruins have made. What made the Bruins so good under Claude Julien was how they were so disciplined and so structured that they could always find a way to win even if their offense might sputter.
Speaking of offense, it’s pretty clear that the Phil Kessel deal has had a negative impact on this team. They miss his speed and creative ability as well as his ability to score goals. Having said that with Peter Chiarelli, and I’m sure it doesn’t matter to the fans of Boston, but the front office is beginning to salivate when they look up to the Great White North and see what’s going on in Toronto. They see their record and begin to salivate a little.
Has Marc Savard played in both ends? MM:Actually, he’s been fine. He’s one of those guys that’s been okay. I can’t knock him. Lucic has been a guy that’s been a little off his game. They really need him as a sparkplug in my estimation. Marco Sturm has come back and played pretty well.
There’s no question the Bruins haven’t come out of the gate with the sense of structure and purpose that they’ve come out with in the past two years, and I will say that this NHLPA thing may have had an impact on their locker room. I don’t think it’s going to last forever, but Andrew Ference was in the middle of this thing and getting rid of Paul Kelly. There’s been a lot of heated debate in the Bruins locker room and some chatter about them even trying to move Ference at this point.
He’s been replaced as team rep, right? MM: Yeah, he’s been replaced as team rep, but he was replaced after Paul Kelly was deposed as the PA director. There was a lot of hot topics and discussion going around the Bruins locker room for a while, but who knows how much of an effect it had. The end result of all this that the Bruins have not come out with the kind of drive needed to get to where they want to be [as a team]. They’re not that talented that they can’t bring their work ethic and win hockey games.
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