|08.09.10 at 5:04 pm ET|
MIDDLETON — A refreshed and eager Tuukka Rask made his first appearance around these parts in quite some time as he prepared to tee off with teammates and fans for Shawn Thornton‘s Putts and Punches for Parkinson’s golf tournament. With last season’s borderline traumatic Eastern Conference semifinals loss to the Flyers in the rear view mirror and a new season just around the corner, Rask is ready to build on a 2009-10 performance that saw him become the No. 1 goaltender down the stretch.
“Things are going great. I had an awesome summer in Finland, spent a couple times there, seeing my friends and family and working out,” said Rask. “Now I’m back here so it’s time to get your thoughts back on the hockey season.”
After playing five games in the previous two years, Rask, a former first-round pick acquired from the Maple Leafs in exchange for Andrew Raycroft, made his first real impression in the NHL last season. In splitting time with then-reigning Vezina winner Tim Thomas, Rask started 39 regular- season games and posted a 1.97 goals against average, which, like his .931 save percentage, led the NHL.
Yet as Rask, who started all 13 playoff games for the Bruins, looks to improve and further his accomplishments, he must do so knowing of the sophomore slump that has plagued Raycroft and so many goaltenders before him.
“I’ve heard about people talking about it,” Rask said of the struggles that face second-year goalies, “but not yet in my part, but we’ll see what happens. You just try to be yourself and do your best every day and when you know that you have worked hard and you’ve done everything you can to be at your best, there’s nothing you can change and thats something I’m going to try to do. If it goes not so well, then it goes, but we’ll see.”
Any feared decline in Rask’s performance has hardly been the only discussion that has involved the Bruins goaltending this offseason. Given Rask’s emergence and Thomas’ $5 million cap hit in each of the next three seasons, there has been significant chatter among the fanbase that Thomas should be considered expendable for a team that is struggling against the salary cap.
That’s not how Rask sees it, however. He thrived on the competition with Thomas and maintained that having to challenge an established veteran made him better, which in turn made Thomas better.
“We had an awesome time last year,” Rask said of his relationship with Thomas. “It’s a fair competition for both of us and I think it’s healthy for a team and for us when nobody takes anything for granted. We liked it and hopefully that continues.”
Thornton, who this offseason re-upped with the Bruins on a two-year pact, can agree.
“They’re both professionals,” said Thornton, who noted training camp competitions are a natural part of the game. “It’s the same for us. My job’s not guaranteed either, so every training camp you go in fighting for a spot. I think competition’s a good thing. I think it’s healthy. I’m sure Tuukka knows that job isn’t his and it’s not going to be given to him, so that’s healthy for them to push each other. We’re pretty fortunate to have two No. 1 goalies as far I’m concerned.”
Based on the statistics of the two, it’s hard to argue with Thornton’s logic. Both Thomas and Rask certainly have the pedigrees and reputations to suggest they could earn a starting job on most teams, but the younger of the two doesn’t seem to care about anything but what happens on the ice each night.
“Whoever is playing good is going to play,” Rask said matter-of-factly. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve got 16,000 Vezinas or zero Vezinas, you know? That’s just the way it goes on our team and that’s good for everybody I think.”
Rask appears to have put on a little weight, though it’s nothing noticeable enough to confuse him with any of the league’s bigger goaltenders. After playing last season at 171 pounds for a man who stands at 6-foot-2, any bulking up on the 23-year-old’s part seems welcomed to him.
“I’m, heavier. I don’t know if that’s because of the workouts or the food I ate. We’re getting there. I’m working out with [Bruins strength and conditioning coach] John Whitesides now so we’ll see in a couple weeks what things look like.”
Rask is back in the states for good until training camp opens in the middle of September. He pointed to working with Whitesides as a big reason for his early return, admitting that working out by himself isn’t as productive as working with a “real trainer.” Rask admitted his first full season in the NHL did feel him leaving a little rough when it came to the offseason, but as he trains for 2010-11, everything has been smooth sailing.
“I think it was about five or six weeks [after the season ended], and my body was still kind of feeling the season, but after that, everything was normal and you start doing your workouts and stuff like that and everything felt good,” Rask said. “No problems, but it always takes quite a time to recover fully.”
Rask signed a two-year extension with the Bruins in November and will earn $1.25 million in each of the next two seasons, at which point he will remain under the Bruins’ control as a restricted free agent.
|08.06.10 at 10:58 pm ET|
LOWELL — Tim Thomas has been a lot of things in his hockey career. He’s been the backup, the starter, an All-Star (twice), and a Vezina Trophy winner. Yet more recently, he’s been none of those. Instead he’s been seen as a contract and a perceived difficult piece for the Bruins to move.
Despite the lot of the rumors (many of which have been quite inaccurate) as the season draws nearer, it seems a foregone conclusion that Thomas and his annual cap hit of $5 million will stay in Boston, which for all intents and purposes is a good thing. Thomas has proven to be able to handle splitting time, and with Tuukka Rask entering his second full season (the NHL equivalent of the Bermuda triangle for goaltenders), having a capable veteran netminder is a big plus.
But back to the trade murmurs, accurate or not, that have ruled the town for the summer. The 36-year-old has spent the offseason hearing his name in trade rumors and reading about how he had allegedly waived his no-trade clause in order to facilitate a move out of town. On the contrary, Thomas noted Friday night that he never spoke to the Bruins about waiving his no-trade clause. In fact, he never spoke to them, period.
“I haven’t talked to the team at all, except for the physical therapist that I’m dealing with in recovering from my surgery,” Thomas said.
The surgery, of course, is the operation he received to repair a torn labrum in his left hip. He is 11 weeks into a recovery that required 12, so, Thomas stayed on the bench in Milan Lucic’s Rock and Jock softball game for charity.
“If it was a week later, I think I’d get the clearance to play,” Thomas said, “but right now I have to be a spectator.”
With the offseason winding down and the storm passed regarding trade rumors, Thomas looks back on a period in which he heard so much negativity that he’s glad the chatter, including more speculation that he’ll see decreased playing time, has died and a new season is beginning.
“With everything that’s happened I think you’ve just about seen it all,” Thomas said of the rumors. “It’s gotten just about as difficult as it can get, so it was just another summer.”
Thomas told Matt Kalman of The Bruins Blog that he’s not upset with the Bruins, whom he noted are his “employers,” for anything in the offseason, though in reading reports and hearing what was said about him in the media, he was surprised by the validity of information that surfaced.
‘There’s so many little pieces of misinformation that I’m not even going to waste my time setting the record straight,’ Thomas said. ‘I’m just not going to discuss it anymore. As far as how hard this summer was, every summer I’m replaced as the No. 1 goalie. So it’s pretty much standard course.’
The Michigan native and former University of Vermont star also told Kalman that he expects to battle Rask for the starting goaltending spot when training camp opens on September 17, saying that he doesn’t “intend on backing anybody up.” His words should lead some to the stat sheet, which should remind Bruins fans that despite Rask claiming the job down the stretch, it was Thomas who started the majority of the team’s regular season games. Coming off his Vezina-winning 2008-09 season, Thomas went 17-18-8 last season with a 2.56 goals against average and .915 save percentage in 43 games.
The Bruins certainly have issues financially, as they will be less than $400,000 under the salary cap once they enter the season with Marco Sturm’s cap relief. The trio of Thomas, Marc Savard, and Michael Ryder have been viewed as guys who may be the victim of the team’s attempt to get a little breathing room from that $59.4 million wall. If they, count Thomas among those pleased.
|08.04.10 at 6:11 pm ET|
During an impressive offseason in which the Bruins added much needed depth on the ice, the team has now found a new coach to help Claude Julien from up above. Doug Jarvis was introduced Wednesday as the new assistant coach, coming to Boston after lengthy stops in Montreal and Dallas.
The 55-year-old spent the past four years as an associate coach with the Canadiens, having coached alongside Julien during the 2005-06 campaign. Prior to that, he was with the Stars for 14 seasons, and had a fairly impressive playing career, winning four Stanley Cups with the Canadiens (’76, ’77, ’78 and ’79).
The opening for another assistant was created by the departure of Craig Ramsay, who left to become head coach in Atlanta.
When asked about the impact Jarvis will have on the team, Julien explained that the history the two share, as well as the long road he has taken to get here, will be instrumental with such a young team.
“When you talk to Doug Jarvis, he knows a lot about the game,” Julien explained via conference call Wednesday. “He’s played it for such a long time. Also, when you look back at how long he has coached, he’s been through a lot. He knows the different situations, how to deal with those, and you can see that. I’m one of those coaches that will see that first-hand.
“When I had him in Montreal I really enjoyed and really appreciated his loyalty, his dedication. Obviously, he’s one of those guys who will work hard and won’t be counting the hours as far as what needs to be done. People who are passionate are people who do that. Doug’s a very passionate person. He’s got a wealth of Stanley Cup championships as a player and as a coach. And that becomes valuable, especially when you’ve got a fairly young team.”
Jarvis echoed many of the same sentiments, sounding very excited to work in a new city with a young, promising organization.
“Well, certainly, having coached against [the Bruins], not last year but the two previous years, I have certainly seen a team that has great discipline and a lot of structure in it,” he said. “I have seen a team that in it’s development, a team that is on the move, and I think has established itself as a strong contender in pursuit of a Stanley Cup.
“In my playing days, obviously we go back to the late [1970s] there, the rivalry that has always existed between Montreal and Boston. For me, those years were special, in terms of playoffs and working towards the Stanley Cup. We’ve had some very memorable series, as we can all recall, particularly , the seven-game series in the semifinal, and also I believe in  when [Montreal] won the cup. All terrific series, all memorable times against a team and organization that I have a tremendous amount of respect for.”
Jarvis was out of the NHL last season but still followed the game closely. Asked what it will be like coaching from up in the box compared to the bench, he sounded very enthusiastic.
“Yeah, it will be a different perspective, one I am looking forward to when I heard what the role would be,” he added. “From up top it certainly means that keeping an eye on the game and making in-game adjustments that possibly have to be made; giving out information down to the bench. Other things that go along with that role will be pre-scouting the opposition in preparation for the game. I think doing a lot of the normal things coaches do. Whether it’s working with the players one-on-one with the video, those types of things.”
Jarvis added that he missed being close to the game, as well as having the opportunity to teach players the nuances of the game he picked up over the years. The Bruins seem to be an ideal opportunity for him to add to his already impressive resume.
Said Jarvis: “I consider it a real privilege to have the opportunity to join an organization with such a great hockey history and tradition as the Boston Bruins. I’m very much looking forward to becoming a part of the hockey staff in Boston.”
|08.04.10 at 3:25 pm ET|
The Bruins announced Wednesday that they have named Doug Jarvis as an assistant coach. The move rounds out a group that also consists of head coach Claude Julien as well as assistants Doug Houda and Geoff Ward. Craig Ramsay left the Bruins earlier in the offseason to become the head coach of the Atlanta Thrashers.
Jarvis most recently coached with the Canadiens from 2005 to 2009 and worked under Julien during the 2005-06 season. Prior to that, he served as a coach for the North Stars/Stars from 1988-2002. After leaving Dallas, he became head coach of the Hamilton Bulldogs (the Canadiens’ AHL affiliate) for two seasons.
As a player, Jarvis holds the current record for the longest games played streak with 964. He played 13 seasons in the NHL and won Stanley Cups with the Canadiens in each of his first four seasons. He totaled 403 points in his professional career.
|08.03.10 at 5:42 pm ET|
The Bruins officially announced the signing of rookie forward Tyler Seguin, the second overall pick in this year’s NHL draft, to a three-year, entry-level contract Tuesday. The terms of the deal were not immediately disclosed in accordance with team policy, but it is believed that the deal is similar to the one first-overall pick Taylor Hall received from Edmonton, which calls for a base salary of around $900,000 with performance escalators that could make the deal worth as much as $3.75 million yearly.
‘He’s obviously a high pick, and he performed well in our development camp,’ Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said in a conference call. ‘We thought it was time to sign him to give him piece of mind and make him feel part of the organization.’
The Bruins hope that Seguin’s debut season can help erase the memory of last year’s dismal finish and create some excitement again on Causeway Street. The 18-year-old’s line of 48 goals and 58 assists in the Ontario Hockey League along with his YouTube-worthy highlights already have many B’s fans buzzing about his arrival. His performance in his first time in black and gold at Bruins prospect development camp in July only added to the excitement.
‘If I’m a fan and I see a young player like this that is an exciting, young player and people saw him at development camp, I’d be excited about seeing him play,’ Chiarelli said.
Seguin did most of his damage in the OHL as a center, but Chiarelli did not commit to saying that he will hold a similar position should he make the squad out of training camp. With veterans Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Marc Savard and the newly acquired Greg Campbell already on the roster, there doesn’t appear to be any room for the young forward at that position this season. He will most likely make his debut at one of the eight winger spots, but Chiarelli was willing to keep the options open.
‘You never know. I’ve had discussions with Claude [Julien] about mixing and matching and shifting some positions around so I can’t tell you with complete certainty where he’ll play,’ Chiarelli said.
With Seguin’s signing now official, that gives the B’s a total of 14 forwards on the roster including Marco Sturm, who will open the season on the long-term disabled list after suffering a major knee injury in the playoffs. That’s two more than they’ll need come opening day, but their options are still open according to Chiarelli.
‘It’s a roster that I’m very happy with now,’ Chiarelli said. ‘There are some spots for young players to earn spots. You’re never done with your roster. I can’t say we’re definitively done with it. There are always things that crop up. We just saw a Stanley Cup-winning goalie become available on the free market so things happen. Things crop up so it’s never done until the opening-day roster’s filed.’
|08.03.10 at 12:17 pm ET|
According to multiple reports, the Bruins have agreed to an entry-level contract with Tyler Seguin, the No. 2 overall pick in April’s NHL draft. The deal is believed to be similar to the contract top pick Taylor Hall signed with the Oilers last month ‘ a base salary of $900,000 with bonuses that could make it worth $3.75 million annually. An official announcement is expected this week.
|07.30.10 at 12:19 pm ET|
Blake Wheeler has had his plate full this offseason. The 23-year-old recently got married and said he was operating on just three hours of sleep in the days leading up to Tuesday’s arbitration hearing with the Bruins. After he was awarded a salary of $2.2 million for the 2010-11 season, the Bruins on Friday agreed to the terms, meaning he will be in the fold for the coming season.
Despite how hectic things may have been in planning a wedding and trying to figure out whether he would be back with the team he played his first two seasons for, a considerable amount of time in Wheeler’s offseason has gone into becoming the player he and many others feel he can be.
“I think for me it’s all about — especially on the forecheck — being more physical, more of a presence. I think I’ve gotten so focused on the offensive production and the numbers side of things, especially last year, where I think there’s definitely more ways to be a contributing factor out on the ice,” Wheeler said Friday. “It’s just all about understanding your areas of strengths and your areas of weakness. I think if I can just assert myself more physically , especially on the forecheck and things of that nature, it’s going to create a lot more opportunities for myself and the guys I’m playing with to get more offensive opportunities. Sometimes it’s about less is more, and when you kind of take a step back from things, it’s a little bit easier to notice where you may be able to improve on things.”
Wheeler has fallen under criticism for not being physical enough for a forward of 6-foot-3 stature. However, as he works at being more aggressive on the forecheck, there are plenty of positives in his game. He scored 20 and 18 goals in his first two seasons, respectively, and his potential seems to be far from maxed out.
Despite having a respectable 83 points for someone entering their third season in the NHL, Wheeler is also hoping to show up more on the scoring sheet next season. As a result, he’s made a big part of his offseason revolve around shooting. In fact, Wheeler is so eager to become a better scorer that he’s made it so he can work from home.
“I think pretty much doing the exact same thing I did last summer. I came into camp probably in the best shape I’ve ever been in physically, mentally, all the above. My training’s pretty much the same as it was last year. The thing I’m really focusing on is shooting pucks. I’ve been working on my shot quite a bit this summer, trying to do whatever it takes to extend my range a little bit,” Wheeler said. “I set up a shooting tarp in my garage. Whenever there’s nothing to do [I] just go out there and pump some pucks at the tarp, so I guess that’s the only real difference, trying to work on the shot and things like that.”
As Wheeler takes shot after shot in his garage in Minnesota, what does he look to accomplish?
“Getting comfortable shooting from farther away from the net. Any time you can put a shot on net from really anywhere — you know, top of the circle and in, it’s going to be a pretty good look — so I think just getting that mentality and getting comfortable letting the puck go like that, is something that could really help me,” Wheeler said. “I’ve obviously probably been more of a passer in my first two years and I think I’d like to close the gap a little bit and start shooting a little bit more, so working on that definitely will help.”
The Bruins and Wheeler’s camp each drove a hard bargain, but should they get their resources in order, $2.2 million for someone intent on addressing their weaknesses could be a pretty good deal.