Archive for May, 2009

Jacobs: ‘We hired (Chiarelli) for the rest of his professional career’

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

The Bruins father-and-son ownership tandem of Jeremy and Charlie Jacobs just finished up a Wednesday morning conference call with reporters, and here are the highlights:

Charlie expressed hope that “it could have been done at this point” but the Jacobs’ still expect a contract extension to be completed with Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli this summer. Chiarelli is heading into the final year of a four-year deal that he signed in May 2006, and has certainly earned a significant raise in pay while leading the B’s hockey team out of a post-lockout haze.

The Jacobs’ indicated that both Chiarelli and Bruins Vice-President Cam Neely were among a contingent of B’s brass currently in Toronto at the NHL scouting combine prior to next month’s draft in Montreal. Both executives are interviewing potential draft candidates during the event, and Jacobs hasn’t talked face-to-face with Chiarelli about a deal in “about a week”.

“We want to see him around long term and we think that’s his objective as well,” said Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs. “When we hired Peter, we didn’t hire him for 4 years. We hired him for the rest of his professional career and it needs to be looked at that way. That’s been our style before. Peter has grown immensely in the last few years and he’s done an admirable job.

“We’ve seen the stops and starts, but he’s been on an upward trend.”

The ownership duo also reaffirmed that it will be up to Chiarelli to award Claude Julien and his coaching staff with contract extensions after what Charlie termed a “Jack Adams worthy season for the entire coaching staff”.

–Jeremy Jacobs also all but announced that the NHL Winter Classic will be held at Fenway Park on Jan. 1, 2010, but said that it’s ultimately an official announcement for the NHL. Basically, it’s up to the league to make the final call. Sources confirmed to months ago that the game would be at Fenway Park, and several reports have the Washington Capitals and the Philadelphia Flyers as the two prospective teams challenging the Black and Gold on New Year’s Day.

Jacobs couldn’t contain his excitement when discussion moved to the sure-to-be event of the winter season in Boston next year.

“The Winter Classic is owned by the league and it’s their production, and therefore it is theirs to announce. I have to say that everything I’ve seen acts like, looks like, smells like it’s gonna be in Boston,” said Jacobs. “I don’t know anybody else that’s gone through the search and process that they’ve gone through. Traditionally the league announces (the Winter Classic) in July. From everything we can tell, it’s going to be the biggest classic ever.

“First of all I really want this in Boston. I think our fans want it and I think our environment wants it. I think it’ll be the biggest Winter Classic that they’ve ever had and I think it will be the most successful and most demanded. I also know that we’ll only be able to accommodate our season ticket holders at that point. So there’s going to be tremendous demand for tickets from corporate sponsors. I think it’s going to be a barnburner. I think it’s going to be tremendous if it happens. When they announce it sometime in July and when you see the rink going up at Fenway, then you can conclude that it’s going to happen.”

–Father and son both deemed the season a success despite a “bittersweet ending” to the campaign in Game 7 against the Carolina Hurricanes, and handed out a vote of confidence to the management, coaching staff and players currently dotting the organization’s roster.

“I was extremely proud of the management. I was extremely proud of the coaching. I don’t think anything was wanting in that group. They know that they have something to build on for next year, and they feel — as I feel — that they have an organization that can move forward and play a role in the Finals of the National Hockey League,” said Jacobs. “I hope and I believe that this was a growing experience for some of them. The expectations at the Stanley Cup level are obviously much higher than they are during the regular season.

“I think they are up for doing it. With all of the accolades that they got, I think that they felt they underachieved at the very end. I’m really proud. They had a great year and I’m awfully happy with what they got done.”

–Jacobs also opined that he didn’t think the salary cap was going to move significantly for the 2009-10 season, but that doesn’t seem to rule out a drop of $1-2 million within the cap for next season.

Jacobs expected to address Bruins media on Wednesday morning

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

The Boston Bruins announced on Tuesday afternoon that the B’s father-and-son ownership tandem of Jeremy and Charlie Jacobs will address the media in a Wednesday morning conference call. The Jacobs’ will “discuss the Bruins’€™ 2008-2009 season and outlook for next year.”

It’s expected that the two main voices in Bruins ownership will also clarify the contract situation concerning B’s GM Peter Chiarelli, who is entering the final year of a four-year deal with Boston. There’s been no indication that an extension announcement concerning Chiarelli is impending, and it’s unclear what — if any — sticking points are holding up a new pact for the Sporting News NHL Executive of the Year.

Protracted contract squabbles with an NHL executive that’s turned the Bruins franchise around in three short years would be an extremely short-sighted move by Bruins ownership, as would allowing Chiarelli to enter the final year of a four-year contract signed back in May, 2006. The guess here is that Chiarelli would have no shortage of suitors next summer should Delaware North allow it to get to that point.

Rask looking forward to next year. Will it be in Boston?

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

PROVIDENCE, RI — The Bruins organization’s 2008-09 season full of promise and wonder came to an official close yesterday afternoon when the Providence Bruins dropped a 5-2 decision in Game 5 to Chris Bourque and the Hershey Bears at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence.

The P-Bruins seemed to have some of the same defenseman problems that plagued Boston in the playoffs beyond steady blueliners Johnny Boychuk and Jeff Penner, and it was a pretty one-sided affair despite Providence still hanging around in the third period thanks to some superior goaltending from Tuukka Rask (33 saves).

One other observation about the P-Bruins: 22-year-old Mikko Lehtonen is going to be a pretty good player in the NHL someday soon. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound forward was a big nuisance in front of the net during the game, squeezed off four shots and scored a goal on an NHL-level top shelf wrister from the left faceoff circle when the game was still in question in the third period. Lehtonen was part of a group of promising young Providence players that will be heard from when Boston Bruins training camp rolls around next fall.

In the meantime, Lehtonen — and perhaps Rask if he can be pried out of Finland — will be a part of Boston’s annual rookie development camp this July at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington.

“You’ve got to look at it starting with Tuukka. He’s come a long way in a year. He was very good last year and I think he’s only gotten better and he’s matured a lot this year. I think Brad Marchand got better,” said P-Bruins coach Bryan Murray. “I think Mikko Lehtonen probably was under the radar, but had a fantastic season. Jeff Penner, you almost forget he’s a first-year player because of the way he played as a rookie. I could go on and on.

“That says a lot for our future development here in Providence and with the Boston Bruins,” added Murray.

The 6-foot-2, 170-pounder was pretty peeved after the game — a great sign for a Finnish goaltending product, as sometimes it’s difficult to find a pulse on many of the European netminders — and didn’t seem to want to elaborate much on his plans for the offseason.

The hockey season started on a sour note when Rask didn’t make the big club out of training camp — a virtual certainty given Rask’s cap hit north of $3 million for this season — and the ending wasn’t much better when he allowed a pair of third period goals en route to a 5-2 defeat.

Rask finished 33-20-4 in 57 games for Providence this season with four shutouts and a .915 save percentage and a 2.50 goals against average, and the 22-year-old bumped that up to a .930 save percentage and a 2.21 GAA during the Calder Cup playoffs. The young goalie was pleased with his final year of minor league hockey seasoning, and will be readying himself for a Spoked B Boston sweater next season.

“I think I really stepped up enough from last year; I’m better and more consistent,” said Rask. “Overall I’m happy with what I did this year and I want to keep growing next year. Obviously when you feel like you’ve had a great camp and expect to stay there — and then you get sent down (to Providence) — it’s frustrating. But you need to keep battling and bounce back.

“You can’t just stay in and be sad every day. It’s your job and you’ve got to work hard. It took a few weeks to get over it, but after all of that it was a great season.”

Does he feel like he’s ready to take on the role as backup to Tim Thomas next season in the NHL?

“Why not?” said Rask, who said he’s still focused on gaining size and muscle headed into next season. “I played in a couple of games there and I don’t feel like I sucked. So why not? I’m going to take a couple of weeks off (in Finland) and let my body recover from all of the games that I played. I’m really looking forward to next year.”

Kessel undergoes succesful surgery on his left shoulder

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

Boston Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced on Thursday morning that Phil Kessel underwent successful surgery today to repair a torn rotator cuff and labrum in his left shoulder.  The surgery was performed by Dr. Peter Asnis and Dr. J.P. Warner at Mass General Hospital, and will force Kessel to miss approximately six months.

The six-month recovery window from surgery would put him back into the Bruins lineup around November 20, which would have caused Kessel to miss exactly 19 games last season. It should be noted that Zdeno Chara underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum following the Bruins’ playoff loss to the Canadiens in 2007-08, and was ready to begin the NHL regular season after missing all of training camp.

Either way, it looks as if Kessel is going to miss some significant time at the beginning of the 2008-09 hockey season.

Kessel established career highs in goals, assists and points this year after tallying a team-best 36 goals, 24 assists and 60 points in 70 games. Kessel became the club’€™s first 30-goal scorer since 2005-2006 and had the longest point streak in the NHL this season after tallying a point in 18 consecutive games from November 13 – December 21, 2008 (14-14=28 totals during this span).

He appeared in all 11 postseason contests for the Bruins and contributed six goals and five assists.

Transcript of Chiarelli on Dale & Holley

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

Q: I’€™m sure winning this award (NHL Executive of the Year) doesn’€™t feel like congratulations after the end of the season does it?

A: It’€™s a nice distinction but we’€™re still picking up pieces to a degree and looking to see how we’€™re going to face next year, but we have a bit of summer to work with and we’€™ll see where we go.

Q: How are you moving forward from that Game 7 defeat?

A: I’€™m not in a stage of denial. It happens, you have to deal with it. I’€™m still sour, so to speak, and without taking anything away from the Hurricanes, I believe that we were the better team and that we should’€™ve won. You can take all you want from it as far as being battle-tested, but our team has to learn to seize these opportunities. It’€™s painful. I don’€™t know when we will get over it, but we will.

Q: Why didn’€™t your team win the series?

A: I believe we were impacted a little bit by the layoff. You think about that after the series, after conducting my exit interviews with players, a lot of them brought that up. You just tend to slip over that period of time in practice. I think another part of it, maybe we underestimated them a little bit. We didn’€™t play as well in the first part of the series as we were capable of playing and we fell behind it and we couldn’€™t catch up. Look at Game 7. If we score once on a power play, we probably win that game. We were nervous on the power play. There was a lot of reasons, I think they just compiled and accumulated and helped us lose the series.

Q: How do you decide that 50 percent of one of your players is better than 100 percent of a replacement from Providence?

A: It’€™s a matter of talking with the doctors, talking with the player, seeing if there is future damage possible. Testing it out off the ice and on the ice. At the end of the day, you have to rely on what the player tells you. Chuck (Kobasew) had the ribs; he was banged up pretty good. For Phil (Kessel), he was dealing with the shoulder. It’€™s not scientific. You’€™ve got to rely on them to tell you what they can give you and see how it goes from day to day.

Q: Does it make you nervous that neither Krejci of Kessel will be available at the start of training camp?

A: A little bit, yeah it does. The fact that these guys are big contributors, we’€™ll be fine and we are getting Marco Sturm back but the proper thing is that these guys rehab it properly. You could miss a step in rehab and fall even further behind.

Q: How will those injuries impact their restricted free agency this offseason?

A: I know we will start dialogue and see where it goes. These are young players who will continue to improve and also will heal at a good clip. We have talked to them during the course of the year while they were injured about the future and I’€™m satisfied that these players will continue to grow and improve. There are a lot of ways to skin a cat here, and I think that (signing both Krejci and Kessel) is going to require some skinning. I don’t know where and I don’t know how.

Q: Is the room under the cap pretty tight for you guys?

A: It’s just going to be harder negotiations and harder choices. But I wouldn’t just focus on that. It could be a number of things that we could do. There’s going to be a crunch across the league. You see some of the things that the (Patriots) have had to do over the years and you go ‘Wow’. That may happen with us, and I know that will happen across the league. There’s going to be some of those ‘Wow’ moments and it’s the product of a cap system and a shrinking cap.

Q: Consider the possibility of bringing Mark Recchi back for next year?

A: Yes I have to consider it. He really stabilized the psyche of the team. He brought an element that we would like to have more of. The grindy goals, the tip-ins. How many net drives did he do over the course of the game? That’€™s an element that we want to improve on. I told Mark to let me sort some things out first and I would get back to him in short order to see what we can do. He was a good addition and I’€™m glad we acquired him.

Q: Have you watched Game 7 again?

A: No. I’€™ve seen that goal enough so it drives me crazy. You could hear a pin drop after they scored that goal in overtime. I wish we didn’€™t let it get to that point. Anything can happen in a Game 7. We shouldn’€™t have been in that position.

Q: Could you make a case that Walker should’€™ve been suspended for Game 7?

A: Yeah I’€™m sure you could. That was a disappointing situation and my inclination is to look at these things and rationalize them. I say my piece behind closed doors when we speak to the league and whatnot, and I was really disappointed in that result. Really disappointed that someone could be sucker-punched and not be sanctioned.

Q: What are the areas that you would like to improve on in the offseason?

A: I’€™d like to get a little more size up front. I tried to do that at the deadline and we got certain elements of that in Recchi. I’€™d still like to do that and I believe that it would help our team. You’€™d like to add a defenseman or a big forward along the way, that’€™s kind of a mini-wish list for now.

Q: How do the contracts work with accessible bonuses and things like that?

A: This year these bonuses became hard money. All those bonuses, that’€™s soft money and you can go beyond the cap on that. We have more flexibility than people think. It’€™s called the bonus cushion and you can exceed the cap with those bonuses. They’€™re soft so it gives us a little more flexibility.

Q: Which team remaining this year do you like the most?

A: I like Detroit. I told some of our guys in our exit interview to watch, they have a bunch of different types of players but they are all hard and heavy on the puck and it’€™s hard to strip them of the puck. They’€™re a smart, experienced team and I really enjoy watching them play. There’€™s no other team that plays like them.

Q: How are they able to do it consistently?

A: I think it’€™s obviously a lot of reasons why. Scouting is one. Mentality I think is the biggest reason and that is passed from player to player over time I think it kind of started in the Yzerman era. You’€™re expected to play this way whatever style you have. There’€™s a mentality, a message, and a psyche engrained in everyone. We’€™re trying to get that in the Bruins right now.

Q: I was wrong about Ryder. He really contributed well to the team all season long.

A: Yeah, he really started slow, but I really like the way that he plays. I believe that he can be a 40-goal scorer if he brings his game every night. To me, he had an average series against Carolina but it’€™s our job to get more out of him and he’€™s been a good acquisition.

Chiarelli: Signing Krejci and Kessel will require some “skinning”

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli told 850 WEEI’s Dale and Holley on Wednesday morning that there will be some salary “skinning” this summer when making decisions about signing both restricted free agents Phil Kessel and David Krejci.

The two young forwards represent the biggest priorities on Chiarelli’s summer docket, and it’s expected that — with the salary cap ceiling potentially going down next season — the B’s might have to trade a high-priced key veteran in order to make room to sign both talented youngsters.

The Bruins retain exclusive rights to negotiate with both players until July 1, and then other teams could come in and sign either to offer sheets that Boston would need to match in order to retain them. The “skinning” will most likely come in the form of trading a high-priced veteran, with the most obvious names on the list including Patrice Bergeron ($4.75 million), Marc Savard ($5 million with a no-trade clause), Michael Ryder ($4 million). Marco Sturm ($3.5 million with a no-trade clause) and Chuck Kobasew ($2.33 million). 

The B’s GM also compared potential Bruins moves to surprising salary cap personnel decisions that the New England Patriots have been forced to make over the years in order to shimmy themselves under the NFL salary cap.

“We’ll start dialogue and see how it goes. (Krejci and Kessel) are young players that will continue to improve and will heal at a good clip. We talked to both of them through the year — while they were injured — about future impact and I’m satisfied that these players will continue to grow and improve,” said Chiarelli. “There are a lot of ways to skin a cat here, and I think that (signing both Krejci and Kessel) is going to require some skinning. I don’t know where and I don’t know how.

“It’s just going to be harder negotiations and harder choices. But I wouldn’t just focus on that. It could be a number of things that we could do. There’s going to be a crunch across the league. You see some of the things that the (Patriots) have had to do over the years and you go ‘Wow’. That may happen with us, and I know that will happen across the league. There’s going to be some of those ‘Wow’ moments and it’s the product of a cap system and a shrinking cap.”

Axelsson could be facing some hard choices this summer

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

As Boston Bruins players packed up their gear and exited the Garden for the final time earlier this week, it was clear in the eyes of Swedish forward P.J. Axelsson that the scrappy Swede doesn’t want to leave Boston. Axy has been a swift-skating, penalty-killing winger during his 11 seasons wearing the Spoked B on his chest, and is the elder statesman on this B’s team.

The 34-year-old is the longest-tenured member of the Bruins dating back to the 1997-98 season, and remains as the only active link back to the Ray Bourque Era. Axelsson is clearly hoping that dropping Game 7 to the Carolina Hurricanes doesn’t endure as his final act as a member of the Black and Gold.

“If it is (my last game as a Bruin) then it’s kind of sad going like that,” said Axelsson. “It is what it is, but I can’t say too much because I don’t know. I want to come back, but all I can say is we’ll see. I don’t know anything else (but being a Bruins player).

“We can only speculate what’s going to happen. They have a lot of decisions to make (this summer) and they have a lot of guys that are up (for contracts). With the new CBA and all that it’s not easy, so we’ll see what happens. That’s how it is in this business. We’re going to see in years to come that it’s going to be about shorter contracts and more free agents (in the NHL).”

Axelsson was on the books for $1.85 million this past season in his last contracted year before hitting unrestricted free agency, and he indicated that there’s “not much” in the way of talks between B’s GM Peter Chiarelli and his agent during the course of the 2008-09 season. The Swede has never scored more than 36 points or three power play goals in a single season during the course of his 11 years in Boston, but he’s been among the most dependable third and fourth line checking players in the NHL during his career.

It’s pretty clear that in the Harsh New World of the NHL salary cap — and plummeting economy with a likely drooping salary cap to go along with it this summer — Axelsson will be one of those mid-level veterans feeling the pinch of bad fiscal times. Coming off a season that saw him finish with his customary six goals and 24 assists along with responsible defensive work in several different spots among the top 12 forwards, Axelsson is most assuredly looking at a one-year contract and a cut in dough no matter where he’s skating.

If he stays in the United States and plays in the NHL, that is. It could be that Axelsson — at 34 years old — decides to pack up and head back to Sweden where he’d find a much more handsome return than the NHL cash commanded in the penny-pinching, youth-obsessed NHL. Axelsson will give it his best shot to return with the B’s next season, and should be under consideration for a return engagement — as should Mark Recchi, Stephane Yelle and Shane Hnidy after doing excellent jobs filling out player/leadership roles for the B’s this winter.

Axesson would clearly have to drop his salary expectations to something around the $1 million level if he’s hoping to stay in the Hub for a 12th kick at the Stanley Cup can, but that’s one of many things he has to mull over this summer.

“(Playing in Europe) is a decision I’ll have to make going forward,” said Axelsson. “We’ll sit down and see what happens, and go from there. (I want) to be on a good team. That’s the number one thing. A place where my family would like to be is the No. 2 thing.”

Axelsson is prepared for whatever might befall him this summer, and knows his home since getting scooped up in the seventh round of the 1995 draft may no longer be his place of employment when training camp opens. Axelsson has sometimes been a subject of fan ire because of limited offensive skills and hard-to-quantify defensive abilities, but the affable Swede might clearly be a case of “You Don’t Know What You’ve Got ‘Till It’s Gone” if he’s sent along his merry hockey way this summer.

Stay tuned for the fates of guys like Axelsson, Yelle and Recchi this summer — it could be a bumpy ride if the NHL salary cap drops down from its $56.8 level this past hockey season.

“We’€™ve got some decisions to make, as far as signing, the amounts, the term, how that impacts future years under the cap.  These are things that we’€™ve been addressing and looking at all year, so it’€™s come time now that we have to make these decisions,” said Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli. “Part of those decisions will come out in how we negotiate; part of those decisions will come out in with whom we negotiate.  Really, to tell you exactly what we’€™re going to do, I couldn’€™t tell you exactly what we’€™re going to do, but you’€™ll see it in future days.”