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Mike Milbury on D&H: Nathan Horton ‘needs a size 12 up the derriere’

12.29.10 at 1:58 pm ET
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Mike Milbury

NESN and NBC Sports hockey analyst Mike Milbury made his weekly appearance on the Dale & Holley show Wednesday with guest hosts Mike Mutnansky and Chris Villani. To hear the interview, including Milbury’s thoughts on the upcoming NHL Winter Classic in Pittsburgh, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

Milbury said enforcer Shawn Thornton deserves credit for sparking the Bruins with his fight just seconds into the game against the Thrashers last Thursday. The B’s won that game and now have won three straight. Said Milbury: “I thought Thornton was tremendous in the game where the team needed emotion, and he clearly once again established himself as a guy that won’t relent and won’t fall off the map, even though others around him might be suffering and feeling sorry for themselves. This guy just does it. It was a huge pick-me-up.”

The Bruins won Tuesday night after a controversial call went their way late in the game, with the Lightning getting penalized for Steve Stamkos‘ shoulder-to-shoulder hit that sent Gregory Campbell sprawling into the boards and the B’s scoring the game-winner on the ensuing power play. In a story in Wednesday’s Tampa Tribune, writer Erik Erlendsson brought up the fact that Campbell’s father, Colin, is the NHL’s senior vice president of hockey operations. Milbury agreed that the call was incorrect, but he was not pleased with the insinuation that Campbell’s father’s role had any effect on the referee’s decision.

Said Milbury: “No. 1, that’s really dirty pool cheap shot involving Greg Campbell. No need to go there. … This call had nothing to do with who was involved in the play. A lot of times you say a guy like Stamkos gets the benefit of the doubt. The star player usually gets a little bit more room by and large in the league. So, knock that off the table as consideration and call it really low-down journalism in my impression.”

As for the penalty call, Milbury said it’s another example of a negative trend in the game. “Where are we going with this?” he said. “I’ve called it a number of things; I’ll leave it at wussification. To me, that was a great hit, good body position, [Campbell] lost his balance. The whole climate throughout the league has been, sorry, soccer mom mentality. Little Johnny might get hurt if he gets hit hard enough, and we’re all worried about hits to the head and overly sensitive to stuff that occurs.

“It’s a dangerous sport and guys will get hurt and they can get hurt, but if we’re going to eliminate hits like the Stamkos hit on Campbell — [Devils analyst] Ken Daneyko was saying last night, ‘This is a courageous game.’ We’re taking the courage out of the game when you take away a hit like that. You’ve got to put guys in a little fear and a little jeopardy. And when those people have to face that, they have to get through it somehow or other. If we eliminate those circumstances, I think we’re doing the game a disservice. Last night I thought was a terrible call.”

Discussing the Bruins’ talent level, Milbury called out a few of the Bruins who need to step it up.

“It’s also a team that has certain players that have sought their level, and they need to be either shaken from that level and pushed harder to get back to where they need to be, or they’re going to need to move on,” he said. “I reference [Michael] Ryder, who’s played better this year, he’s got 11 goals. But I don’t see him scoring 30. When you’re paying a guy $4 million a year, you’re hoping for 30, you’re counting on 25 and maybe if you get lucky you get 35 or 40. But it looks like he’s going to settle in mid-20s, somewhere like that, not a horrible year. But he doesn’t give you any physical presence. Not afraid, but you’d like to get more production out of that kind of guy.

“I think [Blake] Wheeler‘s in the same boat. You see him skating really well, but he’s not a physically imposing player. He doesn’t scare anybody. You’d like to see him have more production if he’s going to play with light loafers.

Nathan Horton came out of this trade to Boston with purposeful intent to prove people that he deserved to be a hugely touted draft pick. Some people considered him a potential No. 1 overall in his draft year, but he floundered. And he floundered because of attitude. I think that what they need out of him is intensity and purpose and commitment on a consistent basis, and they haven’t gotten that. He has to be held accountable for that.

“Finally, you’re talking about all this talent that the Bruins have, you’re trying to deal with a guy like Marc Savard who’s coming off a very serious injury and has not been the same player since he came back. He’s got four points now, I think, in about a dozen games, which is well below the point-a-game pace that he’s played at for most of his Bruins career.

“You can’t pin all of that on the coach. They have to get to another level. [Claude Julien] has to help them. I think Horton, in particular, needs a size 12 up the derriere. But I think that by and large these guys may have been leveling off and we may see that this is what they can offer you. And if that’s the case, they either have to be satisfied with that or sooner or later make a change in the lineup.”

Read More: Blake Wheeler, Gregory Campbell, Marc Savard, Michael Ryder
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