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What the Chris Bourque/Zach Hamill trade means 05.27.12 at 3:44 pm ET
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The Bruins drafted Zach Hamill eighth overall in the 2007 draft. They never even got a goal out of him.

The Bruins finally ended the Hamill experiment Saturday night, as they shipped the forward to the Capitals in exchange for left wing Chris Bourque (son of some guy named Ray).

The trade is certainly a minor one, as both players have spent the majority of their professional careers in the AHL (they have played just a combined 53 NHL contests), but both Hamill and Bourque were names that fans of struggling teams once learned in hopes that they could help turn around their respective organizations. The teams swapped what once were big names, but are now players simply trying to catch on in the NHL.

As far as what the Bruins got, Bourque provides the organization with a fringe NHL winger who, if re-signed (he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1), could find his way onto the B’s roster should Daniel Paille elect to sign with another team. The former Boston University Terrier (he played there in 2004-05 but left after his freshman season) is now on his third NHL organization, as he has played in both the Washington and Pittsburgh systems before Saturday’s trade. In 33 career NHL games, Bourque has one goal and three assists for four points.

Bourque stands at 5-foot-8 and 180 pounds. His last NHL action came in the 2009-10 season (20 games for the Penguins), and he spend the 2010-11 season between the Swiss League and KHL before returning to the Capitals organization this season. In 73 games for Hershey in 2011-12, Bourque scored 27 goals and had 66 assists for an impressive 93 points.

Ultimately, the trade might say more about Hamill and his selection than it does about Bourque. While Bourque also failed to live up to the hype that once surrounded him, this is the case of the Bruins giving up on the player they hoped could be a No. 1 center when they took him following a last-place finish in the Northeast division.

The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Hamill’s career with the Bruins was underwhelming from the get go and never saw a particularly noticeable improvement. Though he scored 32 goals for the Everett Silvertips of the WHL in his draft year, he never scored more than 14 goals in four seasons for Providence and only scored 10 goals twice.

Hamill began the 2011 postseason as one of the Bruins black aces and practiced with the team, but left in a later round. He was not with the team as they celebrated their Stanley Cup victory in Vancouver, though the rest of the black aces — including Matt Bartkowski and Anton Khudobin — were there to raise the coveted trophy.

Last offseason, the newly named Providence head coach Bruce Cassidy called Hamill out for not taking the strides expected of him.

‘€œAt the end of the day, when you’€™re in your fourth year in the same organization, it falls upon yourself just to push people,’€ Cassidy said of Hamill. ‘€œI think the individual has to recognize what’€™s going on around him. A few people have passed him and it’€™s time for him to start passing a couple of younger guys that have come in the last couple of years. And whether he’€™s ready to do that, we’€™ll find out in September.’€

Cassidy and the P-Bruins moved Hamill to wing, and they saw improved play as a result. In fact, Hamill played well enough to take Jordan Caron’s spot on the NHL roster in January. A month later, they placed him on waivers and he went unclaimed. After it all — 16 contests this season 20 career NHL games — Hamill is still looking for his first career NHL goal.

It won’t come with the Bruins.

Read More: Chris Bourque, Zach Hamill,
Bruins named SportsBusiness Journal’s Team of the Year 05.23.12 at 11:39 pm ET
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The Bruins were named the Sports Team of the Year at the SportsBusiness Journals’ 2012 Sports Business Awards Wednesday.

Other teams nominated for the award included the Texas Rangers, Dayton Dragons, Sporting Kansas City and Stewart-Haas Racing. The Bruins are the fifth team to win the award.

The award covered March 1, 2011 through Feb. 29, 2012, covering their Stanley Cup victory on June 15 last year. In addition to their victory in the finals over the Canucks, the Bruins’ “involvement in numerous charitable contributions to the Greater Boston community” was also recognized, according to a press release.

Looking back and ahead: Zdeno Chara 05.22.12 at 11:08 pm ET
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With the Bruins’ season in the books, WEEI.com will take a look at each player on the roster one-by-one to provide some perspective on what went wrong this season and what the future holds for the 2011 champions.

Zdeno Chara

Age: 35

2011-12 stats: 79 games played, 12 goals, 40 assists (career-high), 52 points (career-high), plus-33 (tied career-high)

Contract status: Signed through 2017-18 season ($6,916,667 cap hit through 2016-17 season, $4 million cap hit in 2017-18)

Looking back: Chara had the best offensive season of his career and was once again one of the most dominant defensemen in the league. He averaged 25 minutes a night, which is right around his average over the last three seasons.

What was uncharacteristic for Chara, however, was his midseason slump. Though the Bruins as a whole were not playing their best hockey, the B’s captain didn’t look like himself in many of their losses. From Feb. 8-19, Chara finished with a negative rating in five of six games and was an overall minus-9 in that span. He was a minus-3 on three separate occasions in February and March after only having a rating worse than minus-2 once in the previous season.

Despite some bad nights from the captain, the 2011-12 season marked the second consecutive and third overall campaign in which Chara finished with a plus-33 rating. That was tops amongst NHL defensemen and third amongst players, and he had a lot to do with the fact that the five best ratings came from Bruins this season (Patrice Bergeron led the league with a plus-36, followed by Tyler Seguin‘s plus-34, Chara’s plus-33, Chris Kelly‘s plus-33 and Brad Marchand‘s plus-31).

After skating with Johnny Boychuk in the regular season, Chara was paired with Dennis Seidenberg for the playoffs. Though he was beaten a couple of times and finished the postseason with a minus-1 rating, Chara teamed with Seidenberg to limit Alexander Ovechkin for the most part and keep the games low-scoring.

In the end, it wouldn’t be surprising if Chara’s season earns him his second Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman, but in the interest of full disclosure, my top vote went to Nashville’s Shea Weber. While there’s no denying that Chara is the best defenseman in the league, his midseason struggles made it tough to say that this was truly a full campaign of vintage Chara.

Looking ahead: While other players get plenty of accolades too (Tim Thomas‘ save percentage record, Seguin’s points, that Selke Trophy that should finally be making its way to Bergeron this summer), there is no doubt that Chara is the Bruins’ best and most important player.

Chara may be getting up there in age, but he is truly one of the few players in the league a team should be happy to have signed through his 30s and into his 40s. There might not be a better-conditioned player in the league, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a player more dedicated to his training, both from a work and diet perspective.

With Boychuk re-signed, you can assume that Claude Julien will continue to play Chara with Boychuk, at least to start next regular season. The guy who has the best chance at breaking up Chara and Boychuk might be youngster Dougie Hamilton, but don’t expect that to happen next season. Hamilton needs to show he can handle 20-plus minutes a night before he can be paired with a guy like Chara, but the idea of a Chara-Hamilton pairing could really put the Bruins’ blue line over the top. Hamilton could be the offensive presence on the back end that the team has been seeking for years.

Getting back to Chara: The offensive numbers may go up and down, but he’ll be the first to tell that while he likes to score, he prides himself on not letting the other team score. In a nutshell, that’s what he is. He’s the guy who will play close to half the game, be a nightmare for opposing teams’ offensive stars, and keep opponents off the board. Then there’s that slapshot.

Read More: Zdeno Chara,
Looking back and ahead: Shawn Thornton 05.21.12 at 6:32 pm ET
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With the Bruins’ season in the books, WEEI.com will take a look at each player on the roster one-by-one to provide some perspective on what went wrong this season and what the future holds for the 2011 champions.

Shawn Thornton

Age: 34

2011-12 stats: 81 games played, 5 goals, 8 assists, 13 points, minus-7

Contract status: signed through 2013-14 season ($1.1 million cap hit)

Looking back: The Bruins’ fourth-line enforcer was coming off a career year (10 goals, 10 assists) as he entered the 2011-12 season, and he returned with his usual linemates of Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell.

Thornton’s offensive production wasn’t nearly what it was a season ago, but after failing to reach the 10 goal plateau until he was 33, the expectation wasn’t exactly for him to produce 10 goals a season. The expectation for him was to serve his role as a fourth-line energy player and to drop the gloves to help swing the game’s momentum in the Bruins’ favor. In the case of the latter, Thornton came through big time, tying Brandon Prust for the league lead in fighting majors with 20.

Thornton dropped the gloves with many of his common dance partners this season (Eric Boulton, whom he fought for the eighth time in his career, Krys Barch twice, Jody Shelly, etc.), but one of the Bruins heavyweight’s more interesting bouts of the season came when he squared off with former longtime Bruin Mark Stuart on Jan. 10 after the Jets defenseman threw him down at the end of a play. Thornton won the battle of similarly sized former teammates in a game the Bruins would go on to win.

When the playoffs rolled around, the Bruins were forced to scratch Thornton in Games 6 and 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Capitals. The scratch was more out of necessity than performance, as the B’s needed to get Jordan Caron into the lineup in case the injured Patrice Bergeron had to leave either of the two final games.

Looking ahead: Thornton was one of many Bruins set to become unrestricted free agents in the offseason, but the team took care of him by giving him a two-year extension worth $1.1 million annually.

While it is far from big money and keeps him as one of the Bruins’ lowest-paid players, Thornton’s new pact means that for the first time in his career, he will be paid at least $1 million in a season for the first time in his career. He made $800,000 last season and $825,000 in 2010-11 as part of a two-year deal that had an $812,500 cap hit and $25,000 signing bonus.

While anything close to a repeat of Thornton’s 2010-11 season offensively would be a pleasant surprise for the Bruins and make him a steal at his cost, the B’s shouldn’t be counting on Thornton to be a source of scoring. They should count on him to police the ice, get shots on net and keep the puck in the offensive zone. If history is any indication, he shouldn’t let them down. What you’ve seen is what you’re likely to get with Shawn Thornton.

Read More: Shawn Thornton,
Looking back and ahead: Jordan Caron 05.18.12 at 4:23 pm ET
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With the Bruins’ season in the books, WEEI.com will take a look at each player on the roster one-by-one to provide some perspective on what went wrong this season and what the future holds for the 2011 champions.

Jordan Caron

Age: 21

2011-12 stats: 48 games played, 7 goals, 8 assists, 15 points, even rating

Contract status: signed through 2012-13 season ($1.1 million cap hit), restricted free agent after next season

Looking back: After going back and forth between Boston and Providence and playing in 23 NHL games in the 2010-11 season, Caron’s goal this time around was to stay with the big club for the entire 2011-12 campaign.

That didn’t exactly happen, as Caron was sent to Providence six different times this past season. Unlike his first taste of the NHL in the Bruins’ Cup-winning season, however, Caron was able to sustain a stretch in which he made clear why the Bruins selected him in the first round of the 2009 draft.

Caron totaled eight points over a six-game run from March 4-13 (four goals, four assists), and even saw his impressive play earn him time as a top-six forward after spending the vast majority of his NHL ice time as a third-or-fourth-liner.

Though his improved play down the stretch forced Daniel Paille to sit as the healthy scratch late in the season, Caron began the postseason in the press box. When the Bruins were struggling for offensive production in the first round, it seemed Caron could be inserted into the lineup in place of a fourth-liner in hopes of giving the team a bit of an offensive spark. Such strategy became a moot point, as Patrice Bergeron‘s oblique injury (which prevented him from taking faceoffs), forced Julien to play Caron instead of Shawn Thornton for the last two games against Washington just in case Bergeron went down during the game and the team needed a noter top-six forward.

Bergeron was able to play through the pain in Games 6 and 7, so Caron averaged 6:41 of ice time in his first two career playoff games.

Looking ahead: While Benoit Pouliot‘s surprising consistency and the trade for Brian Rolston made it tough for Caron to stay in the lineup (and even on the NHL roster) for the entire season, you would have to think that next season will be Caron’s time to stick.

Given the plethora of free agent forwards (Rolston, Chris Kelly, Paille, Gregory Campbell and the restricted Pouliot) and the fact that the B’s wouldn’t want to stunt to their former first-round pick’s development, the stars seem to be aligning for Caron to finally be given a full-time chance in the NHL.

Caron has spent practically all of his time in the NHL this point as a bottom-six forward when he’s been in the lineup, and it would seem that he’ll be in for more of the same next year. If Paille isn’t re-signed, Caron could end up skating with Campbell and Thornton while pushing for time on the third line. That isn’t to say there might not be immediate opportunity for Caron on the third line by the time training camp rolls around. Rolston could retire, the team could opt to not retain Pouliot or Kelly could opt for a bigger paycheck in a different market. Should Kelly leave, Rich Peverley could be an option to play center in Kelly’s place, and if either Rolston or Pouliot isn’t back, Caron could take the vacated wing spot. The Quebec native has played both left and right wing in the NHL for the B’s.

The thinking here is that the Bruins should do what they can to ensure Caron gets a prolonged look on the third line next season, preferably with Kelly as the pivot should they bring back the alternate captain. While the team’s offensive depth is undeniable, the Bruins have yet to fully replace Michael Ryder‘s offensive production with a third-line winger. With a full season, something along the lines of 18 goals shouldn’t be too out of reach for Caron.

Regardless of line he plays on next season, Caron will also be an option to serve more as a penalty killer for the B’s. Claude Julien obviously values two-way players highly, so don’t think he won’t try to get everything he can out of the defensively savvy youngster.

Read More: Benoit Pouliot, Brian Rolston, Jordan Caron,
Looking back and ahead: Daniel Paille 05.17.12 at 12:32 am ET
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With the Bruins’ season in the books, WEEI.com will take a look at each player on the roster one-by-one to provide some perspective on what went wrong this season and what the future holds for the 2011 champions.

Daniel Paille

Age: 28

2011-12 stats: 69 games played, 9 goals, 6 assists, 15 points, minus-5

Contract status: Unrestricted free agent ($1.075 million cap hit in 2011-12)

Looking back: While the retirement of Mark Recchi and the free agent defection of Michael Ryder left some uncertainty as to how Boston’s top three lines would look entering the season, it seemed a certainty entering camp that Claude Julien would not touch the fourth line of Paille, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton. That was indeed the case, and Julien kept the “Merlot Line,” as Thornton has long called it for the maroon practice sweaters of fourth-line players, intact.

Though the line (at least the incarnation with Paille rather than Brad Marchand) did not see its offensive success of the previous season, the trio of Paille, Campbell and Thornton continued to bring what’s required of it: energy and prolonged stays in the offensive zone.

For the most part, the former Sabres first-round pick had horrible luck this season. He was hit in the face by a Steve Staios slapshot to the face on Nov. 7. He also suffered a mild concussion on Dec. 8 and dealt with an arm injury in early March. He also found himself as the odd man out when Jordan Caron‘s torrid play down the stretch left him in the press box for four games in late March. Despite the numerous injuries and healthy scratches, Paille missed only 13 games over the course of the regular season.

It wasn’t his best statistical campaign (he still hasn’t repeated his 19-goal performance of 2007-08 with the Sabres), but it was a season in which Paille proved to be a bit of an iron man for Boston due to his ability to get back into the lineup quickly after injuries. If such goofy statistics were kept, it wouldn’t be surprising if Paille led the league in shorthanded scoring opportunities. As has long been the case with Paille, his finishing skills often let him down, but his ability to do everything but score makes him perfectly suitable as a fourth-liner and penalty killer.

Paille actually did not take a penalty in the first half of the season. In fact, his first trip to the box of the season was a fighting major that came on Jan. 16 against Ed Jovanovski, the second second fighting major of the 28-year-old’s career. He finished the regular season with 15 penalty minutes.

Looking ahead: When it comes to the Bruins’ priorities with their free agents this summer, Paille is certainly no Chris Kelly, but he’s still someone who has carved out a niche in Boston and would be a good guy to have back.

Paille is one of five Bruins forwards who are free agents (the others are Kelly, Campbell, Brian Rolston and the restricted Benoit Pouliot), so Boston’s offense could look pretty different next season. If Paille isn’t brought back, it could open up a full-time job for Caron or provide an opportunity for a youngster like Jared Knight. If Rolston retires (which he has yet to decide), a spot for Caron might be there anyway.

The 28-year-old Paille is also a great character guy who is a good presence in the Bruins’ dressing room. After spending the previous season seeing significant time as a healthy scratch, it seemed he had earned himself a full-time job in the Boston lineup this season, but he didn’t feel entitled or pout when Julien had to scratch him in favor of Caron late in the regular season. Of course, if Paille does re-sign with the Bruins, he’ll probably do so in hopes of being in the lineup every night.

Paille might never end up justifying his first-round selection (20th overall back in 2002), but he serves his role as a fourth-liner very well in Boston. Perhaps there there will be opportunities in free agency for the Ontario native to play more and on a higher line, but the Bruins would be smart to do what they can to retain his services.

Read More: Daniel Paille, Jared Knight, Jordan Caron,
Looking back and ahead: Chris Kelly 05.15.12 at 3:46 pm ET
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With the Bruins’ season in the books, WEEI.com will take a look at each player on the roster one-by-one to provide some perspective on what went wrong this season and what the future holds for the 2011 champions.

Chris Kelly

Age: 31

2011-12 stats: 82 games played, 20 goals (career high), 19 assists, 39 points (career-high), plus-33 (career-high)

Contract status: Unrestricted free agent ($2.125 million cap hit in 2011-12)

Looking back: Kelly entered the season coming off a playoff run in which he served as just one of the reasons as to why the Bruins had the depth to win the Stanley Cup (13 points in 25 games as the third-line center). The pace at which he put up points in the 2010-11 postseason was something he had never been able to maintain in the regular season, but he didn’t slow down a bit as the 2011-12 season began.

Kelly’s previous career-high for points in the regular season was 38, which he set back in 2006-07 as a member of the Senators. He surpassed that by one point this season, but the most notable number from his performance was that he reached the 20-goal plateau for the first time in his career. It was a good time to do so, as the the 31-year-old’s career year happened to come in the final season of his contract.

While he was never extended and is set to be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, the Bruins made clear how much they valued the center before the season started by having him share the ‘A’ formerly worn by Mark Recchi with Andrew Ference. That’s quite the destination for someone playing a veteran team given that this season was Kelly’s first full campaign as a member of the B’s after being acquired the previous February.

While Kelly spent the vast majority of the season serving as the team’s third line center (usually with the likes of Benoit Pouliot, Rich Peverley, Jordan Caron and Brian Rolston as his wings), his improved offensive production gave the Bruins flexibility when injures struck Claude Julien simply felt shakeups among the lines were in order. Kelly saw even saw some time as the team’s first line center (something that occurred as early as October 20). He also continued to play a major role on special teams, tying for the team lead with two shorthanded goals.

Looking ahead: The Bruins have a lot of other free agent forwards (Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell, Brian Rolston and the restricted Pouliot among them), but there’s no doubt that Kelly’s situation will have the biggest impact on Boston’s offense this offseason.

While seeing Kelly score 20 goals for the first time in his career is an encouraging sign, it made things very tricky for the Bruins, as the 20-goal-scorer label undoubtedly jacked up his price. Now, the Bruins have to decide whether they think they’ll be getting a consistent scorer out of Kelly before paying him like one.

Boston gave Peverley a three-year, $9.75 million contract extension during the regular season. It’s hard to say exactly what Kelly is seeking, but a contract with a salary cap hit similar to Peverley’s ($3.25 million annually), would seem to be a fair number for the veteran center. That would also be a $1 million raise from what he was getting, and with big contracts potentially upcoming for Tuukka Rask (restricted free agent this summer), Tyler Seguin, Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand (all restricted at the end of next season), the B’s will need to be careful to not overspend. Still, with plenty of cap space this offseason, they will be able to afford Kelly with ease as long as they don’t plan on going after one of the big-name free agents such as Zach Parise or Ryan Suter, both of which would seem highly unlikely to happen.

For Kelly and the B’s, it’s just a matter of whether the sides will agree, and the guess here is that the B’s wouldn’t let Kelly go without a fight. Factor in that Kelly likes it here, and it seems the only thing that could prevent the sides from coming together is dollars and cents.

Read More: Chris Kelly,

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