|Bruins preview: Players to watch, guys who could be traded and dumb takes to avoid||10.12.16 at 2:00 pm ET|
The NHL season is upon us, leaving Bruins fans wondering whether they’re in for a return to the playoffs or just another frustrating regular season.
Heading into Thursday night’s season opener against the Blue Jackets, B’s fans are probably leaning toward the latter, but an influx of youth into the lineup makes this a potentially exciting team to watch this season, even if expectations aren’t set particularly high.
We’ve done basically every type of season preview imaginable over the years, but Ben Rohrbach did one like this a while back and I want to copy that style, so here’s a bunch of lists to get you ready for the Bruins’ season:
Three questions you probably have:
Will they make the playoffs?
Maybe. Detroit is the only Eastern Conference playoff team from last season that looks like a safe bet to fall out of the playoff picture, and the Canadiens will fare better than they did a season ago. The third Atlantic spot would be a good goal for the Bruins, but their roster isn’t any better than it was when they missed the postseason a year ago.
Will Claude Julien get fired?
I’m not gaga about this team, but the schedule is pretty light early on (see below), so it’s hard to envision them stumbling so much out of the gate that they’d have to pull the plug. If they do struggle, however, he’s an easy scapegoat.
How will the defense be?
You know the answer to that.
Four rookies who are getting a shot:
Austin Czarnik: Of the Bruins’ four rookies, he’s the only who isn’t a first-year pro. Czarnik recently suffered a concussion, but returned to practice Wednesday. The speedy center was all but penciled in to be the team’s third-line center leading up to his injury, and should still get that spot.
Brandon Carlo: The 6-foot-5 righty is eligible for Providence, and while he’ll start the season in Boston, the team is high enough on him that he might have made the team otherwise. Still, he’s just 19, so if he gets squeezed out of the lineup he’ll be better off in the AHL.
Danton Heinen: After two years at the University of Denver, Heinen went pro with an outside shot of making the B’s. That became a reality when Frank Vatrano needed foot surgery and Heinen tied for the team lead with three preseason goals.
Rob O’Gara: Carlo isn’t the only tall rookie defenseman on the roster. The 6-foot-4 Yale grad’s best bet at getting into games early on would be if the team opted to sit Joe Morrow despite the injuries on the blue line.
Three new guys and one kind of new guy:
David Backes: He’s 32 and he’s on a five-year deal. The best-case scenario is that he’s the guy he was last postseason (seven goals and seven assists for 14 points) and sustains that for a few years.
Dominic Moore: Tied with old friend Lee Stempniak for most teams, the journeyman center is a logical fit centering the fourth line.
Riley Nash: When guys are healthy he’s a fourth-line wing. He can also play center if needed.
Anton Khudobin: If Tuukka Rask’s numbers aren’t the same with a lesser defense, banking on Khudobin to experience smooth sailing his second time in Boston might be an overestimation.
Two guys they’ll miss:
Loui Eriksson: The B’s chose David Backes’ mid-30s over Eriksson’s. We’ll see if that was the right decision, but the guess here is that it wasn’t.
Frank Vatrano: Well at least he’ll be back. After scoring 36 goals in 36 AHL games last season, Vatrano might end up scoring no goals in the first 36 NHL games this season due to foot surgery. He’s expected back sometime around late December.
Two guys who could be traded:
Adam McQuaid: The 30-year-old is a good third-pairing right defenseman, but the B’s already have one of those in the younger and cheaper Kevan Miller. McQuaid has three years left on his deal with an annual cap hit of $2.75 million. Moving him would allow the B’s to give a full-time job to Carlo should they feel he’s ready.
Ryan Spooner: This goes against the whole “developing young talent” thing, but the fact is they need a sure thing on defense and Spooner is rightfully one of their best chips because he’s a good young player. He’s a restricted free agent at the end of the season.
One guy they’ll have to bury in the AHL:
Zac Rinaldo: I’ll be maybe the first person to ever say “the poor guy” when referring to Rinaldo, but it’s true. He didn’t trade a third-round pick for himself.
One smart re-signing:
John-Michael Liles: They’ve got too many bodies on D (seven defenders are on one-way deals), but if the B’s do make moves, Liles has the flexibility to serve as a left or right defenseman on the second or third pairing. He also provides time for guys like Carlo to develop in the AHL if need be.
One happy stat:
– The Bruins are going to score because they pretty much always do. They finished fifth in goals last season and have finished in the top five in four of the last five 82-game seasons.
One sad stat:
– The Bruins had three 30-goal-scorers last year. They replaced one of them (Eriksson) with a guy (Backes) who has seen his goal total decline in each of the past two seasons, from 27 in 2013-14 to 21 last season.
One guy who will have better luck than last year:
Torey Krug: His four goals last season were surprising, but he had a career-high 244 shots on goal with an unbelievably unfortunate 1.6 shooting percentage. If that percentage bumps up to even 5 (it was 7.7 and 5.9 his other two seasons), he would have had 12 goals. Krug still managed to rack up 40 assists and a career-high 44 points. Between his performance and his health throughout his career (he’s missed a total of eight regular-season games in his three full seasons), there isn’t much to worry about with Krug.
Speaking of Krug, three guys who could get Chris Kelly’s ‘A’:
Torey Krug: The top choice here. Young guy who’s got his act together and, most importantly, hasn’t won. You won’t find complacency there.
David Backes: The longtime captain of the Blues has made himself comfortable in Boston.
Brad Marchand: Often times, you just give the letter to the best player. Marchand cares more than anybody, but it’s safe to assume he’s got at least three or four more suspensions ahead of him in his career.
Three dumb takes you might hear during the season:
Brad Marchand’s on pace for fewer than 37 goals. Did they sign him too early?
– No. He took a team-friendly deal. Even with something of a statistical regression, he still could have gotten that deal at the end of the season. It just wouldn’t be as team-friendly.
(After month) They’re in first place. Are they Cup contenders?
– Seriously, watch out for mid-November, because the B’s might be sitting pretty standings-wise at that point. Only six of their first 16 games are against teams that made the playoffs last season, including five straight against non-playoff teams to begin the season. By Nov. 13 (the end of another such five-game stretch), high standing would be encouraging, but not a sign that their problems are fixed.
(Probably at a lot of points when they lose) Julien’s the problem.
– He probably won’t be the problem that often.
|Claude Julien back with Bruins as team prepares for Flyers||10.01.16 at 11:07 am ET|
BRIGHTON — Coming off a 2-1 overtime win in Friday’s exhibition against the Red Wings, the Bruins will continue their preseason schedule Saturday night in Philadelphia. Claude Julien was on the ice with the team Saturday morning at Warrior Ice Arena after returning from the World Cup of Hockey.
The Bruins had the following lines in morning skate, though some of the players will not travel to Philadelphia in Zac Rinaldo, Tim Schaller, Colton Hargrove and Mark Nacliero. Riley Nash, Seth Griffith, Danton Heinen and Colby Cave will be in the lineup.
There are a couple of things to watch with those lines, assuming they aren’t changed too drastically. Austin Czarnik’s line sees him reunited with Jake DeBrusk and Jimmy Hayes, which was a line that played well together in Monday’s preseason opener. Also, it would appear that Peter Mueller will move to the left wing after being used exclusively at right wing early in the preseason.
Defensemen set to play Saturday night are Chris Casto, Tommy Cross, Colin Miller, Kevan Miller, Rob O’Gara and Jakub Zboril.
|Claude Julien returns from World Cup of Hockey to talk about how great Brad Marchand is||09.22.16 at 3:50 pm ET|
BRIGHTON — With Team Canada being given
a break from destroying everyone at the World Cup of Hockey an off day, Claude Julien flew from Toronto to Boston to brag about destroying everyone at the World Cup of Hockey check in with the Bruins for the start of training camp.
Julien, who is running Team Canada’s penalty kill under Mike Babcock, said that he came back to “make sure everything got off on the right foot” before his assistants take over for the opening days of practice. Canada, which won all three of its first-round games, will play an elimination game Saturday in the tournament semifinals. Canada would be a heavy favorite against its potential opponents (Russia or Team North America), so it could be a few days before Julien is in Boston again.
Two thirds of Canada’s top line is made up of Bruins, as Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron have flanked Sidney Crosby in the tournament. Julien said he didn’t need to talk Babcock into forming the line given Bergeron’s chemistry with Crosby in the Olympics and Marchand since the 2010-11 season.
“I didn’t have to push for any of that, to be honest with you,” Julien said. “One of the reasons is Sid and Bergy have obviously played together before. At the same time, when you look at Bergy and March, they’re pretty good together as a pair. It just seemed to be the right fit to start with, and it just worked out. We weren’t necessarily thinking, ‘That’s the line, it’s going to stay that way.’ They certainly had to prove that they were a good line and they did that. Our two guys have no doubt been dialed in from Day 1 and to me have been tremendous players for our hockey club.”
Marchand, who is entering the final year of his contract, scored a career-best 37 goals last season.
“I think Brad’s been that kind of a player for quite a long time,” Julien said. “We just have to look back from his first year to where he is now. When I say he’s matured as a hockey player, he’s also matured as a person because he’s also become a pretty good leader. Right now, where he is with Team Canada, he’s also very respected by his teammates for the way he prepares, the way he plays and everything else. He’s come a long ways, and at the same time, what better way to grow and become better than when you’re playing alongside probably one of the best two-way centers in the league? He’s had that luxury, and as a coach, you’re extremely proud of what they’ve done so far.”
|Former Lightning general manager lists Bruins among favorites to sign Steven Stamkos||06.27.16 at 3:28 pm ET|
Former Lightning general manager Brian Lawton said on Toronto’s TSN 1050 radio that he considers the Bruins a favorite to sign top unrestricted free agent Steven Stamkos. To watch/hear Lawton’s interview with Naylor & Landsberg, click here.
Stamkos, 26, could very well be made the highest-paid player in the NHL when he inks his next contract, presumably when free agency opens on Friday.
“Right now the top three for me — I still think there’s a very, very big chance that he could end up back in Tampa,” Lawton noted, “but I would say Toronto, Tampa, Boston would be the top three.”
Asked about pursuing Stamkos following the NHL draft on Sunday, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney intimated that he would reach out Stamkos’ agent during the NHL’s current interview period for free agents.
“We will take the temperature of whoever will help our hockey club,” Sweeney said. “If it lines up, that’s what we’d like to do. We obviously have flexibility for any particular player that we would like to go after. There’s a lot of coveted ones in the market, so we’ll make all the calls. Absolutely all the calls.”
Potentially working in the Bruins’ favor could be his relationship with coach Claude Julien, whom the B’s retained after missing the playoffs for a second straight year. Stamkos and Julien think very highly of one another, with Julien notably visiting Stamkos in the hospital when the player suffered a broken tibia in a game against the Bruins in 2013.
“I had him at the Olympic Camp and I got to know Steve the person,” Julien said after visiting Stamkos. “When you look at what he is in the league and what he’s accomplished, to have that happen to him I thought it was just important to go by and see how he was doing. It was as simple as that.
“He’s one of those players that people from all the different cities come up to watch and play and he’s one of the reasons we fill buildings and you hate to see that, from anybody’s point of view, to see a guy like that get injured that way,” Julien added.
Lawton said that the Maple Leafs would present an attractive destination for the Markham, Ontario native and that Stamkos would be able to handle the attention that would come with playing in such a market.
Tampa’s reported offer for its captain carried a cap hit of $8.5 million, a far cry from the $10.5 million annually that Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews make in Chicago.
“I don’t think that it’s just about money at all for Steven Stamkos,” Lawton said. “I think it’s important — I think that offering him, if it were in fact true, $8.5 million [per year] is — like I said, it’s not about money — but I think in some ways that’s probably a little insulting to Steven.”
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 draft, Stamkos has had three seasons of at least 90 points and has scored 40 goals three times in his NHL career. Since 2009-10 — his second season in the league — Stamkos’ 516 points rank fourth in the NHL behind Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Kane.
|A Dumb Takes preview of the Bruins’ offseason||06.13.16 at 12:56 pm ET|
Here is a vast overview of where the Bruins stand entering the offseason. It includes their cap situation, their trade chips and how they’re best-suited to fill areas of need.
This is a Dumb Takes edition of that.
As we did entering the Stanley Cup Final, this is an estimation of the less-than-intelligent points you will run into either on the internet, radio or television if you haven’t already.
To avoid any confusion, the Dumb Takes will be italicized. Any logic will be formatted normally.
TRADE TUUKKA RASK
When you don’t have as many good players as you used to and you have a lot of money, the move is to trade one of the best goalies in the league because he makes a lot of money. Did you know that Tuukka Rask wasn’t EITHER of the goalies in this year’s Stanley Cup Final? Did you know that Matt Murray and Martin Jones were the reasons their team reached the Final, but that Tuukka Rask wasn’t when the Bruins were there in 2013 and he put up significantly better numbers then than either Murray or Jones did this offseason? Did you know?
The Bruins shouldn’t have any untouchables because, despite a less-than-great Eastern Conference team just winning the Stanley Cup, the B’s have just as good a shot at being in no-man’s land in the coming seasons as they do of being contenders. So while they should be willing to move Rask if they can get an overwhelming return, the idea that trading one of their three best players should be a priority is really, really stupid. Rask had a bad year on a bad team, but his career suggests he’s one of the best five or so goalies in the league and he’s still just 29. Maybe put a team that’s good in front of him — the Bruins were 20th in the league in 5-on-5 high-danger scoring chances against — and he’ll manage.
FIRE CLAUDE JULIEN
It isn’t too late! Where would Sidney Crosby be right now if the Penguins hadn’t fired their coach mid-season? Dead, maybe? Well Mike Johnston, a first-time head coach who by all accounts wasn’t a good one, is EXACTLY THE SAME as Claude Julien! They fired him and look what happened!
Claude Julien is a good coach and some of the coaches that have been fired aren’t good coaches. The reason the Bruins weren’t very good this season was because their defensive personnel was very bad. Julien had to rely too much on Kevan Miller, but that was because Kevan Miller actually seemed like a viable option compared to Julien’s other options at times. That’s on management, not the coach.
But which good defensemen has he developed?
Johnny Oduya, Johnny Boychuk, Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug. Guys who played elsewhere — Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference, etc. — had the best years of their career when playing under Julien.
So they should just keep everything the same?
No, they should keep the good things the same. They have a good coach.
NEVER SPEAK TO J.P. BARRY AGAIN
Why are the Bruins talking to Loui Eriksson’s agent? Why would they consider signing Eriksson?
Because they only have one good right wing (David Pastrnak) and he’s never played more than 51 games in an NHL season.
But they shouldn’t re-sign Eriksson. He doesn’t do anything special.
There were only seven players in the league with 30 goals and a Corsi Relative of 9.0 or higher. Eriksson was one of them.
But he’s not going to score 30 goals every year!
There were only 12 players in the league with 25 goals and a Corsi Relative of 9.0 or higher. Eriksson was one of them.
Should the Bruins definitely sign Eriksson at all costs? Of course not. In fact, if Kyle Okposo doesn’t cost much more, they should sign him instead. But why would a team with a gaping hole on the right side — and no help on the way from the AHL with the exception of Seth Griffith — close the door on its best right wing? It must be because he doesn’t hit people.
It IS because he doesn’t hit people!
That’s because his team usually has the puck when he’s on the ice.
TRADE CHARA FOR A YOUNG TOP-4 DEFENSEMAN
Here’s one that actually is a good idea in theory, but it just might not be feasible. If the Bruins don’t do it, it’s because they can’t. Chara’s contract is good (pricey in 2016-17, but very cap-friendly in 2017-18) and he’d be a stud second-pair guy for a contending team, but the fact is that a team with a good young defenseman should hold on to that asset for dear life.
Not true! The Bruins were willing to trade Hamilton!
That was a bad move by them.
No, he was never that good in Boston.
Yes he was. This must be because he didn’t hit people.
It IS because he didn’t hit people!
|A dumb takes scorecard for the Stanley Cup Final||05.30.16 at 9:18 pm ET|
This probably should have been written before the series started, but I didn’t think of it until now. As such, I started writing it during the national anthem of Game 1 and here it is.
These days, advanced metrics, GIFs, line-matching data and more are available to help inform the opinions of sports fans, media and even coaches.
Yet because a lot of people grew up without these things, it’s still relatively common for them to go ignored out of either laziness or one’s desire to share a very forced opinion, or what the internet unflatteringly calls a “hot take.”
You hear takes every day, many of which are horrifyingly dumb: Shea Weber deserves a Norris because he’s never won one, one-time 20-goal-scorer Matt Beleskey is better than two-time 30-goal-scorer Loui Eriksson, the Blues lost because of Vladimir Tarasenko, John Farrell moving Jackie Bradley Jr. up in the lineup killed his hit streak, etc.
Many Bruins followers are torn as to whom they should root for in the Stanley Cup Final between the Sharks and Penguins. Either way, they’ll see a big-name former Bruin who receives a laughable lack of credit for their career end up winning. From there, it’s tougher to decide, so it’s worth it to consider which scenario will bring about the dumbest takes and pick against that one. Here are some of them:
IF THE SHARKS WIN
— Firing the coach is the way to go. Always fire the coach. Call it “parting ways” if need be, but get him out of there. And get the “C” off whoever the hell your captain is. These are proven ways of winning the Stanley Cup.
— Martin Jones is better than Tuukka Rask, the latter of whom hasn’t done anything since getting a big contract (except win the Vezina).
[By the way, as of the first period, Jones had allowed as many goals in one period as Rask did in 14 periods against the Penguins in the 2013 Eastern Conference finals. Jones obviously had a better year, albeit with a far better team and against far fewer high-danger chances.]
— It is technically true that Joe Thornton did not thrive under Claude Julien during his time in Boston, and now he’s off winning the Stanley Cup. Just another reason as to why Julien should be canned.
— Logan Couture (presumably) led the playoffs in scoring. Do the Bruins really have a guy who can do that? Read the rest of this entry »
|Claude Julien: Starting with new team might have been ‘easier,’ but ‘that’s not what I want’||04.14.16 at 11:20 am ET|
Claude Julien returning to the Bruins wasn’t just about the organization deciding to keep their head coach for a 10th season. It was also about Julien’s willingness to return to the organization rather than seek a new gig.
Though it might have been difficult logistically given that he still has two more years left on his contract, Julien and the organization could have decided a parting was in both parties’ best interests. That would have freed Julien up to head to fill the head coaching vacancy in Ottawa, where Julien grew up.
Julien explained in Thursday’s press conference that his preference was to remain with Boston in an effort to get the team back to the playoffs after two consecutive ninth-place finishes.
“I did a self-evaluation,” Julien said. “[I considered], ‘Do I still have the ear of the dressing room? Are they still hearing?’ All that stuff that you go through. Even in my regard, being here nine years and everything else. Everything that came out of it, by the time I was done [with] my evaluation when I met with Don on Sunday morning was I want to be here, I want to bring this team back to where we once had it. I know that there’s some bumps along the way.
“There’s no doubt — I’m going to be honest with you — would it have been easier for me to go somewhere else and say that I’m going to go somewhere fresh and start? That’s not what I want. To me, this organization’s been good to me. They’ve been loyal to me. Like I said before: I love the city, I love our fans. I love just the environment here. You want to be somewhere where people are really passionate about the game. There’s a lot of people here, including players, that have helped me become the coach that I am.
“I don’t want to be that guy that bails just because all of a sudden you hit a bump in the road. I want to be that guy that perserveres. Things that went through my mind are, it’s OK to be remembered right now [as] the winningest coach in Bruins history, but I’d rather be remembered for a guy who had enough character to go back into the trenches and dig his heels in and help turn this organization around vs. the other way that could have been.
“I was pretty clear with Donnie on that front and now it was up to Don to tell me what his thoughts were. Obviously we have very similar thoughts and it was great to hear earlier that I still had his support and that he still believed that I was the guy. That’s why I’m still here today.”