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Defense market gets thinner as Kevin Bieksa reportedly re-ups with Canucks 06.27.11 at 3:49 pm ET
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It looks like Kevin Bieksa feels that 29 other teams are just a bit too pee-wee for his liking.

According to multiple reports, the Canucks defenseman will not test the waters of unrestricted free agency, as he has agreed to a new pact with the Canucks, thus thinning the defensive free agent market.

TSN has the deal as being worth $23 million over five years, meaning the 30-year-old will carry a $4.6 million cap hit. It also reportedly includes a no-trade clause. Bieksa had a $3.75 cap hit in each of the three seasons of his previous deal. The immediate feeling here is that he got a fair deal, and that it isn’t exactly a hometown discount.

While he likely would not have been a target of the B’s in free agency, the fact that Bieksa’s name is now out of the pool means teams in need of help on the blueline will look elsewhere. That “elsewhere” is a group that includes Tomas Kaberle, Montreal’s James Wisniewski and Bieksa’s teammate, Christian Ehrhoff.

Bieksa led the Canucks with a plus-32 rating in the regular season, which put him in a tie for second behind Zdeno Chara (plus-33) for tops in the league. He  was among the Canucks who may have put themselves in a bad light during the Stanley Cup finals, as he had the dive of all dives in Game 4 when he grabbed his face to draw a high-sticking call on Mark Recchi, despite Recchi’s stick being a good distance from his face. He also joked about the Bruins’ postgame jacket, likening the tradition to something a pee-wee team would do.

Free agency opens Friday.

Read More: Kevin Bieksa, Tomas Kaberle,
What will the Bruins do with the ninth pick? 06.24.11 at 3:14 am ET
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As the world continues to have a laugh over pictures of Brad Marchand and the Bruins’€™ bar tab (did you hear they had a $100,000 bottle of champagne?) to the point where the dead horse couldn’€™t possibly take another blow, the Stanley Cup champions are getting ready to add a potential franchise player.

The B’€™s will pick ninth overall in Friday’€™s NHL draft, finally closing the book on the Phil Kessel trade as they add one of the top players in a draft widely considered to be a notch below that of last year’€™s. Given that Toronto’€™s selection is slotted ninth, it’€™s safe to say the B’€™s will add one Central Scoutings’€™ highest-rated players.

Here are the top 15 skaters in this year’€™s draft accoriding to Central Scouting.

1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C, Red Deer (WHL)
2. Gabriel Landeskog, LW, Kitchener (OHL)
3. Jonathan Huberdeau, C, Saint John (QMJHL)
4. Dougie Hamilton, D, Niagara (OHL)
5. Nathan Beaulieu, D, Saint John (QMJHL)
6. Sean Couturier, C, Drummondville (QMJHL)
7. Sven Baertschi, LW, Portland (WHL)
8. Ryan Strome, C, Niagara (OHL)
9. Ryan Murphy, D, Kitchener (OHL)
10. Duncan Siemens, D, Saskatoon (WHL)
11. Vladislav Namestnikov, C, London (OHL)
12. Joseph Morrow, D, Portland (WHL)
13. Jamieson Oleksiak, D, Northeastern (Hockey East)
14. Mark McNeill, C, Prince Albert (WHL)
15. Zack Phillips, C, Saint John (QMJHL)

And the top five European skaters:

1. Adam Larsson, D, Skelleftea (Sweden)
2. Mika Zibanejad, C, Djurgarden (Sweden)
3. Jonas Brodin, D, Farjestad (Sweden)
4. Joel Armia, RW, Assat (Finland)
5. Dmitrij Jaskin, RW, Slavia (Czech Republic)

Of course, Central Scouting isn’€™t everything, as we saw last year. The top-ranked player (Tyler Seguin) went second overall, and it looks like the Hurricanes weren’€™t crazy when they drafted the 34th-ranked North American skater (Jeff Skinner) seventh overall.

Whoever the Bruins take with the ninth pick (assuming, as Peter Chiarelli indicated Thursday, they stay put), don’€™t expect him to be in Boston next season. Chiarelli told reporters in Minnesota that based on the players he expected to be on the board at No. 9, the player the B’€™s select will not be NHL ready. That means bad news for Seguin, who jokingly expressed hope on breakup day that someone else could be ‘€œthe kid’€ next season and that everyone would be on the draft pick’€™s case instead of his.

Chiarelli said his intention is to draft the best available player, and given that this draft is top-heavy when it comes to defense, that player may be a blueliner. Picking defense would give the B’€™s a blue-chipper in an area in which it organizationally does not have a sure-fire star in the making, and it would also be somewhat of a deviation for Chiarelli. The highest the Bruins’€™ GM has selected a defenseman was 35th overall, when the B’€™s traded up in the second round to grab Tommy Cross 35th overall.

If the B’€™s spend the ninth pick on a defenseman, you can bet your bippy the Tomas Kaberle rumors will swirl, and there will obviously be two easy arguments. If the team has a young puck-mover (we’€™ll get to the players below) with star potential a year or two away, perhaps they could try to go with Steven Kampfer next season (and beyond) and let Kaberle walk. On the other hand, the Bruins happen to have just won the Stanley Cup, and the Vezina winner isn’€™t getting any younger. There isn’€™t much of a window closing for the Bruins given that they are good and young both offensively and behind Tim Thomas (remember Tuukka Rask?), but they certainly want to win now.

With all that being said, here are some of the guys who have been common Bruins’€™ selections in mock drafts and/or might make sense for the B’€™s at No. 9:

Ryan Murphy, D, Kitchener (OHL)
Height/weight: 5-foot-10, 166 pounds
2010-11 stats: 63 games, 26 G, 53 A, 79 P, 36 PIM

An offensive-minded defenseman, Murphy’€™s 26 goals were the most among OHL blueliners this past season. Considered a plus-skater and strong passer, he could eventually offer more than the Bruins are currently getting out of Kaberle on the power play. The Bruins certainly showed in the Kaberle deal that a defenseman who can help the offense is a priority, so landing one for the long term would be a wise move if Murphy is still on the board. Given that he’€™s ranked 9th by Central Scouting among North American skaters, it could be close. Murphy is also a right-handed shot. The Bruins’€™ blue line was lefty-dominant last season, with Johnny Boychuk and Adam McQuaid (and, at points, Kampfer) the only righty defensemen in the lineup.

Nathan Beaulieu, D, Saint John (QMJHL)
Height/weight: 6-foot-2, 174 pounds
2010-11 stats: 65 games, 12 G, 33 A, 45 P, 52 PIM

Beaulieu is another strong-skating defenseman, though his speed won’€™t get confused with that of Murphy. He still brings an impressive offensive skill set to the blue line, and he certainly offers more size than Murphy. He would most certainly be the puck-moving defenseman of the future if the B’€™s were to select him.

Ryan Strome, C, Niagara (OHL)
Height/weight: 6-foot-0, 175 pounds
2010-11 stats: 65 games, 33 G, 73 A, 106 P, 82 PIM

Another center? With the Bruins, you never know. You have to figure that Seguin will eventually become a full-time center once he’€™s done being eased in, but there are enough question marks in the future to make selecting a center not seem so crazy. Excluding Marc Savard given all the uncertainty, Patrice Bergeron and Seguin are the only pivots signed past next season (David Krejci will be a restricted free agent, while Chris Kelly and Gregory Campbell will be unrestricted).

Duncan Siemens, D, Saskatoon (WHL)
Height/weight: 6-foor-2, 192 pounds
2010-11 stats: 72 games, 5 G, 38 A, 43 P, 121 PIM

The bulkiest of the blueliners featured in this sample, many things you read about about Siemens will suggest he’€™s behind some of the other defensemen in this draft as far as both development and potential go. Still, he’€™s strong, and though he doesn’€™t bring the same bells and whistles that guys like Murphy and Beaulieu do, he could still be a welcome presence on Claude Julien‘€™s blue line eventually.

Read More: 2011 NHL Draft, Chris Kelly, David Krejci, Gregory Campbell
Tomas Kaberle wants to return to Bruins 06.19.11 at 11:59 pm ET
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Bruins defenseman Tomas Kaberle, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent July 1, said Sunday at TD Garden that his preference is to return to the Stanley Cup champions.

Kaberle was acquired on Feb. 18 from the Maple Leafs in exchange for the Bruins’ first-round pick, center Joe Colborne and a 2012 second-round pick. The defenseman struggled with the B’s through the end of the season and into the playoffs but turned in a fine performance in the Stanley Cup finals vs. Vancouver and led all B’s defensemen in playoff points.

“Obviously we’€™re going to talk the next few days,” Kaberle said. “Everything was hectic the last couple of days. Hopefully we can sit down or we can talk to my agent and it will be nice to be back here.”

Asked for clarification on whether Boston is his first choice, Kaberle responded, “yes.”

Kaberle had a $4 million salary cap hit last season.

Read More: Tomas Kaberle,
Brian Leetch on M&M: Bruins ‘don’t feel an underdog’ 06.01.11 at 12:09 pm ET
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Hall of Fame defenseman Brian Leetch joined the Mut & Merloni show Wednesday morning to talk about the Stanley Cup finals, which get under way Wednesday night in Vancouver. To hear the interview, go the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Leetch, who grew up in Connecticut and played collegiately at Boston College, was asked about the Bruins being underdogs in this series.

“I know they don’t feel an underdog,” he said. “When you have two good teams playing, sometimes it’s just an easier pick to pick the team with more points during the regular season, or they had a couple of better stats. But you look at their stats up and down, these teams ‘€” we’ve almost gotten to 100 games now ‘€” are almost identical. Right through the playoffs and the regular season, there’s not much that separates them. The goaltending is both excellent, their top players, their depth.”

Asked about the Bruins being physical while avoiding penalties, Leetch said: “I think when we talk about the Bruins playing physical, it kind of gets taken a little out of context, of them going outside of their game or playing some different style. Really, their game is to get the puck in, is to finish their checks. It’s not to physically intimidate a team or to injure or to get a different style of play going.

“It’s their strength. It’s the way they play. And that doesn’t mean taking the extra run, it doesn’t mean going out of your way. It means getting he pucks int eh areas where you can get in on the forecheck, where you can take the body, where you can play physical. And the Bruins know as a team, you’ll hear it come out of each guy’s mouth, that we’re at our best when we play that way. We’re at our best when we finish checks, we’re moving our feet, we’re involved physically. So, I don’t think it does anything to take them out of a comfort zone or to run around. It’s just emphasis on playing the game the right way, which for the Bruins means playing physical.”

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Read More: Brian Leetch, Claude Julien, David Krejci, Milan Lucic
Ed Olczyk on M&M: Put Patrice Bergeron on top power play instead of Tomas Kaberle 05.27.11 at 1:05 pm ET
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Versus NHL analyst and former NHL center Ed Olczyk joined the Mut & Merloni show Friday to talk about the Eastern Conference finals Game 7 showdown between the Bruins and Lightning. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Olczyk made a comment during the Game 6 broadcast on Versus about Bruins coach Claude Julien needing to mix up the lines to get more consistent offense. While he acknowledged Friday, “I think Claude has pushed a lot of the right buttons,” he stood by his analysis.

“If you look at the [David] Krejci line, with them having the majority of the success at even strength, I just kind of felt at that time, when you look up at the shot [totals] and there’s not a lot of generating going on, you look to try to change it up,” he said. “You look to add a little spark somewhere.”

Olczyk also suggested making a change on the Bruins’ power play, which has struggled all postseason.

“If you are struggling ‘€” and I think at times the Bruins have done all the right things, they just haven’t been able to score,” he said. “So, the issue is, the check and balance is, do you drastically change your personnel and load up? I think for me, I think at some point if you’re going to play Big Z [Zdeno Chara] in front of the net, I think you’ve got to put Patrice Bergeron on a point on the power play if you’re not going to play him down low because you’ve got Krejci and [Nathan] Horton and Chara down there and you’ve got [Dennis] Seidenberg and [Tomas] Kaberle. I think you load up. I think you put Patrice Bergeron on a point on the power play with Dennis Seidenberg ‘€” if that’s my first unit.”

Added Olczyk: “I would suggest loading up your first-power-play unit. And Patrice Bergeron’s got to be on that first power-play unit. I just think he has that ability. He had a quiet game [Wednesday]. I think he’s been terrific since he’s come back, but he was very quiet, probably a little too quiet in Game 6. But for me, I would put Bergeron on a point with Seidenberg. I would put Kaberle on the second unit. And I would load up with Chara, Krejci and Horton on that first power-play unit. If you’re going to go down, go down with your best guys. Go down swinging.

“But if the Bruins can play well defensively, and I think they will, I think they’ll take on the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup finals.”

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Read More: Claude Julien, David Krejci, Dwayne Roloson, Ed Olczyk
Claude Julien: ‘Our team needs to be positive’ at 12:58 pm ET
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There were plenty of negatives for the Bruins in their Game 6 loss. From a team perspective, giving up three power-play goals obviously stands out. And from an individual perspective, you would have to start with Johnny Boychuk, who was on the ice for all five of the Lightning’s goal.

But with Game 7 mere hours away now, Claude Julien isn’t dwelling on any of the negatives.

“This is Game 7, and sorry not to answer your question, but this is not a day or a time for me to question,” Julien said when asked about Boychuk. “I’€™m going to [abstain] from doing that today because I think our team needs to be positive, and we believe in everybody in our hockey club. So we’€™re going to stick with that motto for today.”

-One of the positives the Bruins can take from Game 6 is the play of David Krejci. The first-line center notched the first playoff hat trick by a Bruin since Cam Neely in 1991. Julien said the coaches have been encouraging Krejci to shoot more all season, and that Wednesday night was a perfect example of why.

“David, in his mind, is a pass-first kind of player and he always looks to pass first and foremost,” Julien said. “And we’€™ve encouraged him to shoot more because there’€™s times when he’€™s in a real good shooting position. Marc Savard was the same way. Marc had a real good shot and a lot of times he’€™d look to pass instead of shooting.

“But that’€™s a natural thing that those guys normally do, from Adam Oates back in the day — they’€™re guys that that’€™s the strength of their game. So you don’€™t want them to lose that strength, but you also want them to be able to make the difference between, ‘Am I in a good shooting area or a scoring area here, where I should take the shot versus passing?’ ”

-One guy Julien (and B’s fans) would still like to see shoot more is Tomas Kaberle. The veteran defenseman had one of his best games of the playoffs Wednesday night, assisting on two goals, registering a plus-1 rating and logging 19:46 of ice time, his highest total since Game 5 against Montreal. But there were still times, especially on the power play, when he passed up what appeared to be an open shot.

“The only thing you’€™ve always heard about Tomas is you’€™d like to see him shoot the puck more,” Julien said. “And there are times on the power play where, if he has that shooting lane, with Zdeno [Chara] in front, you have to shoot. It doesn’€™t have to be a big shot. It can be a wrist shot, it can be anything.”

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, David Krejci, Johnny Boychuk, Tomas Kaberle
Bruins-Lightning Game 7: 7 things B’s must do at 1:47 am ET
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The Bruins are hours away from either the Stanley Cup finals or the end of their season. Sticking with our “seven” theme, here are seven of the many things the B’s should do as they look to take Game 7 vs. the Lightning.

- Get the same first line they got in Game 6: The trio of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton were an absolute handful for the Lightning on Wednesday. Krejci had a hat trick, while a shift late in the third period had the line threatening to tie the game on great opportunities for Krejci and Horton. Lucic scored the Bruins’€™ first goal of the game, and all three members of the line had multi-point nights.

- Limit the penalties or stop Tampa’€™s power play: The Bruins shut down Tampa’€™s power play in three straight games (nine power plays), but the Lightning figured it out in Game 6 to the tune of three tallies on the man advantage. As a result, the B’€™s will look to stay out of the box to avoid giving guys like Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis those chances. A penalty like Tomas Kaberle‘€™s interference of Ryan Malone in the third period is easily avoidable.

- Capitalize on Dwayne Roloson: The Bruins’€™ top line went hard after Tampa’€™s netminder in the shift that followed Krejci’€™s third goal, and on a night in which Roloson didn’€™t look very good, they probably wish they had a few more minutes to tie it up. Roloson entered the series with the best postseason save percentage and goals against average, but he has been yanked twice, sat once, and has an .851 save percentage in five games in the Conference Finals.

- Play Tyler Seguin on the second power play unit: If fans had their way, Tyler Seguin would center a line with Tyler Seguin and Tyler Seguin on the wings, and Tyler Seguin and Tyler Seguin playing defense in front of goaltender Tyler Seguin. People think he’€™s the magical solution to everything, and they overlook the fact that he still a work in progress with his overall game and the fact that he often will give up on a play before taking contact. With that being said, Seguin belongs on the power play. His offensive skill set and lack of everything else means his time is best spent on the man advantage.

- Get a lead and hold it. The Bruins have led in two of the three games they have lost this round.

- Get the Patrice Bergeron they are used to. Much was made prior to the series of how the B’€™s could play without Bergeron, and though they split the two games in which Bergeron was out with a concussion, he saw Wednesday that they lose without him. Bergeron had zero shots on the night and was a minus-1. Bergeron did have three points over the previous two games, but Wednesday was a forgettable night for the assistant captain.

- Make sure they know where Simon Gagne is: It’€™s a Game 7 against the Bruins and he’€™s playing in it’€¦ need we say more? Gagne has three goals this series against the B’€™s after racking up four in four games vs. Boston in the second round last year.

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, 7, Dwayne Roloson, Tomas Kaberle
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