Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Regular readers have probably already figured this out, but here's the post that makes it official.

I'm stepping away from this blog for a while, for a number of reasons. They include:
- This takes a lot of time to maintain, and I don't really have it right now.
- I never made a red cent off of blogging, so there's no $$$ incentive for it to linger.
- Writing about hockey feels like a job, and I already have one of those.

They do NOT include:
- Me falling off the Bruins bandwagon... I'm a lifetime member!
- Dissatisfaction with the blog itself, or the response I've had from many great folks in the hockey community.
- Any kind of decision not to return in the future.

For now the site will sit static, for the sake of keeping the archives open to anyone who stumbles across them. The "Star Wars" preview from May is still getting regular traffic, which is kinda cool. If you want to get in touch, simply reply to this post and there's a good chance the notification system will still be able to reach me.

Happy trails, everyone, and thanks for your support over the past couple of years.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Derek Morris through five games

As the Bruins close out their rare season-opening homestand with a meek 2-3 record, this week is sure to be rife with speculation and contrived finger-pointing. What better time to check in on that $3.3 million investment in Derek Morris... you know, the one that prevented the Kessel negotiations from getting off the ground...

Time on ice
Time on ice per game: 23:10, second behind Chara
PP time on ice per game: 5:06, second behind Savard
SH time on ice per game: 2:52, third behind Chara and Wideman

Clearly, Morris has had ample opportunity to make an impact on the ice. He has been paired mostly with Chara, arguably the best defensive partner in the league.

Offensive production
Goals: None.
Assists: 2. Both of Morris' assists were secondary, both were on the power play, and both were scored in the 7-2 rout of struggling Carolina.
Shots: 4. All shots came from a distance of at least 48 feet.

Hits: 7. This puts him in a tie for 129th leaguewide, along with guys like Saku Koivu and Alex Kovalev.
Plus/Minus: A team-worst -4. He's also -1 on special teams, though these numbers don't count in his official +/-.

PIM: 8. Two minors and a double-minor. It was Morris' slashing penalty that led to Colorado's tie-breaking goal.
Giveaways: 3, tied for most on the team.
Takeaways: 1.

$3.3 million per season, in case you forgot.

Of course there are a lot of Bruins whose numbers look bad right now, but Morris has clearly not had a smooth landing in Boston. If he can't turn it around, this contract could end up being an albatross for Peter Chiarelli.

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Friday, October 9, 2009

As long as we're throwing money around...

How about a major contract extension for Shawn Thornton?

Shots taken in 2009-10
Bruins: 92
Thornton: 11
Krejci: 7
Lucic: 2

Goals scored in 2009-10
Bruins: 9
Thornton: 1
Krejci: 0
Lucic: 0

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What's wrong with Tim Thomas?

Absolutely nothing, that's what.

The media are already beginning to pick up on the too-easy storyline that Thomas is stumbling in the face of his Vezina trophy and bloated contract. He didn't look great in an opening-night loss to Washington, and was lit up for 6 goals last night against the Ducks. Clearly, they conclude, he's due for a letdown season.

This happens with pretty much every goalie who achieves some measure of success, and in some cases (*cough*Theodore*cough*) the scrutiny is warranted. But in this case the lens should be focussed on a soft, passive defensive corps which seems to miss the grit and tenacity of Aaron Ward and Shane Hnidy.

What matters most for Boston is that Thomas is still playing like a man desperate to extend his NHL career. He made big saves against Anaheim while the game was still a close contest. He became more active handling the puck when it was clear his teammates couldn't handle the Ducks' aggressive forecheck.

Saturday night we should expect wunderkind Tuukka Rask to face the Islanders, marking his first appearance as full-time backup. If he plays well, the media are going to declare a "goalie controversy". But our attention should instead be squarely on Matt Hunwick, who really will be playing to convice Claude Julien of his worth. If Hunwick continues to be bullied by opposing forwards, look for Julien to bench him in favor of the stouter Johnny Boychuck.

That change alone might solve Thomas' struggles.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

On Tobacco Road

I'm now fully landed in the Triangle area of North Carolina, just down the bend from the home of those red-clad bastards who bounced the Bruins last April. Regular posting will resume soon.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Whatever happened to Brock Bradford?

Great find by Matt Porter:

Brock Bradford was drafted by the Bruins in the seventh round of the 2005 entry draft. After becoming Bruins property, he played at Boston College for four years where he peaked at 25 goals (in 37 games) as a senior. Hockeysfuture.com pegged him as a decent prospect with a probable future in the AHL.

If you've been wondering whatever happened to him, here's your answer.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bruins could trade for Kovalchuk

[ed: Within moments of posting this, I came across Joe Haggerty's article for WEEI, also asserting that the Bruins should pursue Kovalchuk before the trade deadline.]

Following on yesterday's post, let's look at some plausible scenarios in which the Bruins might be in a position to make a major trade this season.

Each of these would require Peter Chiarelli to make two "setup" moves:
1) Buy out the contract of Patrice Bergeron, reducing his cap hit to $1.5m.
2) Replace him as third-line center with a youngster, such as Sobotka or Hammill, or acquire a veteran in the range of $1m.
The overall effect would be to end up with a cap cushion of roughly $4m.

Given the above, any of the following could be offered at the trade deadline:

To ATL for Ilya Kovalchuk ($6.3m)
Chuck Kobasew ($2.3m) OR Michael Ryder ($4.0m)
AND first-round picks in 2010, 2011 and 2012

To COL for Milan Hedjuk ($3.9m)
Brad Marchand ($821k) OR Byron Bitz ($687k)
AND Toronto's first-round pick in 2010

To TBL for Martin St. Louis ($5.25m)

D Adam McQuaid OR D Jeff Penner
AND First-round picks in 2010 and 2011, possibly return Tampa's second-round pick in 2010

In any of these scenarios, Boston would come out of the deal with a fast, scoring winger for the top line. In return, they would give up quality players and prospects -- but without creating a weak spot in the active roster or in the upcoming drafts or in the prospect pipeline. The loss of Bergeron would be relatively easy to cover, considering Boston's depth at the center position, and an elite winger would more than compensate for the loss of Ryder or Kobasew.

Bottom line: If Chiarelli can clear a bit of cap space, he can easily compete for free-agents-to-be without cutting deeply into the prospect pool. Given that the Bruins are going to be a top contender for the Cup, it would be crazy for him not to position himself for a major trade this season.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Bruins preparing to go all-in for 2010?

For most of last season the Bruins led the league in both offense and defense, were in first place, and enjoyed career seasons from most of the roster. The only remaining expectation was playoff success, which was cut short in bitter fashion when they couldn't generate offense consistently against Carolina.

The Bruins addressed their most glaring need -- becoming more mobile on the blue line -- early in the summer. Their only other major roster change was the loss of Phil Kessel, their leading goal-scorer. On paper, an elite sniper is the only missing ingredient holding them back from a Cup run.

Let's do a little math in the wake of the Kessel trade:

a) In the 2010 entry draft, the Bruins will now have two first-round picks (one coming from Toronto) and three second-round picks (one each from Toronto and Tampa). In the 2011 entry draft, Boston will again have an extra selection in the first round, from Toronto.

b) Currently the Bruins have $1.7 million in space under the cap.

c) At the end of the 2010 season, the Bruins will need to renew or release the contracts of six unrestricted free agents, including Marc Savard (currently a $5m cap hit) and Derek Morris ($3.3m). At the same time, the team will need to renegotiate the contracts of restricted free agents Tuukka Rask ($3.2m), Blake Wheeler ($2.8m), Mark Stuart ($1.3m), Milan Lucic ($850k), Vladimir Sobotka ($750k), Drew Larman ($550k).

d) The only players on the team who are signed beyond 2011 are David Krejci and Tim Thomas.

e) Two division rivals, Toronto and Montreal, are making dramatic changes to their lineup with the goal of competing for the Northeast Division title. One team is getting much bigger, the other much smaller -- chances are, one of them is taking a good approach to closing the gap with Boston.

Add it all up and we get:

f) If there was ever a season for Peter Chiarelli to make a major trade, it's right now. The iron is red-hot and the opportunity will be over as soon as next summer's tough contract decisions begin.

Loaded with high draft picks and NHL-ready prospects destined to spend most of the winter in Providence, Chiarelli has both the leverage and the incentive to make a high-stakes gamble on the Bruins' Cup chances. All he needs now is an opportunity.

Next post: Talking specifics -- who could be acquired, what it would cost, and whether it would be enough to end the Cup drought.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Chiarelli's a real bastard, isn't he?

Can you tell Peter Chiarelli used to be an agent?

On trading Aaron Ward to Carolina: "Frankly, I wouldn’t have traded him anywhere else but Carolina because that’s where his home is."
Aaron Ward's take: "I’m a little shocked. Obviously it’s my home, so it’s not a bad place to get traded to. But it wasn’t expected. I thought I was actually going to finish out my career in Boston."

On trading Phil Kessel to Toronto: "This trade was really about two things. One is a player who did not want to play in Boston."
Phil Kessel's take: "I never one time asked to be traded."

Chiarelli is almost political in his ability to send messages through the media. Play nice with Chia, and he'll go on record talking about how much the organization owes you. Play hardball, and you're going to be dragged through the evening news as a mean-spirited prick who deserved a trade to Siberia.

Of course, it the message is directed not at the media and not at the fans. The intended recipient is the players: those who are in the organization already, and those whom he plans to court in the future.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

New Bruins Commercial

The bear pays another visit to the Garden, this time breaking into Cam Neely's office to scrounge around for a Winter Classic jersey. Watch it here.

Neely's expression at the end is reminiscient of "You wanna kick my dog while you're here???".

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Is the backup goalie "controversy" manufactured?

I'm having a hard time swallowing the media-driven storyline that Tuukka Rask has competition for the backup goalie position.

Yeah, the Bruins went out and signed Danny Sabourin as a third option in goal. But does anyone seriously think that Sabourin, who has played all of one preseason game in a Boston uniform after being ditched by the Pens, is going to take away Rask's opportunity to break into the NHL as a regular contributor?

So far, the Bruins organization has so far invested the following in Rask:
- Andrew Raycroft
- Manny Fernandez
- Three years of careful development
- $9.6 million in salary

Rask is now 22 and in a contract year. He has made the most of his NHL audition so far, shutting out the Rangers last season and holding them to one goal in his lone start this preseason. He has the opportunity to play behind a 35-year-old Vezina winner on a defending conference championship team. Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli has effectively cleared a path for him to the backup position by choosing not to even negotiate an extension for Fernandez.

The plan is obvious: Rask plays the next 2-3 seasons as a 30-game backup, and gradually begins to compete with Thomas for playing time. By the end of Thomas' contract in 2013, Rask should be the nightly starting goalie.

All of this adds up to an obvious truth: The backup job is Rask's alone this season. Only in dire circumstances will Sabourin have a shot at playing in Boston.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

On Hockey Eve...

No joke... the Bruins' season starts tonight. Here in the sunny Southland, it's 90 degrees and humid. The only place you're going to find ice is in your sweet tea. Nevertheless, the puck drops in four hours at Madison Square Garden, kicking off another pursuit of Lord Stanley.

Story time! In late September of 1997, the Bruins opened their preseason against Florida. The game was played in Charlotte, home of the Bruins' ECHL affiliate, in front of a crowd of a few thousand. I was 15 at the time, freshly enamored with the sport of hockey, and stood in awe of REAL NHL HOCKEY in my own hometown arena. The otherwise-meaningless exhibition carried one significant footnote: it was the first time that the world saw young phenoms Joe Thornton and Sergei Samsonov in a Bruins uniform.

In the 50-year-old Independence Arena, which was not built with professional hockey in mind, any fan could freely loiter around the locker room doors and talk to the players as they came in and out. One of my most cherished hockey memories is seeing Thornton and Samsonov, twin first-round picks who carried the weight of an Original Six franchise on their shoulders, marching purposefully down the thin rubber runway toward the ice. It was the beginning of a new era, and it happened in the most unlikely of times and places.

Of course, I wish that the Thornton Era hadn't left such a bitter aftertaste. But that moment of gravity impressed upon me that hockey is a game for all people, and can grow in even the most balmy climates... as long as the game becomes meaningful to those in attendance.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Winter Classic jersey revealed?

Ok, a couple of quick news tidbits:

- The official NHL Twitter feed published this photo of Tim Thomas being interviewed by Carrie Milbank [edit: Looks like the pic was taken down. It's been a bad week for Bettman. You can see the same photo here, as well as another glimpse here. Also, the Flyers officially unveiled their WC unis about half an hour ago.] Hmmmmm.... that's an interesting choice of threads for Timmy. Is this a sneak preview of the retro jersey the Bruins will wear at Fenway?

Uni fanatics will note that this is a slightly-altered version of the sweaters the Bruins wore from 1959 through 1967, Bobby Orr's rookie season. Interesting to see the anachronistic ties at the neck, and the use of a scripted logo similar to the one used in 1948-49. The Flyers also have the option to use a uniform from 1967, which would seem the logical choice.

- I'm going to call off the final round of this year's Hockey Hell series (the goalies). I'm in the middle of changing jobs and cities, and realistically I'm not going to put in the time to make that last entry happen. Let's salute this year's winners (read: losers) with whatever finger you deem most appropriate:

C Bobby Clarke
LW Jarkko Ruutu
RW Marty McSorley
D Bryan Marchment, Chris Pronger

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Sunday, September 6, 2009

A slight delay

There are, literally, several readers who are wondering why I haven't posted an update to the Hockey Hell series yet.

There will be a slight delay on the final entry -- I'm currently in the Raleigh area, scouting out places to live. That's right, I'm moving out of Preds territory and into the eye of the Hurricane!

This will, of course, put me in a much different position in regards to Bruins fandom. Two Bruins games at the RBC Center per year, a close-up view of former B's Aaron Ward and Stephane Yelle, and frequent bitter memories of last April... should make for an interesting relationship with my new "home" team.

I'll get back to Hockey Hell sometime next week. Sorry for the delay, y'all.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Hockey Hell Voting: The Defensemen

The Right Wing voting wasn't much of a competition, with Marty McSorley walking to an easy victory with over 82% of the vote. The Hockey Hell series rolls on, with this week posing perhaps the greatest challenge. This week you are to pick two (2) of the four no-goodniks below. It's not as easy of a challenge as it appears -- your choices will probably depend on your definition of "dirty" and whether you happen to be a Flyers or Devils fan.

If you're wondering what this series is all about, click here.

If you're wondering where Ulf Samuelsson is on this list, click here.

Bryan Marchment, 9 teams

- Notorious for taking players out at the knees, especially with knee-to-knee hits against more agile players.
- In his first 12 NHL seasons, he was suspended 13 times.

- A conservative list of stars whose careers were impacted by Marchment's cheapshots would include: Greg Adams, Glenn Anderson, Pavel Bure, Wendel Clark, Kevin Dineen, Mike Gartner, Paul Kariya, Mike Modano, Joe Nieuwendyk, Martin Rucinsky, Doug Weight, and Peter Zezel.
- He had a long-running feud with Mike Gartner, one of the league's classier players, which began in 1985 when he punctured Garnter's lung with a cheap hit.

Among his memorable cheapshots:

- Elbow on Mike Modano.

- Knee-on-knee with Nieuwendyk. (the Stars organization hates Marchment)

- Suspended 3 games for spearing Paul Kariya.

- Suspended 6 games for concussing Carolina's Shane Willis with an elbow.

- Hit Florida's Byron Ritchie from behind, shattering his collarbone and injuring him for an entire season.

- Part of an epic brawl against Wendel Clark as detailed by Down Goes Brown.

- In addition to being a cheapshot artist of the first class, he also agitated retaliation penalties.
- Proved too much of a headcase for Mike Keenan.
- Called Donald Brashear a "big monkey", then threatened to sue the league if it didn't establish clearer guidelines on racist speech, forcing the NHL to hire a full-time "sensitivity trainer".

- Like Chris Pronger below, Marchment never really acknowledged the severity of his actions. Instead he chose to blame the rest of the league for "unfairly" judging him, and frequently blamed his penchant for knee-to-knee hits on "instinct" instead of conscious choice.

- Ironically, he retired after blowing out his knee in a collision with Toronto's Jason Allison.

Chris Pronger, Whalers/Blues/Oilers/Ducks/Flyers

- As a rookie, Pronger was involved in a barroom brawl and was arrested for drunk driving.

- Early in his career, he was lambasted for immaturity and a lack of focus in the playoffs.

- It would be impossible in this format to catalogue his thousands of high hits, elbows, and other cheapshots. Youtube just doesn't have that kind of bandwidth.

- Demanded a trade out of Edmonton; it was later revealed that his wife, Lauren, didn't like the city. His trade to Anaheim conjured painful memories of the Gretzky trade, leaving an entire fanbase insulted and bitter.

- Was suspended in both the Conference Final and the Stanley Cup Final in 2007, for elbowing Tomas Holmstrom and Dean McAmmond, respectively.

- This clip speaks for itself.
- Most notorious moment: his skate-stomp on Ryan Kesler, which drew an 8-game suspension.

- Laid a vicious and unnecessary elbow on budding Devils star Zach Parise.

- Another elbow away from the play, this one on budding Red Wings star Pavel Datsyuk. See the pattern?

- Rather than take responsibility for his obvious lack of respect for other players' safety, Pronger has consistently argued that he is simply too tall to play a clean game. Of course, this has never been a problem for tall guys like Larry Robinson and Zdeno Chara, lending Pronger an additional reputation as an excuse-maker.

- Bleacherreport.com lists Pronger as the third-most hated player in the league (behind Avery and Crosby), calling him "quite easily the dirtiest player in the entire league".

- For the love of god, he just signed with the Flyers.
Scott Stevens, Devils/Blues/Captials

- His nickname, "Mr. Devil", says it all.

- As a rookie he was suspended for "biting and scratching" during a fight.
- At about the same time, he was named in a rape scandal which also involved Dino Ciccarelli.
- Suspended for his prominent role in the St. Patrick's Day Massacre brawl -- in which he fought none other than Dave Manson. No eye-gouging this time.
- Stevens' early career was defined by his knack for disrupting an entire franchise. His bloated contract with St. Louis, which cost them five first-round picks as compensation to Washington, contributed to the inflation of salaries leaguewide.

- When the Blues also poached Brendan Shanahan, they were forced by arbitration to send Stevens to New Jersey. Stevens refused to report, and the Devils locker room nearly fell apart in the ensuing power struggle. Three years later, he signed another enormous offer sheet with St. Louis, and was at the center of a tampering scandal which cost them $1.5 million and two first-round picks... and the Devils kept Stevens anyway.

- Stevens' bloated contract sheets with St. Louis were a factor in the labor issues which led to the 1995 lockout. Ironically, his Devils team took advantage of the shortened season to win a Stanley Cup.
- In that year's Finals, Stevens made his mark as a nightmarish open-ice hitter with a devastating, concussion-inducing run on Slava Kozlov.

- In the 2000 playoffs, he re-established the Devils' physical reputation by concussing Philadelphia's Daymond Langkow.

- Five games later, he sent Eric Lindros' career into a death-spiral with yet another open-ice hit to the head. It occurred on practically the same patch of ice as the Langkow hit.

- With less than 20 seconds left in a playoff game, Stevens crossed the ice to TKO Carolina's Shane Willis, leading to accusations that he was intentionally running players in order to injure them.

- In the very next game, Stevens pulverized Hall of Famer Ron Francis, leaving his victim to crawl noodle-legged back to the bench.

- Perhaps his most frightening hit was on Paul Kariya in the 2003 Finals. Once again, Stevens waited until a star player's attention was diverted at the blue line, and launched a headshot that knocked Kariya out cold.
- In 2001, The Sporting News ranked him the fifth-most feared player in NHL history.

Gary Suter, Flames/Blackhawks/Sharks

- Suter barely even qualified to play in the NHL, having been passed over in two drafts and then finally selected in the 9th round in 1984. At the time, he was lugging cases of beer for a living.
- Modeled himself after Chris Chelios, which says quite a lot about his aspirations.

- Was the league's most notorious "headhunter" for most of his career, establishing a reputation specifically for crosschecking opponents in the head.

- The most egregious example of this was his sickening crosscheck on Paul Kariya in 1998. This kept Kariya out of that year's Olympics and, some say, signalled the end of his time as a superstar.

- Just in case you thought the Kariya incident was isolated, here he is crosschecking Adam Deadmarsh in the head. Deadmarsh retired due to recurrent concussions.

- In the 1987 Canada Cup, he laid a vicious two-handed chop to the face of Andrei Lomakin.

- Hit Wayne Gretzky from behind during the Canada Cup championship in 1991, sidelining the Great One for the rest of the tournament. The ensuing back spasms eventually led to the decline and end of Gretzky's career.

- Later in the tournament, he committed the key turnover to end a USA rally against Canada and caused the Americans to be eliminated.

- He was responsible for the ACL injury which altered Pavel Bure's career and slowed down one of the NHL's most entertaining players.

- His general lack of respect for other players was evident even in situations in which he got off scot-free.

- At least one site calls him "the dirtiest player to play for Calgary, one of the dirtiest players ever to play in the NHL, and quite possibly the dirtiest player to ever lace the skates up for Team USA."

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Hockey Hell Voting: The RWs

Congrats (?) to Jarkko Ruutu, who won the LW voting in a landslide due to some collaborative effort by Leafs Nation. We move on to the Right Wing position, where things aren't going to get any easier. If you're not familiar with the Hockey Hell series, click here for an explanation.

Matthew Barnaby (7 teams)

Nickname = "Barney". Ugh.

Played with total lack of respect for any opponent.

Ambushed Flyers goalie Garth Snow after faking an injury.

Promised to cheapshot Dominik Hasek during training camp, as retaliation for Hasek's feud with former coach Ted Nolan.

Demanded a trade out of Buffalo, then changed his mind, then changed his mind again and was finally traded.

Set off a mini-controversy after making "obscene gestures" to the crowd in Philly.

During that incident, called a nearby TV cameraman a "Puerto Rican bitch".

Engaged in a bizarre series of semi-serious off-ice fights with teammate Rob Ray.
Became an ESPN analyst, following in the footsteps of widely-respected NHL figures such as Mike Milbury and Barry Melrose.

Jesse Boulerice Flyers/Hurricanes/Blues/Oilers

He was drafted by the Flyers, of course.

His NHL career was relatively brief, at only 172 games, due to his lack of genuine skill and talent. His career high in scoring was 6 goals in a full season with Carolina.
Charged with assault in juniors for clubbing Andrew Long in the head.

TKO'ed by Aaron Downey in perhaps the most-viewed hockey clip ever.

Received the second-longest suspension in history (see below) for cross-checking Ryan Kesler in the face.
Was waived twice in two weeks.

Marty McSorley (6 teams)

Appeared in the movie Forget Paris and the TV show CSI: Miami. That's two strikes.

Was a pure goon, never breaking 15 goals despite playing with the high-flying Oilers and Gretzky-era Kings.

Made his reputation as "Wayne Gretzky's bodyguard" in Edmonton and Los Angeles. This ushered in an era of goon specialists, which eventually led to the instigator penalty.

His two-handed chop to Donald Brashear's head remains one of the worst stick fouls in the history of the sport. His one-year suspension was the longest ever.

In the fallout of the Brashear incident, McSorley became one of the few professional athletes to be charged with an on-field crime. He served 18 months probation for assault with a weapon.

His entry into European hockey, after being blackballed from the NHL, was blocked by the IIHF (which is not known for heavy-handedness in such matters).

With the most boneheaded illegal-stick penalty in history, he destroyed the Kings' only shot at a Stanley Cup to date.

Was "mysteriously" fired without explanation from the Sharks broadcast team, in the middle of a playoff series.

Prototypical "hockey hair".

Received a 10-game suspension in the AHL for a stick attack on Joel Baillargeon. The Oilers called him up immediately and he never served a single game.

Suspended 3 games for spearing Calgary's Mike Bullard late in a playoff game.

Suspended 6 days for crosschecking Boston's Darren Banks in the forehead during a timeout.

Suspended four games for eye-gouging Bob Errey.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Hockey Hell Voting: The Left Wings

Congrats are in order to Bobby Clarke, who won a landslide election into Hockey Hell this week. Dale Hunter put up a respectable showing in second place, and Ken Linseman finished a distant third. With that, we move on to the Left Wing position, and the four candidates listed below.

Be sure to take a good look at each candidate as this is an especially competitve category. If nothing else, click the hyperlinks which almost all point toward a Youtube vid or archived news article worth seeing. Click here for an explanation of the Hockey Hell series. Voting for the LW position ends next Friday!

Tie Domi, Toronto Maple Leafs/New York Rangers

- An impressive set of records: Third-highest PIM total in league history... Leads the Maple Leafs in career PIMs... Broke Tiger Williams' record for most PIMs in a season by a Leaf.

- Once arrived to the rink halfway through a game, having stayed at his hotel to voice his displeasure at being benched.

- Sucker-punched Ulf Samuelsson. (This might actually count as a positive.)

- Egregiously cheapshotted Scott Niedermayer, knocking him out cold with an elbow to the head during the '01 playoffs. Instead of apologizing, he sought sympathy in a blubbering press conference.

- Played two exhibition games as a placekicker for the Toronto Argonauts in the CFL -- the lamest imaginable sport-to-sport crossover.

- Has a brother named Dash, who was once involved in some seedy government dealings. Tie and Dash Domi... really. What is this, an episode of Pokemon?

- Suspended for 6 games for an AHL pregame fight.

- Was involved in this ugly incident in 1999, a rare but shameful example of Domi letting his teammates fight his battles.

- Inconceivably, he racked up 42 PIM while dressing in only two games in 1989.

- In 1997-98, he scored only 4 goals while racking up a breathtaking 365 PIM. He scored roughly one goal for every 7 fights.

- Threatened with banishment from his 11-year-old son's hockey league after verbally abusing the coach. The situation escalated to the point that Domi threatened to sue the coach in retaliation.

Jarkko Ruutu, Vancouver Canucks/Pittsburgh Penguins/Ottawa Senators

- Bit Andrew Peters on the thumb during a fight, then denied it, then claimed that it was Peters' fault for sticking his fingers in Ruutu's mouth.

- Was on the receiving end of Chris Simon's notorious skate-stomp. And he probably deserved it.

- Finished 3rd in an SI poll to determine the league's dirtiest players -- only a point behind Chris Pronger and Steve Ott.

- A notorious diver, who usually agitates another player and then hits the deck on first contact

- Despite a memorable performance on the scoresheet, his diving during the IIHF championships was the subject of international mockery.

- Also a notorious chatterbox, in the mold of fellow Finn Esa Tikkanen.

- Has committed as many ridiculous acts of violence in international competition as he has in the NHL.

- Picks his spots when fighting. For example, he jumped an injured Milan Lucic at the end of a long shift, and got a set of bruised ribs for his trouble.

Dave Schultz, Philadelphia Flyers/Los Angeles Kings/Pittsburgh Penguins/Buffalo Sabres

- Nicknamed "The Hammer".

- Was the most violent member of the Broad Street Bullies teams in Philadelphia, pairing with Bobby Clarke and Dave Williams to round out the dirtiest lineup of all time.

- Enabled Clarke's cheapshottery by providing cover for him when enforcers came calling. Common wisdom has it that Clarke was only able to survive his playing career because of Schultz's presence during line brawls.

- Brought a back-alley style of fighting to the ice. Schultz frequently pulled hair, gouged eyes, bit, scratched and otherwise maimed opponents.

- Nearly broke the unthinkable 500-PIM barrier, setting a league record with 472 in 1974-75.

- Originated the "Schultz Rule", which bans boxing wraps on the wrists of players who fight.

- Nearly sparked a melee at Nassau Coliseum in 1974, headbutting the Islanders' Gary Howatt along the glass and then reaching over to provoke an unruly NY crowd.

- In Game 7 of the 1974 semi-finals, Schultz jumped Rangers defenseman Dale Rolfe and pounded him mercilessly, pulling his hair and punching him repeatedly with little opposition. Rolfe registered all of 56 PIM that season, to Schultz's 348. The Flyers won the game and the series.

- In 1975, he recorded the song "Penalty Box".

- Despite a solitary 20-goal season, Schultz brought little hockey skill to the table. He bounced around the league as a role player in the late 70s and early 80s, never playing two full seasons for the same team. He washed out of the league in 1980, ignominiously retiring in the AHL.

- Bit Leafs enforcer Kurt Walker on the nose.

- Sucker-punched Vancouver rookie John Vanboxmer, knocking him out cold...

- ... and then signed photos of the incident...

- ... even though he was schooled by Hall of Famer Larry Robinson only moments later.

- On his own website, the only clips from his playing days are of brutal fights including the Rolfe mugging.

- Stars in one of the league's most notoriously violent photographs.

Darcy Tucker, Montreal Canadiens/Tampa Bay Lightning/Toronto Maple Leafs/Colorado Avalanche

- Toronto media nickname = Sideshow Bob

- A notorious diver and whiner.

- Took out Jochen Hecht's knees. Are you sensing a pattern?

- Brother-in-law to Shayne Corson, who is no stranger to the suspension list.

- Pounded by Jarkko Ruutu in one of the all-time great d-bag showdowns.

- Mugged, and then mocked, Patrick Eaves who had never dropped the gloves before... after the latter laid him out on a clean check.

- No. 7 on bleacherreport.com's list of all-time NHL villains, ahead of Todd Bertuzzi and Bobby Clarke.

- Frequently refuses to answer the bell when challenged to a fight. Never was this more evident than when he repeatedly dodged Chris Neil of the Sens.
- He was both a Hab and a Leaf.

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Video: Jordan Caron gets destroyed by Colton Teubert

Vid has finally surfaced of the monster hit that broke the clavicle of Boston's first-round pick. The executioner is Colton Teubert, a Kings prospect who was picked 13th overall last year.

Put in a mouthguard before you watch this, otherwise the seismic wave will give you a concussion.

Hopefully Caron will have learned his lesson. This is why NHL players don't look at their laces when crossing the blue line.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

HCTB enters the Twitter-sphere

"Follow me!", says the creepy little bird.

In my ever-continuing quest to sit at the cool kids' lunch table, I am launching a new Twitter account for this blog: http://twitter.com/bostonblueline. This is going to be used primarily to announce new posts, but also to submit real-time reactions on the Bruins, the NHL, and anything else relevant to hockey fans. If you only want to hear my ramblings in 140-character increments, this is right down your alley!

Please note that this is NOT my personal Twitter and I have no intention of telling you what I'm eating for breakfast. Sorry, ladies.

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Friday, August 7, 2009

Hockey Hell voting: The Centers

Ok folks, time to get this thing started. This week we will take a look at 3 of the most unholy men ever to patrol NHL ice at the center position. Take a few moments to read over their list of qualifications, and cast your vote in the poll to the right. Voting will be open until next Friday.

If you're wondering what this is about, go to this post for an explanation of the rules.

"If you can't be good, at least be good at being bad."

Bobby Clarke, Philadelphia Flyers


- Was the captain and embodiment of the Broad Street Bullies mystique, leading a parade of brawlers which set the NHL's image back 50 years.

- Most famous play: sparking an international incident with a shameful slash to the ankle of Russian star Valeri Kharlamov in the '72 Summit Series.

- Only days later, butt-ended Czechoslovak captain Frantisek Pospisil in what the New York Times called "what might be the dirtiest play ever captured on film".

- In an NHL-USSR exhibition in 1976, Clarke contributed to an embarrassing display of goonery that led to the Soviet team abandoning the ice in protest.

- Canadian hockey hero (and Summit Series teammate) Paul Henderson once said to a reporter that dirty play was Clarke's "trademark".

- Fourth all-time in PIM for the Flyers, which is saying something.

- Once described his Flyers as "20 guys without brains".

- One of the longest-tenured GMs not to win a Cup -- only Bob Pulford has a worse record.

- Made perhaps the most damaging trade in NHL history, acquiring Eric Lindros in exchange for numerous players who would become the centerpiece of two Cup runs in Colorado. What's more, the arbitrator who awarded Lindros to the Flyers was the granduncle of none other than Todd Bertuzzi. Birds of a feather...

- Defended a medical staff that advised Lindros to board a plane instead of receiving treatment for a collapsed lung. If Clarke had had his way, Lindros probably would have died.

- Generally credited with causing Lindros to devolve from "The Next One" into a fuzzy-brained fourth liner.

- As GM of the '98 Olympic team, he tapped utility winger Rob Zamuner but passed on national legend Mark Messier.

- In that same year, he passed over veterans such as Gretzky, Yzerman and Bourque for the captain's "C"... instead giving the honor to his pet project with the Flyers, young Eric Lindros.

- Replaced Roger Nielson as coach... while Nielson was on a leave of absence for cancer treatments. Was quoted as saying, "We didn't tell him to go get cancer... he went goofy on us."

- Burned through 6 coaches in 5 seasons, blaming each for the Flyers' playoff failures.

- Gave Derian Hatcher a job, even after the rest of the NHL had wised up.

- Rated by Askmen.com as the 4th worst GM of all time... in any sport.

- Recently called the renaissance of hockey in Pittsburgh, Washington and Chicago "embarrassing" for the league.

Dale Hunter, Washington Capitals/Quebec Nordiques


- Nickname: "La Petite Peste".

- Holds the league record for playoff PIM, and is second in regular season history. Taking both numbers together, he finished a mere 127 PIM behind Tiger Williams for the all-time title.

- Holds the franchise PIM record in both Washington and Colorado.

- Holds the record for playoff games without winning a Cup.

- But his most famous record of all: After committing one of the most egregious cheapshots in league history, Hunter received a precedent-setting 21-game ban from newly-minted commissioner Gary Bettman. The replay is still a Youtube favorite for all the wrong reasons.

- Known around the league as a butcher with his stick.

- Played a key role in the infamous Good Friday Brawl between Montreal and Quebec. Near the 7:00 mark of the video, you can see him pounding on his own brother.

- Then there's this.

- To acquire Sakic from Quebec, Washington traded away the draft pick that would become Joe Sakic.

- Of all career 1000-point scorers, Hunter took the longest to accomplish the feat.

- When the Caps retired his number in 2000, they presented him with a symbol of his accomplishments -- a penalty box from the old Capital Center.

- As a coach, Hunter was fined or suspended by the CHL a total of 4 times during a single span of 12 months.

- During that period, he was also arrested for DUI. The charges were dismissed on a technicality.

Ken Linseman, Bruins/Flyers/Oilers/Leafs


- One of the great nicknames in hockey: "The Rat". Bobby Clarke coined it.

- Wore #13.

- Played for both the Flyers AND the Bruins.

- Probably the first "super pest" to be recognized as such.

- Charged and convicted of assault for kicking a player in the forehead with his skate during junior-league play.

- Later, he was fined $200 for attempting to kick Montreal's Robert Picard during a scuffle. Yes, that's two kicking incidents in the same career. Eat your heart out, Chris Simon!

- Before going pro, he engaged in a high-stakes legal squabble with the WHA. The battle ended when his family filed a restraining order against the league, allowing him to play. This was the grounds for the WHA's raiding of under-20 players such as Gretzky, Messier and Gartner, an unprecedented blow to the NHL's talent pool.

- Called the Lady Byng trophy an "embarrassment".

- Particularly well known for running his mouth nonstop at opponents, but only occasionally dropping the gloves to back it up.

- Traded twice in one day.

- Fought Dean Kennedy under the stands at the Edmonton Coliseum. Kennedy required stitches because Linseman used his stick during the fight, and slammed Kennedy's head onto the concrete floor.

- Bit the the Oilers' Lee Fogolin in the face. Fogolin required a tetanus shot.

- No need to go into detail about what happened here.

- Yet another player known for his liberal use of the stick.

- Scored 3 series-clinching goals in 1984 alone, including the Cup-winner, making him the Claude Lemieux of his time.

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Hockey Hell Class of 2009

Last week saw the announcement of the US Hockey Hall of Fame's class of 2009 -- congrats are owed to former NHL stars Tony Amonte, John LeClair and Tom Barrasso for their selection to the hallowed halls.

That signals the beginning of the second annual Hockey Hell inductions! Last summer we got a great response to the inaugural class, so this year brings an opportunity for the readership to weigh in on the nominations. Every Friday, for the next five weeks, you the reader will have an opportunity to review the nominations and vote for one candidate in the poll on the right. Voting will be open until the following Friday.

The rules are pretty simple: The purpose of Hockey Hell is to recognize the villains of the game. Think of it as a sort of anti-HoF. Qualification is based upon dirtiness, notoriety, famous cheap shots, “pest” factor, and general personal disdain.

Last year's First Line featured 6 of the biggest scumbags to ever lace up a pair of skates:
C - Sean Avery
LW - Chris Simon
RW - Claude Lemieux
D - Sprague Cleghorn
D - Ulf Samuelsson
G - Ron Hextall

This year we'll be looking for a Second Line to provide a little depth to the lineup. Voting starts tomorrow morning! Keep this page bookmarked as it will be updated to reflect each poll.

August 7-13 - Centers - Bobby Clarke, Dale Hunter, Ken Linseman
August 14-20 - Left Wingers - Tie Domi, Jarkko Ruutu, Dave Schultz, Darcy Tucker
August 21-27 - Right Wingers
August 28 - September 3 - Defensemen
September 4 - September 10 - Goalies

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Weird facts of the day

Just came across a couple of odd tidbits while looking over the list of 500-goal scorers.

Four of the 41 players to hit that mark did so on an empty net.
Mike Bossy - January 2, 1986
Wayne Gretzky - November 22, 1986
Jari Kurri - October 17, 1992
Keith Tkachuk - April 6, 2008

Even more strange: Three scored their 500th against Patrick Roy.
Steve Yzerman - January 17, 1996
Joe Mullen - March 14, 1997
Brendan Shanahan - March 23, 2002

Only two players - Espo and the Chief - have scored their 500th as a Bruin. The next player in line to hit the mark is Jarome Iginla, who looks to be 2-3 seasons away.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Back from hiatus

I'm back from a short break and reasonably caught up at work so posting will resume -- and hopefully continue more or less uninterrupted through the rest of the upcoming season.

Let's take a look at the big events that happened over the course of the past week and a half:


Ok then. Keep an eye out for this year's Hockey Hell selections coming later this week. Only 2 months till puck drop!

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bruins popularity, ticket sales soaring

New England Hockey Journal has a great article on the rising popularity of the Bruins. Definitely worth a read for anyone who has stuck with this team through the past decade and a half.

Buried in the article are a few noteworthy numbers:

  • Season ticket sales have roughly doubled since two years ago.
  • The Bruins' NESN ratings increased 69 percent, matching a 12-year-old record overall.
  • Game 7 against Carolina was the most-watched Bruins game in NESN history, with a 14.2 share. And it shared the airwaves with a Celtics playoff game.

As we fret over the summertime minutiae of salary cap issues and prospect development, it's a good time to pat ourselves on the back as fans. Times like this are sweet and fleeting -- we've suffered through the dark days and come out the other side. Keep that Axelsson jersey stashed in the back of the closet as proof that you were there.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Let's try this again: How much can Kessel expect to make?

Earlier this week we speculated about what numbers might be involved in the Phil Kessel negotiations. At the time it seemed that Peter Chiarelli's only remaining task was to either sign Kessel, or deal him for a defenseman.

It seems Chiarelli had other things on his mind, thus the flurry of activity on Thursday and Friday. Things have actually become much clearer for Kessel, as the Bruins are now dealing with a definite salary cap number.

Assuming Chiarelli doesn't have any more surprises up his sleeve, here's where it stands for Kessel:

Bruins cap space - $1.3 million
Chuck Kobasew's cap hit - $2.3 million
Possible salary for Kessel - $3.6 million

There it is, Phil... take it or leave it. Contracts larger than Kobasew's are unmoveable, so trading Chuckie is Chiarelli's last and best hope for clearing some cap space to sign Kessel.

Last Wednesday's post pegged Kessel's market value at roughly $3.4 million, based on similar contracts and his lack of leverage in the negotiations. This should really be a very simple decision for him. End this stalemate early, spend the rest of the summer shopping for Porsches and look forward to another year of burying Marc Savard passes.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Tweeters get ahead of themselves; Bruins' wild day continues

What a strange day it's been. I'm setting a new record with 4 posts, because every time I log on there is something new to report.

The latest development is that the Bruins signed -- oops, ALMOST signed -- former Coyote/Ranger Derek Morris as reported (and then recanted) on Twitter by James Murphy. Here's the chuckle-worthy series of Tweets:

Bruins have signed Derek Morris. More details to come.

Regarding last tweet, I was just told by reliable source Bruins have signed Derek Morris. Trying to confirm.

Still trying to confirm. But it appears Derek Morris very likely could be a Bruin.

No confirmation yet but all signs pointing towards Morris to Bruins. There are other teams in on him, but sources tell me, Bruins got him.

Update on Derek Morris to Bruins: All we can say is that the Bruins and Morris are very close to a deal. No call back from agent. So "close"

WBZ reporting Morris' agent says Bruins one of several teams in mix, no Bruins announcement today. My sources still say Bruins the team

Mmm hmm... everyone got that? This is the sort of embarrassing thing that we are going to see more of in the age of New Media.

Even better are the bloggers who jumped on the story too early, vaguely citing "sources" that could "confirm" an event that didn't actually happen.

Jumpy Tweeters notwithstanding, the Morris signing appears to be a legit story. This means the Bruins have effectively swapped Aaron Ward for Morris, a 4th round pick, and a slight cap hit for 3 of the next 4 years.

Now for the latest head-scratcher: Morris carried a healthy $3.95 million cap hit last season. Granted, the contract was bloated and we are sure to see Morris take a pay cut... but it's hard to imagine him going much below Ward's salary level.

In other words, this "salary dump" was not actually a salary dump at all. It was, more or less, an even salary swap in which the Bruins got slightly younger, softer and more skillful on the blue line.

So after all that, still no progress in the Kessel stalemate.

I'm sure that Peter Chiarelli is either mad, or a genius. I hope that he's both.

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Chiarelli positioning to trade Kessel, or just playing mind games?

Still trying to get our minds around Peter Chiarelli's intentions in trading Aaron Ward, we come across some unsettling statements in the media:

- The Boston Globe and Rink Rap both report that the trade was designed specifically to deliver Ward back to his adopted home of North Carolina.

"Frankly, I wouldn't have traded him anywhere else except to Carolina because that's where his home is."

"I knew right off the bat," Ward said. "It's never good when your general manager calls you in the summer. He told me I was traded. I was pretty happy with the news that I'd get to go back to Carolina. He conveyed to me that he wasn't going to trade me anywhere else but Carolina. It worked out well."

Let's hope that Chiarelli is just playing at public relations, and not honestly stating that this was a personal favor to Ward. Taking care of Bruins alumni is a noble cause, but not at the (literal) expense of the franchise.

- The conventional wisdom around the deal is that it's a cap-friendly move which will allow the team to re-sign Phil Kessel. Not so, says Chiarelli:

"I'm looking at another defenseman," said Chiarelli. "I would expect we
would add a defenseman. Whether we're searching for a partner (for Zdeno Chara -- Ward was his partner last season) or someone we already have is going to play with him, that's all (undecided at this point)."

Um. Looking at adding another... defenseman? You mean, someone to replace the defenseman you just traded?

Again, let's hope this is nothing more than posturing for Kessel to read in tomorrow's press. A sly GM wants to make a free-agent feel that the team can walk away from the table if necessary. This statement was sufficiently ambiguous that there's really no telling what plans are being laid behind closed doors.

But if we take this quote as face value, it more or less confirms that Kessel will be moved. Re-signing him would eliminate any possibility of acquiring a top-4 defenseman this year. Unless, of course, Carolina wants to unload one in exchange for a buyout forward and a low draft pick. Just sayin'.

- But then we get hit with this curveball:

"With respect to Phil, he's a good young player and we want him in our mix. I've got the endorsement of ownership that any offer that comes in we will match."

Ok, so now we have an olive branch being extended to the Kessel camp. Or is it an invitation to disaster?

Remember, it wasn't so long ago that a young, talented forward in the Northeast Division faced restricted free agency and the possibility of being traded. His team made a commitment to match any offer sheet that came along, because they couldn't afford to lose his long-term promise. He's blossomed into a regular 40-goal scorer, though much like Kessel he could still use some work on his overall game.

His name is Thomas Vanek, and he carries a $7,000,000 cap hit. It's hard to imagine that Chiarelli would find a way to fulfill his promise to match "any offer" if a team like the Leafs swoops in and offers, say, a $5.5 million deal to Kessel. Is the above just more hot air, or is he throwing down the gaunlet to any would-be suitors?

- Finally, Chiarelli explains that Eaves' buyout was actually advantageous for Boston:

“Because the contract is structured with escalating salaries, we actually get a positive credit to our cap next year in the amount of $41,000,” said
Chiarelli, who noted that because Eaves is younger than 26, the buyout is for one-third the value of the deal.

So if Eaves isn’t claimed on waivers, he will be a slight cap hit (around $258,000) for Boston this year and then give the Bruins more room next season.

Setting aside the arcane rules that allow for such a situation, it's a bit difficult to swallow this reasoning. Granted, it gives the Bruins the slightest bit of relief in summer of '10, when four more key players come up for new contracts. But in three other seasons, this is an utterly unnecessary $250k penalty raises the Bruins' overall buyout penalties to over $2 million this season.

And, bafflingly, Chiarelli has yet to explain why he took Eaves in the first place. Trading Ward for a fourth-round pick would be one-sided. Trading him for a fourth and a cap penalty is salary-cap sabotage.

Since the Bruins have improved so dramatically under his watch, Chiarelli has enjoyed an abnormally generous benefit of the doubt. Any gold-blooded Bruins fan wants this trade to work out, Kessel to be re-signed and have a monster season, and the organization to look back on today as another signpost in a Cup-winning journey.

But until we see the final destination with our own eyes, this has the feeling of a true leap of faith not seen from the Bruins since... well, since the last time we defended a Northeast Division title.

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Are you frickin' kidding me?

I barely had time to type that last post before Boston put Patrick Eaves on waivers with the intention of buying him out.

Let me get this straight.

Lacking depth on the blue line, we traded a veteran defenseman who was a leader in the locker room...

... for a near-worthless draft pick and an underachieving forward we didn't need...

... who we then put on waivers to either be scooped up elsewhere or bought out...

... so we will now carry another buyout hit in addition to those which caused this cap crunch to begin with.

And Chiarelli couldn't find a better deal elsewhere? What would be wrong with simply trading Ward straight-up for a draft pick? Why take on a useless cap hit in the process of a salary dump???

Deep in my brain there's a rational explanation slowly forming around the idea of re-signing Kessel or moving him to a team that could give us a two-fer. But that idea simply doesn't align with the sheer stupidity of taking on a contract which will be nothing but an empty cap hit for the next several years. It's like eating a whole carrot cake as part of your diet, because carrots are healthy.

Of course, Kessel is worth this painful trade. If he scores 40 this year, Chiarelli will be hailed as a genius. But it's hard to understand how this is the best deal available for a team already struggling with a serious cap crunch... and needing every bit of breathing room for Savard, Lucic and Wheeler next summer.

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Ward traded to Canes: First Reactions

Carolina gets: D Aaron Ward, his $2.5m price tag, and a lotta splainin' to do about trashing his personal character only a few months ago.

Boston gets: F Patrick Eaves, his $1.4m price tag, a 2010 4th-rounder, and the ability to re-sign Phil Kessel.

My immediate reaction: Frankly, Eaves is garbage. His "career year" was a 20-goal season on a supercharged Ottawa team, and everything since then has been measured in single digits. Except, of course, for his "games missed with injury" numbers. Fragile + low-scoring + paid more than $1m = waste of space.

The 2010 pick is also a throwaway. Carolina is a top-6 team for sure this year, and might even challenge Washington for the division if they get hot. That means the pick will come in the part of the draft where guys like Cam Janssen and Kevin Bieksa are considered a steal.

This trade is all about Phil Kessel. Boston saves $1.1m on the cap, presumably enough to come to terms with Kessel and ensure they get their top goal scorer back in the fold. Chiarelli is taking two gambles:

1) Ward won't be missed as much as we think, because Johnny Boychuk is ready for the Big Show. I'll believe that when I see it.
2) Eaves is really a solid Sturm-esque player who's had some hard luck, but is ready to break into his own. I'm not sure that I'd believe it even if I saw it.

Kudos to Canes Country for predicting this trade days in advance. I trashed it at the time, and I will continue to trash it because the Canes essentially stole an asset for almost no return. The onus is now on Kessel to provide big returns on the investment, because this trade hurts Boston in the locker room even more than on the ice.

One last thought... it's hard not to notice that the Bruins are spending $1.8m of cap space on buyouts this year. Ward is essentially a victim of the Murray and Schaefer contracts.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

How much is Kessel really worth?

While we wait for this impasse to clear, there are only two variables left in play:

1) How much does Kessel think he's worth?
2) Can the Bruins achieve that number by dumping salary to other teams?

I'll leave Eklund to work on that second item, but #1 is something worth thinking about.

Let's take a look at the historical precedent. Kessel is 21 and coming off a 36-goal campaign -- an unusual scenario for any team trying to construct a market-value offer. In fact, I could only find five similar cases in recent history:

Marian Hossa, 2001: He rang up 32 goals for Ottawa, but was unable to come to terms when his rookie contract expired. Hossa sat out until two weeks into the season, signing a 3-year deal worth $2.8 million per. After three more seasons of similar production, he signed with the Thrashers at $5m/yr and has been a mercenary ever since.

Simon Gagne, 2002: Gagne led the Flyers with 33 goals, and signed a two-year contract the following summer for $2.35m per. He continued to climb the scoring list and landed a $5.25m/yr deal several years later. Nagging injuries that began in his early 20s have blossomed to siderail his career, though he can still hold his own.

Dany Heatley, 2003: This is, of course, an unusal story. Heatley was one of the league's brightest stars when he scored 41 goals in his second season, and under the right circumstances would have turned out quite differently. However, his personal life and the lockout got in the way and he ended up being traded to Ottawa. His post-lockout salary was in the $4.5m/yr range, but that was two years removed from his breakout season.

Alex Semin, 2007: Another odd story, which involved the Capitals suing Semin's agent for breach of contract when he split for Russia after his rookie season. When he returned, the 23-year-old scored 38 goals and was rewarded with a 2-year contract at $4.6m per. He'll be looking to hit the jackpot after this season as an RFA.

Thomas Vanek, 2007: This is the nightmare scenario. Vanek was 5th in scoring during the final year of his rookie contract, and everything seemed on track until the Oilers signed him to an absurd 7-year, $50m ($7.14m/per) offer sheet. In the wake of other free agent departures, Sabres management had little choice but to absorb this monstrosity of a contract.

So, the historical record shows a little bit of everything: from the "prove it" contract (Gagne) to a regrettable trade (Heatley) to a cap-crushing offer sheet (Vanek). Oddly, the post-cap contracts seem to be less restrained than those which occurred in a free market.

Of the five, Kessel's situation is most similar to Gagne's. He's playing on a Cup-contending, big-market team alongside one of the best setup men in the league. He's got a media-friendly personal history. If he should stay in Boston, he'll be one of the top names in this year's Winter Classic. The table is set for him to have a huge season, one in which his value could eventually elevate into the $5-6m range or higher. But that is contingent upon his health and his production, and the "if" factor is a bit too much for him to score that kind of deal right away.

Using the examples of Gagne and Hossa, it would be reasonable for the Bruins to offer a 2-year deal with a $3m annual cap hit. However, Kessel's agent will likely start the discussion with David Krejci's recent $3.75m extension. Taking the average, we arrive at $6.8 million over 2 years, with a cap hit of $3.4m per. Given Kessel's lack of leverage, and the likelihood of a big payday down the road, he'd be wise to take that offer.

In order to arrive at this number, the Bruins will be required to move one or more of the following: Chuck Kobasew, Andrew Ference, Mark Stuart.

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Great vid of 10 Bruins prospects

Gotta pass along this great top 10 list of Bruins prospects from The Lunatic Fringe (aka Playmaker from HFBoards). Most of the video was shot during prospect camp, so this is the first time we've seen a couple of these guys in a Bruins uniform.

If nothing else, you've GOT to see the sick shootout move Joe Colborne pulls at the end of his vid. By all appearances his size, speed and skill will have him in Boston before too long.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Breaking news: Hunwick signs for 2 years

Boston.com just reported that Matt Hunwick has signed a 2-year deal with Boston to avoid arbitration. Not much detail readily available, but I'm going to throw out a few educated guesses:

1) Hunwick's agent advised him to take a last-chance deal before going to arbitration, meaning he probably settled in the range of $1.6-1.75m/yr. I don't see him settling for less, but I don't see him getting any more on Friday so this was probably the best deal for all concerned. [ed: The Bruins made out better than I expected -- Hunwick's deal will average $1.45m/yr. This is a great deal for the Bruins, who can use every quarter-mil they can squeeze under the cap.]

2) This means that if Hunwick's career continues to arc upward, he will be in for an enormous payday in two years. The Bruins will have to make some very difficult decisions if that happens.

3) Expect movement on Phil Kessel in the near future. Hunwick was the only other question-mark on the 2010 roster, so Peter Chiarelli is now dealing with an absolute cap number.

Until today, I'd imagine that the dialogue between Chiarelli and Kessel was nothing but posturing. Now there's no point in kidding each other -- either Boston can afford to retain him or they can't. Chiarelli simply needs to know how much Kessel is willing to play for, and whether that number can be achieved by moving a player or two to another team.

If I'm right about Hunwick's new cap hit, my back-of-a-napkin tally has the Bruins at $54.6 million committed to this season, with a $56.8 million cap ceiling. Kessel will likely not sign any contract for less than $4m per season, and it's pretty clear that he wants to shoot for $5m if possible.

My expectation: within the next two weeks Chiarelli will find a taker for Chuck Kobasew, moving $2.3m off the roster. He'll offer Kessel $4.3m for 2 years, leaving just the slightest bit of space under the cap ceiling. And then we'll start talking about next season's cap crisis.

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7 games to watch in 2009-10

October 1st vs. Washington - All eyes will be on this opening night matchup of Eastern Conference contenders. Expect a huge amount of media attention and a sloppy, entertaining game. This is also the first matchup in a neat home-and-home -- the Bruins visit the Caps on April 11 to end the season.

November 3rd @ Detroit - It's been years since the Bruins visited the Motor City. Last season their home win against the Red Wings signalled a shift from also-ran into contending status; this game could also be a turning point in the Bruins' season.

December 4th @ Montreal - Montreal's official Centennial Game will close a disastrous commemorative year. Boston has played a huge role in spoiling the Habs' celebrations, from their Patrick Roy Day victory to an ignominious playoff sweep. It would be sweet to win this one, and flip one final bird to the Habs' Year of Self-Congratulation.

January 1st vs. Philadelphia - No extra hype necessary.

February 13th @ Florida - Leading into the Winter Olympics break, Boston plays four road games in six days: divisional matches in Buffalo and Montreal, then a game in Tampa and one in Miami. That's a brutal road trip leading into the 3-week break, especially since all four have the potential to be embarrassing upsets. This game will set the tone for the stretch run.

March 16th @ Carolina - Like the Florida game above, this will be the end of a grueling road trip that features games against 5 of the 8 Eastern playoff teams from 2009. Especially important is the Carolina game, which allows for a true measure of Boston's progress from last season. This one comes 24 hours after a game in Newark, and two days before the Bruins host the defending champs.

April 5th @ Washington - While I could as easily have picked the season-finale in Washington less than a week later, this game is the one I'll be watching most closely. The Caps have an opportunity to punch the Bruins in the mouth, and establish themselves as king of the hill before the playoff rush begins. I would compare this matchup to the Habs game last April 9, which devolved into blatant message-sending on both sides. If it's going to happen between Washington and Boston, it'll probably be in this game rather than their final contest.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

HCTB 1, Mainstream Media 0

Ok, I can't technically take credit for a "scoop" on this, because I'm not one of those fancy-pants professional journalists with their credentials and sources and legitimacy, but it looks like I at least made a really good guess on the possibility of Sergei Zubov coming to Boston. Zubov's agent reports, via SI's Allan Muir, that the Bruins have indeed shown interest in him.

The common critique of this possibility is that the B's could never fit Zubov under the cap, to which I rebut -- let's wait and see what happens with Phil Kessel. If they decide to move Kessel, they might include a cap-heavy forward in the deal. Hmmm, Kobasew ($2.3m) seems about right, and with Mark Recchi at RW this season...

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Is there any hope for the Avalanche?

What a mess.

Ten years ago, anyone's list of the top general managers in the NHL would have included Colorado's Pierre Lacroix. At that time the Avs were one of the league's premier franchises, possessed perhaps the largest stockpile of raw talent ever assembled, and challenged Detroit for dominance of the Western Conference. The architect of their mini-dynasty was Lacroix, who was especially noted for his crafty trades and free-agency gambles.

My, how quickly time passes in the NHL.

Today the Avs are a humbled franchise -- their record streak of division titles is a distant memory, and their home sellout streak has followed suit. While attendance has dropped to Predator-like levels, franchise keystones such as Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy have shown no interest in being associated with the basement-dwelling years to come. Last month the Avalanche fired coach Tony Granato, but only after letting him twist in the wind for weeks while offering his job to former teammate Roy -- who politely turned them down.

How could this happen?

To get our heads around the scale of the Avs' regression, we have to look back at the roster moves made during their salad years. Take a peek, if you dare, at their first-round draft picks of the past 15 years:

95 - Marc Denis
96 - Peter Ratchuk
97 - Kevin Grimes
98 - Alex Tanguay, Martin Skoula, Robyn Regehr, Scott Parker
99 - Mikhail Kuleshov
00 - Vaclav Nedorost
01 - none
02 - Jonas Johansson
03 - none
04 - Wojtek Wolski
05 - none
06 - Chris Stewart
07 - Kevin Shattenkirk
08 - none
09 - Matt Duchene

What's worse -- having only two serviceable players to show for 15 first-round picks, or having missed the first round altogether 4 out of 9 times leading into a rebuild?

Digging a little deeper, it's clear to see that Lacroix (and his brief successor, Francois Giguere) handcuffed the organization with a pattern of win-now-pay-later trades during his time as GM. The Avs have two Cups to show for his efforts, and that is not to be marginalized, but look at the long-term effects that these trades had in the long run:

To Colorado:
Theo Fleury, Chris Dingman - Fleury had 33 good games in Colorado, then ditched them for New York. Dingman played a few seasons as a role player.
To Calgary: Robyn Regehr, Rene Corbet, Wade Belak - Regehr wears an "A" in Calgary and has a good shot at making Canada's Olympic roster. Belak is still a marginal player in the league.

To Colorado: Ray Bourque, Dave Andreychuk - Short-term additions to a Cup run, but neither stayed in the organization for more than 18 months.
To Boston: Brian Rolston, Sammy Pahlsson, Martin Grenier, 1st round pick (Martin Samuelsson) - Both Rolston and Pahlsson are among the league's most versatile players, and both will likely be playing in the Olympics this February.

To Colorado: Derek Morris, Dean McAmmond, Jeff Shantz - Morris was a standout for the Avs but was traded after only two seasons (see below); neither McAmmond nor Shantz played for Colorado the following season.
To Calgary: Chris Drury, Stephane Yelle - In Drury's prime he nearly hit 40 goals with Buffalo; Yelle still a fine defensive center at age 35.

To Colorado: Chris Gratton, Ossi Vaananen, 2nd round pick (Paul Stastny) - Only the Stastny pick makes this trade palatable. Gratton and Vaananen scored a grand total of 4 goals for the Avalanche.
To Phoenix: Derek Morris, Keith Ballard - Morris played 4 solid seasons in Phoenix before being dealt to the Rangers for three roster players; Ballard helped the Coyotes acquire Olli Jokinen.

3/9/2004 (the same day!)
To Colorado: Tommy Salo and a 6th-round pick - Salo won all of 1 game for Colorado.
To Edmonton: Tom Gilbert - Broke Paul Coffey's team record for scoring by a rookie defenseman, and is considered one of the top young defensemen in the game.

To Colorado: Jose Theodore - The former Hart winner flamed out in Roy's shadow, achieving career-worst numbers and eventually skipping town.
To Montreal: David Aebischer - A disappointment for the Habs, but that's only part of the story. Aebischer was only the first of a series of netminders to stagnate in Colorado, a trend which continued with their recent signing of Craig Anderson.

In sum, the Avalanche organization traded away the better part of a perennially competitive roster -- one which could have been built around Drury, Rolston, Regehr and Gilbert -- in order to establish a degree of insurance on their playoff runs of the early 2000s.

Lacroix was praised as a genius at the time, but his roster was based almost entirely on talent gifted to him from Quebec (Sakic, Forsberg, Foote) and Montreal (Roy, Keane). He was able to draft a mere 6 players who would go on to win the Stanley Cup with his organization, including duds such as Aebischer and Scott Parker, and they all came out of the three drafts between 1996 and 1998. Every other roster addition came at a price to the organization's future.

And it would appear those lessons are hard-learned in the Avs front office -- as recently as February 2008 they were trading top draft picks for over-the-hill veterans (Adam Foote) and paying top dollar for complementary players (Ryan Smyth).

Where do they go from here?

Sakic's decision to step away from the organization after 20 years, and Roy's refusal to be seduced into the coaching position, marks a turning point for the Avalanche. The last vestiges of their dynasty years are falling by the wayside, and new leaders are entering the fold.

Denver's best hope is that #3-overall pick Matt Duchene will develop in the same mold as 2006's third-overall, Jonathan Toews. The Avalanche desperately need a dynamic player who can deliver leadership as well as production. They already have a young forward core in Stastny, Wolski and Stewart, but none of those players will be a blue-chip player in the NHL.

But the real damage to Colorado's future is in the defensive end of the ice. The loss of four good defensemen via trade has left the Avs with a patchwork identity on the blue line. Half of them are veterans are far beyond their prime; half are former prospects who failed to pan out as hoped; almost all are lucky to collect an NHL paycheck. And the tandem of Budaj and Anderson in net is merely a placekeeper until the Avs can find a true #1.

This summer we have seen the first steps toward a true rebuild in Colorado. A new GM (Greg Sherman) and a new head coach (Joe Sacco), neither of whom brings NHL experience in their position, will enjoy the lack of pressure to win immediately. More importantly, Sherman's first major trade is a clear break with their history: overpaid veteran Ryan Smyth was shipped to LA for a pair of NHL-ready defensive prospects. For once, long-term investments are coming into Denver instead of being sent away.

But unless their prospects make a shockingly quick adjustment to life in the NHL, Colorado will remain in the wilderness for some time to come. Though Avalanche fans will enjoy the emotional retirement of Joe Sakic's number at their home opener, it might be the last meaningful event at the Pepsi Center until the 2010 entry draft.

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