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. 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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