Bruins

Hagg Bag mailbag: Late summer edition with hockey almost here

boston-bruins-david-pastrnak-31117.jpg

Hagg Bag mailbag: Late summer edition with hockey almost here

NHL training camp is less than a month away, and the last vestiges of the hockey offseason are coming to a close. Pretty soon NHL players will be back in their hockey cities of employment, and informal captain’s practices will begin in earnest. In about six weeks from now, there will be hockey again on the sports calendar. For now we’ll have to settle for digging down deep into the late summer Hagg Bag mailbag for all sorts of questions, and hopefully some answers too. 

As always these are real questions from real fans sent to my twitter account using the #HaggBag hash tag, real emails to my jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com account and real messages to my CSN Facebook page. So without further ado, on to the bag:

Why would any youngster wanna sign long term here…it's only a place for AVG players to get big? Krejci...Belesky.....Backes....Rask....Krug

--Dean Goodman (@bostonbees)

JH: So Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand are average players? I’m pretty sure Zdeno Chara is going into the Hockey Hall of Fame when he finally hangs his skates up like 12 years from now, and Bergeron has an okay chance if he keeps producing, maybe wins another Cup and adds another Selke or two to his trophy case. 

Part of the reason that David Pastrnak put up such big numbers last season was playing right wing alongside No. 37 and No. 63, and he also did a fair amount of offensive damage skating alongside Krejci as well. You don’t score 34 goals and 70 points as a 20-year-old because you’ve got a bunch of average players around you. So that along with it being a very strong NHL market, a great city and an organization that’s again on the rise would probably count as some pretty good reasons why a guy like Pastrnak would sign with the Bruins long term. 

Clearly the Bruins have a ways to go before they truly prove they are a good fit for elite young players after things fizzled with Phil Kessel, Dougie Hamilton and Tyler Seguin over the last 10 years. But that starts with the Bruins treating No. 88 well in these negotiations, making him happy going into the coming season and then making certain they’ve sent a good message to guys like Charlie McAvoy that the Bruins are a good long term home for prominent young guys. 

I’ll let you in on a little secret: The coaching change made last season will go a long way toward making all of that happen. Claude Julien at least played some part in the exodus of both Kessel and Hamilton, and he also never really gave Seguin a chance at center before the Bruins shipped him to Dallas four years ago.

People who say Pasta hasn't earned anything, should take up another sport! Clueless idiot

--Dan Bruin Mainville (@Buzzard2002)

JH: On the one hand, I’m sure the Bruins would like to see another elite level season from Pastrnak before they’d sign him to a massive, long term deal. That would be the ideal situation from a Black and Gold perspective. But you can’t fully control the market if a player doesn’t want to sign a contract early in the process, and sometimes you have to pay the going rate on the market for a player that’s earned it. Pastrnak has at least earned something close to Leon Draisaitl if the Bruins are being fair about it. Not many players in NHL history have had a season where they put up 34 goals and 70 points before they were even 21 year old. Couple that with Pastrnak’s cachet as a former first round pick and the fact he was the youngest guy in the NHL during his rookie season, and add in a little pinch of good, old-fashioned hard work as he truly bought into the B’s program last season to help prompt that big year. All of that adds up to Pastrnak earning something substantial for a second contract, and a potentially great career that might just be starting up in Boston. 

The electric talent is certainly there for Pastrnak, and I wouldn’t feel too leery about something a big deal with him if I were the Black and Gold. He’s the real deal. In that sense, Dan, I don’t get people bagging on Pasta either. The kid has been a phenom since the very beginning, and those kinds of players get paid early in their careers.

Waiting for Haggs review of The Defenders @netflix

--Brian Cain (@BrianCain9)

JH: I’m up in Maine on vacation this week and I binged the crap out of it over the last few days. My review is that it’s the best of the Marvel/Netflix series thus far and really does justice to all of the main characters. It’s funny, action-packed and the stuff where all four characters are together is awesome. My only complaint might be Sigourney Weaver as the Big Bad. She brought gravitas and legitimacy to the whole thing given her presence and resume, but she really didn’t do a whole heck of a lot at all in her role. I won’t give anything away, but I felt like her whole role in the grand scheme of things was a bit anti-climactic. I expected more. So perhaps the “bad guy” didn’t truly live up to what Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and Luke Cage were bringing to the table, but I was able to overlook it because of the way things were set up. The other lead members of the HAND were good enough for me to enjoy it all. But the Defenders was a great big step back up from the Iron Fist series, and makes me think they really rushed that one along to get to this. I guess all the Big Bads can’t be as good as Vincent D’Onofrio was playing the Kingpin either. 

Are you saying that you wouldn't move [Pastrnak] in any deal? My guess is that Sweens is listening to offers.

--Jeff Gold (@jgold2004)

JH: I don’t think Don Sweeney is listening to offers at all right now. As I wrote, if the Bruins could get a player like Zach Werenski in exchange for Pastrnak then I would certainly think about it. But the problem is that the Bruins are going to have to play that player the same kind of contract they’re currently balking at with Pastrnak, or another team isn’t going to be willing to move that elite young player if they’ve already locked him up to a team-friendly deal. 

The problem with the Bruins trading Pastrnak is that they’re not going to get equal value in return, and they also have zero ability to recreate his speed, skill and game-breaking ability with anything they have in their organization. This is part of the problem with skipping out on elite offensive talent like Alex Debrincat and Kailor Yamomoto in each of the last two first rounds. They have solid two-way talent as a result of the players they did pick, but they don’t have much in the way of game-breaking forwards coming through their system right now. 

So given all of that, I wouldn’t be even partially listening to trade offers for Pastrnak unless I really, truly thought there was no way I could sign him. The Bruins have the cap space and the desire to get it done. They just have to loosen the purse strings a bit.

Felger is an idiot and Mazz doesn't know hockey. B's defense will be OK. They will have too many holes at wing if they trade pasta for a D-man

--Matias Hallichuk (@mhall3333)

JH: C’mon, you don’t get cover stories written about you in the Boston Globe magazine if you’re an idiot. Mazz knows hockey is played on a frozen surface, so that’s a good start. Seriously, the fact those two moved you to write a message to me is proof that they’re doing their jobs very, very well. 

As for your point, I totally agree. They can’t replace Pastrnak and that’s why they can’t trade him. He’s literally their future at the forward position for the next 10 years, just as Charlie McAvoy is the face of the D-men for the next decade as well. 

Besides, they need to see what they have in guys like Jakob Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon and Urho Vaakanainen before they decide to give up the farm for a young, left shot D-man to potentially pair with McAvoy moving forward. I actually think the defense is going to be okay this season as well, though I would caution anybody getting too far ahead of themselves with two young guys like McAvoy and Brandon Carlo playing substantial roles this season. There will definitely be some ups and downs as those young guys experience the growing pains of being inexperienced D-men in the NHL, but a couple of years from now the Bruins will have one of the best defensemen corps in the entire league. That’s an absolute fact.

Dear Joe, 

If Sweeney doesn't make any more moves this offseason, what do you see the lineup looking like with so many young players? 

I can see a lineup of 63-37-42, Bjork-46-88, 72-51-JFK, and 39-20-55 for the forwards. I'm not sure how Spooner vs. JFK would sort out, or about where talented players like Agostino, Heinen, and DeBrusk would fit in (do you think they would be in the opening night lineup or in Providence, and if they were called up, where would they fit?). 

Same question for "grittier" players like Kuraly and Schaller. For the defense, I think Chara-McAvoy and Krug-Carlo pairings would be great, but the bottom pairing could be in trouble. A more probable and balanced blue line would be 33-25, 86-73 (I think Miller played pretty well on his offside), and 47-54. For the 7th d-man, I'd guess either O'Gara or Grzelcyk (maybe even Zboril if he's developed enough). 

Hopefully Khudobin is confident enough to be a good backup and give Rask rest, but if he isn't, who do you see replacing him between Subban and McIntyre? 

Unrelated, but Vision vs. Doctor Strange for most powerful Avenger? I think Black Panther is the coolest, though. 

Thanks, 

Jon 

JH: Thanks Jon. Here are my forward lines and D-pairings based on what we know right now:

Marchand-Bergeron-Heinen/DeBrusk

Bjork-Krejci-Pastrnak

Vatrano-Spooner-Backes

Beleskey-Kuraly-Nash

Acciari

 

Chara-Carlo

K. Miller-McAvoy

Krug-McQuaid 

Postma 

I really think a couple of young guys will get every opportunity to win key forward spots, and Kenny Agostino is a backup play in case all of Anders Bjork, Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen and Zach Senyshyn aren’t ready to go out of training camp. As far as the defense goes, I think it’s a lock that Brandon Carlo and Zdeno Chara will reprise as Boston’s shutdown pair after they were so good last season. I also agree that Kevin Miller gets the first crack with McAvoy while playing on his off side, but I wouldn’t rule out the coaching staff getting a look at Krug-McAvoy as well. I’m not sure they can survive together defensively, but they could certainly move a lot of pucks and create a ton of transition offense.

Won’t take much time, but why is Krejci so neglected by the Bruins organization? I seem to think that he did not get along with Julien. Is that true? Once he got something going with [Loui] Eriksson, they traded him. What the heck?!

--Eric Christian (Message via CSN Facebook page)

JH: Hey Eric. Well, they didn’t trade Loui Eriksson. He left in free agency when the Bruins weren’t about to sign him to a Bad Idea Jeans contract of six years for big money. Krejci is also the highest paid player on the team, so I would really hesitate to say he’s been neglected by the Bruins. How about looking at it this way? As the highest paid veteran forward on the team, he should be able to make players better around him rather than pouting if he doesn’t have highly paid veteran wingers on either side of him. Krejci matched a career-high 23 goals last season and did some okay things, but he didn’t have a great year that ended with him unable to play in final few games of the postseason. 

The Czech center needs to have a big season this coming year after being fully healthy this past summer after rehabbing from hip surgery last year. The Bruins are paying him like one of the best forwards on the team and now it’s time for him to live up to his end of the bargain as a frontline center no matter which wingers he’s playing with. He could potentially have a couple of really good, young ones in Pastrnak and Anders Bjork if everything works out in training camp. 

Well, that’s all this time around until the next Hagg Bag . . .

Backes, on mend from bout with diverticulitis, may return Thursday

bruins_david_backes_121216.jpg

Backes, on mend from bout with diverticulitis, may return Thursday

BRIGHTON -- While there will clearly need to be sign-offs from the medical staff, the Bruins aren’t ruling out a return from David Backes for Thursday night’s game vs. the Vancouver Canucks.

Both Backes and Patrice Bergeron returned to Bruins practice with the rest of their teammates on Tuesday morning at Warrior Ice Arena, but it was only the 33-year-old Backes that practiced fully without any limitations.

“He skated a little while we were away and a full practice today, so we’ll consult with the medical staff going forward with his plan,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “Potentially he could be an option for Thursday, and I think that should sort itself out in the next couple of days. We’re no different than anybody else, right? We’d like to have our full complement, and some of the guys we’re missing are glue guys that could really add that element to some of the kinds of games that got away from us.”

MORE:

After the team practice, Backes said that he’s been skating for the last four days and that he’s lost about 10 pounds over the last couple of weeks while adjusting to the medication and dietary treatments for diverticulitis. It wasn’t a complete shock to Backes given some of his family medical history, but he wasn’t expecting anything like that to hit him in the prime of his professional athletic career at just 34 years old.

“I have a family history of it, but this is kind of unfortunate timing and unfortunate circumstances. Hopefully I take care of this, get it behind me and not have to ever think about it again,” said Backes. “The first couple of days it was tough to just stand up straight or do anything, and then you’re on a ‘no exercise’ regimen for six or seven days. So progress . . . certainly. A return . . . we’ll see. Long-term prognosis we’ll have to discuss with the really smart guys.

“You don’t have much appetite, to deal with pain you take a painkiller and then that slows down digestion and just makes it even worse. So you’re stuck there…and it really drains your energy. I was on a liquid diet there for a few days and lost about 10 pounds. I don’t suggest that as a crash diet for anybody.”

He’s come a long way from being stuck in a Mass General hospital bed during Bruins opening night against the Nashville Predators, and Backes is hoping he’ll be all the way back to playing sooner rather than later. The Bruins right winger skated in a third line spot with Riley Nash and Tim Schaller on Tuesday, and said he’s actually even consulted a bit with former Patriots offensive lineman Matt Light, who battled his own stomach issues with Crohn’s Disease during his NFL career.

“I was like a kid in a candy store before practice. You have that carrot of Game 1 dangled in front of you and then taken away, and finally you’re back with the guys on the ice after they’ve been gone a week. Knowing what the results have been you want to interject a little energy out there while knowing that we’ve got 77 games left to establish ourselves, and find our game,” said Backes. “I felt good out there and it was nice to be back on the ice. I was smiling most of the day knowing that I’ll hopefully be playing some ice hockey in the future.

“We’re working to get that strength back and to return me to a productive member of this hockey team, which is going to be on the upswing here shortly. It’s not just due to me, but because guys are putting work in as a group. I’m trying to be as educated about it as I can, so I can be available as often as possible and as productive as possible when I am available.”

There are medical hurdles that need to be traversed by Backes before he can return, but once it becomes a matter of toughness and grit then he’ll be suiting up again for the Black and Gold, and that moment might be coming soon.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

'I definitely wasn't mad at our team,' Rask says of Vegas postgame comments

bruins_tuukka_rask_110315.jpg

'I definitely wasn't mad at our team,' Rask says of Vegas postgame comments

BRIGHTON, Mass – Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask was acting a bit out of character after the Sunday night loss to the Vegas Golden Knights when he said he wouldn’t be commenting on team performance outside of his own goaltending. 

Clearly, it was a tense atmosphere in the Bruins dressing room following an extremely bad road performance and it would seem very likely there’s probably been some friction in the past between Rask and positional players over his postgame candor.

MORE:

That was the backdrop for Rask keeping it laconic, and saying on Sunday night: “I just try to go out there and give us a chance to win every night. That’s what I’m focused on. I’m not going to comment anymore on team play that much. We can just talk about goaltending. That’s just the way it is. Sorry.”

It would seem that some fans and Bruins observers took that to mean Rask was pissed off at his Bruins teammates after a few breakdowns defensively, and a total non-performance at the offensive end of the ice.

Taking all that into account, Rask clarified his comments a bit after practice Tuesday at Warrior Ice Arena and said it’s all about focusing on his own performance rather than taking issues with any of his teammates.

“You lose games and you’re not happy with your performance. Somebody just told me that I guess it got spun the wrong way that it was me mad at my teammates or something. That’s definitely not the case,” said Rask, whom at 1-3-0 with a 3.30 goals-against average and .880 save percentage this season, is clearly in need of some improvement as well.

“You lose games and you definitely hold yourself accountable and you want to talk about your performance and what you need to do to get better," Rask said. "So, that’s where I was coming from. I definitely wasn’t mad at our team. I was more mad at myself, so that’s that.

“You always try to give a fair assessment about the game, but I think the biggest thing that I need to worry about, and what everybody else needs to worry about, is how they get better themselves. You start from that, so that’s where I was coming from.”

The prospect of getting Patrice Bergeron and David Backes back healthy would go a long way toward improving the Bruins play on the ice and stabilizing things defensively for Rask and the rest of the Black and Gold. That’s really what’s needed at this point to improve a situation where the B’s are 23rd in the NHL, averaging 3.6 goals allowed per game, and real, rather than figurative, fingers might start getting pointed all around if it doesn’t start looking better in short order.