Haggerty: Could Vatrano be in danger of not making Bruins roster?


Haggerty: Could Vatrano be in danger of not making Bruins roster?

BRIGHTON, Mass – With it getting down to crunch time for the Bruins opening night roster and the final version due into the league offices by Tuesday afternoon, Frank Vatrano might just be in jeopardy of not making the cut. 


Vatrano, 23, entered training camp at an important early crossroads in his career coming off two NHL seasons where he showed flashes of scoring, but never really put it all together for an extended stretch.

"I think my overall game needs to be better. I need to be a complete, 200-foot player and I think I just need to bring consistency night in and night out," said Vatrano in the first few days of camp. "Obviously your 'A' game needs to be there more consistently, but you also need to bring your 'B' game if the 'A' isn't there. This is my third year, so I feel a lot more comfortable being here having relationships with the guys and with the coaching staff."

It remains to be seen if that comfort level is a good thing or a bad thing for Vatrano, who still has quite a bit to prove in the NHL. 

Last season, Vatrano finished with 10 goals and 18 points in 44 games, along with a minus-3 rating, and played all six playoff games against the Ottawa Senators. This fall, however, both Anders Bjork and Jake DeBrusk have made strong pushes for NHL roster spots and by all accounts, Vatrano has been pretty average in the competition for a third-line spot.

Unfortunately for him, he’s competing with Matt Beleskey, Tim Schaller, Noel Acciari, Teddy Purcell, Danton Heinen and Sean Kuraly for the three final forward spots and that means somebody expected to be on the big club is probably going to fall short. Kenny Agostino was placed on waivers on Friday afternoon, so it would appear that he won’t be on the NHL roster to start things off after an injury-plagued camp.

It would be easier for it to be Vatrano because he doesn’t have to pass through waivers at this point in his young NHL career and because the Bruins are expected to put an emphasis on penalty-kill candidates given the mass number of face-off/slashing penalties in the preseason.

That all spells possible trouble for Vatrano as a sometimes power-play performer, but definitely not a guy who's been used extensively on the PK unit in his pro career. Instead, it might give bigger, grittier players Schaller and Kuraly a better chance of securing those final few roster spots and leave Vatrano excluded from a Bruins roster where he was thought to be a lock entering camp.

Clearly, Bruce Cassidy wasn’t happy with the middling effort after a 5-1 exhibition loss to the Flyers on Thursday night in Philadelphia and signaled a warning shot to camp participants currently on the bubble.  

“We weren’t competitive enough. The first period, we put ourselves in a tough spot, we took four penalties. A couple, I wasn’t sure what they were, but they’re tough to kill. We were playing against a good team,” said Cassidy. “We were on the road and then you get a couple of disallowed goals, it just seems like we were chasing the game the whole night. If that’s going to happen, you need your guys here pushing for jobs to give you energy to get you back in it. That didn’t happen either, at least not enough.

“I don’t know if there was a lot of [positive developments], to be perfectly honest. I’ll watch it again to see the things we did well. They were better than us. Like I said, the start didn’t help. These types of games during exhibition when you’re traveling the same day, you want to get off to a decent start to stay energized. We didn’t do enough to do that and we put ourselves in a bad spot.”

It remains to be seen if it’s too late for bubble guys like Vatrano to secure jobs with big performances in the preseason finale Saturday night against the Blackhawks, but the fact the Massachusetts native is in that position at all is a bad sign for the way his preseason has rolled out. 

Report: Veteran Brian Gionta, 39, drawing interest from Bruins

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Report: Veteran Brian Gionta, 39, drawing interest from Bruins

TORONTO – The Bruins are lining up their options at the NHL trade deadline and that includes backup plans in case things don’t go their way by late Monday afternoon. 

One of those might just be 40-year-old Jarome Iginla, who has been working out with the Providence Bruins this week. Another potentially remote possibility for the B’s is Brian Gionta coming off his stint with the US Olympic team in PyeongChang, according to a report from The Athletic’s Pierre Lebrun.

Gionta, 39, had 15 goals and 35 points for the Buffalo Sabres last season, then sat out the first half of this season in order to compete with Team USA at the Olympics. Gionta and the Americans fell short of a medal, of course, and the captain had a pretty quiet tournament with college kids Ryan Donato and Troy Terry leading the way for the USA.

Clearly, the Bruins have a need for an experienced, heavy player on the wing to augment the multitudes of youthful, smaller, skilled players that the Bruins have currently have on the wing outside of David Backes. But the 5-foot-7, 178-pound Gionta really doesn’t fit Boston’s current roster need outside of the experience factor given his 112 games of Stanley Cup playoff experience.

As with Iginla, Gionta would seem to be a remote possibility for the Bruins if they happen to strike out on all of their trade scenarios leading up to the Monday 3 p.m. deadline. A trade for a big, heavy top-six winger like Edmonton's Patrick Maroon or Vancouver's Thomas Vanek would be much more meaningful roster improvements for the Bruins. 

Other than as a Plan B or Plan C, Gionta doesn’t make a lot of sense as an upgrade over what the Bruins currently have and really didn’t show much in the Olympic tournament to indicate there’s a ton left in the gas tank.

There certainly would be an interesting full circle element to Gionta’s career if he were to end up with the Bruins after starring at Boston College prior to the NHL. Still, the feeling from this humble hockey writer is that the B’s could do a lot better than that when it comes to augmenting their roster ahead of what the organization hopes will be a long playoff run in Boston.




B's brace for final stretch: 'No easy way the rest of the season," says Chara

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B's brace for final stretch: 'No easy way the rest of the season," says Chara

TORONTO – The in-season breathers and breaks are essentially over for the Bruins and the sprint to the end of the regular season begins Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre.

With the drop of the puck in Toronto, the Bruins will play a whopping 24 games in 44 days to close out the season and will have a series of big games against the Maple Leafs and then three games vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning that will essentially decide the top spot in the Atlantic Division. 

It reaches a fever pitch in March when the Bruins play a whopping 16 games, but the entire month-and-a-half stretch is one that the Black and Gold have been eyeing warily all season.

“It’s going to be tough. Especially when you look at the games...none of them are going to be easy games,” lamented Brad Marchand after B’s morning skate at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday morning. “There are a few very important ones against Tampa and Florida and tonight in Toronto. So it’s going to be a very tough [stretch], but I think the biggest thing is to take it all day-by-day. You can’t start looking ahead at the schedule. You just have to focus on the next practice or the next game, and then go from there.”
So what can be done about it?

The Bruins have already begun efforts to combat the attrition that’s sure to come by making a depth move for defenseman Nick Holden from the Rangers. The expectation is that the B’s will do the same thing up front with at least one established winger coming there way. So, the trade deadline move before Monday should be an effort to combat the sheer number of games played. Still, the Bruins will also have to hope that the injury bug doesn’t whack them as badly as it last season when they lost three of their top four defensemen during the playoffs.

The challenge will be incorporating any new players into their system as the Bruins are also expected to drastically scale back on their practice schedule with the heavy slate of games. It won’t be easy, of course, but it’s something the Bruins have also known about all along after a breezier schedule at the beginning of the year when they were besieged by injuries all over the roster.

“We knew that this was going to be our schedule. We obviously know that every team is ahead of us in terms of games played, and we were going to have to catch up,” said Zdeno Chara. “It’s the schedule. There is really no easy way for the rest of the regular season. We’ve just got to battle through it.”

It will be particularly challenging for the soon to be 41-year-old captain as well as the handful of rookies that the Bruins employ in their lineup on a nightly basis. The good news in all of this is that the Bruins have cleared every other hurdle thrown at them this season and the dense final spate of games provides one more challenge prior to the postseason.