With most of the NHL world scattered out to assorted cottages, lake houses and vacation rentals across the world, the hockey scene is a quiet one right now. Hockey players, coaches, executives, officials and, yes, even media are getting some rest and relaxation before captain’s practices start up in earnest at the end of August.
After that the inevitable beginning of training camp ramps up, and the grind of the NHL season becomes a wonderful, frigid reality.
So there haven’t been many trades or free agent signings across the league in the last couple of weeks, and the Bruins have been very quiet aside from Shawn Thornton’s Putts and Punches annual golf tournament held at the Ferncroft on Monday. That’s not even technically a Bruins event anymore with Thornton playing for the Florida Panthers these days, so really the Bruins have gone into a bit of hibernation in the last few weeks.
With that in mind, it’s an opportune time to take a breath and check in with some Bruins, hockey and pop culture questions in the Hagg Bag mailbag. As always these are real questions sent to my twitter account with the #HaggBag hash tag, to my email@example.com e-mail address and to my CSN Facebook page. Please give that Facebook page a like if you haven’t done that already, and now on to the bag:
Hey buddy I got to ask....why is it Claude refuses to put our best goal scorer on the power play? In last 4 seasons only 25 players in league have scored more goals then #63. None of which are bruins...he always comes out for tail end of the power play, or is on the makeshift line right after the power play has concluded. I mean we have scoring problems especially with the extra man. Wouldn't it be logical to have your best goal scorer on the ice for the man advantage? What are your thoughts?
--Shawn Nickason (via Facebook)
To be fair to Claude, Brad Marchand has logged much more power play ice time in the past. In the 2011-12 season he averaged more than two minutes of PP time per game, and scored five power play goals. He was down to about 90 seconds on the PP per game the following season, but still powered up for four PP goals. Those are decent numbers, but nothing world-beating like the goal production that Marchand features in most other situations. The problem with Marchand on the power play is that he isn’t the most adept at moving the puck, and his presence tends to hurt the puck flowing through a formation that counts on quick passing for effectiveness.
Marchand will create offense and make things happen with the puck on his stick, but once the puck is on his stick in the offensive zone that tends to be where it stays.
Just look at his PP assist totals in the two years where he managed significant PP minutes: he had 9 power play goals (pretty good) and just one power play assist (not good at all) in those two years while logging a solid amount of power play time. In a pinch he can be a solid finisher on the power play, but there have been better options over the last couple of seasons.
Perhaps that will change this season with Matt Beleskey essentially replacing Milan Lucic on the left wing, and Marchand will get a chance to show again what he can do. But I think there’s also another reason Marchand has been kept off the PP so much of the time: he’s a demon on the penalty kill capable of doing damage with shorthanded offense. Marchand now ranks in the top 10 all-time on the Bruins with his 15 career shorthanded goals, and needs only one more to tie Bobby Orr. That’s pretty good company for the kid from Halifax.
It’s difficult to expect 100 percent peak efficiency from Marchand on both the PP and the PK if he’s shouldering big minutes on both special teams units, and perhaps that’s gone into Julien’s thinking over the last few years. But like I said before, Claude might not have a choice this season given the goal-scoring offense that Marchand can bring to the table with guys like Lucic and Carl Soderberg now gone to the Western Conference.
Any word on B's talk with Franson? If so, what do you think he will get? How long and how much? If he's not signed will Zidlicky be brought in? Thanks.
--Matt McGuirk (via Facebook)
No word on Cody Franson, no word on trade rumors concerning Dustin Byfuglien and no word on Marek Zidlicky either. There’s really no rush at this point as none of the free agent D-men are getting scooped up, and there’s leverage in the B’s direction to get a team-friendly contract out of any of these players. Franson might only get a one or a two-year deal for $4-5 AAV at this point given the lack of real market for him as a UFA defenseman, and one year deal is all Zidlicky was looking for in the first place.
I continue to think the Bruins will take a look at their young defensemen (Colin Miller, Zach Trotman, Joe Morrow) in training camp before they make a move for a veteran D-man, and so that might push any roster alterations into September. In a perfect world, at least one of those young guys emerges and leaves no room for a veteran option.
I also think there’s a sentiment in the B’s organization that young D-men like Robbie O’Gara, Brandon Carlo and Jakub Zboril might be pushing for NHL jobs within the next two years, and that signing a player like Franson long term isn’t in the best interests of the organization. That’s all part of the long term plan when you’re sitting in Don Sweeney’s chair.
Franson has a good shot, makes a snappy outlet pass and has a big frame, but he’s not the fastest skater, and his decision-making has been shaky at times. He also didn’t play in Nashville after the Preds gave up a first round pick for him. That’s a concerning development for a good team that would need to make a big investment in Franson.
So in short, the Bruins might not be getting any D-men reinforcements for a while.
I wish I could get the 2 hours of my life back after watching Birdman
--Mike Lamonica (@mookiemarshmont)
What a grossly overrated movie that was just self-important drivel, in my mind. I can’t believe that "Birdman" won the Oscar for best picture over a far superior film in "Boyhood", and it just hammers home the notion that academy voters are in love with themselves. They can’t get enough of “inside baseball” movies about show business, and overpraise those films when it comes time for award season.
Michael Keaton was good in the lead role, and Edward Norton was very good as a supporting player. I suppose Emma Stone was good too, but I just found her character really annoying.
But the whole thing was so self-indulgent, and essentially about the struggle to create great, ambitious art. The problem: "Whiplash" was essentially about the same theme, and was a million times better written and more well-acted without the over-the-top histrionics and showy camera work. I’ll admit the cinematography in "Birdman" was masterful, but since when did that merit a best picture award? Save yourself the two hours, skip "Birdman" and just watch "Boyhood" or "Whiplash" again. We’ll see you next time for “Haggs at the Movies.”
Mailbag question: Should we expect a physical, “Lucic at his prime” style of play from Hayes now that he is a Bruin?
--Bori Konstantinov (via Facebook)
I don’t think there’s anybody else in the league that can provide the kind of physicality and intimidation that Milan Lucic can when he’s firing on all cylinders, so the quick and simple answer is “no.” Jimmy Hayes is big at 6-foot-6 and he’s an upgrade over Reilly Smith because he’ll go hard to the net, and is willing to utilize his size and strength to generate offense where only the courageous dare to go looking for goals.
But he’s also never scored more than 19 goals in a season, and you could count on Lucic for 20 plus goals and 50 plus points during his prime seasons with the Bruins.
Hayes will show better hands around the net and be much more effective on rebounds and loose pucks than Lucic was during his time in Boston. Lucic has the massive body checking game and could really shoot the puck, but was never able to translate his NFL tight end size and strength into effective offense in tight around the net. Hayes will throw his body around a little bit, but isn’t really fast enough skating-wise to be a force on the fore-check like Lucic could be on his good-skating days. Say what you will about Lucic, but he could generate some speed when he was moving straight ahead . . . and that is what allowed him to throw those thunderous hits on defensemen in the corner.
I do hope that Hayes steps up the physical game even more than he had with the Panthers now that he’s playing for the Bruins, and his familiarity with the organization would make you anticipate that is exactly what he will do. But we’ll have to wait and see what happens once they take the ice, and the real bullets start flying. I like Hayes’ game and he did a lot of damage against the Bruins last season. They just need him to be that oversized forward wreaking havoc around the net, and the rest will certainly take care of itself.
If Don Sweeney and the brass decide not to trade for/sign a top 4 D man, do you think that they trust Trotman enough to skate alongside Chara like they did down the stretch run last season? Or do they stick with Chara/Seids and Krug/McQuaid?
--Morgan Russell (via Facebook)
All of this depends on how each of the young guys looks in training camp. In a perfect world I’m sure they’d love for a young, strong, puck-moving sort like Trotman to slot in with Chara, but the only reason they did that in the final few games of the season was because Dougie Hamilton got banged up against Florida. Trotman acquitted himself well in his season-ending stint, but now there will be a lot more pressure on that young player to perform throughout all of training camp.
I think a Chara/Seidenberg combo might have some difficulties moving the puck up the ice, and that might not be the ideal solution as the top pairing. Putting two slower, older D-men together just doesn’t seem smart to me.
But the Bruins also didn’t leave themselves with a lot of options if A) young defensemen start to get hurt or B) the young D-men struggle a bit in the face of some heavy pressure.
A Torey Krug/Adam McQuaid pairing has a lot to prove if that is Sweeney’s idea of a middle pairing for the Bruins. I’m not saying they can’t do it, but both will have to play at an extremely high level at both ends of the ice consistently. And it would seem like they were a much better fit as bottom pairing defenseman where Krug’s defensive challenges, and McQuaid’s offensive limitations, weren’t exposed quite as much. Better offensive players will find a way to exploit them as top-4 D-men next season if they’re not at the top of their respective games.
Matt Irwin could factor in there as well, but I’d have to see it before I’d believe it.
Perhaps Colin Miller will step up and flash in camp after impressing John Ferguson Jr. in the AHL playoffs last season, and really make that Lucic trade to the Kings a bounty of riches for Boston. Miller is intriguing after winning the hardest shot and fastest skater competitions at the AHL All-Star game last season, but he’s also a raw, young D-man in a league that eats up those kinds of players for breakfast.
If the Bruins dealt [Chris] Kelly (not for or against) for Dustin [Byfuglien] from the Jets. Could you see us making a run for Derek Roy?
--Bill Alexander (@BAlexander)
No. The Bruins would also have to give up a lot more than that to Winnipeg for Byfuglien considering the Bruins turned Lucic into two first round picks, a good D-man prospect and a college prospect as well. I don’t think Derek Roy is a good fit at all, particularly as a fourth line center. A guy like Jarrett Stoll would have made a lot more sense in that kind of situation, but he just signed with the New York Rangers.
#HaggBag I know training camp will decide this but, it seemed Spooner and Pastrnak had good chemistry last year. Do you see them on a line together with someone like Eriksson, who is skilled offensively and could be the "defensively responsible" one on that line? I'm also pretty excited to see what Connolly does with a skilled center like Krejci or Bergeron.
--Ray Guarino (via Facebook)
Yeah, I think Eriksson back on the left side with Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak is certainly a possibility for the reasons that you mentioned. His ability to finish off offensive plays would also be a good fit with a playmaking center in Spooner, and a player in Pastrnak that should make a really nice step up in his first full NHL season. They also both seemed to thrive last season with Lucic’s physical presence on the left side, however, and Eriksson is not going to be that kind of player.
I think 20 goals and 50 points is certainly an achievable goal for Pastrnak as a 19-year-old in his second NHL season, and they’ll need a major offensive contribution from him after losing top shelf talent in Lucic, Carl Soderberg and Dougie Hamilton.
I’d like to get a look at David Krejci and Pastrnak working together for a longer stretch of time, though, before I rule out the two Czech forwards working with each other as a top line combination. The offensive instincts that each bring to the table could be magic together, and the Bruins should put Pastrnak in the best possible place to succeed for this coming season. He is the future (and part of the present) when it comes to offense for the Black and Gold, and Krejci should be highly motivated after a down season.
This would be my forward lines for the Bruins, though I think Hayes, Connolly and Pastrnak could be pretty interchangeable on the right side: