Bruins

Hagg Bag: Emptying out the questions before training camp

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Hagg Bag: Emptying out the questions before training camp

With training camps scheduled to open up all around the NHL this week, there won’t be a lot of time for the carefree days of Hagg Bag mailbags until we get into the grind of the regular season. It will be all about double-session practices, preseason games and getting everything into the rhythm that will ultimately catapult us into an 82-game regular season. So with that in mind here’s the final pre-training edition of the Hagg Bag mailbag where we answer any and all questions thrown our way.

As always these are real questions from real fans sent to my twitter account using the #HaggBag hash tag, real emails sent to my jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com email account and real messages sent to my CSN Facebook page.

Without further ado, let’s crack open the bag:

 

#haggbag Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has B's o/u point total at 92.5. If I gave you $100 that you had to bet what side would you take?

--BK (@bkhockey3)

JH: First off, thanks for the hundy. Secondly, I’d go with the over. The Bruins had 95 points last season, and had 93 points and 96 points in the previous two seasons while barely missing the playoff cut in each instance. Are we really going to believe that the B’s are going to be worse this season than they were in the two years they missed the playoffs?

Clearly, I have my doubts that this is a 100-point team quite yet. The defense is still very young in parts, and very big, old and slow in other parts. They have the David Pastrnak contract situation to deal with, and they’re also banking on a couple of young wingers to come through for them in training camp and potentially hold down some pretty important spots in the top-6. So there are definitely some question marks with the Black and Gold, for sure.

All that being said, I don’t see this team doing any worse performance-wise than last season when they sleep-walked through the entire first half of the year. They should be good for right around 95 points this season with Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Pastrnak, Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, David Backes and Tuukka Rask holding down the veteran core, and young guys like Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy continuing to step up in a big way.

The problem, as I see it, is that the rest of the Atlantic Division is getting better this year. There’s no way the Tampa Bay Lightning misses the playoff cut again this season with Steve Stamkos healthy, and a team like the Florida Panthers should bounce back strongly after the turmoil in their front office last season. The Buffalo Sabres will be much better this season, and the Maple Leafs should be very formidable as their youngsters continue to improve. Montreal should be a playoff team with Claude Julien coaching up a group in front of the best goalie in the world in Carey Price, and we almost forgot to even mention the team (Ottawa) that was still alive in the playoffs after every other Atlantic Division team had been eliminated.

My point: The Atlantic Division is much improved this season, and I see a scenario where the Bruins could get 95 points and end up missing the postseason again this year. So the 92-point over/under doesn’t mean much to me in that regard.   

 

Why won't Don pay up for pasta? and do you think bran stark is the night king?

--Drew (@ats860)

JH: The Bruins think that David Pastrnak’s asking price is based on what they perceive to be one extravagant contract handed out in Edmonton to Leon Draisaitl. The Bruins are wrong as both Draisaitl ($8.5 million per season) and Vladimir Tarasenko ($7.5 million per season) were very comparable to Pastrnak at similar points in their respective careers. Look at the list of 20-year-old players that have posted 30 goals and 70 points in a season, and it’s a comprehensive list of stud players across the NHL that now includes Pastrnak. He’s an elite talent and the Bruins will have to end up paying him upwards of $7 million per season if they want him on a long-term deal. The Bruins just have to dust the cobwebs off their bank vault and pay the man his money.

I don’t think Bran Stark is the Night King, but I do think it’s one of the Stark children’s ancestors. I’m looking forward to watching one of the dragons melt his face off in the final season, though I guess we should suspect it’s going to come down to him and Jon Snow in hand-to-hand combat for all the Westeros marbles, right?

 

Reaction to John/Dany's big scene at the end, ice dragon (Dragon and snowflake emoji removed for editorial purposes) & wall collapsing? Any hopes/predictions for season 8?

--Thomas Deon (@tdeon26)

JH: Yikes. Those Targaryens creep me out. I’m interested to see if the blue flames can do any harm to Dany or her dragons, or if they are impervious to that kind of flame as well. Hated to see the White Walker army get a dragon, but I guess they had to if they were ever going to get past the wall or even pose any semblance of a threat to an army boasting multiple dragons. My hope for season 8 is that the rest of the despicable characters in Westeros get the same kind of comeuppance as Littlefinger did by the Stark kids in Winterfell. It was kind of great seeing the walls close in around him as all of the Stark kids, with their unique abilities, boxed him and made him pay the ultimate price for setting up their dad like seven seasons ago. By the way, I’ve begun watching Game of Thrones again from the beginning in the last couple of weeks, and it’s really been enjoyable going through it while knowing where the roads lead for each of the characters.   

 

What do you think of Jesse Gabrielle??

--Johnny_Tabarnak (@Johnny_Tabarnak)

JH: I like his tenacity. I like his work ethic. I like his confidence. I like his willingness to do whatever it takes to get things done. I think he may need some development time in the AHL and it may be expecting too much for Gabrielle to turn into the next Marchand as an agitating player with some skill. But I’d be interested to watch him get a look as a fourth line option at some point this season, particularly if he starts putting the puck in the net at the AHL level. I’m still a little skeptical about his final potential as an NHL player until I see more of him, but you can tell he wants it really, really badly. That’s a good place to start if you’ve got a pretty good set of skills to start with, and his junior hockey resume with the gaudy goal totals says that he does.

 

If you had to come up with the words for this incarnation of House Bruin, how would it read?

--PWM @Shawn_Jorton

JH: Hockey youth is coming.

 

If a deal isn't made between Pasta and the Bruins & they trade him, does this further cement that the Bruins don't take care of young talent

--Trevor Krejci (@KrejciTrevor)

JH: It certainly would in my mind, and more importantly it probably would in the minds of other talented young players in the Bruins system. That’s why there is plenty of leverage on Pastrnak’s side even if he doesn’t technically have any rights or leverage as a non-arbitration eligible restricted free agent. The Bruins can’t botch this contract, and they can’t trade Pastrnak away and try to patch something together without him. They don’t have a single player in their organization that can replace his game-breaking ability and dynamic skill set.

 

#haggbag what player(s) get shipped out to make way for young guns this season?

--Mike Wazowski (@shotswithmike)

JH: I don’t think any players get shipped out per se. I still think a player like Ryan Spooner could get moved if Sean Kuraly outplays him in training camp, or if the Bruins decide they want to slide David Backes back over to center. I also think that Kenny Agostino could start the year in Providence, and is more of an experienced fallback option if Anders Bjork, Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen all look like they need more AHL development time. I’d expect the Bruins might give Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson a little run on the wing as well, and see if that would a better place for him to start his NHL career if he shows that he’s ready. My gut instinct on JFK is that he’s definitely going to need some development time in Providence, but I guess we’ll see about that over the next few weeks.

 

Who's your dark horse (sleeper) candidate to crack the opening night roster for the B's?

--Robert Brown (@bruins2nine)

JH: Jakub Zboril. I don’t think it’s going to happen and it would seem that he needs some time to mature and develop his game at the AHL level, but he’s got the talent to make the NHL roster right now if he’s focused on the task at hand. I’m just not sure it would be a good idea on an NHL roster to have three D-men (McAvoy, Carlo and Zboril) in their first or second year. That’s the kind of thing that could keep a team out of the playoffs because of mistakes and too much inexperience. 

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A look at Bruins in free agency: Rick Nash

A look at Bruins in free agency: Rick Nash

By all accounts, the trade for power forward Rick Nash at the deadline should have worked out splendidly for the Bruins.

Nash, 33, is a proven NHL goal-scorer, a skilled big body. He fit the profile of previous Bruins Milan Lucic, Jarome Iginla and Nathan Horton, who achieved big-time success with David Krejci in the past. Nash certainly looked as if he was going to be an impact player for the Black and Gold when he posted a couple of goals and a whopping 23 shots on net in his first four games after getting traded from the New York Rangers for Ryan Spooner, a 2018 first-round pick and Ryan Lindgren among other assets.

But the production slackened as the games rolled on, and Nash eventually was dinged up with a concussion that ended his regular season. The big right winger returned for the playoffs and even had a two-goal game against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of the second round, but Nash couldn’t consistently provide offensive punch on Boston’s second line. 

In that respect, Nash’s three goals and five points, along with his minus-7 rating in 12 playoff games, were a pretty big disappointment given the assets surrendered to acquire him. The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder was brought in to help avoid situations like the four consecutive playoff losses to the Lightning, where the Bruins couldn’t muster any even strength offense up front from their forward group.

Rather than label Nash a disappointment, however, the Bruins looked at his playoff performance as one that was irreparably harmed by a concussion right in the middle of everything. Clearly, it would have been difficult for any player to hit the ground running right at the start of the playoffs, and Riley Nash suffered from the same kind of issue when he jumped into the postseason after his own concussion issues as well.

“It’s unfortunate that [Nash] got banged up near the end of the season there, and it really took him a while to get back. I don’t think he was himself. He said that during the exit meetings that he wasn’t quite himself. It’s disappointing because we felt we had a guy that was really going to help our secondary scoring and that line and help David [Krejci] get going in some offensive situations,” said Bruins team president Cam Neely. “You could see the big body and how he protects the puck, and how good he is in the corners and along the walls. But he just wasn’t quite himself after coming back from that [concussion] injury.

“As Don [Sweeney] mentioned, we’re going to look at every UFA that we have, and RFA, and come to conclusions on whether or not it makes sense for us to move forward with those players.”

While the Bruins may not have ruled out any of their looming free agents with July 1 still more than a month away, it seems like a long shot for Nash to come back to the Bruins based on his age, performance and cost to retain him. Certainly, the player said all the right things while packing up his stuff on breakup day with the team. Nash was an unassuming, pleasant presence following the trade.

Nothing has changed from the simple, basic truth that the Bruins could desperately use a player like Nash when he’s still at his best.

“It was disappointing with having a concussion, and having some effects during it, and only playing a certain amount of games. Then coming back for the playoffs,” said Nash. “But everything was positive. The organization was great. The guys were awesome...So, it was a great chapter here and hopefully, it can continue.

“I would love to [return], for sure. They’ve got a special group here and a lot of talent. It’s a great place to play.”

Clearly, Nash will be looking at a healthy pay cut from the $7.8 million cap hit and $8.2 million in actual salary he was paid in the 2017-18 season. He’s not the same dominant power forward-type he was in his prime years with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Rangers and is coming off 21 goals and 34 points along with a minus-12 in 60 games for the Blueshirts and Bruins. He still flashes the power puck possession, strong two-way game and occasional offense of his youth, but it sure looks like his ability to finish is fading.

If the Bruins could sign a player like Nash for a year or two in the $3-4 million per season range then it might be worth their while. He still appears good for at least 20 goals worth of big-bodied, power forward play. There may some level of interest in retaining Nash simply based on the large amount that Sweeney paid for the player at the deadline and the hope that he can still be what they envisioned him to be last spring.

But let’s be honest here.

What the Bruins really need is a young, better version of Nash on the upswing or at the very least is still in the prime of his career as they look for offensive impact on their second line. There are free-agent options such as James van Riemsdyk who will be much costlier while bringing a similar power forward skill set and there will undoubtedly be trade options such as the Gabriel Landeskog-types that the Bruins have flirted with in the past. Still, that will require the B’s surrendering more assets in trade after forking over their first-round pick, Spooner and a blue-chip prospect in Lindgren for what amounted to six goals and 11 points in 23 games from Nash.

That is not a lot of bang for the Black and Gold buck when it’s all settled.

If it were up to this humble hockey writer, it should be time to cut their losses on Nash while already holding an aging, overpriced power forward type in David Backes. Instead, the Bruins should focus on a younger, perhaps underrated commodity as Horton was when the Bruins traded for him as an underperforming Florida Panthers winger prior to the 2010-11 Cup-winning season.

The Bruins still need an explosive, big body as a goal-scoring bookend for Krejci on the second line, but there’s really no need to prolong the Rick Nash chapter given the underwhelming returns after his three-month stint with the team.

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Morning Skate: Can Caps end the DC drought?

Morning Skate: Can Caps end the DC drought?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while it figures that the Washington Capitals make it to the Stanley Cup Final in the first season in about five years where I didn’t pick them to get there. It totally checks out.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Greg Wyshynski has witnessed plenty of the good and the bad offered by the Washington Capitals over the years and writes that the Capitals have a chance to break the DC streak of futility. As I mentioned above, congrats go out to Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals for finally getting over the hump against the Lightning.

*Lou Lamoriello is taking over the New York Islanders to give them an immediate air of something different than the up-and-down organizational struggle of the last few years.

*It’s going to be a long, comprehensive checklist for the new management team running the Carolina Hurricanes.

*It was a gut-wrenching end for Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 against the Capitals. Speaking of Game 7’s, Stamkos is beginning to build a body of work in them that isn’t very good for an NHL superstar.

*Did the San Jose Sharks make the right call in extending Evander Kane for a massive seven-year, $49 million contract? I don’t think so. I also think those are the kinds of contracts that can get a GM fired if they end up backfiring on a team that’s only had a few months with the player in question. Take away the blips on the screen as far as off-ice stuff goes with Kane, and the numbers on the ice really haven’t been there either.

*For something completely different: It’s almost comical how angry Carmelo Anthony is over Kyle Korver being called a better player on Instagram.

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