It’s that time of year. That’s right with the Bruins on the cusp of a potentially important three game swing through Western Canada, here is a full, unbridled edition of the Hagg Bag mailbag with real questions sent from you, the fans, to my twitter account using the #HaggBag hash tag, sent to my CSN Facebook page and emails sent to my email@example.com email account. Now, on to the bag:
Haggs, Hey, any real rumors about Bruins trades? And D help?
--Christopher Foley (@cfol44)
JH: All is quiet right now for the Bruins.
Very difficult terrain to get trades done this month prior to the holiday roster freeze, and with teams not looking to take on money or contracts with so many teams still within shouting distance of the playoffs. Carolina, Columbus and Edmonton are the only teams really out of it at this point. I’d put Calgary in there as well, but I’m sure that Flames organization feels like they’re one long winning streak away from getting back into the thick of it.
So the Bruins may have to find the answers from within, but then again they’re also riding a five-game winning streak right now. So that doesn’t seem like such a bad thing at right this second.
I think Claude Julien is the All-Time Winningest Coach in B's History. Right? I think he passed Art Ross, who was at 361 wins.
--Bryan Lapointe (via CSN Facebook page)
JH: Not what I’ve been told. According to the people that keep track of such stats, in this case it’s Pat White over at NESN, Art Ross had 387 total career wins for the Boston Bruins. I know some websites have the number in the 360’s, but Hockey Reference has the updated number on its pages as we speak. So Julien is 23 wins shy of being the all-time wins leader for the Bruins franchise, which is a pretty amazing feat of success and longevity when you think about it.
With a really good second half of the year, Claude Julien could pass Art Ross this season when many – myself included – weren’t sure he was going to make it to Thanksgiving.
Lot of buzz about Loui...What's your take on Eriksson? I think he's pretty solid…certainly having a good year for the Bruins. I just have to agree with Felger. He's good for the Bruins, but he would just be a piece for a top rated team.
--Kevin P. Cassidy (via CSN Facebook page)
JH: I think he’s just a piece on the Bruins as well. We’re talking about a guy in Eriksson that hadn’t played a top-6 role in Boston until this season, but is on pace for 34 goals and 75 points this season. That’s actually exactly what people were expecting from him when he was traded from Dallas to the Bruins in the Tyler Seguin deal, but he’s obviously fallen well short of that thus far.
He’s a valuable guy that can play in all situations, he looks like a shoo-in to score 20 goals for the second straight season in Boston and he’s been an invaluable piece of their revamped, dominant power play group. But Eriksson is also not a good bet to sign a contract prior to hitting free agency on July 1, and he certainly doesn’t feel like a guy that’s going to take a hometown discount for any creature comforts in Boston.
So the Bruins will have a decision to make.
Wildly overpay for him on a contract extension during the season for long term and big money (which they most definitely will not do), or make a tough decision on him around the trade deadline. It will all depend on where the Bruins are in the standings, of course, but they will be able to get some very good assets in exchange for Eriksson. If the Bruins are in a playoff spot, the only deal that would make sense would be for a young D-man like a Jacob Trouba with the Winnipeg Jets, for example.
Otherwise the sense I get is that making the playoffs are very important to Cam Neely, Don Sweeney and Bruins ownership, and they’re going to do what they can if they’re in a position to get there. That would include holding onto Eriksson.
But if they crashed and burned over the next couple of months and found themselves way out of the playoff hunt, then they’d have to revisit potentially dealing Eriksson. Either way, I just don’t see him getting the same kind of six or seven year deal for $5-6 million that the Bruins have granted to their core group. I don’t think Eriksson is considered part of Boston’s core group, particularly at 30 years with a concussion history.
The Bruins currently have 6 players on pace to score 20 or more goals this season, which would give them more 20 goal scorers and therefore a more balanced offense statistically than they've had since 2008. If Jimmy Hayes had a slightly higher shooting percentage, that number would be 7, which would project them to have more 20-goal players than they've had since 1995. To put that second thought into perspective, that roster in 1995 had a player named Ray Bourque on it; it also had a player named Don Sweeney on it, who of course is now the general manager of the club.
--Joe Harris (via Facebook)
JH: All of that is definitely true, Joe.
What’s also true is that those numbers got the Bruins to a 40-31-11 record and a first round playoff spanking at the hands of the Florida Panthers. They’ve got some depth in scoring and the awesome power play is most definitely blowing up some of the numbers for the B’s players, but they aren’t going anywhere if they can’t consistently stop the other teams. That goes double for neutralizing the kind of good offensive teams they’re sure to be facing in the postseason should they make it that far.
I’m as impressed with anybody at how good the Bruins offense has been through the first two months of the season, and Don Sweeney and Cam Neely have accomplished some of the goals they set out for this summer.
But the B’s defense still needs improvement, and they could end up in a similar spot as the 1995-96 team you referenced if they don’t address their issues. I suppose that wouldn’t be a terrible thing given that they missed the playoffs entirely last season, but you’re also not talking about a serious contender given the flawed nature (tons of offense, not enough defense) of the team.
Wondering why do the Bruins keep calling bringing up/hanging on to Max Talbot??? As a 4th liner in my opinion he doesn’t offer much - his speed is questionable and he does not bring any energy or physical element, and is clearly past his prime. Would it not make sense to bring a prospect such as Alex Khokhlachev, or someone who has earned a shot?
Failure to develop prospects has been an ongoing issue for the Bruins
JH: Well, Greg…he’s back in Providence now. Talbot could be a good veteran leader on this Bruins team as an extra forward playing in short spurts, but I agree that a younger look for the energy line is the right way to go. It appears the Bruins are going to take a look at Landon Ferraro instead, which is a clear sign that they haven’t been able to develop the bottom-6 centers as they’d like. Joonas Kemppainen is an indication of that as well. Think about it, the Bruins had to import both of their bottom-6 centers that they’ll be using in Wednesday night’s game against the Oilers. Granted some of it is about Chris Kelly getting hurt, but he also wasn’t playing center much in the first month of the season either.
The real question is about whether or not Ryan Spooner is going to develop into the third line center that they need. He’s very good on the PP, and has helped that unit immensely with his puck movement and creativity off the half-wall. But 5-on-5 he needs to continue improving if he’s going to lock down a long term job with the Bruins for years to come. Or perhaps move to the wing as he’s done in the last couple of games for the B’s.
Hey Joe, What’s with all this trade rumor talk between the Bruins and the Blues and/or the Ducks? I have to believe that Rask is involved here?
--Chad Birmingham (via CSN Facebook page)
JH: Tuukka Rask has a young family, he just bought a house outside of Boston and he’s in the beginning years of a long term, big money deal with a no movement clause. Even if the Bruins wanted to move him, Rask isn’t going anywhere given all of the above.
Above and beyond that, it’s simply the kind of rumors that ebb and flow throughout the hockey season. Word around the league is that it’s incredibly difficult to get anything done on the trade front, so I wouldn’t count on the Bruins to do any wheeling or dealing (no matter what the rumors say) prior to the holiday roster freeze at the end of the month.
Any thoughts on both of the Bruin's first rounders not getting the invite to the Canadian WJC camp?
--Andrew Graziani (@agraz120)
JH: Zach Senyshyn is a guy that just looks like he’s going to be constantly overlooked, or will wear that tag of being a reach as a first rounder last summer until he gets to the NHL level. He’s got 11 goals and 15 points in 25 games for the Soo Greyhounds, so he’s been pretty good. But obviously not as good as the Bruins thought he’d be in a featured role for the Soo this season. Jake DeBrusk probably would have been invited to the camp had it not been for a nasty injury blocking a shot that required a delicate surgery after the fact.
He’s back in the lineup and healthy now, but he missed enough time that it might have allowed other young prospects to get past him on the short list. Some of it also about perhaps some doubts on whether or not those two could potentially play in a bottom-6 role during a World Junior-type tournament. Clearly the Bruins would have liked both players to be on the World Junior entry for Canada, or at least get invited to the camp. But that’s not happening this time around while one undersized forward drafted after them (Travis Konecny), and another many think the Bruins should have taken instead of Senyshyn (Mathew Barzal) will find themselves in the mix for World Junior consideration. That part of it will undoubtedly once again open up some second-guessing as to the B’s first round choices at the end of June.