Hagg Bag: Busting out of quarantine to answer your Bruins questions

Hagg Bag: Busting out of quarantine to answer your Bruins questions

It’s been a little more than a week without the NHL since the pause button was hit on the regular season. One thing is clear beyond the coronavirus outbreak that’s dominating the world: We all miss hockey right now. There are no sports at all and our usual escape from the troubles of the real world has been temporarily removed.

But the Hagg Bag still moves on. I hope everybody out there is staying healthy, safe and keeping a good frame of mind as we enter a few weeks of social distancing, work shutdowns and spending time operating out of our homes. 

Be kind. Be mindful of people at high risk and we’re all in this together. As always, these are real questions from real fans using the #HaggBag hashtag on Twitter, real messages to my NBCS Facebook fan page and emails to my email account.

Any idea what's going on with @delawarenorth/@NHLBruins on paying their employees through all this?? Embarrassing and sad if they don't, but haven't heard otherwise...

--Josh Boyle (@jb_SID)

JH: If I had to guess, I would think there is a wait-and-see approach with the emergency federal aid packages that are being passed this week. I also wonder if there is hesitation because covering the TD Garden employees would mean Delaware North would be on the hook for everybody else in a massive company. In either instance, I’m not sure that it should matter. They should have stepped up and given their employees some assurances that they would be taken care of.

It’s reached the point where the Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey felt the need to step in. That’s really not a great look at all for an organization in the Bruins that’s supposed to be one of the civic pillars in the Boston community. 

There’s a chance that the way they have acted during this crisis is going to have lasting negative impacts on how the community views them, and that’s a shame. The Bruins Foundation has done some great work over the years, and I think Charlie Jacobs has done a lot of really good things as the ownership presence in Boston over the past decade-plus.

So, it really feels like what’s going on right now is a massive step backward for them in the PR department.

Hey Haggs,

I remember when you used to interact with us answer me... What do the Bruins have against [Trent] Frederic? He leads Providence in assists & no one would run Pasta & Krug & get away with it. Instead they got, in [Mike] Milbury’s opinion, an out-of-shape Ritchie.

--Smoke (@_Civil_Servant)

JH: I love it when somebody throws a shot at me at the beginning of a mailbag question. It’s like that punch to the face at the start of the fight that really starts to get your juices flowing. Trent Frederic is too young to be relied on to be the intimidating policeman for a team with Stanley Cup hopes like the Bruins. At least that’s what the team believes. I think he could have made a big impact if they had brought him up around the trade deadline. I remember Milan Lucic was already a Big, Bad Bruin at that age in Boston.

But they opted instead for Nick Ritchie. I don’t think he’s as badly out of shape as Milbury dinged him for. Bright side is that everybody is going to be as out of shape as he might have been when we start playing hockey again. But I liked what I’ve seen out of him. He’s big and strong, he can handle certainly intimidate when he needs to and he showed some pretty good hands and passing instincts for a big man. Certainly, he’s got better hockey sense than his older brother, Brett, who just didn’t impress in that area in his time in Boston.

Anyway, it was nice to just talk about hockey for a little while there.

If the rumors are true and they do cast John Krasinski and Emily Blunt as Reed Richards and Sue Storm, who do you want to see play the Thing and Human Torch?

--Tyler (@TylerBrewsBeer)

 JH: Great question. I honestly wouldn’t hate if they did some stunt casting and went with Michael Chiklis as the Thing after he did the Fox movies. He actually really nailed Ben Grimm’s character, IMHO. As for a younger actor to play him, how about Channing Tatum? I think Ryan Gosling would be a great Johnny Storm. But they need to do Krasinski and Blunt as Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman. That isn’t up for discussion anymore. Did you know that Krasinski was one of the final candidates for Captain America before it went to Chris Evans and Blunt turned down the role of the Black Widow? True story.

Hopefully the season doesn’t get cancelled Haggs but it’s sure looking that way

--Brendan Hanrahan (via NBCS Facebook fan page)

JH: I’m not there yet, man. We’ll see. I think the NHL could start a full play two-month playoff that even started mid-May if they needed to do that. Sure, it might push next year’s regular season back by a few weeks and it certainly would wreak havoc with both the draft and free agency that’s supposed to start on July 1, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Take comfort in this: Nobody has more experience with working around work stoppages than the NHL does, based on labor discord and working regular seasons around the Olympics pretty regularly the past 20 years. They're pros at this.

Just an FYI. I would not be interested in signing Krug for $7m-8m a year. Do you think that the B’s could better spend that money?

--Jeffrey Gold

JH: On what? Even with Charlie McAvoy stepping up his game and Matt Grzelcyk continually playing well each time Krug has missed time with injuries, there is nobody on that roster that’s going to replace his 10 goals and 50 points when he’s gone. 

Krug’s shot is a major weapon that keeps PKs honest on the Bruins power play. McAvoy has a hard time hitting the net with his shot and Grzelcyk doesn’t have a shot that’s nearly as dangerous, even though he has clearly worked on it the past couple of seasons. Not to mention, Krug plays with the kind of swagger, attitude and toughness that sets the tone for everybody else. He’s one of the few guys on the Bruins roster that legitimately plays with a chip on his shoulder and they could use more of that, not less.

The one issue in all of this is that the salary cap is going to take a big hit if they cancel regular-season games and thereby drop revenues across the NHL. So, none of this is a certainty like it might have been a few months ago. We’ll have to wait and see, but $7 million per season for Krug isn’t an outlandish ask by him at all.  

Hi Joe!

You certainly know I’ve been one to speak out about the B’s needing a little more beef in the lineup! Will go one step further and say Sweeney needs to give brother Brett another shot... a line up with “Bros Ritchie” would be a price of a ticket while resting a couple guys. They can create space for the others....  getting a little “Big Bad Bruins” attitude to start the Black & Gold journey to 16W!!

JH: Give the Ritchie Brothers a few spins around the Garden ice. Why don’t we find a center with the first name Rich to drop between them and we can have a real, live Ritchie Brothers Line that could play just like the Hanson Brothers from "Slapshot." Or maybe Brad Richardson would be good enough? Either way, it puts a smile on my face thinking about it as the Stanley Cup playoffs seem very, very far away right now. Stay healthy out there everybody and take care of each other.



Bruins make statement leading with the words 'Black Lives Matter'

USA TODAY Sports photo

Bruins make statement leading with the words 'Black Lives Matter'

The Boston Bruins joined the majority of NHL teams in releasing a statement on Tuesday concerning the brutal murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis policeman, and the ensuing unrest of protests, riots and calls for necessary change to our American society clearly at a crossroads.

The Bruins franchise obviously comes from a place of trailblazing diversity as they were the first NHL team to break the color barrier with Hockey Hall of Famer Willie O’Ree back in 1958.

In recent years, the Black and Gold have had several black players on their NHL rosters including Jarome Iginla, Gemel Smith and first-round pick Malcolm Subban, who shared this Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. tweet from his account a few days ago.  

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App

But Tuesday’s statement wasn’t about their own diversity or about anything really concerning the Bruins aside from a statement of recognizing what happened and the path forward that so many us can help forge for a better, more understanding world.

Credit the B’s for making an honest, pointed statement that starts with support for the Black Lives Matter movement, and calls out the abhorrent murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis that set off protests all across the world.

Here’s the statement in full:

Black Lives Matter. Bigotry, ignorance and senseless violence in any and all forms is wrong. We are a hockey club, and sometimes it is hard to know when, where and how to comment on issues that challenge the freedom and well-being of our community. We want to be honest and we want to be accountable and we want to be leaders.

The abhorrent murder of George Floyd and similar events cannot be tolerated. We want to be part of change and we will lead with our actions. That has always started with treating all people with dignity and respect.

Credit players from across the predominantly white NHL too for stepping up and being part of the discussion, as thoughtful words from Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews and former Bruins forward Blake Wheeler highlighted a willingness of hockey players to listen, learn and educate themselves to the plight of black people everywhere when it comes to vital tenets of our freedom like equal treatment and blind justice.  

Then there's Sharks left winger Evander Kane, who has eloquently and powerfully spoken out as a black NHL player about the work that both society and the NHL itself need to engage in to continue to live up to the credo that “Hockey is For Everyone” while encouraging his fellow NHL players to step up and be vocal.  

With statements from the Bruins, Boston Red Sox and Boston Celtics along with Celtics players like Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Enes Kanter taking the lead with their activism, the New England Patriots remain the only major Boston sports team that has yet to release a statement on an issue that’s been on everyone’s mind over the last week.

Many questions remain about risk and health as NHL talks return to play

Many questions remain about risk and health as NHL talks return to play

While the NHL made big news last week with the unveiling of its plan to return to play with a 24-team tournament expected to get going this summer — barring any unforeseen COVID-19 setbacks — there is still plenty to be hashed out.

The NHLPA and NHL will need to come to agreement on other aspects of the league’s return-to-play plan and teams will need to begin skating, practicing and preparing to play in the postseason tournament that’s still months away.

The NHL is expected to make a formal announcement that the 31 NHL teams can begin Phase 2 with small practice groups at NHL facilities sometime over the next few weeks, and the word is that NHL training camp won’t begin prior to a July 10 start date. This means we could be seeing Stanley Cup playoff hockey in August and September before a Stanley Cup is awarded to the winner of the 2019-20 NHL season sometime in the fall.

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App

The real question, though, is how safe it’s going to be for players, referees, team and league personnel and anybody else essential that’s involved to help make these NHL games happen in designated hub cities once they are up and running.

Bruins captain Zdeno Chara acknowledged there is still plenty left to go when it comes to the issues of health and well-being while talking about a return to play with Bruins reporters last week.

“These are the questions that still need to be processed. After the approval of the format there are other steps that need to be gone over,” said Chara. “I’m sure this is one of those things that everybody needs to be aware of that the safety and health of players, staff, coaches and everybody working around [the games] needs to be taken care of. Those are the questions that will need to be asked and answered.”

Some NHL players like Leafs winger Mitch Marner already expressed concern about any NHL personnel with underlying health conditions like Montreal Canadiens forward Max Domi, who has Type 1 Diabetes. Clearly there are also some older NHL coaches like Claude Julien, Joel Quenneville and John Tortorella who could be more at risk if a COVID-19 outbreak were to happen during these playoffs, and that doesn’t even take into account older NHL assistant coaches as well.

“I’m all down for starting everything up [with the NHL season again]. Let’s rock. [But] what if someone gets sick and dies? It's awful to think about, but still," said Marner of Domi, his former London Knights teammate, a few weeks ago during a video chat with fans. "There's dudes like [Max] Domi who has diabetes. If he gets it, he's in [a predicament]."

TSN 690 radio host Tony Marinaro admitted on an NBC Sports Boston Zoom call with James Murphy and yours truly last week that it’s a “scary” scenario for the Canadiens given their situation with players and coaches. It wouldn’t shock anyone if there may even be some hesitant players who opt not to return to play this summer depending on their individual health situations and concern level.

“I just got off the phone [on-air] about an hour ago with Dr. Leighanne Parkes, who is an infectious disease specialist at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal and I asked her about Max Domi. I asked her about Max Domi because as we know with this COVID-19 that it’s mostly the elderly that are losing their lives. But if there is somebody losing their life before the age of 80, then it’s someone with an underlying health condition. Max Domi is a Type-1 diabetic and that is scary and extremely dangerous.

“I asked her about the [21-page] document put out by the NHL for their health protocols [during the return to play] and she said it was a well thought out document. She said the NHL has covered most of the bases, if not all of them, and it was really well thought out. But at the end of the day, it’s going to come down to individual choice, Max Domi’s individual choice. But it really is scary and it really is dangerous for a player with a pre-existing condition.

Even though the protocol is there and the document is there and they take all the safety measures, do you want to take the risk? Would I? No. Would you? Probably not. But if there is one thing our experience has shown us, we’re not wired like these [NHL players]. These guys want to play. I can’t speak for Max Domi, but if I were a betting man I’d bet that he would play.

Domi himself admitted it was on his mind while talking it over on a conference call with reporters a few weeks ago amidst the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent NHL work stoppage.

"Being a Type 1 diabetic, it's something that raises some concern. But you really don't know how everyone's going to be affected by this disease. Being a Type 1 doesn't change much. I would handle myself the same way as if I didn't have [diabetes]," said the 25-year-old Domi, who is third on the Canadiens with 17 goals and 44 points in 71 games this season. "Everyone is affected by this in their own way. A lot of people have been struggling.

“A lot of people have suffered loss. It's been a really tough time for everyone, and you have to be sensitive to that. You have to understand that this is very real. People have gotten sick from this. People have died from this. All you can really do is do your part, stay at home, stay safe and be respectful of any rules that were put in place.”

The good news is that most teams, and subsequently most players, will be eliminated from playoff contention within the first few weeks of a Stanley Cup playoff return-to-play. The attrition of playoff rounds will quickly lessen the amount of people, both quarantined and coming into contact with each other, present at the hub cities.

A few shortened playoff series at the start of the NHL tournament could make that an even more expeditious process that’s as safe as it can possibly for everybody involved. But at the end of the day it will be about some level of risk for each and every NHL player involved.

It all boils down to a very personal decision — and it shouldn't be all that surprising if not every player signs up to assume that COVID-19 risk once play does resume.