Hagg Bag: How about a Bjork-Donato line with _______?

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Hagg Bag: How about a Bjork-Donato line with _______?

It’s that time of the week again. Time for the Hagg Bag mailbag with real questions from our readers using the #HaggBag hashtag on Twitter, sending messages to my NBC Sports Boston Facebook page or emailing my account. Now on to the bag!

Sup Haggs?

A lot of people have been yelling about getting someone to play on Krejci's wing but after watching the last couple of games, I'm intrigued by Bjork and Donato playing together. Backes isn't the most fleet of foot guy on the team and I don't see him as a great fit between those two guys. Do you think the B's could possibly trade for a guy like Jason Zucker? I'd be willing to give up Heinen and maybe one of the young D-men and maybe draft picks or whatever. I think a Zucker, Bjork, Donato line would have some serious potential and Backes, at this point of his career, would probably look better playing wing with Kuraly and Acciari.

Billy Hud
Revere, MA

JH: Hey Billy. I think there was a better shot of trading for Jason Zucker when he was unsigned with the Minnesota Wild over the summer. I like the player and think he is the kind of guy that the Bruins obviously need right now. In my humble opinion, the Bruins are short one established top-six forward right now. I know some people think it’s the third-line center that the Bruins should be chasing instead, but what happens if you get a fairly young guy such as Zucker and pay him? Now you’ve blocked Trent Frederic and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson from winning that job and you’ve tied up money at a spot where you could have a young player on an entry-level deal if you show a little bit of patience. The Bruins still need a goal-scoring winger on the second line and that’s where I’d be chasing if I were Don Sweeney right now.

I do think that the Bruins are going to have to give up either Bjork, Heinen or Donato to get a quality player. I’d be okay with potentially shipping Matt Grzelcyk as well if It was the right deal that could improve the Bruins as Toronto and Tampa have clearly done over the past 8-10 months. I am with you on Backes, though. He needs to be a bottom-six winger at this point in his career, though I’m still not ready to relegate him to the fourth line. I honestly worry more about the concussion stuff eventually catching up to him.

Favorite and least favorite Star Wars character & movie. Show your work.

--Dave Green (@DavidMGreen)

JH: Favorite Star Wars character? Chewbacca. He’s loyal, he’s physically stronger than everybody else and he’s proud enough that he needed to be kicked in the butt to go down the garbage chute. Least favorite Star Wars character? That’s easy. Jar Jar Binks. I have taught my 5-year-old son that his name is actually Jar Jar Stinks and he still believes that to this day. Favorite Star Wars movie is Empire just like everybody else, and my least favorite is probably the Phantom Menace. Although the Last Jedi was a big disappointment to me as well, though I’m not opening up that Pandora’s Box in the mailbag. Thanks for the question, Greenie!

Hi Joe!
Your thoughts.....

We all know ‘Krech’ had his best years with bigger wingers (Lucic, Horton, Iginla and a small sample with 61Nash).  Still think having a winger with snarl, size, & skills to go with DeBrusk and/or can move up/down in lineup is the answer...And as I briefly stated before, really think that player is currently being wasted in Anaheim... Nick Ritchie. 

If and when he is traded (like possibly Anderson, another big, skilled winger with CBJ) to Toronto or another division/conference team... oh, well a loss for B’s!!

Would even call up Senyshyn for ‘trial’ on when games count and given big shot after a decent preseason, why not? Heinen, Donato, man up!!

Keep the write ups coming!!!

Saitama, Japan 

JH: Ritchie would have been a solid idea last week before the Anaheim Ducks signed him to a three-year deal after his protracted holdout. He has some good size and pretty decent physicality as the Bruins have seen first-hand, and he’s obviously got talent as a first-round pick. I even noticed that Anaheim special assignment scout Dave Nonis had a pretty long conversation with Sweeney that made me think the wheels were turning on something with Ritchie, but may there is still something to be done with Anaheim now that they’re in pretty tough salary-cap straits. So, stay tuned with the Ducks and the Bruins.

Zach Senyshyn was one of the first Bruins prospects sent down to Providence and cut from training camp, so I don’t think the B’s were overly wowed by what they saw out of him. I don’t think he’s close right now. The more likely scenario is a trade in the coming weeks with one of Bjork or Heinen probably going the other way for a young, top-six type winger or third-line center, but it’s difficult to pull off early-season trades. We may see the Bruins simply try to shine it on with their young guys for a bit until the trade deadline gets here. I will keep the write-ups coming.

At what point do the bruins run out of patience with tuukka? #HaggBag

--matthew wilson (@mattframingham)

JH: We may know as soon as Saturday night in Vancouver when it comes to Tuukka Rask. If Jaroslav Halak gets a second consecutive start then Bruce Cassidy has already run out of patience with his slow-starting No. 1 goalie less than 10 games into the season. Who can blame him? Rask has given his team zero shot to win in two out of his four starts this season, including both starts against likely playoff teams. Rask has a 4.08 goals-against average and an .875 save percentage. Those numbers are putrid. Frankly, he really doesn’t deserve to play at this point until he turns his game around.

Would you be willing to create a package that is centered around Brandon Carlo? If they won’t take Krug he’d be the next D-man I’d move

--Bar Bobby (@BGBobLucy)

JH: If it comes to that, but it would have to be a game-changing top-six goal-scorer that the Bruins envision in their lineup for a long time. I like Carlo a lot and still think there’s an upside to his game offensively along with the clear size, strength and toughness qualities that will make him a good shutdown D-man. The guy is 6-foot-5 and strong and can skate. Those kinds of D-men stay employed in the NHL for a long time.

The one consideration with Carlo, and with Charlie McAvoy for that matter though nobody should consider trading him, is that the entry-level contract is ending this season and both of those young D-men are going to start costing a lot more money. If it was a player such as Artemi Panarin with assurances he was going to sign with the Bruins, I would include Carlo in that type of package to the Columbus Blue Jackets. If it’s an aging player, such as Wayne Simmonds, who's about to cost a lot of money in free agency, I would not be wasting my good young players on an admittedly still-good asset that’s in decline.

Morning Joe,

Is Bjork going to get a look on the Krejci-Debrusk line anytime soon? I think he has looked pretty great coming off injury and without any real preseason action. With the speed of Debrusk and Bjork, I think the line could fly if old man Krejci can keep up. Thoughts?


Mark (Jacksonville)

JH: Hey Mark. I wouldn’t mind seeing Anders Bjork with Krejci and DeBrusk at some point after Heinen and Donato have gotten their looks there. That being said, I thought Heinen looked good back with Krejci and DeBrusk on Thursday night in Edmonton after a couple of healthy scratches. He picked up his first point of the season on a nice play that helped set up Krejci’s goal early in the game. Heinen is the best two-way player of the three winger candidates to play there and I think that’s a big reason why he is going to continue to get looks. If Bjork continues to play a heavier brand of hockey to go along with his speed and skill, though, he’ll get his look there too. He just needs to continue to build on some of the good things we’ve seen from a hungry player that wants to establish himself. I just wonder if Bjork is the guy who eventually gets moved for an established player given his value as a prospect. He’s also shown a bit of a softness to his game at times that the Bruins can’t be wild about. He’ll score in the NHL, but I’m not sure if he’s ever going to be strong or heavy enough to be a frontline player on a playoff team.

That’s it for this week’s bag, we’ll see you next week!  

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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.

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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.

Who are the Top 10 NHL players from Massachusetts?

Who are the Top 10 NHL players from Massachusetts?

There’s a strong tradition of hockey in the state of Massachusetts, and not so surprisingly there is also no shortage of standout NHL players from this state.

A great deal of those talented players arrived in the years since Bobby Orr first came to town in Black and Gold and brought with him a hockey rink boom all over the Commonwealth, so there’s no coincidence to the timing of it all.

Another non-shocker: The greatest generation of Massachusetts hockey players continues to be the 1990’s when Jeremy Roenick, Keith Tkachuk and Tony Amonte along with Bill Guerin grew into dominant forces of talent at the NHL level. There may never such a concentration of star NHL players from Massachusetts all playing at the same time.

There were older pioneers and standouts, of course, like St. John’s Prep phenom Bobby Carpenter, one of the few high-level elite Massachusetts guys that laced up for the B's, and Acton-Boxborough’s Tom Barrasso on those Stanley Cup teams in Pittsburgh. Here’s a list of the top-10 all-time NHL players born in Massachusetts with apologies to Scott Young, Mike Milbury, Cory Schneider, Tom Poti, Tom Fitzgerald, Chris Nilan, Shawn McEachern and Jay Pandolfo for not quite making the cut.