Don Cherry

Hagg Bag Mailbag: Seeking some answers during the Bruins losing streak

Hagg Bag Mailbag: Seeking some answers during the Bruins losing streak

The Bruins have lost four games in a row, but it’s not exactly panic city for the Black and Gold. Nor should it be after their torrid month of October with things now coming back to reality. Certainly the schedule is catching up with the B’s, injuries are playing a role and they may just be getting a little tired after last season’s run until mid-June.

It all means they aren’t going to romp wire-to-wire this year and that there are weaknesses to be exploited on the B’s roster. These are things realistic fans already knew going in, so don’t expect too many frenzied, breathless demands that half the team be traded, benched or sent back down to Providence at this point.

Still, there is some frustration from the Bruins fans in this week’s Hagg Bag. As always these are real questions from real fans on twitter using the #HaggBag hash tag, real messages to my NBCS Facebook fan page and real emails to my jhaggerty@nbcuni.com email address.

Now on to the Hagg Bag:

Hagg bag,

Do you see McAvoy developing into an offensive star? He has the ability to become the future top D-man on the B's, however if he continues down the road to be a pass first guy, will he achieve that status?

--Brian A (@fouronorr)

JH: It’s a great question and it’s one I’ll be investigating further this weekend after talking to McAvoy and some other Bruins. But for the Hagg Bag, I would say the jury is still out on exactly how impactful he will be as an offensive player anytime soon. Certainly it’s going to be difficult if he doesn’t simply shoot the puck. McAvoy has only 20 shots on goal in 18 games this season, and that’s not nearly enough for a player of his skill set, ability and potential impact when it comes to creating offense.

There was a perfect example on Tuesday night’s loss to Florida when he passed up a shooting lane in overtime to dish the puck off to David Pastrnak in the face-off circle. It might be the proper play given the situation and the personnel on the ice, but you’d like to see McAvoy simply rip it, or take it to the net, with a little more frequency to keep defenses guessing as to what he’s going to do.

I think McAvoy will be a capable offensive D-man and could become an even bigger force if he ever gained entry to the top power-play unit, but I’m just not sure he’s ever going to be the 10-goal, 50-point guy that Torey Krug has developed into over the years. That development would be made tougher by his defensive responsibilities with Zdeno Chara against other team’s top lines.

Long answer short, he needs to shoot the puck more if he wants to be the true No. 1 defenseman he aspires to be.

Hi Joe -

We know that the Perfection Line has carried the team to where they are at now, but realistically, the B's really don't have any depth past this line. I really don't see this team getting anywhere near last year's success. It'll be tough to get in just as a wild card!

I would like to see Krug packaged with [Peter] Cehlarik and traded for someone that can put pucks in the net NOW vs. the trade deadline. I think both Moore and Miller can also be used as bargaining chips. Clifton has played well and is much speedier, and in my opinion has surpassed both of these players. I also think Vaakanainen can be called up on a permanent basis with the B's.

Cheers, Art

JH: Do you really think Peter Cehlarik has much trade value? I’m not sure that he does after he was bypassed by every team when he was waived and sent down to Providence. I also don’t think John Moore or Kevan Miller have any trade value at all until they return from injury and show other teams they are healthy. On top of that, Moore is in the second year of a five-year contract. I don’t see other teams getting in on that at this point either.

Honestly, I’d rather have a healthy Kevan Miller in the lineup over Connor Clifton because the Bruins could use a little more thump and toughness on the back end. Clifton hasn’t exactly been ironclad defensively over the last few weeks either. I have wondered whether his play dipped because everybody knows moves are coming on the back end once Miller and Moore regain good health and are ready to play.

I’m really curious to see how Matt Grzelcyk and Charlie McAvoy play with Torey Krug out of the lineup for the next few games. If they step up and show that the Bruins aren’t going to miss a beat offensively or on special teams, then you might be on to something. But I still think they’d be better served keeping Krug, trading for another Marcus Johansson-type at the trade deadline and then potentially going out to find a long-term solution this coming summer either via trade or free agency.

The Bruins should hire Don Cherry.

--Kevork Kasparian (@KasparianKevork)

JH: I don’t think Don Cherry needs the work. He’s 85 years old and he had a great run on Hockey Night in Canada. I was always a fan and I selfishly wish he was still on Coach’s Corner because I enjoyed watching him talk hockey. Hopefully Grapes sticks around the game as a personality who's still very much needed, but also does exactly what he wants to do rather than feel the need to come up with what’s next following his firing.

I think the Bruins are probably happy to not be involved in the controversy on any level because the league’s “Hockey is for Everyone” initiative flies in the face of Cherry’s comments from last weekend. Nobody has any issue with Cherry supporting the troops. Everybody in this day and age should have an issue with him singling out immigrants in his comments.

How do you see the salary cap situation sorting itself out with the return of Miller and Moore?

--RN

JH: This is difficult to predict since we can’t see what kind of injuries await them over the next month. Do we even know what’s going on with David Backes and whether he’s anywhere close to playing anytime soon? If he becomes a candidate for LTIR, then that opens up a lot of additional cap space for the Bruins even after Moore and Miller are healthy enough to return.

Right now Moore and Miller make up $5.25 million in cap space off the books on injured reserve and Backes’ cap hit is $6 million. So that’s an almost even trade if that’s what ends up happening, but the Bruins will also have to clear out a couple of defensemen contracts at the NHL level as well, so it’s tough to tell exactly how it will happen.

I’d guess Moore is still a couple of weeks away from a return at this point, so there isn’t a real rush to figure this out currently. We shall see.

What would the Bruins need to give up for Taylor Hall. Would it be worth it?

--Mike Wasyluk (@michaelwasyluk)

JH: A first-round pick. A solid prospect at left wing or defense. I’m just not sure it’s going to happen based on the cap gymnastics and whether or not the Bruins have the kind of prospects that would get something like this done. They’d be better off waiting until the offseason and signing him as a free agent if Hall is truly who they targeted as their top-6 improvement plan moving forward.

Haggs,

No doubt, David Pastrnak is a great player, but his biggest problem is losing the puck.  He often loses the puck coming into the zone, and along the boards he almost never comes up with it.

My suggestion is to have [Patrice] Bergeron, [Brad] Marchand and [David] Krejci work with him along the boards...just over and over. [Just] have them go to the boards with Pasta and fight for the puck.  Those would be three great mentors and Pasta would certainly learn something.

Thanks, Rick Stark

JH: David Pastrnak was on a pace to score 50 goals last season before he got hurt. He’s on pace to score 70 goals and 140 points this season. He leads the NHL in goals scored. I don’t need him to be the Ultimate Warrior along the boards. Maybe he can teach guys like Danton Heinen, Anders Bjork and Jake DeBrusk how to score goals like him instead? Just a thought.

Could be better in puck battles and more staunch along the boards? He certainly could, but I also think he’s come a long way in these departments from where he was as the youngest guy in the NHL at 18 years old. Don’t you? He’s still only 23 and just tapping into his highest ceiling as a player, so perhaps this will happen without the remedial lessons from 37, 63 and 46.

With the dearth of immediate NHL forward prospects, should the B's kick the tires on bringing back Koko from the KHL?

--Rich Coveney (@coves121)

JH: The guy has never scored 20 goals in the KHL, and has six goals and 15 points in 25 games for Moscow Spartak this season. Can we stop pretending that players over in Russia are some secret weapon that are going to come here and address all of Boston’s needs? He had some chances while he was here to establish himself and always appeared to me to be a guy that wasn’t strong enough — or fast enough — to get it done at the NHL level.

The merely okay numbers in the NHL would seem to back that up. There are better options for the Bruins within their own organization and there certainly will be better options at the trade deadline for another Marcus Johansson-type acquisition at this year’s deadline.

Where do B's rank in Joe Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings?>>>>>

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Bobby Orr calls Don Cherry's firing 'disgraceful' says his former coach is 'not a racist'

Bobby Orr calls Don Cherry's firing 'disgraceful' says his former coach is 'not a racist'

Days later, the argument over Don Cherry’s comments on Hockey Night in Canada that sparked his dismissal is still going strong. Now, the NHL’s greatest player has weighed in. 

Bruins legend and Hall of Famer Bobby Orr stood up for Grapes when chatting with the Toronto Sun and WEEI's "Ordway, Merloni and Fauria" show in separate interviews Thursday and called his former coach's firing “disgusting” and “definitely unfair.”

Cherry was fired on Monday by Rogers Sportsnet in Canada after his comments over the weekend on his "Coach’s Corner" segment on "Hockey Night in Canada" when he went on a diatribe about people not buying poppies to support Canadian military veterans.

The former Bruins coach - Orr played for him in the 1974-75 and '75-76 seasons - didn’t just stop with a statement supporting the military, and regrettably segued into singling out immigrants to Canada as a group not supporting the military enough publicly. Cherry, 85, started it all off by saying “you people that come here” and that set off a firestorm of criticism in the US and Canada against the analyst who has been part of Hockey Night in Canada telecasts for almost 40 years.

Cherry said on the Nov. 9 telecast: “You people … you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple bucks for a poppy or something like that. These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price.”

Orr’s words carry a lot of weight in the hockey world in Boston, where he won a pair of Stanley Cups while revolutionizing the game, and all over Canada, where he’s still revered as the greatest hockey player of all time.

And he’s sticking by his buddy, nicknamed Grapes, which is admirable.

“He got fired on Remembrance Day. That is just wrong,” said Orr to the Sun. “The whole thing is unbelievable. Don Cherry is a good man and to do this to him is disgusting. I know what he was saying. We all know what he was saying. He was saying we should buy a poppy. All of us. You can take it any way you want, but he isn’t a bigot.

“Yes, he’s my friend. But I have known him a long time and I know he is not a bigot or a racist. He is the most honest and generous guy there is. He’s very good to the veterans, the police, the firefighters, minor hockey players and fans. They all know what he meant and I know what he meant.”

Orr told WEEI: "What they’ve done to him up there is disgraceful, it really is. It's a new world, I guess. Freedom of speech doesn't matter." He added that Cherry is "hurt, but he's going to be fine. He's getting some nice calls from his friends here in Boston. He is getting some wonderful support."

It’s still unknown exactly what awaits Cherry after his departure from Hockey Night in Canada, and it remains to be seen what Sportsnet will do to replace him with Brian Burke, Ray Ferraro and Mike Milbury mentioned as possible replacements for the bombastic analyst. 

While it was probably never going to matter when it comes to his ultimate fate with a corporate entity such as Rogers Sportsnet after Cherry's divisive, offensive language, it’s good to see that No. 4 still has Cherry’s back.

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Bruce Cassidy on Don Cherry comments: 'That's not the way that I think'

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USA TODAY Sports Photo

Bruce Cassidy on Don Cherry comments: 'That's not the way that I think'

BRIGHTON, Mass. — Bruce Cassidy was an unabashed Bruins fan growing up, so it’s no surprise that he was a fan of the “Lunch Pail AC” crew in the 1970’s coached by Don Cherry when he was a young hockey fan growing up in Ontario.

As a Canadian and a lover of hockey, Cassidy undoubtedly grew up with Coach’s Corner on Hockey Night in Canada and was one of the millions of Canadians who waited to see what Cherry was going to say every Saturday night. So it probably wasn’t easy for Cassidy to say he disagreed with Cherry’s comments from last weekend's Coach’s Corner that ended up getting him fired from his job as analyst with Hockey Night in Canada as a result.

But that’s exactly what the Bruins head coach did when asked about it following Tuesday’s morning skate as the Cherry firing remains a hot topic for discussions between his ardent supporters, and those that saw his divisive, offensive comments as going too far.

“Hockey vs. politics, I try to stay away from that. I don’t agree with what he said,” said Cassidy. “I love the fact that he was a great coach for the Bruins years ago. I love the way the team played. But that’s just my…not the way that I think.”

Cherry addressed the issue of Remembrance Day this past weekend during Coach’s Corner when it came to the subject of wearing a poppy symbolic of supporting the troops, and spoke up for the military as he often has during his nearly 40 years of work for Hockey Night in Canada. Unfortunately, Cherry also used that space to single out immigrants using the line “you people that come here”, and that was what ended being totally unnecessary and problematic.

"You people ... that come here, whatever it is. You love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple bucks for a poppy or something like that," Cherry said on Saturday night. "These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada. These guys paid the biggest price.”

Clearly nobody is going to argue with Cherry’s wish that more people show symbolic support for the troops, but it was his reference to “you people…that come here” that was divisive, offensive and certainly pointed toward immigrants to Canada.

It was also something that plenty of hockey people, like Cassidy, can’t get behind when one of the NHL’s biggest initiatives right now is “Hockey is For Everyone” that should be welcoming everybody rather than seeking ways to divide.

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