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 @JHaggerty@nbcuni.com 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.
I remember when you used to interact with us ...so 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.
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?
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?
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.
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.