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Bruins Trade Deadline Ruminating…

Another week, another league trading deadline.  The NHL’s is Wednesday at 3:00 pm.  So we ask the same question:  Will the Bruins do anything?

Kind of a different situation for them than the Celtics.  Where everyone under the sun wanted the C’s to make moves, even a minor one, I am not sure anyone wants the Bruins to make a move at all.

For a couple of reasons:

  1. The team is 7-1 under “interim” head coach Bruce Cassidy.  Why would you mess with any momentum now?
  2. This team does not seem like Stanley Cup Championship timber, so why trade prospects and/or picks for what would probably amount to just rental players for this playoff push?

You can count the Blowhard among the second group.  The team has certainly been playing better under Cassidy.  The momentum is nice.  But if you have a chance to improve your team, especially for a long Cup run, you absolutely have to do it.  So I think that the people who fall under the first group shouldn’t really get hung up on any positive momentum swing.  A team could lose that momentum in a hurry.  Then you are just left with the same players that were fairly average before the coaching change.  Probably not ideal.

The fact remains that this team is not winning a Stanley Cup this year.  Not even with adding one, two or three players at the deadline.  Sure, any goalie can get hot and then a team can roll during playoff season.  Can’t say that hasn’t happened before.  But honestly, even with the new coach and his record, does this team give you any sense they can go on a run like that?

The Bruins waited faaaaaar too long to fire Claude Julien.  That much is absolutely true and we all know that.  Maybe if they did it around New Year’s, we would be talking about adding players for a Cup run.  Maybe this streak under Cassidy is just an aberration and an expected uptick in effort and results in the immediate aftermath of a coaching change.  But perhaps an earlier Julien dismissal would have sparked an earlier run and the Bruins wouldn’t have dug themselves as deep a hole that they did.

Ok, maybe “dug themselves a big hole” is a little hyperbole.  They are 7th in the conference as we speak, which puts them in the playoffs.  But Toronto, the Islanders and other teams behind them are lingering around with about 20 games left.  Pretty tight group at the edge of the playoff race.

So what if they are lulled into this false sense that they can make a run in the playoffs, go out and bring some guys in and then don’t actually make the cut?  Yeah…remember last year?  Lee Stempniak and John-Michael Liles in two separate deals for 4 picks and a minor leaguer combined?  Yuck!  Then not making the playoffs to top it off?

It’s simply not worth it.

So does that make the Bruins sellers?  Not necessarily.

Guys like Ryan Spooner, David Krejci, Colin Miller and even Jimmy Hayes have been a little revitalized with Claude’s departure.  So if perhaps these guys were on the block beforehand as talented veterans that may be available, maybe they aren’t anymore.  Sure, if someone took Hayes off your hands, it wouldn’t necessarily be a big loss.  Same is true for Matt Beleskey, Tim Schaller, Liles, Dominic Moore, Riley Nash and dudes of that ilk.

But no one is taking Beleskey’s contract.  Maybe not even Hayes’.  The rest of those players listed and their types aren’t going to really get you much in return.  Also, you could have a worse fourth line than Schaller/Moore/Nash.  So there is really no sense in dealing them.  Plus, if they do make the playoffs, Liles isn’t horrible as a 7th D-man.  Nor Beleskey as a 13th forward.  May as well ride this thing out for the most part.

The one interesting case involves the Captain, Zdeno Chara.  I personally don’t move him, unless someone absolutely blows the Bruins away.  I still believe that the Bruins defense still needs significant work going forward.  Another reason why I don’t see a long Cup run in their immediate future.  The defense has played pretty well since Cassidy took over.  And we don’t have to even mention that they seem more involved offensively.  But that doesn’t mean all their defensive problems have been solved.  My opinion anyway…

But as for Big Z, he’s obviously not the same dominant player we have known here for years.  Maybe he’s not even a first pairing guy anymore.  He’s 39 years old, what do you expect?!  Sadly, however, he is still at this very point in time probably the Bruins best pure D-man.  And his cap hit for next year is a very reasonable 4 million.  It makes a lot of sense to keep him around and help bring the youngsters like Brandon Carlo and Colin Miller along.  Maybe Rob O’Gara is here next year.  Possibly Matt Grzelcyk.  Perhaps…Charlie McAvoy?  I’d rather have Z here working with them and not Kevan Miller and/or Adam McQuaid (shaking my head and acknowledging that those two may be here as well anyway).

If someone opens the vault, he’s gone.  But I am not sure any team does that.

If Donnie Hockey is smart, he sits this trading deadline out altogether.  But when have any of us called Sweeney smart recently?

Claude is gone…CLAUDE IS GONE!!

Little late to the party on this one as well.  But of course VERY deserving of comment, for sure.  (Kind of) lost in the shuffle during the New England Patriots Super Bowl celebration, Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien was fired…and a week later was tabbed to take over the Atlantic division first place (though Eastern Conference 5th overall) Montreal Canadiens.  Yup, the HATED Canadiens.  Yup, the same Canadiens that fired Claude in 2006.

I’ve written over and over again in this space that it was time for Claude to go.  It had been for quite some time.  Missing the playoffs the last two years is inexcusable.  Especially the way they choked down the stretch both years.  And then being on course for missing the playoffs a third straight year this year.  Just unacceptable.  How could he still have his job after all that?

Not that it has all been his fault.  It has not.  Cam Neely, Don Sweeney and Peter Chiarelli haven’t necessarily given him the best roster in recent years.  Maybe help is on the way with some of Sweeney’s recent draftees.  But we may not know that for a while.

But you know what?  Neely and Chiarelli gave Julien some pretty damn good rosters early in his tenure.  Sure, he won a Stanley Cup.  Just one though.  He had a talented team that should have competed for a Cup many other years as well.  You may say, “he went to another Cup Final”.  I will then tell you that this was all well and good, but in a lockout shortened season not quite the same accomplishment.

People often forget that Julien was probably an OT goal against Montreal in the first round of the Cup year from being fired that year.  And in the year they lost in the Cup final, they also dodged a bullet in the first round with that miracle win against Toronto.  And some other colossal playoff failures:  2008-09, 116 points in regular season, 2nd round loss to Carolina.  2009-10, 3-0 lead in 2nd round against Philadelphia and lost 4 straight to be eliminated.  The loss of David Krejci in Game 4 was certainly big.  But to lose that game and 3 straight after and kind of blame that injury?  Nope.  2011-12, first round loss to Washington (Chiarelli said the players were “tired” from the previous years’ Cup run…ugh).  2013-14, 117 regular season points, 2nd round exit to Montreal.

It all adds up.  Why don’t/didn’t a lot of people see this?

He is a good coach, maybe better than good, but not necessarily great.  And certainly not legendary, as some people (you again Magoon) seem to think he is.

Amazingly enough, as recently as about 5 weeks ago, I was convinced Claude was at least here through the season.  I thought Donnie Hockey was blowing smoke when he told us that he hadn’t ruled out a coaching change.  Apparently he was not.

Figured the contract would keep him here through the year for the most part.  The Jacobs’ don’t like to eat money.  Could they have known Montreal was going to jump in and (apparently) offset some of the dough owed Julien?  Did they know/sense that the Canadiens were sniffing around?  I doubt it, but I guess you never know with these sorts of things.

In any event, Bruce Cassidy is now the head coach.  Logged about a year and a half as a head coach of the Capitals, getting canned during the 2003-04 season.  Had to wait quite a bit for his 2nd head coaching gig…longer than most.  Has tallied almost 900 games as a minor league head coach, including almost 500 since the Capitals role.  Spent the last 5 years in Providence.  Has had some regular season success, but not a ton in the playoffs.  Supposedly has a good reputation with young players.   Seems to have been groomed to be the next Boston head coach, though the title is still interim at the moment.  Hopefully the rep with young players is true.  And that it means he will implement them in faster than Claude.  I will say this for Claude, having Cassidy on the bench with him this year with the feeling that Bruce was “the next guy” couldn’t have been a warm and fuzzy feeling for Julien.  I know I wouldn’t have been excited about it.

So after all of the above, I personally am not buying the “interim” thing.  I think Cassidy will officially be the next head coach.  Unless of course they tank horrendously down the stretch.

But is he the answer?  I have no idea.  Does the fact that Cassidy is 3-0 since taking over and that Julien is 0-1 in Montreal mean anything?  I think it probably means squat.  Though I would definitely expect a better effort from a team in the immediate aftermath of their coach just being fired.  I know I have seen that out of the B’s in their three games.  Having not seen the Montreal game Saturday night, I can’t really completely comment on their effort.  But they lost to an average at best Winnipeg team at home.  So I would guess that is not a positive.

I will say that the offensive “game plan” is certainly more aggressive.  The D corps scored 18 goals in the first 55 games.  They have 4 in the last 3.  This is the most noticeable difference to me…the D-men are waaaaaaay more involved offensively.  Now, this could certainly lead to goals being given up in bunches at the other end because of their (over)aggressiveness.  But hey, they have an “All-Star” goalie in Tuukka Rask, so everything should be fine, right?  Ok, maybe not.

Either way, this is great to see.  14 goals in 3 games overall?  I like that too.  Small sample size of course.  But after watching Claude’s system for years, even the 3 game stretch is refreshing.  I eventually accepted Claude’s system, since they did win that Cup and were competitive and playoff-bound most years.  But it doesn’t mean I loved it.

Cassidy’s system may not work long-term.  This may just be the coaching change wakeup call.  But maybe some of these forwards can showcase their talents more now.  Maybe this system works with a lot of the youngsters on the way.  Who knows?

Time will tell.  Cassidy hasn’t changed the personnel really.  Anton Khudobin is back.  I like it.  Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban are simply not ready to play in the NHL and may never be.  Khudobin has been brutal this year, but has also been hurt and buried when healthy.  Maybe the stint in Providence got his head back on straight and Bruce actually gives him some time down the stretch to keep him sharp.  Peter Cehlarik is the only new body among the skaters.  Impressed by him thus far…along with the line of Cehlarik/Krejci/David Pastrnak.  But again, only 3 games.  He played Zdeno Chara over 26 minutes in the last game…still entirely too much.  Hasn’t appeared to change much ice time overall among the players.

So again…we will see.  But there have been some encouraging signs for sure.

Nice 4 game West Coast trip starting tonight that may shed some more light on the situation.  San Jose and Anaheim seem to be tough foes.  Los Angeles and Dallas perhaps not…but LA is the 2nd night of a back to back.  So maybe.

Definitely intriguing to see how they play the season out, starting with the trading deadline.  There are 24 games left.  I have no doubt that the Jacobs clan would love at least one round of playoff gates.  So perhaps we don’t see much player change until the offseason.  Especially the integration of many more youngsters.  I don’t think Sweeney will overpay for pieces to prepare for what he thinks will be a long playoff run at the deadline.  But I also don’t think he will deal major pieces away over the next couple of weeks either.  It’ll be interesting to see how they balance things the remainder of this season.

But hopefully they will be at least on a better track.  And certainly more entertaining to watch…

Boston Bruins Mid-Season Report Card

Slightly more than mid-season, actually.  53 games in by the time this is finished.  But the All-Star Game just happened…or whatever the All-Star nonsense was this year anyway.  So…it is what it is…

Full disclosure, the Blowhard has not watched every minute of every game.  Far from it.  No way anyone can tolerate Jack Edwards that much, can they?  But we feel like we can fire some grades out based on game action, reports, opinions and box scores, among other sources.  We may just make up some bogus grades just to see if any of the three readers of this blog vehemently disagree (Keo?).

Grades are completely arbitrary in these cases anyway, so what difference does it make?  Whatever…let’s get to it:

Jeremy Jacobs, Charlie Jacobs, any other Jacobs associated with ownership: D.  For the better part of my lifetime, these jamokes really just care about putting a team on the ice that gets them a round or two of playoff gates and aren’t necessarily chasing championships.  I’m not the only one who thinks this.  And you know what?  They’ve been pretty successful at it.  This year is more of the same.  It’s really as simple as that.

Cam Neely, Don Sweeney and I suppose the rest of the front office: D-.  Maybe I should give Cam some more credit, since I believe he has wanted to fire Claude Julien for years but ownership won’t let him.  Maybe I should give Sweens more time, since many of his draft picks seem to be highly regarded.  But Cam has been around a while and the team has regressed.  And Donnie Hockey’s major league moves have been below average, at best.  So I’m not budging.

Claude Julien: D+.  Sense a theme here?  Yeah, leadership has been disappointing, to put it mildly.  Everyone knows how I feel about Claude, so I won’t re-hash that here.  He gets the “plus” though since his personnel isn’t awesome these days.  And technically, they are in the playoffs as of today…though the games in hand they own currently will obviously not be “in hand” at the end.  Let’s move on…

Brad Marchand: B+.  All-Star.  Point a game almost.  So why a B and not an A?  Cuz of those stupid things he still does.  Like the trip on Niklas Kronwall last week.  Infuriating.

David Pastrnak: B.  20 goals is nice.  So is the team high plus/minus of 14.  But he has tailed off in recent weeks.

David Krejci: C.  Too much dough for not much production and a minus 11.  Yikes!

Torey Krug: B-.  Not his fault they overpaid him.  But the minus 8?  No thanks.

Patrice Bergeron: C.  Something is not right.  Has he been hurt since the World Cup of Hockey?  Half a point a game and only a plus 3?  Too good for that.  At least he is still winning a good chunk of his faceoffs.

Ryan Spooner: C.  Claude is never going to trust him.  Spooner is never going to be a defensive whiz.  But he’s been disappointing either way.

David Backes: B-.  Seems to be what was about expected.  Again, not his fault he was overpaid.

Dominic Moore/Tim Schaller/Riley Nash: B.  Why not?  I didn’t expect anything from these dudes.

Austin Czarnik: B-.  Didn’t expect much from him either.  One of the young guys that actually stuck…for a while anyway.  Looks like with the recent stretch of healthy scratches he will end up in Providence soon.

Brandon Carlo: B.  Probably the only young guy that will stick the whole year here.  Seems to have tailed off lately, but nevertheless pretty impressive for a 20-year-old defenseman.

Zdeno Chara: C.  Thanks for your many years of service Big Z.  But…

Frank Vatrano: B-.  Kid looks like he can score at the NHL level.  We will see what happens with the rest of his game going forward though.  Let’s hope Claude continues to play him also.

Matt Beleskey: F.  Ok, maybe that is a bit harsh with time he has missed due to injury.  But looks as if he has been less than impressive thus far.

Colin Miller/Kevan Miller: C.  We’re the Millers was a pretty damn good movie.  I don’t really have anything else to say here.

John-Michael Liles: C.  If he keeps being the 7th defenseman, we can raise this up to an “A”.

Adam McQuaid: C+.  Fights on occasion.  Plus 2 is best on the D corps.  C+?  What the hell!

Jimmy Hayes/Anton Khudobin: G? Z? FF? F—–?  Useless.  The both of them.

Anton Blidh/Noel Acciari/Joe Morrow:  Incomplete, kind of.  These three have played almost 20 games apiece.  But I haven’t seen them much.  And it really doesn’t feel like they actually play.  Maybe they should get a D or something since they have been around for a while.  But I’m pretty fair.  They can thank me later.

Danton Heinen/Rob O’Gara/Malcolm Subban/Zane McIntyre/Matt Grzelcyk/Sean Kuraly: True incompletes here.

Last but not least…Tuukka Rask: B+.  Most know my feelings about “Tuuks” as well.  Don’t love paying goalies 7 mil a year, especially when they very rarely steal games.  That being said, Rask has played pretty well this season.  Sure, the requisite amount of softies have gone past him over the course of the year.  But he has gotten it done for the most part.  And he has needed to, with the fact that his backups have one win all year.  Guess I have to give him some credit…

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