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Smorgasbord…

…lots to catch up on here, let’s start with the Thursday Night Football game and then dive right in:

Miami at Baltimore (-3.5)  

The Dolphins are 4-2 despite scoring only 92 points in 6 games.  They will be going with their backup QB in Matt Moore.  However, Moore may actually be better than the starter, that fraud named Jay Cutler.  Speaking of frauds…Joe Flacco everyone!  Neither team really excites me this year.  Therefore, take the points.

Miami 21, Baltimore 17.

Week (against the spread):  9-6

Week (straight up):  10-5

Season (against the spread): 50-56

Season (straight up): 64-42

Now for the rest of the Boston sports world, in no particular order:

*John Farrell is gone as the manager of the Boston Red Sox.  We have known that for a bit.  And everyone on God’s Green Earth knows how I feel about Farrell.  So no need to expound on any of those thoughts here.  Good riddance.  Buffoonery at every angle.

But…Alex Cora?  Count me among the unimpressed.  Just six years removed from the game, but more importantly, he has no managerial experience whatsoever?  Yeah, I’ve heard he managed the Puerto Rican team in the World Baseball Classic.  But who cares about that?  He was (is) a bench coach for the Houston Astros.  Doesn’t excite me either.

People are raving about him.  Maybe he has great people skills.  And actually can manage.  More importantly, maybe he can straighten out those morons in the clubhouse.  But…how do we really know?

He actually played here from 2006-2008.  Does that help?  Perhaps a little.  He knows what the demands are here in Boston.  Looks like the only player on this roster he actually played with was Dustin Pedroia…and Pedroia took his job.  People describe Pedey and Cora as close.  But I swear I remember Cora being pissed Pedroia took his job.  I don’t know, maybe Cora can also play 2b this upcoming season until Pedroia comes back…as we learned Wednesday that Dustin had knee surgery that will keep him out around seven months.  If the other options are Brock Holt, Deven Marrero and Tzu-Wei Lin, then why not?  I know, there is a whole offseason to find a better temporary 2b option.  But some local jamoke writer actually proposed those three clowns as legit (and probable) options.

Let’s also look at the hiring process.  The only three guys General Manager Dave Dombrowski thought of interviewing were Cora, Ron Gardenhire and Brad Ausmus?  THESE guys were the cream of the crop?  YIKES!

Dombrowski has some work to do on the actual roster and most certainly the clubhouse.  Let’s also see who Cora surrounds himself with on his staff.  But this hiring reminds me of a somewhat similar one for the Sox back in 1992.  A hire that a former college hallmate termed a “franchise manager”.  They had to go get him before someone else swooped him up.  Yup…Butch Hobson.  Ugh…

*The Celtics obviously took a big hit with the Gordon Hayward injury.  Just over five minutes into the season he goes down for the year…what a kick to the junk.

But you know what?  They’ll still be up there fighting for the top seed in the East.  Cleveland will probably treat the regular season as an extended preseason, similar to what they did last year.  There are other competitive teams in the East.  I suppose Milwaukee, Washington and Toronto will be in the upper tier.  But not unbeatable, even without Gordo.

Look, with only 4 of the 16 players on the roster carrying over from last year, there was going to be an adjustment period anyway.  I don’t think anyone thought the C’s were going to win the NBA Finals this year with full health.  Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum appear to have a world of talent (though I am not getting too high about their performance against the lowly Knicks on Tuesday).  But let’s remember they are 21 and 19 years old, respectively.  In fact, 7 of the 16 players are rookies, though admittedly most of those are on the back-end of the roster.

It’s a long season and anything can happen.  Barring any other unforeseen major injury, I’m still excited about watching this team develop.

*I don’t believe Jae Crowder intentionally tried to injure Hayward.  But he certainly had a hair across his arse in the opener.  Al Horford got all worked up at him at one point.  Don’t see Al react like that much.  Anyway Jae, let it go dude.

*Brown certainly looks like a different player this season.  I know summer league means squat.  But I did watch some of the games there.  Judging by how Jaylen has come out in the regular season thus far, I would have expected him to dominate the summer league.  And he was pretty unimpressive there, in my opinion.

In any event, for a guy with his talent, he seems to have a lack of touch around the rim.  Seems like he could have added several layups to this years’ total already.  But I shouldn’t complain.  He sure looks a hell of a lot better taking outside shots than he did last year.  Keep improving his finishes around the rim and of course the free throws and the sky COULD be the limit.

*I have no idea if guys like Abdel Nader, Semi Ojeleye, Guerschon Yabusele, Daniel Theis or Jabari Bird can actually play in the NBA.  But I can for damn sure tell you one thing:  I’d rather give those guys a shot than have carried over the likes of Jonas Jerebko, Gerald Green, Tyler Zeller and Amir Johnson into this year.  We KNOW what those guys can do…and it’s not much.  Let’s see if any of these kids can develop into something.  While playing 9th to 13th man minutes.

I’m intrigued mostly by Theis, to be honest.  Now, I don’t want him playing 30 minutes a game.  But I’d like to see him get a consistent 10-15 minutes a night to see what’s there.  Listed at 6’9″, as a center, if he can add to the mix as a rebounder, that would be a tremendous help of course.  Especially considering the fact how horrid the Celtics were in that department last year.

*Last, but not least, the Boston Bruins.  This could be a looooong year, my friends.  But you know what?  I think I am ok with it.

Say what?  Think about it.  These guys are not championship timber, by any stretch of the imagination.  Not even a player or two away.  There has been an influx of young players this year.  Started a little bit last year, but you can really see it now.  There are apparently more to come.  Don Sweeney has been talking about this for years and we MAY be starting to see the “fruits of his labor”.

We have given Donnie Hockey a little bit of a beating the last couple of years, but if this was the plan all along, and Cam Neely (also taking a beating) and ownership have been on board with it…and of course if it eventually WORKS…then the B’s could be set up for years to come.  All the while remaining at least competitive during the transition years.

There is a long way to go, but in this young season we have seen glimpses.  We’ve also been horrified at some of the play.  But with young players and inexperience, that comes with the territory.  If the future is truly bright, then can’t we deal with the ups and downs for a little longer?

*Let’s break it down a little further.  If the lines this year when everyone is healthy are…

Marchand-Bergeron-Bjork

DeBrusk-Krejci-Pastrnak

Vatrano-Spooner-Backes

Kuraly-Nash-Acciari

Chara-Carlo

Miller-McAvoy

Krug-McQuaid

…doesn’t that give you a little hope?  Specifically looking at Bjork and DeBrusk hopping right into the top six forward mix.  As well as Carlo and McAvoy making some noise on defense in their 2nd and 1st year, respectively.  Of course it would help if these guys really can play…and by all accounts they can.  It would also help if Vatrano and Spooner took their heads right out of their arses as well.  But you could always sprinkle in a Timmy Schaller…or a kid such as Danton Heinen or Austin Czarnik or I guess this Kenny Agostino dude they just brought up.  Or…

Of course, I’d rather still have Colin Miller over Kevan Miller.  Or ANYONE remaining from the Tyler Seguin trade (or someone who could play anyway…meaning…not Jimmy Hayes).  But if some of the other dudes eventually make it as well…Zach Senyshyn, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Matt Grzelcyk, Rob O’Gara, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon…we could be looking at a solid young core for years to come.  We shall see…

*Lastly, I will also tell you, I would keep the kids coming.  As the trading deadline approaches and the Bruins likely at the bottom of the playoff seedings, or even slightly out of them, I would work to shop some of the vets and implement more kids.  Not everyone, mind you.  But a few.

First off, they couldn’t necessarily trade ALL the vets anyway.  Most of the higher paid ones of course have no movement clauses, thanks to former GM Peter Chiarelli…and a little by Sweens himself.

Who would I look to deal?  Tuukka Rask, top of the list.  You just don’t need a 7 million dollar a year goalie.  Especially for a team in transition.  He has a modified no-trade.  The door is open.  Zdeno Chara has had a nice career in Boston.  But he’s heading toward 41 years old.  And they are still throwing him out there for about 25 minutes a game…in OCTOBER!  Stop the insanity!  Give those minutes to someone else.  Z has a no-move, but maybe see if he will waive it to go to a contender.  I’ve heard people around here saying that they wouldn’t mind if Chara signed on for another 2 years after this year.  Once again, STOP THE INSANITY.  You still may be actually able to get something decent for him too.

Others?  Krug for sure.  3 more years at 5.25 for a defenseman that is truly an offensive specialist.  Has some no movement protection starting next year.  Move him before that goes into effect.  Backes?  Makes 6 mil for the next 4 years with a lot of no-move protection.  Likely untradeable.  Krejci?  I’d love to see him on the above line.  But injuries seem to be taking control of him.  And yes, no-move protections of course.

Just see what’s out there for some of those guys.  Can’t hurt.  Oh yeah, it’s time to just buy Matt Beleskey out.  That ship has sailed.  Actually, that ship sailed long ago…

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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…

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