With the Boston Bruins holding an idle weekend after the postponements of the two Bruins/Sabres games over three days here in early February, it seems like a perfect time to crack open the Hagg Bag mailbag. Things are going well for the Bruins with an East-Division-leading 18 points that’s also tied with the Montreal Canadiens for the second-highest total in the NHL right now.
But as always there are questions, suggestions and things that are rankling Bruins fans, not to mention the report from my partner-in-crime Jimmy Murphy that the Bruins and Canucks might be kicking around a Jake DeBrusk-for-Jake Virtanen trade possibility right now. Clearly things are heating up from a trade chatter standpoint, but it remains to be seen if anybody is going to be moved aside from NHL problem children like Pierre-Luc Dubois, Patrik Laine and Tony DeAngelo.
Either way the Bruins deserve to take a bow with the way they’ve played in the first month of the season, but there’s still a long way to go in a season where only four teams will get to the playoffs out of each division. With that in mind, let’s crack open a Hagg Bag where, as always, these are real questions from real Bruins fans sending them to my twitter account, or sending messages to my Facebook fan page.
Now onto the bag:
Hags, seriously, can’t we get DK46 set up with some top- notch lines rather than stretching thin and worrying about 3rd and 4th line production? ENOUGH! Let Coyle figure things out on his own. Put your 2 best non-Perfection wingers at RW2 & LW2 and let Krejci be Krejci. He’s had more cameo winger appearances than Stan Lee. #HaggBag
–Chris Healy (via Facebook fan page)
JH: Granted, it’s mostly on the power play…but Nick Ritchie would be on pace for 30 goals and 67 points during a regular 82-game season right now. And he’s a former first round pick and the kind of big body that Krejci typically has worked well with in the past, so I wouldn’t play the “woe is me” violins too loudly for David Krejci right now.
I’ve seen too many stretches where Jake DeBrusk has been invisible over the last few years to put too much stock in him as the answer on Krejci’s left side. And I’m not wowed by Ondrej Kase when he’s healthy, and you have to suspect that he might have been damaged goods when the Bruins traded for him given the concussion issues that he’s been having the last couple of seasons.
For me, a lot of this comes down to Zach Senyshyn’s inability to develop into a top-flight right winger for Krejci’ s line. If Senyshyn had developed like so many of the other forwards drafted after him (Mat Barzal, Travis Konecny, Brock Boeser and Kyle Connor to name a few), then it wouldn’t be quite the chronic problem that it’s become.
Everybody knows that guys like Karson Kuhlman aren’t the answer for the Boston Bruins, and clearly David Backes not working out as a big free agent was part of the problem as well. But perhaps they can get by with Jack Studnicka in that spot for this season once he gets healthy, and that’s really all that matters when it comes to Krejci. Because it’s going to be Charlie Coyle or Studnicka as your second line center when Krejci’s contract runs out after this season, and we’ll see if either of those players are enough to drive that line.
Given Coyle’s very slow start to this season, it may be the youngster rather than him.
let’s just let the kids play. I see great potential in Lauzon, Zboril, Studs and Freddie. After 20 [games], we can reevaluate but now is not the time to panic. We’re pretty solid on the back end and in nets.
JH: Who’s panicking? I like the young players and I think they are developing into useful contributors, but I also think the Bruins are going to need a legitimate top-4 veteran on the left side because I have my doubts that Matt Grzelcyk is going to be able to withstand the physical pounding as the only experienced guy on that side. He’s a great skater and a smart, instinctual player with good defensive technique, but he’s also 5-foot-9, 175-pounds and not nearly as thick as Torey Krug was at roughly that same size.
If Grzelcyk has trouble remaining healthy, the Bruins become awfully young and inexperienced on the left side for a team with deep playoff aspirations. For me, that’s a reason to explore the top-4 defenseman market and potentially make a move if somebody useful becomes available at the right price. Maybe it’s not Oliver Ekman-Larsson and maybe it’s not Keith Yandle, but I think the Bruins will need to mull it long and hard when deadline time is quickly arriving.
So here’s my question for handbag..the next one and it’s a pretty simple one…at what point joe..does anders bjork either decide to get a heck before the bruins decide they’ve seen enough?
–Matthew Wilson (via Facebook page)
JH: The handbag? Not as catchy as the Hagg Bag. Other than that, I’m still trying to figure out exactly what you were asking.
I think you need to holler at your boy Sweenius and tell him to do everything he can to pry Hoglander from the Canucks! This kid is a clone of Marchand minus the antics! Perfect fit on a second line!
–Sami Mahfouz (@SamiOldSpice)
JH: And why wouldn’t the Vancouver Canucks just give away a Brad Marchand clone? They may be struggling and Jim Benning may be under fire right now in Vancouver, but they’re not going to start giving away some of their best young players unless the Boston Bruins are ready to pony up with their own best young assets. I just wish the Bruins could have drafted Nils Hoglander when he was available, but instead they took Johnny Beecher. We’ll see how that one plays out for them, but Hoglander certainly looks like the real deal. I remember a Marchand-type player being the scouting report on him during that draft.
Give me your best forgotten 90s Bruins line-up: G Carrey wings: Carter & Kvartalnov C:Ruzicka D: Featherstone & McClaren
JH: Wow. Good one. I’m going with Blaine Lacher at goaltender, Geoff Odgers and Mariusz Czerkawski on the wing and Jozef Stumpel at center. Rick Zombo and Gary Galley on the back end. Go ahead and gives us your forgotten 1990’s Boston Bruins lineup in the comments section.
JH: Always Chris Hemsworth. I’m just glad they have moved on from Fat Thor, which I didn’t love even though I understand the point the Russo Brothers were making about grief and how some people deal with it. I’m too old for the WWE when Shawn Michaels was running around. I am a classic WWF guy from the mid-to-late 1980’s when the Iron Sheik and Nickolai Volkoff were the best tag team in the land, and Tito Santana was the Intercontinental champion.
Haggs, do you get the feeling that Evan Peters quicksilver is a disguise being used by whoever the real threat is on #wandavision? Timing of his appearance seems a bit too convenient within the plot. #haggbag
–Dan Emack (@dan_emack)
JH: I think Evan Peters might be Mephisto disguised as Wanda’s brother. Or Evan Peters himself may have been cast as Mephisto and that’s what we will end up seeing over the next couple of episodes, with his role as Quicksilver in the other universe used as a massive red herring. Either way, I think it’s Mephisto that planted the seed in the Scarlet Witch’s head about needing to get Vision back and then taking over Westview with a hex.
Either way, I’m in to find out everything and love what they’re doing with Wandavision. It’s so brilliant and Elizabeth Olsen has been amazing while showing a ton of range as an actress.
can you PLEASE explain “ROW” to me!?
JH: Regulation and Overtime wins. It means anything won before they get to the dreaded shootout. It serves as one of the tiebreakers come playoff-time. As Billy Madison would say, anymore brain-busters?
Haggs, what is your prediction for next year, Do the Bruins resign Tuukka, or do the Bruins and Tuukka part ways?
–Michael Crowley (@McrowleyMichael)
JH: I think they resign Tuukka Rask to a deal in the neighborhood of the two-year, $10 million extension that the Nashville Predators agreed to with Pekka Rinne. I further predict that Jeremy Swayman will be in Boston within the next two years, and that he will eventually supplant Rask as the No. 1 goaltender for the Boston Bruins. I was super-impressed with him during training camp last month and I think he’s going to be NHL-ready after a brief apprenticeship at the AHL level.
With DS getting the Team Canada nod, what is the perception of him around the nhl? B’s success during his tenure stems almost entirely by players inherited from Chiarelli. Only real gamechanger he’s brought in over 5 years is Charlie McAvoy. Coyle, Carlo etc. are nice players but not needle movers. #HaggBagg
–Jay Tate (@He_Hate_Me1983)
JH: Eh, and Peter Chiarelli won a Stanley Cup almost entirely with players drafted, signed or acquired by somebody else as well. I really don’t buy too much into that because Don Sweeney was an importance voice in the Boston Bruins front office prior to him being named general manager.
Tuukka Rask, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Zdeno Chara, Brad Marchand, Tim Thomas and Milan Lucic are among the players that were already in place when Chiarelli was no longer in the employ of the Ottawa Senators. So technically, maybe Jeff Gorton and Mike O’Connell should get the credit for what we’ve been over the last 15 years if you really wanted to play that game. But I think it’s kind of pointless.
I think Sweeney is well-respected around the NHL. Bruce Cassidy is very well-respected as well. Sweeney has his strengths and weaknesses just like everybody else, but the Bruins front office and coaching staff has built a team that’s been among the best in the NHL over the last three or four seasons. They came within one game of winning the Stanley Cup, and they were the President’s Trophy winners last year while getting eliminated by the eventual winners in Tampa Bay.
Sweeney clearly doesn’t have a big strength in landing the big fish in free agencies or trades. Even when he did, it kind of blew up in their face with the Rick Nash deal through absolutely no fault of their own. But he’s very good at getting value in free agency with Craig Smith as the latest example of that, and Nick Ritchie looks like he’s going to help them.
The development of Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon and Trent Frederic this year also bodes well for their draft-and-development efforts. I didn’t love their draft class this past offseason and I think they needed to do more in free agency with so many bargains available due to the COVID-19 economics.
But at this point, you have to believe that Don Sweeney has done a quality job of being a steady, informed hand at the Boston Bruins wheel that’s avoided big mistakes after some early ones with the Zac Rinaldo and Backes moves, along with the miss with the Zach Senyshyn pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.
What players would be an ideal pickup at the deadline? Will the bruins make a deal for a player with term if it exposes a young guy at the expansion draft? #haggbag
JH: Can I go on a bit of a rant here? Why are people so hung up on the expansion draft? NHL teams overloaded the Vegas Golden Knights with draft picks and prospects because they overthought the NHL expansion draft the last time around, and I think Bruins fans are doing the same thing now worrying about who they are going to lose. We’re one month into the season. Let’s see how things play out over the course of the season rather than running around doing mock expansion drafts or worrying about how the Bruins are going to protect players.
Here’s what’s going to happen: The Boston Bruins are going to lose a useful player in the expansion draft, just like every other NHL team that’s got a solid NHL club and good organizational depth (and just like they did last time around in Colin Miller). There’s really no reason to dwell on it or even think about it much when the regular season is barely underway. It’s a total fan exercise for people that covet young Bruins players at a level much higher than anybody else around the NHL does.
Let’s not talk about the expansion draft until, oh, it’s a month or two from happening. That’s the appropriate time. Until then you’ll get an eye roll from me when it’s brought up.
Thank you, end of rant.
Joe, I wonder about Grzelcyk’s long term durability, he seems not to be able to handle any full schedule of games, ie hurt. The only thing about acquiring Dunn, who do you protect for expansion then? McAvoy, Carlo and? I do like getting him, but to lose an asset for one year?
–Brian A (@fouronorr)
JH: Dude, don’t even go there with the expansion draft. LOL. The Boston Bruins are leading the East Division and look like they’re for a real this year. Have a couple of cold ones and enjoy the ride rather than worrying about the expansion draft. Given that this team’s window is closing anyway, trading for a player to help this year that might be lost in the expansion draft is the cost of doing business. (And as I said earlier, I agree with you on Grzelcyk’s durability concerns).
And there it is, the end of the Hagg Bag. We’ll see you next week!