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Hagg Bag: Taking Stock Of Boston Bruins One Month In

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With the Boston Bruins in the middle of another one of those interminable breaks in the NHL regular season schedule, it is absolutely the right time to crack open another Hagg Bag mailbag. The B’s are certainly doing well enough right now two points out of a playoff spot with games in hand versus the two teams (Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers) directly in front of them and it sure looked like they had finally gotten their game in order with back-to-back wins against the Devils and Canadiens last weekend.

But this is also a hockey team that’s got some fairly significant gaps on their roster to address right now. Whether it’s the No. 2 center spot currently being filled by Charlie Coyle or an alarmingly soft, inexperienced defensemen corps that’s missing a defensive warrior presence like Zdeno Chara or Kevan Miller, it feels like the B’s still haven’t adequately addressed some of the significant pieces that have departed over the last couple of seasons.

So there are clearly concerns when it comes to the Boston Bruins even if it still feels like they’re going to end up being a playoff team based on the Perfection Line, Charlie McAvoy’s brilliance and an emerging young star between the pipes in Jeremy Swayman. But don’t go getting your sports betting groove on by taking the odds for the B’s to win the Cup just yet.

As always these are real questions from real Boston Bruins sent to my twitter account using the #HaggBag hash tag or messages sent to my Facebook fan page. Now on to the Hagg Bag!

I think Connor Clifton is doing well what do you think?

–Tom (@Tom29478239)

JH: He’s a minus-4 with one point in 11 games and I think he’s trending to be the healthy scratch this weekend when Mike Reilly comes back into the lineup. Other than he’s been tremendous. Seriously, Clifton has been fine at times. But he’s also made a lot of mistakes on the back end like everybody else in a Black and Gold sweater.

He’s made coverage mistakes, he’s had some tough turnovers and he hasn’t really been as much of a nuisance or a crap-disturber as they need him to be when he’s at his most effective. And we’re not even seeing the occasional offensive play that he would come up with in the past either.

It really makes it all the more obvious that Clifton is probably best served being a seventh defenseman on a really good team than somebody that consistently deserves a spot in the starting six every single night.

The bottom line for me is that the Bruins badly need a veteran defensive warrior-type to put on that bottom-6 as Kevan Miller was for years. Derek Forbort hasn’t really replaced that missing presence on the back end and Clifton just isn’t that guy at 5-foot-11, 175-pounds as much as everybody likes to talk about Cliffy Hockey.

Neumy was a class act, TV, radio, across the board he was what it meant to be a sports personality for a long time in this market. Also, such a nice & gracious guy when met him several times in my work in Watertown. Tough loss for the Boston sports landscape

–Chris Long (@chiefy2404)

JH: I admired Bob Neumeier so much. He always had that twinkle in his eye on the air and he had such a joy about him for the job he was doing every day. And he was a hockey guy too. For me being able to do TV and radio on the air with people like Neumy and Bob Lobel that I grew up watching and idolizing as giants in the business? It’s something I’ll cherish forever. Rest in peace, Neumy…I hope your family and friends found some solace in all of the stories and memories that people shared at the time of his passing.

Hey Haggs, who’s the team you secretly root for besides the Bruins? Who’s the superhero you secretly root for? I love the Coyotes even though they’re terrible and I have a definite soft spot for Hawkeye—-can’t wait for the Disney+ series. Thanks for everything! #haggbag

–JCThack (@JCThacker21)

JH: I don’t secretly root for anybody, and I don’t root for the Boston Bruins. There are many, many great things about what I’ve been lucky enough to do for a living for the last 20 plus years, but one drawback is that it takes the fan out of you. You watch games objectively and try to break down what you’re seeing rather than get tied up in the emotion of it.

That being said, I’ve tried to tap back into it a little bit now that I’m watching the Patriots and Red Sox with my 8-year-old son. I want him to have that fun experience of riding the roller coaster of the Boston sports teams just like I did as a kid.

But me? I don’t root for teams. If you root for anybody, it’s individual people that you enjoy working with and around. Or rooting for a great storyline that will be fun to talk about or write about.

As far as superheroes go, I’ve always loved the Fantastic Four and the Thing. Really looking forward those movies being made somewhere down the line but am also definitely looking forward to the Hawkeye series. The holiday movie-theme to it should really add to some of the fun, and the hints out there that characters like Kingpin or Daredevil might pop into it makes me even more intrigued. I mean, is Vincent D’Onofrio dropping a big hint here or what?

Hey Joe, Just saw that Jimmy Vesey signed for 800k with Devils. Remember when we were all pissed off when he chose the NY Rangers over us?

–Michael Uzenko (via Facebook fan page)

JH: I still remember David Krejci being totally perplexed by the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes right after he visited the Bruins during the “wooing” period. I’m paraphrasing here, but Krejci was like “The guy hasn’t even proved he can play in the league. What is the big deal here? I don’t get it”, which turned out to be the smartest take about the entire thing given all the pomp and circumstance involved.

You kind of feel bad for Vesey, who surely didn’t ask for all that hype and expectation to be foisted on him when he broke into the league.

Perfectly serviceable NHL player, but never even posted 20 goals or 40 points during a season while bouncing through five organizations and now trying to reinvent himself in a fourth line role.

Let’s say the bruins are in a decent playoff spot come late January (top4) do you think they still sign Tuukka? And if they do does he play or just become the 9th floor veteran with advice?

–Brad Thompson (@coachbrad16)

JH: I don’t think he’s going to come back to basically be the goaltending coach, Brad. I think the only way he comes back is if the goaltending duo falls on their face without him. Obviously, Linus Ullmark is off to a very inconsistent start, and I personally haven’t been all that impressed with what I’ve watched aside from his ideal size for a modern NHL goalie.

But Jeremy Swayman continues to look like the real deal coming off a weekend where he started both ends of the back-to-back and stopped 54-of-58 shots while winning both games. The question is what do they do with Ullmark or Swayman if Rask does come back to the Boston Bruins? Are you going to put Swayman in the AHL if he’s playing great at the NHL level?

What can you do with a guy in Ullmark that you hitched your wagon to by giving him a no-movement clause in his contract? I still for the life don’t understand why they traded Dan Vladar and signed Ullmark to $5 million per season if there was any interest whatsoever in bringing Rask back. I think he’s either going to retire or have to play somewhere else if he wants back in the NHL, but that’s just my opinion. Maybe he wants to play in the Olympics for Team Finland and have that be his final hurrah before he rides off into the sunset.

It was interesting to hear Shawn Thornton say that he knows how things are going to go down with Tuukka in the next few months because I have no idea.

Don’t they have to go back to Grzelcyk-McAvoy, Reilly-Carlo, Forbort-Clifton? It’s the only way their D pairings make any sense. I know Grzelcyk isn’t necessarily the ideal top pair guy, but he’s the only one who’s showed himself capable of playing up there for any stretch of time. What’s more Reilly-Carlo was at least good for stretches last year. Reilly-Clifton is not an NHL pairing, but you should get a better performance from Cliffy if you play him with a big space eater like Forbort.

–Willy Kralc (via Facebook fan page)

JH: I’m sorry, but I’m not nearly as enamored with the Boston Bruins’ Grzelcyk-McAvoy pairing as the fancy stats crew is. They are too easily exploited defensively and Grzelcyk really can’t be out there against big, skilled top-6 forwards that can go to work on him around the net. That pairing also leaves McAvoy to do all the heavy-duty defensive work whereas playing him with Derek Forbort allows McAvoy to be the offensive guy that his skills dictate he should be.

Think about it? How much is McAvoy going to take risks to make offensive plays happen or join the rush if he’s leaving Grzelcyk back as the last line of defense? He needs somebody more rugged to play the heavy role in order to free him up to be the point-per-game guy he’s been this season while breaking out offensively.

The obvious problem here, as I alluded to earlier, is that the Boston Bruins are currently one defenseman short on their roster right now. They need a big, rugged defensive warrior and intimidator like Kevan Miller was over the last few years. Forbort just isn’t that guy even if he’s a big, somewhat physical penalty killing-type. At least I haven’t seen him be that guy as of yet and it’s a clear hole on the Boston Bruins roster right now.

#HaggBag What do you feel about the possibility of a Star Wars Episodes X, XI, & XII? Hopefully Dave Filoni (known by a lot of fans as George Lucas’s apprentice) directs all 3 if the rumor is true.

–Alissa Halo Stream on Wednesday (@CurvyMermaid617)

JH: If Dave Filoni is involved then I am a big time “yes.” If Rian Johnson or Jar Jar Binks are involved, then I am a big time “No.” By the way, Jeremy Swayman is definitely a Star Wars guy. This is the Sway.

Hi Haggs,

Millions of Bruins fans could not watch a game because the game was only on ESPN+ and Hulu.
Lots of fans don’t have that.

–Keith Nessen (via Facebook fan page)

JH: It’s true. It’s unfortunate that is the direction that we’re headed with viewership of things like sporting events that used to be on regular old TV, but this is the direction that we’re headed. Money talks. It’s not going the other way. I’d recommend getting ESPN+ because you have access to not only most NHL games in addition to the Boston Bruins games you’d miss, but you are also able to watch college hockey and all kinds of other great hockey content that you otherwise might not have access to. I just have a bundle with Hulu, ESPN+ and Disney+ that I’d signed up for prior to the NHL season, so I already had everything I needed to watch the games. It sucks, but I can tell you that it’s going to get more and more geared toward paying for this content. It’s not ever going back the other way. That’s just the way it is whether you think it’s fair or not.

With the Blackhawks [4-9-2], should teams like the Bruins be interested in trading for guys like Toews for their second line to team with Taylor Hall? #HaggBag

–Boston Guy 37 (@MattyTars76)

JH: Nope. I’m a pass on Jonathan Toews or any member of the Blackhawks crew after the Brad Aldrich/Kyle situation, and I’m going to guess the Bruins management group is thinking the exact same thing. There’s a stain on that core group now that’s not ever going away, nor should it despite the three Stanley Cups that they won together.

My longtime choice for No. 2 center for the Bruins as a David Krejci replacement is Tomas Hertl. I wrote about it earlier this season and I continue to think that Hertl is the kind of young, stud player that the Boston Bruins need to enter into their center situation provided that Jack Studnicka can’t push his way into the NHL picture.

What’s the harm in giving him 15-20 consecutive games to see if he can be the guy for the No. 2 center position? He’s really the only internal candidate they have that would be up to task in a perfect world, just like Charlie Coyle should be the third line center on an NHL team with true Stanley Cup aspirations.

How important will Reed Richards be going forward with the MCU? Do you think given Kang seems to be the main antagonist going forward? And when do you think we will get some F4 casting news? #haggbag

–Tyler (@TylerBrewsBeer)

JH: All good questions. I don’t think the Fantastic Four casting is coming soon, but that’s just a guess. Here’s my suggestion:

I think Kang will be a recurring big bad, but I don’t think he’s going to be the Thanos-level guy building over a decade of MCU phases and movies. Maybe that will be Galactus or maybe it will be the Beyonder in a Secret Wars movie way down the line, but I don’t think we’ve seen the great threat for the Marvel movie heroes.

I just hope there’s some way for Kevin Feige to convince Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. to come back if there is indeed a Secret Wars epic movie somewhere down the line. That would be the definition of pulling out the stops.

I’m assuming that Reed Richards will be the eventual face of the MCU as Tony Stark was for a decade, and as Peter Parker maybe for this middle phase until we get to the Fantastic Four somewhere down the line. People are all about the Avengers now because of the success of the movies and the MCU, but I think the younger generation probably doesn’t realize that the Fantastic Four were the biggest deal at Marvel in the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s with the epic cosmic storylines battling against Galactus, Annihilus and Doctor Doom over the years. I’m looking forward to seeing their spin on it.

Joe Haggerty has covered the Boston Bruins and the NHL for 18 years with NBC Sports Boston, WEEI.com, the Boston Metro and the Woburn Daily Times, and currently serves as lead Bruins reporter and columnist for Boston Hockey Now. Haggs always strives to capture the spirt of the thing any way that he can.

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Scott Bensink

could has better stats than krecji. What is your problem with him.

Orrfan

Last year, Krejci had 44 points (8 goals 36 assists), four less than David Pastrnak. While I’m delightfully surprised at Coyle’s early season success, does anyone imagine he can even approach Krejci’s overall points totals? I’m also surprised nobody has noticed the decline in overall team defense with David Krejci gone. Under appreciated on offense, sure, but his defensive game went almost completely unnoticed by most. Coyle doesn’t even come close. I’m not going to dump on Coyle for not being a 2nd line center. But with most teams actually having at least a one-two punch in their lineup, having… Read more »

Chuck Rose

I’m with you, Scott. Charlie Coyle has been doing a great job so far and is on pace for a 30+ goal season. These guys don’t want to give him the chance. They say he’s going to falter and want to replace him before he does falter (if indeed he does so). Taylor Hall has said on every opportunity that he thinks Charlie is great for this spot and he loves playing on his line. He’s never been given this kind of opportunity. He’s in the prime of his career, he has all the physical tools (size, speed, puck retrieval,… Read more »

Rick W Murray

Haggs a fantastic four fan They haven’t done that right yet, as a kid that was my fav in marvel always.the bruins desperately need a second line centre and Coyle won’t cut the mustard.

Kevin

Hertl is the guy, but, can a sign and trade be worked out…

sergio

I here that Barzal is a good centermen lol. Can’t believe the bruins passed on him 3 times

Josh

Stick to hockey not this hagg bag marvel crap

Fred

Neely, Sweeney and the entire scouting staff have to go. They consistently miss on draft picks and free agent signings. When the Blues beat the Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final, Sweeney said they need to get bigger, stronger and faster. He has done nothing to address these issues.

tony

you are 100% correct! We need a new GM / scouts/ VP too

Orrfan

Funny you keep mentioning Kevan Miller as the “big defensive presence” the Bruins are missing. Jeremy Lauzon was the guy who stepped into Big Z’s skates, past couple of seasons. Led the team and the league in shorthanded time on ice. It was astounding to me that they exposed him in the draft, when Clifton was the logical choice for a team low on “big bodied presence”.
Same old, same old. You make a couple rookie mistakes and you’re shipped out of town.
Yet another bad decision by Sweeney and crew.

Chuck Rose

Ya, he’s been doing pretty good with the Kraken this year.

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