Campbell 'humbled' by loss of hockey during NHL lockout

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Campbell 'humbled' by loss of hockey during NHL lockout

Gregory Campbell spent the last month working out with the OHLs Kitchener Rangers, but hopped on a plane back to Boston as quickly as possible Sunday once word arrived that the NHL lockout was over.

As players were all so glad to move on from all of this. Thats the most important thing of all, said Campbell. Being back with my teammates was really fun. Knowing that were going to be playing soon and knowing that the guys are filtering back into Boston, it makes me really, really happy.

The Bruins fourth line center was one of the few Bruins skaters that didnt make it over to Europe at any point over the last four months. So instead he opted to head back to his former junior hockey team and joined Dennis Wideman in working out with Kitchener in structured, high-paced practices. It was clear that benefited Campbell when he hopped back on the Agganis Arena ice with his teammates on Monday morning, and he was feeling ready to get back to work with linemates Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton.

When the season does begin Campbell will be starting a three-year deal worth 4.8 million, and hopes to be able to keep up with the guys that were taking regular shifts in Europe.

Its tough to say. Ive tried hard to stay committed and be prepared. Ive worked hard off the ice and skated five days a week with the Kitchener team back home, said Campbell. Its not pro level, but Ive tried my hardest to address the things I needed to work on.

But its tough to prepare for certain things required for game action. Its going to be an adjustment for everyone.

Campbell, always one of the most thoughtful players on the Bs roster, appeared extremely happy to put the NHL lockout nightmare behind him, but also understood there is work to be done to win back hockey fans. Not so much in Boston where the Black and Gold Faithful are expected to come back in droves for a competitive team, but in other areas of North America where franchises might be in trouble.

Campbells family has been associated with the NHL for a long time, and its clear he personally wants to help clear away the negativity left by the lockout.

Its been a frustrating process. What I can say about this process is that its been very humbling. We also live, eat, breathe and sleep hockey and its been our identity for our entire lives, said Campbell. For us not to be able to play hockey for any reason is humbling; it makes you think about a lot of things. It makes you realize how lucky you are to play and to do what you love for a living.

It would be selfish for us to think we were the only ones affected by this lockout. There are a lot of fans that are passionate about the game, and there are a lot of people that work around the game and work in the arenas -- that are passionate about it as well.

Now its time for all those passionate about the NHL to get back to the business of hockey, and that starts with the rank-and-file players just like Campbell.

How Edelman, Amendola might benefit from Jones taking return duties

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How Edelman, Amendola might benefit from Jones taking return duties

When Cyrus Jones was selected by the Patriots in the second round of this year's draft, director of player personnel Nick Caserio made it very clear that the Alabama corner's ability to return punts made him a more highly-valued commodity. 

Caserio admitted that when it came time to make a pick at No. 60 overall, there were multiple players on New England's draft board who were graded similarly, but Jones stood out.

"I think the thing that tipped the scales in Cyrus’ favor a little bit," Caserio said, "was his overall versatility -- punt return -- that’s a huge component of what we do and we thought he had the ability."

Caserio's choice of words in that instance was noteworthy given that over the course of the last three years the Patriots have returned on average between two and three punts per game. Last year they returned 47 punts total, which works out to 2.9 per game. 

That hardly seems like "a huge component" of any team's overall attack. But the accumulation of those plays over the course of a season is significant. It's a few dozen opportunities for explosive plays, a few dozen chances to shift field position. There may not be many of them, but they can be game-changers. 

Jones was as accomplished a punt returner as anyone in this year's draft class, taking four back for touchdowns for the Crimson Tide in 2015 alone. 

But the attraction of placing Jones deep to field punts in 2016 and beyond may not be solely based on what he can do with the football in his hands. He may also help take some of the workload off of the shoulders of Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman -- a tangible benefit for Tom Brady's two most dependable targets at the receiver position going into this season. 

Amendola and Edelman have been among the game's top punt returners in recent years. Amendola led the league in return average last year with 12.0 yards per return. Meanwhile, Edelman's career return average of 12.0 yards is second behind only Devin Hester (12.1) among active players and seventh-best all-time. 

Returning punts is just another unforgiving responsibility for the pair of veteran slot receivers who have made their livelihoods on their willingness to run unforgiving routes across the middle. Skilled as they are as return men, having Jones in the fold could save them from absorbing extra hits on special teams and potentially help keep them healthier deeper into the season. 

Just how many hits might Jones' presence save the pair of 30-year-old wideouts coming off of offseason surgeries? 

The math isn't perfect because not all punt returns end in bone-jarring collisions. Neither do all receptions. But let's take a quick-and-flawed look at the number of shots Jones may save Edelman and Amendola in 2016. 

Over the last three years, including last year when he played in just nine regular-season games, Edelman has returned 70 punts, not including fair catches. That's 1.79 returns for each of the 39 games in which he has played. If that average were to hold true over a 16-game season, that would work out to about 28.6 returns in a year. 

For Edelman, who has averaged 6.6 catches per game over the last three years, 28.6 returns in a year is the equivalent of about four games (4.33) of touches as a receiver. 

One of the key cogs to New England's passing offense, saving Edelman that many hits over the course of a season might help in keeping him relatively fresh for a longer period of time. Though it would fall well short of guaranteeing his health, pulling Edelman as a returner would certainly reduce his chance of injury. 

Even before he was injured last season, it seemed as though the Patriots were set on limiting Edelman's opportunities as a return man. Amendola returned 15 punts through Week 10, the week Edelman was injured against the Giants, which was five more than Edelman had. That breakdown in their shared workload was a shift from 2014 when Amendola (16 regular-season games) returned 16 kicks and Edelman (14 regular-season games) returned 25.

Because it seems like Edelman's return-man role was already shrinking in some respects, Jones' presence may have a more meaningful impact on Amendola in 2016. 

Since Amendola's arrival to New England in 2013, he has returned 40 punts, not including fair catches. In 42 games, that works out to 0.95 returns per game. 

Since 2014, though, when he began to be utilized as a return man regularly, Amendola has averaged 1.3 returns per game. Over a 16-game season, if that average were to hold true, that would mean 20.8 returns in a year.

For Amendola, who has averaged 3.5 receptions per game over the last three years, 20.8 returns in a year would be the equivalent of almost six games (5.94) of touches as a receiver. 

Even if you were to take Amendola's receiving numbers from the 2015 season, when he averaged 4.6 catches per game, 20.8 returns means about 4.5 games worth of receiver touches -- and the potential punishment that comes with them. Taking those returns off of his plate might help Amendola maintain his health longer into the season. 

Again, the returns-to-receptions math is far from perfect. But touches are touches, and punt-return touches can have a tendency to end with high-speed crunching hits. If the return-man torch happens to be passed to Jones this season, it could save a pair of his veteran teammates -- both of whom are vital to the function of the offense -- a great deal of wear and tear.

As Caserio pointed out during the draft, though, Jones has a lot of work to do before he's trusted in one of the roles that the team considers to be "huge."

"The guys that have done it have been really good," Caserio explained. "I mean Danny was one of the league leaders last year. Julian who had never done it before, his average is like one of the top punt returners in history.

"That’s a hard, I would say, skill and position to develop so if you have multiple players that can actually handle the ball then you can figure out, 'OK, well maybe we can take his workload and redistribute it somewhere else.'

"In the end we’re going to do what we think is best for the football team. If a guy's not ready to do it then we’re not going to have him do it even if he has the experience and he’s done it. We’re not going to really know . . . Everything they’ve done to this point, like, honestly doesn’t matter. Now they’re going to show up here next week and basically start from scratch. There’s probably going to be some things that [special teams coach] Joe [Judge] and [assistant special teams coach Ray Ventrone] will coach them to do in terms of fielding the ball, handling the ball, may be a little bit different. OK, how do they handle that? How do they read the ball? Can they adjust to our blocking pattern?

"There’s a whole number of things that go into it, and then he’s trying to learn a new position. It’s just a matter of how quickly they can perform the task at a good level relative to another player at that same positon, and then ultimately we’ll figure out whoever’s the best option for us and whoever we think is the best at that time then we’ll go ahead with him in that capacity."

Wednesday, May 25: Are you #TeamHaggs or #TeamFrich?

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Wednesday, May 25: Are you #TeamHaggs or #TeamFrich?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while wrapping my brain around exactly what the heck the Bruins are doing.

-- In the shameless self-promotion department: Fred Toucher and yours truly did battle this morning over the $10 million contract that the Bruins handed out to Kevan Miller. Are you #TeamHaggs or #TeamFrich?

-- What do the Dallas Stars need in the 2016 NHL Draft, with the combine and draft both coming up just weeks away.

-- A nice tribute from Hockey Night in Canada to the Tragically Hip as their front man battles through terminal brain cancer.

-- Damien Cox puts together his Team Canada list for the World Cup of hockey. Check out Brad Marchand's line: He plays left wing with Jonathan Toews and Tyler Seguin. That would be very fun to watch.

-- With the Bruins signing Kevan Miller to a bloated four-year, $10 million contract, similar defensemen like Eric Gryba will be lining up at the trough.

-- FOH (Friend of Haggs) Kevin Kurz weighs in on the Sharks run to within one win of the Stanley Cup Final, and what a player like Joe Pavelski has meant to them in the postseason.

-- For something completely different: It sounds like things are getting a little strange with Marco Rubio.

Haggs and Fred Toucher debate signing of Kevan Miller

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Haggs and Fred Toucher debate signing of Kevan Miller

Fred Toucher and Joe Haggerty disagree about the new deal the Boston Bruins gave Kevan Miller and got in a heated debate Wednesday morning on Toucher & Rich.

Haggerty says the Bruins would be better off with "players on entry level deals" over Miller for the money he'll received.

Miller signed a four-year deal worth $10 million on Monday.

As for Toucher? Watch the video above for his response. Then comment below with your thoughts on the deal.