The Inept Axis is plotting

191549.jpg

The Inept Axis is plotting

By Adam Hart
CSNNE.com

Location: A secret underground lair in the outskirts of Indianapolis. Eleven men sit, gathered around an oblong table in a surprisingly well-lit room; it being underground and all. Come to think of it, a work order for new LED lights was filed last -- shhhhh, they're starting.

Bill Polian: Gentlemen, you all know why we're here: the Patri-oughts. They've beaten us, beaten us real bad. For some, it only inflicted minor damage. Others suffered catastrophic derailments.

Marv Lewis: Tell me about it. Twelve games later and we've only got two wins. TOcho doesn't deserve this.

Mike Tomlin: What TOcho doesn't deserve is Carson Palmer. He's about as accurate as the NFL investigation into my boy Big Ben's social outings. Am I right?
Crickets: This noise, unimpeded.

Rex Ryan: So what d'ya propose we do there old BPol?

Bill Polian: It's Bill.

Brad Childress: I say we exact cold, calculated revenge.

Ozzie Newsome: Sounds like a good idea.

Brad Childress: Seriously? You mean you guys are willing to actually listen to me?

Tony Sparano: Who wouldn't listen to you? You wear glasses. They're like ear magnets.

Chan Gailey: Wanna hear something crazy? With my glasses on, I kind of look like Steve Nicol, the New England Patriots' soccer coach.

Rex Ryan: That's some great insight there Channy. Remind me to call you next time I'm having trouble falling asleep.

Jim Schwartz: Wait, maybe he's on to something. He can probably waltz right into their offices, if he knows how to dance a waltz. And if he can pick up an English accent.
Chan Gailey: Well, I have been watching a lot of Michael Caine movies lately during our team film sessions. Maybe that'd help.

Bill Polian: But we can't stop there. These Patri-oughts -- that's how you say it, right? -- are primed to go on another of their Super Bowl runs if we don't stop them. For some reason fans value those silver trophies over regular-season greatness. I blame the media and it's love for shiny things.

Mike Martz: We'd all be fine if the NFL would just force all teams to move into domed stadiums. Everything would fall into place for us.

Brad Childress: Yeah, except for when that Wrangler-wearing, no-good Brett Favre isn't standing where he's supposed to when the roof collapses.

Ozzie Newsome: Umm, what?

Brad Childress: Nothing.

Mike Martz: I just can't believe the league is actually allowing a Super Bowl to be played in New Jersey -- far from tropical temperatures and wind-free domes.

Rex Ryan: Super Bowl? The Jets are going there!

Tony Sparano: . . . Right. You'll be tending to your pigskin graveyard.

Philip Rivers: Well, what if our only problem is having an inept coach? I think firing Norv would solve this problem pretty quickly.

Everyone else: No!

Rex Ryan: Hey, Phil, why don't you and your angry eyebrows hit the road? But if you decide to come back to apologize for bringing up the 'F' word, grab me a Chalupa or something . . . Ah, what the hell. Make it two.

Mike Tomlin: Can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm with Rex. Let's grab some gosh-darn lunch.

Jim Schwartz: Yeah, I'm happy with our progress.

Tony Sparano: Lunch it is.

Mike Martz: I don't know about this guys. My regular lunch time is 12:15. I have problems adjusting to pretty much everything.

Rex Ryan: Bet you even have a hard time adjusting yourself. Hehe.

Bill Polian: Ahem. Then we're agreed: we'll do something in the near to future to stop the Patri-oughts.
Brad Childress: Ok. But once we settle on a plan, no audibles. I can't take any more audibles.

Meanwhile...
Location: Gillette Stadium.

Bill Belichick: Alright guys. It's on to the Packers. We've got a big week ahead of us. They're great on offense, defense, special teams. Let's get to work.

Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

bruins_ryan_spooner_120216.jpg

Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It certainly doesn’t feel like it will go on forever this way for the Bruins, but at this point it’s essentially a case of musical left wings on the David Krejci line as it’s been for much of this season. 

Ryan Spooner has spent the majority of the season adjusting to playing the wing with Krejci, and has been just okay trying to play away from his natural center spot while using his speed and playmaking on the wing. But the speedy Spooner also spent his share of time lately on the fourth line after getting off to a slow offensive start this season with three goals and eight points along with a minus-1 rating in 23 games. 

The bouncing between the second and fourth line has undoubtedly been frustrating for the 24-year-old getting pushed off his natural position after posting 49 points in his first full year as a third line center. But Spooner has continued to toe the company line, work on keeping his confidence high for a productive offensive season and do what he needs to in an effort to get off a fourth line.

That’s opened the door for hard-nosed former Providence College standout Tim Schaller to get some top-6 forward time on the Krejci line as well, but he’s just posted a single assist in the last three games while working hard to keep up offensively with David Krejci and David Backes. The 6-foot-2, 219-pound Schaller has the grittiness to do the dirty work for that line in the corners and in front of the net, and he can certainly skate well enough for a big, energy forward. 

“To think this was going to happen, I would say ‘no’,” said Schaller when asked if he could have predicted at the start of the season that he’d be getting a look from the B’s in a top-6 role. “I’ve been able to play with whoever and whenever my whole career. I wouldn’t want to say it’s one of those things that I had expected, but I’m always ready for it. 

“We’ve been working pretty well together. I don’t know that we’ve had too many great [offensive] opportunities to capitalize on, but Backes and Krejci are good enough players that they’ll come. They’re good enough to bury on those chances, so the goals will come. I’m always going to play the same way no matter who I’m with. Those guys might have the puck on their sticks a little longer than other linemates of mine, but that will just create more space and opportunities.”

So Spooner and Schaller bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table as the B’s coaching staff searches for the right fit alongside Krejci and Backes, and Julien sounds like a coach that’s going to keep swinging back and forth between the two players. He certainly did that with Spooner during the third period in Philly, which led to an immediate goal for Krejci in the third period comeback, and toward the end of the Carolina win with the B's desperate for offense. 

Julien also didn’t rule out Matt Beleskey getting another look there as well with the Bruins having a tough time finding anybody to consistently fill Loui Eriksson’s role from last season.

“At times I don’t think that offense has been producing much because maybe it’s lacking a little bit of speed at that time, so you put Spooner back up there. But sometimes you feel like that line isn’t winning enough battles or spending enough time in the offensive zone, so you put Schaller back in there because he’s going to play a little grittier. So we’re looking there,” said Julien. “We’d love to be able to find somebody to be a consistent player there. We’ve had Matt Beleskey there and that line never really did anything. 

“[Beleskey] has been much better on the [third] line and he’s been getting more chances, so I’ve been trying to put the best scenario together, I guess. Sometimes it’s the situation and sometimes it’s the matchup [against the other team] as well. So there are different reasons for that. I’ve just got to make it work. If it’s working with [Schaller] on that night then you stick with it, and if you don’t think you’re getting enough then you move [Spooner] there and see if you can a little spark with some speed. It doesn’t mean Beleskey won’t go back there. That’s what we have right now.”

So it’s clear Julien, and the B’s coaching staff, have simply tried to find something that will work on a consistent basis with a couple of key offensive players on Boston’s second most important forward line. The one wild card in all of this: the impending return of Frank Vatrano, who has been skating for nearly two weeks as he works toward a return from foot surgery.

Vatrano was initially penciled in as the left winger alongside Krejci to start NHL camp this fall, and the Bruins were hoping he was going to build on the eight goals he scored in Boston last season in a limited role.

Vatrano could be ready to play within the next couple of weeks, and should be back in the B’s lineup prior to the early January timetable originally offered at the time of his surgery. So perhaps the 22-year-old Vatrano can end this season-long carousel of Bruins left wingers getting paraded on and off the Krejci line, and finally give the B’s greater options at left wing. 

But the Czech playmaking center could use some stability also as he looks to find the highest level of his game in a challenging year for the Black and Gold, and do it while the Bruins find the right kind of talent to skate alongside him.