Kraft and Jacobs: From one extreme to the other

937339.jpg

Kraft and Jacobs: From one extreme to the other

On Friday at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Patriots owner Robert Kraft dedicated a permanently empty black seat to the memory of this nations service men and women who have been prisoners of war or have gone missing in action.  It was a touching tribute to those who have paid the ultimate price for the preservation of the American way of life and just another example why the Krafts are widely regarded as the gold standard for owners in the realm of professional sports franchises.

On Friday in New York, Boston Bruins owner and Chairman of the NHL Board of Governors Jeremy Jacobs was doing his best to make sure that every seat at the TD Garden remains empty for the rest of this hockey season.  

Has there ever been a larger dichotomy between a towns team owners in the history of professional sports?  

On one hand you have Robert Kraft, who is almost universally loved.  A rocky relationship with NFL coach-and-prostitute extraordinaire Bill Parcels, and a aborted move to Connecticut, are distant memories for fans who now adore the Krafts and their loving stewardship of New Englands NFL franchise. Their hard work and personal capital have built a new stadium and instilled a championship tradition into a franchise that used to be a laughingstock. The days of the superflush gave way to three Super Bowls and more than a decade of championship contention and relevance.

And on the other hand you have the Jacobs family.  Since 1975 Jeremy and company have taken a successful and beloved franchise, rich with history and tradition, with undoubtedly the most loyal following in town, and done everything in their power to turn the fan base against them.  The Jacobs legacy, as far as Bruins fans are concerned, is composed of miserly spending, invisible leadership and years of profitable mediocrity.  This resulted in over 30 years of promise ending in failure and disappointment.  The ledger being in the black was always more import than the Bruins being in contention.   Forget one seat; Jacobs had to color half the seats in the then Fleet Center black so the vast number of MIA fans would be less evident to TV telecasts.  

You would think that these two couldnt be in any more diametrical opposition than the above examples, but the gulf between the two only widens when you compare the roles Kraft and Jacobs have played in their leagues respective labor disputes.  

Robert Kraft is widely credited as the man who instigated the deal between the NFL owners and the Players association during the 2011 NFL Lockout.  In-between caring for his wife Myra as she battled terminal cancer, Robert Kraft worked to bridge the gap between the players and owners.  Nobody who saw it will ever forget the announcement that ended the lockout where a haggard and drained Kraft was embraced by player rep Jeff Saturday and thanked personally for his role in bringing about labor peace. Football fans all over the country found out on that day what fans in New England already knew: That Robert Kraft loved the sport of football and was there for it and its fans when the sport needed him the most.

Jeremy Jacobs? He is widely regarded as the driving force behind not one but two crippling NHL work stoppages.  

In 2004, JJs years of frugality at the expense of contention came to fruition as Jacobs and the rest of the owners finally got the salary cap he lusted for.  No Bruins fan will ever forget Jacobs willfully killing off a season in exchange for his precious cap.   Nor will they forget that in the process, the best Bruins squad in a decade was gutted during the lockout and it left the team woefully ill-equipped to contend afterwards.  But in Jeremy Jacobss world, cost certainty made it all worth it.  Bruins fans would beg to differ.  

The Bruins suffered through a rebuilding process that included front office turnover, roster churning, and a period of fan apathy like no other.  But after years of rebuilding, Jacobs had a sport experiencing record growth, a Stanley Cup and a new chance to rewrite his hockey legacy.

Once again labor related turmoil is threatening the NHL.  With the blood feud to establish a hard salary cap behind them, the opportunity for compromise between the players and owners seemed attainable.  The chance to mediate a settlement and complete his legacy rehabilitation was there to be had for Jacobs. But unfortunately, there was also a chance at more money.  

Instead of stepping to the forefront to broker an agreement and save hockey from another cataclysmic event, Jeremy Jacobs is once again the leader of a cabal of hardline owners determined to line their pockets at the expense of the NHL and its fans.  According to some reports, Jacobss mere presence at Fridays meetings may have derailed any recent progress. 

Jacobs never was and never will be a caretaker of the game like Kraft.  Hes never really been a fan, just a guy out to make a buck.  In order to make more money Jacobs is again willing to risk the future of a contending team and a fragile niche sport.  In his never-ending quest for a better deal, Jeremy Jacobs is more than willing to spit in the faces of the players the fans.  When this mess gets sorted out there wont be a photo op of Sidney Crosby thanking Jacobs with a impromptu embrace, and if  Sid the Kid did hug J.J. hed  be wise to check for his wallet afterward.

On Friday in Foxboro, Robert Kraft once again proved that he and his family are worthy caretakers of the Patriots.  A bust in Canton will bare his likeness because, like the POWMIA slogan, Robert Kraft has never forgotten his role as the caretaker his the team, the sport and the fans he serves.  

On Friday in New York, Jeremy Jacobs proved he is once again willing to put his sport at risk for money.  The Jacobs name will live in infamy and be forever synonymous with unquenchable greed.  Jeremy Jacobs willfully and repeatedly damaged the NHL and the sport of hockey. For this he will never be forgotten or forgiven.

Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

bruins-noel-acciari.jpg

Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

BOSTON -- Noel Acciari missed a month of game action with a lower body injury, so it would have been perfectly acceptable to show plenty of rust in his game upon returning to the Boston lineup.

But the former Providence College standout didn’t look rusty, a step behind or out of place in any way as he played the fourth line energy forward role to a perfect fit after missing the last 13 games. Acciari did get in one game with the Providence Bruins prior to suiting back up for the Black and Gold on Saturday, and perhaps that helped him manufacture a couple of shots on net to go along with three thumping hits against the Maple Leafs.

The 25-year-old Acciari didn’t factor into the scoring at all for the Bruins, but that’s just as well given that his focus should be on killing penalties, being hard to play against and taking the body whenever the chance presents itself. Claude Julien reformed the B’s energy line that had so much success earlier in the season with Acciari, Dominic Moore and Tim Schaller, and didn’t hesitate tossing them back into the mix together while looking for energy and a spark for an offensively stunted team.

“It’s good to be back with my linemates, and you know, I think we kind of picked up where we left off, but there’s definitely things we need to work on. That’ll come with a couple more practices and games together,” said Acciari, who finished theSaturday loss with three registered hits packed into 11:35 of ice time. “Kind of getting back to our familiarity and kind of get back to where we were before I got injured.

“It was a good start tonight, but we definitely just weren’t clicking like we used to, but that’ll come. I think that will come. Like I said, a couple practices and just kind of getting some games in [are good things]. I thought we were pretty good tonight, but, you know, should get more pucks to score [goals].”

Clearly there is room for improvement for everybody including Acciari, but it was encouraging to see the fearless competitor again flying around on the TD Garden ice playing high intensity hockey for a fourth line that could use every little bit of that. 

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

BOSTON -- This may not come as a surprise, but the Boston Bruins are having some trouble putting the puck in the net.

Despite outshooting the Maple Leafs by an 11-2 margin in the first period and outshooting them by a 32-21 margin over the balance of the 60 minute game, the Bruins scratched for just a single goal in a frustrating, constipated 4-1 loss to Toronto at TD Garden. Clearly some of the offensive difficulty was caused by a solid Frederik Andersen, who improved to 6-0-0 in a career against Boston that’s beginning to take on Bruins Killer proportions.

But a great deal of the B’s struggles to finish scoring chances on Saturday night is a malady that’s dogged the Bruins all season, and marked the 20th time in 29 games this year that Boston has scored two goals or less. In most of these games the Bruins have dominated puck possession and outshot their opponents, but still have come away mostly empty handed in the goals scored department while dropping deep in the bottom third of NHL offenses this season.

“It seems like every game we’re out-chancing teams, but we don’t outscore teams. That’s where the biggest issue is right now. Our scoring is not there and if you don’t score goals you don’t win hockey games,” said Claude Julien. “Because of that we criticize everything else in our game, but our game isn’t that bad.

“If we were scoring goals people would love our game right now, but that’s the biggest part. There’s not much more I can say here except for the fact that if we don’t score goals it’s going to be hard to win hockey games.”

But the Bruins aren’t scoring goals consistently, their power play is below average while trending in the wrong direction and the team has been forced to watch steady offensive players like Patrice Bergeron suddenly slump in a concerning way. Clearly David Pastrnak is doing his part with 18 goals scored this season in 24 games, and others like Brad Marchand and Dominic Moore have also performed above, or beyond, their acceptable level of play.

But there are other players failing with the chance to make an offensive dent: Austin Czarnik has been on the roster for nearly two months, and has zero goals and two points in his last 15 games as the offense is again dried up on the third line. He missed wide on a shorthanded chance in the third period after a Moore centering pass set up him all alone in front, and was critiquing himself for fanning on a perfect dish to him in the slot.

Moments later the Leafs had an insurance score from James van Riemsdyk to make it a 3-1 game, and it was all over for the Black and Gold at that point.

Czarnik is an easy target because he’s young and inexperienced, but there is more than enough struggle and frustration to go around with a bunch of offensive players that can’t seem to get out of their own way. David Backes admitted it’s reached a point where the Bruins are frustrated when they can’t score enough to beat a team like Toronto, and that it falls squarely on the lead guys in the Black and Gold dressing room that are underperforming.

“I think offensive frustration is warranted at this point; we just haven’t done a good enough job scoring goals. We played a heck of a first period. We limited them to two shots and we had an opportunity to have a team that’s coming in here that’s a younger team, to really put them behind the eight ball,” said Backes. “Instead, they think they got a second lease on life and they were able to capitalize. All of the sudden, they were up 2-0 and we’re fighting an uphill battle again rather than -- we have that opportunity to play a heck of a first period and we don’t find a way – it’s easy to talk about, but it’s going out there and doing the job and putting it past or through the goalie, or however it needs to happen. “You’ve seen our goals; you want to do a study on it unless you’re Pasta [David Pastrnak] with the one-timer on the side, it’s been ugly, it’s been rebounds, it’s been greasy goals and that’s our equation and we need more of it, and we didn’t do it. They did a good job of being in front of their net and boxing out, eliminating those second chances. But, we’ve got good players in here that need to create more and find those second chances and win those battles, find those loose pucks, and throw them in the net.”

The Bruins have been talking seemingly all season about the need to get to the “dirty areas in the offensive zone”, and for players to jump all over the second and third chance opportunities currently going by the board unchallenged on goalie rebounds.

Now it’s about speaking with action for the B’s, and more specifically speaking volumes with goals and offensive finish instead of “chances” that aren’t doing much of anything if they’re not being snapped into the back of the net.