By Tom E. CurranFOXBORO - I understand - grudgingly - why Bill Belichick at times leans on his, "Just doing what's best for the football team..." crutch. To hold court on every personnel decision, to answer every question until all curiosity is exhausted holds no appeal for him. And if he does it once, well then, where's it end? Next thing, people will be asking if he understands the feelings of unsettledness the family's new guppy will experience when a player is let go. Makes my job harder. Makes the TV side's job harder. But I compreeeehend why he's Billy Tight Lips. But since last February, the Patriots have been in team-building mode through the draft, free agency, offseason workouts, minicamps and training camp. Interest in the team feels like it's at a crescendo. With the team people give a crap about now established after some hard decisions were made, "Just doing what's best for the football team..." is wholly unsatisfying. Belichick didn't want to give a little more during his first post-cut press conference. I asked him how Brian Hoyer did in his time with the team. Belichick's response? "Good."He eventually shared more. Not a lot. Not enough. But more."All the decisions we made were what we felt was best for the football team and that takes into consideration a lot of things," Belichick stated. "It takes into consideration some of the players that are involved and it also looks at other players on the team, where depth is or isn't. We'd be here all day talking about it. We do what's best for the team and there are several players that aren't on our team that are good football players. Nothing against them but in the end, we do what's best for the New England Patriots. It's not a negative commentary on anybody. It's a positive commentary on the players who've earned a position on the team. But more than usual. Here's a few scraps gathered. Belichick confirmed that right guard Brian Waters has not shown up yet. He would not bend on inquiries about players who might return that have been released (Deion Branch, Jabar Gaffney). The new IR rule was explained as it pertains to rookie Jeff Demps, mentioning that any player on the IR prior to this Tuesday is on IR for the year. For a player to be eligible for the reserve designation that would allow him to return, that player would have had to be on the Patriots' 53-man roster. Preparations for next Sunday's opponent, the Titans, began in the offseason according to Belichick. Specific work began after the final preseason game though. Sunday was a day for situational things and some specific "points of emphasis." On dealing for former Rams wideout Greg Salas, Belichick was curt. "Got some versatility, we put him out there, see how it goes. Lot of production, catches the ball well. He and (offensive coordinator) Josh (McDaniels) had some first-hand experience (from coaching Salas in St. Louis). We scouted him out of Hawaii. had a good feel for himbefore Josh was here."
It’s hard to believe that it’s already come to this, but it might just be Malcolm Subban between the pipes for the Bruins on Tuesday night against the Minnesota Wild, and perhaps again on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.
The 22-year-old Subban has been pulled from two ineffective starts for the P-Bruins in four AHL starts this season (.846 save percentage and a 4.50 goals against average in four games) while coming back from last year’s fractured larynx injury. He's also a player the organization was uncertain enough about that they signed veteran backup Anton Khudobin to a two-year deal on the July 1 open of NHL free agency.
Subban attributed his start to a slow opening few weeks with a new P-Bruins roster of players, but that hasn’t stopped fellow P-Bruins goalie Zane McIntyre from putting up excellent numbers between the pipes in the early going.
But Khudobin went down with an injury mere minutes into Monday morning’s Bruins practice at Warrior Ice Arena, and Tuukka Rask been battling a nagging leg injury since the season opening win against the Blue Jackets.
So Subban was the last goalie standing on Monday as an emergency recall from Providence, and could be in line to play Tuesday night against the Wild if the Bruins medical staff can’t perform some Mr. Miyagi-style healing techniques on Rask or Khudobin.
“Khudobin got injured and couldn’t practice with us, but I haven’t heard anything yet [on an update],” said Julien following practice. “This is hockey. We deal with it on daily basis with the injuries. We wait for the news and then it’s about doing your job as it’s required. If we have to make some adjustments and have to have some different personnel, then we’ll deal with it when we have more of an update. Tuukka is still day-to-day, so nothing is changed there.
“We’re in a situation here where we’ll see what happens, and if [Subban] needs to go in goal then he’ll go in goal. It’s as simple as that. As a coach, there’s one thing that worries me and that’s ‘stop the puck.’ I’m not a goalie coach, so I’m just demanding on making the saves.”
Subban, of course, hasn’t been making the saves down in Providence early in the going there this season, and is entering the stage of his career where he needs to begin showing signs of being a potential No. 1 guy at the NHL level.
Fellow goalies from the 2012 NHL draft class like Andrei Vasilevskiy, Joonas Korpisalo, Matt Murray, Connor Hellebuyck and Frederik Andersen have all begun making their mark in the league, and Subban was selected higher than all of them except for Tampa’s Vasilevskiy. So in the final year of his entry level deal it’s high time for the 22-year-old to begin showing signs he can play in the league, whether it’s in Boston or elsewhere.
He admitted on Monday he might have been putting too much pressure on himself down in Providence while watching the injury issues play out with Tuukka Rask in Boston.
Subban was worried about the big picture of stringing together saves so he was the guy called up if the Bruins needed a goalie, and instead should have been focusing more on the present opponents at the AHL level.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself. I think anybody that knows me well knows that. I don’t like to let in goals no matter what happens, whether it’s breakdowns or not it’s my job [to stop the puck]. If there were no breakdowns then you wouldn’t need a goaltender,” said Subban. “I want to make every save and get a shutout every game. I think the biggest thing is just relaxing and playing, and knowing that it’s okay to let a goal in every once in a while.
“So I think in my position right now I’m supposed to be playing really well down there, and I think that go in my head a little bit. I was trying to get a shutout every game rather than going game-by-game and shot-by-shot. I was overthinking it too much. But collectively as a team we’re a new team and we were trying to get the chemistry together, and once we do that the D-zone will be better and the offensive zone game will come.”
If Subban does indeed get the emergency start on Tuesday night against the Wild, the Bruins just have to hope that it’s a better outing than getting pulled in his NHL debut against the Blues two seasons ago after allowing three goals on three straight shots to start the second period. They also have to hope that Rask or Khudobin get well quick given Boston’s shaky situation on defense in front of the goaltender, and the stretch they’re in of playing six straight opponents that qualified for last spring’s Stanley Cup playoffs.
If not then watch out below because every hockey person knows there’s no quicker way for a hockey club to really begin imploding than if the goaltending starts to become a major problem whether it’s because of injury, inconsistent performance or simply because of being a straight-up sieve.
WALTHAM, Mass. – For so many years the game of basketball came easy – almost too easy – for James Young.
He stood out on a young Kentucky team that played at the highest levels, delivering the kind of performances as an 18-year-old college freshman that catapulted him into the first round of the NBA draft.
To be so young and already having achieved a childhood dream, to be in the NBA, Young was too young to realize how quickly the dream could become a nightmare if he didn't put in the necessary work.
The past couple of weeks have not been easy for Young, aware that the Celtics were torn as to whether they should keep him around this season or waive him.
They choose the former and instead waived his now-ex teammate R.J. Hunter, on Hunter’s 23rd birthday no less.
One of the first acts Young said he planned to do following Monday's practice was to reach out to Hunter, offer words of encouragement to a player he looked upon as a brother, a brother who is in a state of basketball limbo right now which could have easily been the latest chapter in James Young’s basketball narrative.
And that’s why as happy as Young is to still be donning the Green and White, his work towards proving himself to this team, to this franchise is far from done.
You listen to veterans like Jae Crowder, a second-round pick who has come up the hard way in the NBA, they speak of how Young now takes the game more serious.
Even Young acknowledged that he didn’t take the NBA game and the need to work at staying in the league as serious as he should have initially.
“I wasn’t playing as hard (early on),” Young admitted. “I just was satisfied being where I was, being too comfortable. My confidence was down. I have to change that around.”
Crowder, a straight-no-chaser kind of fellow, said as much when I asked him about the changes he has seen in Young.
“He’s taking stuff a little more serious,” Crowder said. “It’s growing up. He came in as a first-round draft pick and was on the borderline of getting cut. I don’t know what else is going to wake you up.”
That’s part of what made this decision so difficult and on some levels, left players with mixed emotions about the decision.
For those of us who followed this team through training camp, there was no question that Young had the better camp.
But the one thing that was never questioned with Hunter, was his work ethic. He made his share of mistakes and missed more shots than a player with a sharpshooter's reputation should, but you never got a sense it had anything to do with him not working as hard as he needed to.
That was among the more notable issues with Young who came into the league as an 18-year-old. That youth probably worked for him as opposed to Hunter who played three years of college basketball and was expected to be seemingly more NBA-ready.
Even though Hunter’s NBA future is on uncertain ground now, he’s too young and too talented to not get at least one more crack with an NBA team.
And by Boston waiving him, he really does become a low-risk, high-reward prospect that an NBA team might want to take a closer look at with their club.
And Young remains a Celtic, doing all that he can to climb up the pecking order which now has him as the clear-cut 15th man on the roster.
He might see more minutes than rookie Demetrius Jackson and possibly second-year forward Jordan Mickey, but Young’s future with the Boston Celtics is still on relatively thin ice.
“I told him this morning, this might be the first time he’s earned anything in his life,” said Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations. “He earned this by his play, day-in and day-out. He was given a lot as a young kid with a lot of promise, a lot of potential. We talked about earlier this summer, he had to come out and win a spot with some good competition and he did. He needs to keep doing what he’s doing.”
More than anything else, Young has been consistent in his effort, overall energy and attention to detail. But it remains to be seen if Young has done all that to just secure a roster spot, or has he truly grown up and figured out what has to be done in order to be an NBA player.