Boston, Vancouver have very different views on toughness

629430.jpg

Boston, Vancouver have very different views on toughness

Its pretty clear at this point that the hockey markets of Boston and Vancouver despise each other. Its getting to the same levels of hatred that the Celtics and Lakers had for each other in the 1980s, and that the Yankees and Red Sox have harbored for each other since Babe Ruth was more than a candy bar.

A full four days after the Stanley Cup Finals rematch went down on the Garden ice, the arrows are still being winged from both camps about who started what.

It has played out more like a messy Hollywood divorce than a hockey rivalry.

The verbal joust on "Sticks and Stones" between Shawn Thornton and Vancouver Province columnist Tony Gallagher is the perfect example of the differing mentalities employed by the two hockey havens. There couldnt be two more alternate views of the honest way to approach the game of hockey.

After last week, its clear that the Canucks believe in playing things out through the media and league offices rather than battling it out on the ice.

Dale Weise all 6-foot-2, 210-pounds of him proved the perfect embodiment of this mindset. After backing out of a fight with the 6-foot-2, 217-pound Thornton, Weise looked like a less-than-honorable figure after hed given all the telltale signs he was ready for a round of fisticuffs. Never mind that Weise has engaged in six NHL fights this season versus Thorntons 10, and that it appeared both players were properly matched up in the same weight class. Weise became the picture of exactly what the Boston hockey fan abhors most: cowardice and lack of accountability.

The Bruins, on the other hand, have been defined by their long history of the "Big Bad Bs." It's telling that Boston fans never truly embraced the laid-back persona of a bona fide superstar like Joe Thornton. Instead they worship at the alter of physical players that push the edge like Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic. As long as Cam Neely is the organizations president, their style isnt likely to change.

The city of Boston wouldnt have it any other way.

In Vancouver, they seem to favor other qualities over toughness. Apparently, their philosophy seems to center around backing away from conflicts. In terms of fight or flight instincts, the Canucks usually choose "flight" without the bat of an eyelash.

Gallagher openly wondered why the Canucks are so hated when they don't act like bullies.

"Here's what I don't understand. I don't understand how a team can be so hated I understand they have a couple of vexing guys like Alex Burrows and Maxim Lapierre. They're agitators and just about every team has a couple of them. But they have no toughness. Normally, teams that are hated have a horde of tough guys that just maraud and punch other teams into oblivion. How can you be hated when you have no toughness?"

Perhaps in some NHL quarters (ahem, Montreal) there are heads nodding in unison as Gallagher launched into the woe is Vancouver soliloquy.

But in most corners of the hockey world toughness is worn like a proud badge.

Players are "honest" when they respect their opponents, answer the bell when its expected. Most refuse to feign injury just because it will net their team a delayed penalty call.

Sometimes honest players and teams stumble -- as Marchand did when he clearly sought out a cheap shot on Sami Salo last weekend. But he's paying the price with a five-game suspension.

The Canucks are also paying the price for the cost of doing business their way: they're hated.

Nobody will ever respect a team that uses cunning and blinding arrogance to light their path toward Presidents Trophies. Some might have said after watching Game One of last years Stanley Cup Finals that the Canucks were unfit to raise the Cup after Burrows bit Patrice Bergeron, and the hockey gods seemed to agree as the Bruins celebrated on Vancouver ice last spring.

The Bruins are the bear with overpowering strength and quick-trigger temper that sometimes gets them in trouble. The Canucks are the weasel, constantly avoiding accountability with mealy-mouthed excuses and dirty tricks.

The difference between the two teams is more than punching or marauding. Its about how nearly everyone in the Vancouver organization carries themselves.

Maybe someday people like Gallagher will get why the Canucks are such a reviled organization, but somehow I doubt it.

Sources: Bruins engaged in trade talks involving Ryan Spooner

Sources: Bruins engaged in trade talks involving Ryan Spooner

This probably won’t come as a complete shock to those watching the way things have played out with him this season, but the Bruins have engaged in discussions with multiple teams about a Ryan Spooner trade, per multiple sources with knowledge of the situation. 

The 23-year-old Spooner was mentioned casually a few months ago as possible fodder in a Jacob Trouba deal with the Winnipeg Jets, but that deal never really materialized prior to the Jets signing their young, frontline D-man to a two-year deal. The Carolina Hurricanes, New York Islanders and San Jose Sharks have all expressed interest in Spooner, per one hockey source, as it appears that things simply aren’t going to work out for him in Boston. 

It’s been a challenging year for Spooner with pedestrian numbers of three goals and eight points in 24 games, but there are plenty of mitigating circumstances behind the slow start. Spooner has been pushed into playing left wing for the bulk of the season rather than his natural, preferred center position, and he’s been dropped to the fourth line by Claude Julien over the last few weeks. At times he’s also been pulled from the Bruins power play where he racked up six goals and 17 points working off the half-wall last season.  

Julien talked about the former second round pick in frank terms after this week’s win over the Carolina Hurricanes, which featured a Spooner snipe to the top corner during a successful shootout for the Black and Gold. 

“I think at times that [David Krejci] line goes quiet, other times it’s better. We’ve tried different guys on the left side right now and one [Spooner] might give them speed but doesn’t win as many battles,” said Julien of his search for stability at left wing alongside Krejci and David Backes. “The other way [with Tim Schaller] guys are a little harder right now, and they spend more time in the O-zone. So we’re really trying hard to find the right balance there.”

Trade talks have increased the past few weeks because A) the situation has worsened recently with Spooner’s prolonged stint as a miscast fourth line winger and B) the speedy, skilled forward will most likely be a man without a spot when 22-year-old left winger Frank Vatrano returns sometime around the mid-December range. 

According to one source, the Bruins are asking for a “top six forward” in exchange for a package including Spooner, and it’s a lead pipe certainty they’re looking for some goal-scoring given their 24th ranked offense this season. That represents a bit of an organizational sea change after the Bruins searched low and high for a top-4 defenseman in trade over the summer. The emergence of 20-year-old Brandon Carlo, and the Boston defense’s performance across the board, has lowered the Black and Gold’s priority list need to trade for a D-man. 

The Bruins have scored two goals or fewer in 18 of their 25 games this season and badly need somebody that can put the puck in the net from one of the wing positions. Unfortunately for the Bruins, there aren’t a lot of top-6 forwards readily available that could make an immediate impact. It’s highly doubtful any team is going to fork one over for an asset like Spooner that’s been downgraded due to the way he’s been utilized by the Bruins this season. He hasn't played with the same creativity or confidence this season after posting 13 goals and 49 points as their third line center last season. 

So it remains to be seen what the Bruins will get for Spooner after they offered him and a draft pick to Buffalo for rental forward Chris Stewart a couple of years ago. That was a deal Sabres GM Tim Murray turned down before trading Stewart for considerably less at the trade deadline.

The bottom line: the Bruins are working the phones discussing possible Spooner deals, and it feels like there is some motivation from B’s management to move a player that doesn’t seem like he'll ever be a proper fit in Julien’s system. 

Sunday Dec. 4: Zacha adjusting to life in the NHL

Sunday Dec. 4: Zacha adjusting to life in the NHL

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while marveling at the Bruins setting a franchise record this season for fewest practices in a regular season. Thanks compacted schedule due to the World Cup!

*Pavel Zacha is adjusting to life as a rookie in the NHL with the New Jersey Devils, and things are getting better as they go along.

*Manitoba Moose players relive their favorite Star Wars moments prior to the team holding their Star Wars Night.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Elliotte Friedman sits down with new Florida Panthers head coach Tom Rowe to discuss the massive changes in that organization with the firing of Gerard Gallant.

*Good for Anders Nilson putting a rainbow decal on the back of his goalie to mask to support some gay friends that have faced public resistance in their lives.

*Bruce Garrioch has his weekly NHL notes with several players, including Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald, potentially on the trade block if anybody wants them.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker has Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson suffering a broken leg that will keep him out 6-8 weeks.

*There was no blood for the Vancouver Canucks fans, but there was still plenty of drama in a win over the Maple Leafs.

*For something completely different: The World Baseball Classic works for everybody except for Major League Baseball, and that would appear to be a problem.