Haggerty: The Bruins opening night that should have been

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Haggerty: The Bruins opening night that should have been

BOSTON -- Tonight should have marked the start of another raucous journey with a Bruins team that holds the best chance to bring Boston its next world championship.
It should have been every bit as compelling as the last five years have been for the Bruins organization a span thats seen them become rock stars in Boston again for the first time since the 1970s golden era.
The Boston Bruins should have been taking the ice for a nationally televised game against the Broad Street Bullies in Philadelphia.
They should have been kicking off their campaign of great vengeance and furious anger after getting unceremoniously booted by Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals in the first round of the playoffs last spring.
Tyler Seguin should have been continuing on his pathway to becoming the next big superstar on the Boston sports scene, and about to go supernova in his third NHL season as so many other NHL stars have before him.
Milan Lucic should have been breathing fire on the ice while atoning for last years limp playoff performance, and showing everyone hes worth every cent of his hefty new 6 million per year contract. The Bruins should have been finally getting on with life without Tim Thomas while their exiled goalie prepares for the end of days in his Colorado bunker.
But instead the Big Bad Bruins have scattered to the four corners of the world.
Rather than populating Charlestown and the North End, they are strange hockey players in strange lands wearing unfamiliar hockey sweaters in exotic European locales. A year ago the Bruins were raising a new Stanley Cup championship banner to the rafters after an unforgettable playoff run. The local fans were even softening to the visage of owner Jeremy Jacobs after long holding him as the No. 1 reason Boston had never won another Cup after the golden age of Bobby Orrs Bruins teams.
But all of that has been sullied by the leagues second work stoppage in the last eight years, and their fourth labor dispute in the last 20 years.
Instead, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and Jacobs the powerful NHL Board of Governors Chairman have both become the picture of greedy gluttony while holding fans hostage as they shake down the players for every last silver piece.
The loge and balcony seats at TD Garden will be empty rather than rocking for Bostons home opener against the hated Habs on Oct. 18 a game thats now a historical footnote after getting whacked along with five other games to start their season.
It takes two to tango, of course, and the NHLPA hasnt put forth their best offer either despite the cancellation of games.
But only Gordon Gecko would be proud of a group of NHL owners squeezing the players for 18-20 percent pay cuts after the league raked in a record 3.3 billion in revenues last year. The owners are locking the players out, and two weeks worth of games have already been cancelled including the season-opener against the Philadelphia Flyers. Another two weeks worth of games will be cancelled within the next week if the NHL and NHLPA cant bridge the billion dollar gap that remains between the two sides.
Lockouts and threats of work stoppages have essentially become parliamentary procedure in CBA negotiations for professional sports leagues.
One only needs to look at the difficulties that both the NBA and NFL survived last year when their agreements were up. But its different with the NHL, and by extension its different with the Bruins.
The National Hockey League has lost 1,780 games due to work stoppages since 1992. Major League Baseball (983), the NBA (504) and the NFL (0) combined have lost a little more than half that number over the last 20 years. The NHL gets no benefit of the doubt in work stoppage situations. The league has continuously shot itself in the foot over the years when it could have been building an undying loyal fan base combined with a likable group of assets in the players.
"We hoped it wouldn't be as confrontational as the last time around, but obviously that wasn't the same sentiment on the other side," said Andrew Ference before he left Boston to play in the Czech Republic. "We're getting into this rut where we're almost a joke. Every few years we've got to revisit the same thing."
Both the Bruins and the NHL have enjoyed skyrocketing momentum and unparalleled popularity over the last few seasons. Theyve hit jackpot after jackpot with the Winter Classic, the 247 HBO series and their new partnership with the NBC Sports Network over the last few years. But theyve also taken their oft-abused fan base for granted one more time, and continue to act the part of the no-good boyfriend in the latest Tori Spelling Lifetime made-for-TV movie.
Theres every reason to believe the NHL and the players will get their act together by December at the latest, and there will be Bruins hockey in Boston this season. This fight is strictly about splitting up the money pie, and that can be resolved.
Its not the philosophical battle for the salary cap that cost the NHL an entire season eight years ago.
But Jeremy Jacobs, Gary Bettman and the rest of the NHL purse-holders are playing with kerosene-soaked matches each time they choose profits over paying fans. Eventually even the most ardent hockey fans will move on and decide to spend their money elsewhere leaving the Board of Governors with the hollow husk of a league that could have been great.
The silence from the empty yellow seats at the Garden is deafening, and is forcing their fans to move on with their lives.
That will be the regrettable, lasting legacy of the NHL hawks if they continue on their current path to mismanagement and self-destruction.

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.