Haggerty: Hopefully Lucic suspension ends NHL conspiracy theories


Haggerty: Hopefully Lucic suspension ends NHL conspiracy theories

Peter Chiarelli has heard the conspiracy theories that the Bruins get preferential treatment from the NHL. Whenever a borderline hit or questionable hockey play involves the Stanley Cup champs, the media and fan bases swirl up a concoction of Colin Campbell-fueled conspiracy theories that leave the Bruins free to burn and pillage the 29 other NHL organizations without any fear of retribution.

Never mind that Campbell is no longer the hockey executive in charge of handing out supplemental discipline to offending players. To those convinced theres something amiss when it comes to the league and the Bruins, logic and reason dont seem to actually apply.
They simply want to paint the Bruins as a team thats unfairly benefited from kid gloves when they are the offenders as a big, physical hockey club. Chiarelli said its all poppycock and hopefully Milan Lucic getting slapped with a one-game suspension for boarding Zac Rinaldo quiets some of that chatter.

That whole line of conspiracy thinking and Ive seen it on the record and stuff I mean, weve had our share of bumps along the way, with the Marc Savard stuff and the Patrice Bergeron stuff, said Chiarelli. I dont buy any of that stuff. Usually I look at stuff independently, and I think any arbiter will, or should. We may go forward at times now with getting a suspension, and I may complain on a case-by-case, but those are the rules that we play by, and Im okay with it.

The Bruins are a team that plays on the edge as evidenced by the recent 2500 fines handed out to Brad Marchand for slew-footing Matti Niskanen and to Adam McQuaid for kneeing Nick Foligno and they have players like Lucic getting banged with suspensions just like everybody else. Following a one-game playoff suspension for cross-checking Maxim Lapierre in the face, crushing Freddy Meier late in a game against the Thrashers last season that incited a team-wide brawl or slamming into Ryan Miller this season, Lucic was on thin ice in the leagues eyes.

So the hit from behind on Rinaldo was the perfect situation to make an example of Lucic, but hes also a player thats careful to keep his rage and aggression in control when it comes to his physical play. There arent many besides Ryan Dice Man Miller that view Lucic as anything but an honest player that plays an intense brand of hockey, and thats why the Bruins dont earn more suspensions.

For the most part the Bruins are bigger and stronger than nearly everybody else in the league, and can dominate without resorting to dirty tactics or edgy plays that could bring on injuries. That doesnt do much to further any conspiracy theories that have become more prevalent since the Bruins essentially bullied the Vancouver Canucks in seven games on their way to a Stanley Cup title.

The Bruins arent going to ask Lucic to play any differently now that the league is scrutinizing him more closely, and nor should they.

We went into the year with the new rule changes thinking that we were going to be a little more heavily scrutinized. We might have even played a heavier game in the playoffs, and people were clamoring that we got away with stuff. Maybe we did, maybe we didnt, said Chiarelli. But thats the way we built the team and Im going to continue to build it that way. If I could find another Milan Lucic, Id be very pleased. I think everyone in the league would want a player like that."

We wont stray from how we built it, and well continue to put the pieces in that have some character and have some toughness.

Theres little reason for the Bruins to shy away from the way they play the game of hockey. The Big Bad Bruins style has won them 19 games in their last 22 tries and again has them as the rightful top dog in the Eastern Conference for the first time all season. The Bs even weathered a game without Lucic after he served his suspension while missing out on a rivalry games against the hated Habs. It was a shame for Lucic given how much he enjoys playing and beating Montreal, but perhaps it will finally put to bed the notion that the Bruins get preferential treatment from the NHLs hockey ops department.

Nah, it actually probably wont. That would mean 29 other teams would need to look in the mirror and admit when they were beaten by a Bruins team that plays honest, punishing hockey that few other clubs can hang with.

Backes: 'Time will be the judge' on his long-term deal with Bruins


Backes: 'Time will be the judge' on his long-term deal with Bruins

JAMAICA PLAIN – Newest Bruins forward David Backes has heard the trepidation from Bruins fans about the five-year term of his contract, and he’s probably also caught wind of St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong stating publicly that contract length was an area he was uncomfortable getting to on a theoretical extension with his outbound.

The prevailing wisdom is that the decade of rugged, physical play from the 32-year-old in St. Louis will cause him to start slowing down sooner rather than later, and the last couple of seasons won’t be as high quality as the first couple in Boston.

So what does the actual player think about any questions surrounding his five year, $30 million contract?

The 6-foot-3, 221-pound Backes confidently said that concerns about his age, or him slowing down demonstrably in the last few years of his new contract, are “a bunch of malarkey” to borrow a favorite phrase from Vice President Joe Biden.

“I’m 32, not 52. Time will tell, but I feel really good and I take care of my body. I lay it all on the line, but when I’m not at the rink I’m resting and recovering for the next time I have to pour it all into a game,” said Backes, who logged 727 hard-hitting games all with the St. Louis Blues organization over the last 10 seasons. “Time will be the judge, but I feel like [after] five years I’ll even have a couple more [seasons] after that.

“I don’t think this is going to be end. That’s my plan. I’m still going to get better over the next five years, and hopefully have a couple of opportunities to hoist that big trophy I’ve been chasing around for the last 10 years.”

One area of concern from last season: the 21 goals and 45 points in 79 games for the Blues were Backes’ lowest totals over a full season since his first few years in the league. It might be the first signs of decline in a player that’s logged some heavy miles, or it could be a simple down season for a player that’s always focused on setting the physical tone, and defense, just as much as his offensive output at the other end of the ice.

As Backes himself said, “time will be judge” of just how well the five year contract turns out for a natural leader that will undoubtedly give the Bruins a boost as a hard-nosed, top-6 forward as he moves into the Boston phase of his NHL career.

Thursday, July 28: Will the Bruins end up with Jimmy Vesey?


Thursday, July 28: Will the Bruins end up with Jimmy Vesey?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading after a pretty amazing, on-point succession of speeches by Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg and Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention last night. It was quite a contrast to the absolute circus sideshow that went on in Cleveland last week.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Greg Wyshynksi chronicles the Jimmy Vesey Sweepstakes, and the late entry of the Chicago Blackhawks as a suitor. Wysh still feels, as I do, that the Bruins end up getting this talented player at the end of the day.

*The details of the charges levied against Evander Kane paint an ugly picture of a hockey player doing a lot of the wrong things.

*PHT writer Mike Halford says that the Carolina Hurricanes might be ready to snap their playoff drought after extending head coach Bill Peters.

*John Tavares tells the Toronto media not to count on him ever pulling over a Maple Leafs jersey amid post-Stamkos speculation.

*Well, would you look at this? The Nashville Predators are providing salary cap and contract info on their own team website. What a concept!

*The Edmonton Oilers say they will have a new captain in place by opening night, and it will be interesting to see if they go the Connor McDavid route.

*Brian Elliott is thrilled at the opportunity to be “the man” between the pipes for the Calgary Flames this season after splitting time in St. Louis.

*For something completely different: a great feature on Howard Stern, and his transformation from shock jock to master interviewer.

Joe Haggerty can be followed on Twitter: @HacksWithHaggs

Bergeron and Marchand convinced Backes to join Bruins

Bergeron and Marchand convinced Backes to join Bruins

JAMAICA PLAIN -- For those excited about the idea of an intense, hard-hitting David Backes in a Bruins uniform for the next five years, you have Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand to partially thank.

Backes, 32, didn’t know either of them all that well prior to this summer, aside from his experiences on ice against them. But Bergeron and Marchand called Backes multiple times while recruiting him to Boston, and it was a major factor in the former Blues captain signing a five-year, $30 million deal with the B's.

“Being an outsider, we need to have a little bit of confession here that Marchand is the kind of guy that gets under everybody’s skin. I was no different,” said the 6-foot-3, 221-pound Backes, who has 206 goals and 460 points in 727 career NHL games, all with St. Louis. “But then talking to him a little bit in the interview process prior to July 1, I hung up the phone and had to take a deep breath and say to myself, ‘That little disturber, he’s actually a pretty good guy.’ Those guys end up being the best teammates.

“A guy like Bergeron, when you play against him [he's] always in the right spot, and is never making mistakes. Those types of guys, again, are guys you want on your team, and guys you want to go to war with. They’re All-World players, Bergeron is an All-World player. But he’s also a down-to-earth guy that puts his work boots on, takes his lunch pail and plays his butt off. He’s nice to the young kids, and he’s nurturing in helping them come along. I think you’ve seen in the NHL that you need a few guys on entry-level deals, or a few guys to outperform their contracts, in order to have success in the salary-cap era. That nurturing and mentorship can really foster those kinds of performances.”

While Backes went on to mention Zdeno Chara as another highly respected, formidable opponent with whom he’ll now share a dressing room, it was interesting to note that players who currently have letters on their sweaters, like Chara and David Krejci, didn’t play a part in the recruiting process. Instead it was the next captain of the team (Bergeron) and a player (Marchand) currently in the middle of negotiations entering the last year of his contract.

“I talked to both Bergeron and Marchand twice before July 1," said Backes. "Just the way that they spoke about their team mentality, and teaming up together and sharing the load of hard minutes that need to be played, and also sharing the load of the offensive necessities that a team has . . . those things just rang true to my beliefs of a team.

“You’re all equals whether you’re the top-paid guy, or the top-minute guy, or the low-minute guy, or the guy that’s playing every other game because you’re the healthy scratch in the other games.

“We all needed to be treated equal, and do whatever we can to support the next guy. When the next guy has success, we have to be just as happy as if we scored the goal. That’s the type of thing where, when you get that from the full 20 guys on the ice, it’s so tough to be beat. Those are the teams that win championships.”

It will be interesting to see just how much involvement Backes has with the Bergeron and Marchand combination. He could very easily be a right-wing fit with those two dynamic forwards next season, or he could be a third-line center behind Bergeron and Krejci and give the Bruins elite depth down the middle of the ice.

True to his team-oriented nature, Backes said he’ll be happy to play at either position and do whatever Claude Julien feels is best.