Haggerty: Quiet man, loud achievement

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Haggerty: Quiet man, loud achievement

WILMINGTON It can sometimes be easy to overlook the head coach in the NHL.

The job turnover rate is Zdeno Chara-high. The hours are exhaustingly long. And the credit for success can sometimes land everywhere but the coachs corner office.

Witness the Stanley Cup banner-raising ceremony for the Bruins two weeks ago at TD Garden. Claude Julien and the rest of the Bs coaching staff were seemingly lost amid the Jeremy Jacobs booing, the Cam Neely one-liners, Mark Recchi pulling a fat guy in little coat episode with the Bruins Starter jacket straight out of Tommy Boy and of course the cameo appearance of the greatest player in NHL history, Bobby Orr.

Amid all that hockey hullabaloo there was nary a chance for the crowd to bathe Julien, Doug Houda, Doug Jarvis, Geoff Ward and Bob Essensa in the kind of appreciative adulation theyve earned right along in line with the players by seeing things through to a Stanley Cup victory. The Bs coaches would never say as much, but its human nature to crave a pat on the back after a job well done by fans who sometimes come down a little hard on Julien.

It was seemingly remedied two days later when the Bs coaching staff received their warm reception during team introductions at TD Garden for the 2011-12 squad, but the point still remains.

Julien finally received a little bit of recognition this weekend when he captured his 300th career NHL victory on a night when the Bruins simply cared about getting a W.

True to form, Julien didnt mention the 300 victories to his players or parade it in front of the press postgame. Insteadm he quietly smiled and accepted congratulations after the much-needed shootout win was in the bank over the Blackhawks at the United Center.

I never know about those things until people tell me, said Julien. I think I found out before the home game against the Colorado Avalanche a week ago Monday that I had a chance at it. Id actually forgotten about it before the Chicago game. Its nice. Three hundred is a very nice number."

Juliens players had no idea about the 300 wins, and many werent surprised their coach kept such a low profile as he would expect out of his players.

Its always about the team concept and group goals rather than the individual for Julien, and thats the way it seemingly always is in the selfless game of hockey.

I didnt even know it, said Brad Marchand. It speaks volumes about his career and the work that hes done. He came in here and helped turn this into a winning organization. Hes a great coach. Its always great to see coaches or players achieve milestones like that. Its great to be a part of.

It's an accomplishment Julien is proud of after finding his coaching home in Boston, following stints in Montreal and New Jersey, but he knows this is just the start of things for him. He can be criticized for being conservative offensively, for requiring young players to earn trust and ice, four rolling four lines deep into games still teetering on the edge of victory or defeat and for sometimes failing to use ice time as the effective whip-cracker it can be for a hockey coach.

But all of these criticisms arent black-and-white situations, and if Julien has shown anything over the years its the ability to adjust and adapt to the changing game. Marchand, David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Tyler Seguin, Adam McQuaid and Tuukka Rask have all developed into legitimate NHL players under Juliens tutelage, and it was the beat them with depth philosophy that allowed the Bs to eventually win the Stanley Cup last season.

Whereas a year ago Juliens job might have been in serious jeopardy given the altered dynamics within the Bs front office, its hard to envision any scenario where the Bruins coach could be on the hot seat now. Julien has plenty of rope to work with, and has a noticeably different confidence and ease about him since the start of this year.

Its amazing what a Stanley Cup can do for the coach as well as the players.

Im looking forward to another 300 wins," said Julien. "Thats the way I look at things. I dont know if Id call it a milestone, but its a nice feat in this league where coaching isnt an easy job to hold onto . . . and its not an easy job to stay into at the NHL. Id rather look ahead, and if I get another 300 wins it means Ive been around for quite a few more years.

With a Stanley Cup championship and Jack Adams Award on his resume in his four-plus years coaching the Bruins, Julien should be gainfully employed in Boston or elsewhere for as long as he wants whether hes rolling four lines and implementing his effective defensive system or not.

Julien should be able to nab that second set of 300 coaching victories if his heart remains into the coaching thing for the next dozen years, but its mind-boggling to see how far hes already climbed within the Bruins franchise.

Amazingly Julien is already fifth on the Bs all-time coaching win list with 181 career victories since taking over a rudderless, moribund hockey team following the infamous Dave Lewis Error, and hes still looking to build on that. He sits 24 victories behind Gerry Cheevers for fourth place all-time a spot he'll easily claim this season, barring an unforeseen disaster -- and then would have only big names Don Cherry, Milt Schmidt and Art Ross ahead of him on the Black and Gold coaching annals.

Thats more victories than Tom Johnson, Harry Sinden or Terry OReilly individually collected changing lines behind the Boston bench.

Who would have ever thought that possible when Julien took over a busted hockey franchise with newly minted GM Peter Chiarelli five years ago?

Actually, Julien probably did think of it. But he'll never crow about it, just as he didnt seek out glory for a career milestone that was certainly worth talking about.

Krug out 6 months, Krejci 5 months after surgery

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Krug out 6 months, Krejci 5 months after surgery

It sounds like the Bruins will be without puck-moving defenseman Torey Krug at the very outset of next season.

Krug (right shoulder), Matt Beleskey (left hand) and David Krejci (left hip) all underwent successful surgeries in mid-to-late April for injuries sustained over the wear and tear of NHL duty last season and both Krug and Krejci are now facing recovery times on the long end of things. 

Krejci’s rehab and recovery is initially set for five months after undergoing surgery with renowned hip surgeon Dr. Bryan Kelly on April 25, but the hope is that the 30-year-old playmaking center will be ready for the start of the regular season.

It’s the same rough timetable Krejci faced following hip surgery on his right side after the 2008-09 season and, seven years ago, the center was able to start the season on time.

Krug is up for what’s expected to be a long-term new contract after July 1, and will be out six months after undergoing shoulder surgery with Bruins team doctor Peter Asnis on April 21. That means there’s a good chance the 5-foot-8, 180-pound Krug will miss the preseason and be out the first few weeks of the preseason at the very least. 

Shoulder injuries are also always a bit of a concern for NHL defensemen considering all of the pounding those players absorb on a nightly basis, and that goes doubly so for a smaller blueliner (5-9, 186) such as Krug.

Any absence at all is tough news for the B’s considering Krug was second on the Bruins in ice time (21:37) among defensemen this season, and led all Bruins blueliners with 44 points last season in a challenging year for a clearly undermanned D-corps.

Beleskey is expected to undergo a six-week rehab after his April 14 surgery with Dr. Matthew Leibman at Newton-Wellesley Hospital.  

Tuesday, May 3: Stamkos, Subban as 10-year-old teammates

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Tuesday, May 3: Stamkos, Subban as 10-year-old teammates

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while starting to actually feel badly for the Republican Party.

*Lukas Head revisits an old photo taken with Steven Stamkos and PK Subban when all three were youth hockey players together.

*A disappointed Brooks Orpik gets emotional when discussing his playoff suspension. Maybe he should stop lining up guys for predatory hits if he doesn’t want to be suspended. His track record, and unwillingness to answer the bell for his actions, is well-chronicled.

*Barry Trotz hints that the Pittsburgh Penguins received preferential treatment in the aforementioned Brooks Orpik suspension.

*A heartwarming story of the San Jose Sharks saving the black cat that somehow jumped on the ice at the Shark Tank prior to Game 1 of their playoff series.

*Congratulations to the inspirational Travis Roy, who was inducted into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame last weekend.

*Bob Hartley is fired by the Calgary Flames. Could it be that it was done to make room for Bruce Boudreau, asks Puck Daddy?

*Former Bruins enforcer PJ Stock did some kind of FaceTime television hit with Rogers Sportsnet to make some playoff predictions.

*For something completely different: Jerry Thornton has a number of local Boston businesses banning Roger Goodell from their premises.

 

 

Youth needs to be served

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Youth needs to be served

This is the second in a five-part series about the breakdowns that doomed the team this season, and what must change for the Black and Gold to once again get moving in the right direction. 

In the days after the Bruins' regular-season demise, it was striking to hear Don Sweeney speak about the development path of David Pastrnak.

The Bruins general manager paid the second-year forward perfunctory compliments about the prodigious skill set that made him a first-round draft choice. Pastrnak -- in spite of getting almost no power-play time, even though he's one of the most gifted offensive players on the roster -- scored five more goals and roughly the same number of points in about the same number of games as he did in his rookie year, despite suffering a fractured foot in the first month and then competing in the World Junior tourney around the holidays. He also gained steam at the end of the season, scoring goals in three of the final four games while the rest of his teammates struggled.

But Pastrnak, one of the youngest players in the NHL at age 19, struggled with puck management and turnovers, and had some rough nights as a teenager making his way in a rough-and-tumble man’s league. He's still on the learning curve, something Sweeney readily acknowledges.

“The impatience about putting players [at the NHL level] before they’re ready, it shows up at times,” said Sweeney, who invoked Pastrnak’s name while answering a question about the potential NHL readiness of promising young B's prospect Danton Heinen. “It absolutely does. We’re talking about David Pastrnak, who leads the league in giveaways per 60 minutes. He’s a tremendous talent and a tremendous young man with tremendous character, and he wants to get better and needs to get stronger.

“At times it’s unfair to [coach Claude Julien] that people will be like ‘Ah, there’s Pastrnak not out there on the ice in this situation.’ But [Julien's] the same guy that put [Pastrnak] out there (in a crucial late-season game against the Red Wings with the Bruins leading 5-1) and he makes a bad mistake and they score . . .

"That’s a bit of give-and-take that everybody has to understand with our younger players. You have to hope that they’re ready for it. [We've] done it properly (in the past) . . . [Brad Marchand] started on the fourth line and worked his way up.

"David has been up and down a little bit. That’s the piece where we need to have some depth, and we’re in a transition to get there.”

Sweeney's mention of Marchand illustrates the Bruins' problem. When Marchand broke in, the Bruins were a talented Stanley Cup contender. His first full season was 2010-11, the year Boston won the Cup. The B's could afford to slowly develop him. letting him get his feet wet in low-pressure situations before asking more of him.

That's not the case today. The Bruins no longer have that kind of quality roster depth, and won't anytime soon unless a lot of these prospects come through. That means young players like Pastrnak are forced into bigger roles they might not be ready for.

And that strikes right at the heart of Boston’s development missteps from last season.  

Some of it was organizational. It seemed pretty clear by the end of the season that Zach Trotman, Joe Morrow and Brett Connolly aren’t going to develop into core players in Boston. That's just the way it is in a results-oriented business like the NHL. It doesn’t necessarily reflect poorly on the coaching staff’s work, as great coaching can’t magically turn a borderline NHL player into something he’s not.

But while the coaches handled Pastrnak well, they failed at times with Frank Vatrano and Colin Miller. Both showed flashes of NHL ability throughout the season, but spoke of losing their confidence based on their erratic usage patterns. The two of them needed stints in the American Hockey League to get their respective grooves back.

In particular, the electric Vatrano should have been back up with the B's weeks sooner than he was. The Bruins were struggling to score goals and he was rifling them home at a goal-per-game pace in Providence. As soon as he returned to Boston, he posted four points in his five games.

With Julien returning and the Bruins intent on introducing more young talent to the lineup, the transition into the NHL needs to be streamlined.

Given how much of a priority it is for Sweeney, there's no reason to think the process won't be improved.

The hope is that the next crop of B’s prospects will yield results. First-round picks from other organizations, like Morrow and Connolly, mostly fizzled last season, but Boston’s own crop of young players -- Heinen, Brandon Carlo, Austin Czarnik, Noel Acciari -- should augment the contributions of newcomers like Vatrano and Miller. And while most of last year's first-round selections (Jakub Zboril, Jake DeBrusk and Zachary Senyshyn) are probably still more than a year away, the feeling is there'll be a promising return from that batch of draftees. In addition, the Bruins have another two first-round picks this year.

Upper management makes the point that the present situation began developing in the final years of Peter Chiarelli's watch. With singular exceptions like Marchand the team was unable to develop its own talent, which led to overpaying veterans to stay competitive, which led to severe salary-cap issues, which led to the decay of the franchise we've witnessed over the last two seasons. 

"I think for a period of time we stopped being in an invest mode (and instead ran) with the guys we had," said owner Jeremy Jacobs. "You pay a price in this game if you’re not constantly investing in the next generation.”

Now, however, it's time to stop the finger-pointing and begin the rebuild in earnest. To their credit, the Bruins say they're doing just that.

“I think we did take a step back this year for that very purpose,” said Jacobs. 

Investing in youth is simply the way of the salary-cap world, for the Bruins and everybody else in the NHL. It will have to mean patience and longer leashes for young players under Julien.

“The younger players that we’ve drafted and recently signed and are going to develop are a big part of [the future], as long as they’re good enough players," said Sweeney. "We expect them to be. But when . . . you put them in your lineup is important . . . 

"This ownership is very, very supportive of what we need to do. It’s just, ‘Get it done.’ So that’s why the chair is warm [for everybody].”

While Julien clearly did play a role in the emergence of Marchand, David Krejci and Milan Lucic as NHL stars, developing young players has never been one of his coaching strengths. He certainly bears some responsibility for elite young talents like Phil Kessel, Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton not lasting in Boston. The warmth of his chair will depend largely on the development of the new crop of youngsters. That will be doubly so if Providence Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy ends up getting a job as an assistant in Boston next season, and gets a chance to work with the young players he’s helped develop at the AHL level.

The bottom line is this for the Bruins: They need the best draft-and-development season they’ve had in quite a while if things are going to significantly change for the better on Causeway Street.