Hamilton ready for 'cool' showdown with hometown Leafs

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Hamilton ready for 'cool' showdown with hometown Leafs

TORONTO Tonights game is the pinnacle of 19-year-old Dougie Hamiltons dreams growing up in Ontario.

He was a huge Maple Leafs fan as a kid growing up in Toronto and always watched Hockey Night in Canada.

So playing before a national audience on the Canadian institution was certainly a thing of daydreams while growing up, and the realization of one of a number of lifelong dreams for the former first round pick. Hamilton indicated it was almost cooler playing against the Leafs as a visiting team at the Air Canada Centre, and there will certainly be a few memorable moments with friends and family in the stands. If it can be anything like Tyler Seguins hat trick last season in a 7-0 drubbing of the Leafs in their own barn, then even so much better.

One thing Hamilton wont have on this mind?

The Phil Kessel deal that helped bring Dougie to Boston as one of three draft picks netted for the Toronto scorer along with Tyler Seguin (2010 first round) and Jared Knight (2010 second round). Since the trade went down years before Hamilton ever donned the Black and Gold, it has little meaning to him.

That might be a different story tonight if Hamilton and Seguin along with former Maple Leafs property Tuukka Rask dealt to Boston in the one-sided Andrew Raycroft trade both dominate against Toronto in the Northeast Division showdown.

Its definitely going to be pretty cool, said Hamilton, who said his friends and family are getting their own tickets because that makes it easy on me. The Kessel deal doesnt really mean anything to me because I wasnt really part of the trade. I was just a pick, I guess. I dont really think or care about that.

Theres just excitement. I grew up watching Leafs games in that rink, and dreamt of playing for that team and playing in the NHL. I guess I always dreamt of playing for the Leafs, but as Ive gotten older Ive realized how cool it will be to play against them.

Hamilton was typically aw shucks when asked about his remarkable experience thus far with the Black and Gold while averaging just under 19 minutes of ice time in seven games. The 6-foot-5 teenager has four assists and a minus-2 rating in those seven games, and has come even better than advertised. Hamilton can move the puck with ease out of his own zone, find shooting lanes to the net that create big, fat rebounds for his teammates and has uncanny poise for a player just two weeks into his NHL career.

Ive had good opportunities so far and its an ideal situation with a lot of good defensemen to look up to, said Hamilton. Its a lot different than junior, but I think Im getting used to the personnel and the style of play.

While the first time playing against a team they idolized as a boy can be a heady experience for some players, its expected that Hamilton will handle it with the same amount of uncommon calm that hes shown at every turn.

Perhaps a couple of points and crisp playmaking passes for good measure against the Leafs wouldnt be a shock either.

Bruins don't poll well in latest New England Sports survey

Bruins don't poll well in latest New England Sports survey

It’s no secret Bruins fans are getting fed up with a hockey team in decline, one that’s missed the playoffs each of the last two years. Now there are numbers to prove it.

Channel Media and Market Research, Inc. came out with its annual New England Sports survey,  tabulating responses from over 14,600 polled, and, according to the numbers, the Bruins are dropping in popularity, fan support and faith in the current management group.

The B’s are holding somewhat steady with 16 percent of voters listing them as their “favorite sports team” behind the Patriots (46 percent) and Red Sox (29 percent) while ahead of the Celtics and Revolution. Claude Julien also ranked ahead of John Farrell among the big four teams in the “coaches/manages most admired” category.

But after sitting at a relative high of ranking at 27 percent for “ownership performance” in 2014 -- they year after their trip to the Cup Finals against the Blackhawks -- the Bruins now rank dead last in that category at 2 percent, behind the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and even the Revolution. Ouch, babe.

Also sitting at a lowly 2 percent is Bruins president Cam Neely in the “leadership performance” category. In "management performance," Neely has dropped from a solid 49 percent in 2014 to just 16 percent in this summer’s survey.

So B’s fans are clearly upset with a team that traded away Tyler Seguin, Johnny Boychuk, Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton, and has featured a decimated defense corps for each of the last two seasons. But do the B’s fans think that things are getting any better with prospects coming down the pipeline?

Not really.

In the “which team has done the best job making its product better.” category, the Patriots (35 percent) and Red Sox (31 percent) were resting at the top, with the Celtics (27 percent) a respectable third. The Bruins limped in at just 4 percent with a fan base that very clearly sees that, on paper, this upcoming season’s club doesn’t appear to be much better than last year's.

On top of that, only 13 percent of those surveyed believe the Bruins have gotten better over the last year, and 52 percent believe they’ve just gotten worse. A lowly 3 percent of those surveyed think the Bruins have the best chance of the five teams to bring a world championship back to Boston; the Patriots (79 percent), Red Sox (11 percent) and Celtics (5 percent) all ranked higher.

Finally, Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask and Jimmy Hayes were at the top of the list of the Boston athletes “who did not meet expectations” last season. None of that is a surprise, given the state of Boston’s defense along with Hayes’ subpar season.

The good news for the Bruins: They still have a passionate fan base. But they need to start reversing course immediately before they do lasting damage to the B’s brand.

Wednesday, August 24: B's dealing with post-Vesey aftermath

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Wednesday, August 24: B's dealing with post-Vesey aftermath

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading with the Olympics coming to a close . . .
 
-- FOH (Friend of Haggs) Kirk Luedeke sorts through the aftermath for the Bruins after losing out on Jimmy Vesey

-- Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland gave an interview where he said the Red Wings aren’t Stanley Cup contenders this season. 

-- Related to Holland’s comments, some of the media in Detroit aren’t taking the dose of reality all that well

-- It’s a big season for New Jersey Devils forward Kyle Palmieri, who will be starring for Team USA on the World Cup team. 

 -- PHT writer Cam Tucker says the Buffalo Sabres still have a strong group of forwards even without Jimmy Vesey.

-- Jamie Benn is giving everything to his Dallas Stars team, and that means that the World Cup of Hockey is taking a backseat
 
-- The Colorado Avalanche are nearing the end of their head coaching search as they look for their replacement for Patrick Roy.
 
-- For something completely different: NBC is making the argument that millenials watched the Olympics, but just not on the traditional formats