Mike from Attleboro: Jacobs still cheap

751730.jpg

Mike from Attleboro: Jacobs still cheap

When the National Hockey League owners voted unanimously Thursday to lock out the players, it made two things crystal clear:

1. Unless there's a Hail Mary -- a last-second delivery of common sense to the NHLPA and, especially, the owners -- we are not going to see NHL hockey anytime soon.

2. Despite everything that's happened in the last few years, including winning a trophy (and a big one it was), Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs hasnt changed a single bit. By calling for that vote and committing to lock the players out, J.J. confirmed that he is still concerned with one thing and one thing only: Money.

If you lived through the Jacobs years, or grew up through them like I did, you know what people thought of the old Jeremy Jacobs. He was a penny-pinching miser who entrusted his spendthrift caporegime, Harry Sinden, to spend enough to keep the Bruins competitive (and to make heaps of money), but not enough to actually build a champion. This led to 20 straight playoff appearances with nothing to show for it except the ignominy of taking Ray Bourque, arguably the second-greatest defenseman in NHL history, to arbitration.

When the Bruins had a chance to draft a potential superstar like Brian Bellows, Harry picked the already gimpy, but more affordable, Gord Kluzak. And J.J. counted his money.

When a player neared a new contract, Harry dealt him for parts. And J.J. counted his money.

When the Bruins needed to add a player to put them over the top, Harry would trade some food stamps for Brent Ashton. And J.J. counted his money.

The one time Harry did use J.J.s check book, it went straight into Kevin Stevens' crack pipe. But the turnstiles still spun and J.J. happily counted his money.

Fast forward to the last lockout, with J.J. again at the forefront. He got his salary cap; the good times -- and more importantly, the profits -- were supposed to roll. Unfortunately for J.J., reality took a hot steaming dump all over his portfolio. The lockout was not only a monumental disaster for the league, but also for Sinden and his coupon-cutting errand boy, Mike OConnell. Their let the entire team walk post-lockout strategy blew up faster than Dustin Byfuglien at a Steak & Shake. Before the ink was dry on Alexi Zhamnovs write off, the Bruins were among the dregs of the league.

Thats when the fans decided, "Enough!" They revolted. No more sellouts. No more concession stands bursting with cash. The Bruins' on-ice product was terrible and the single most loyal fan base in this town wasnt going to shell out cash for it any more.

With his team hemorrhaging season-ticket holders and ad revenue, Jeremy Jacobs was forced into a corner. He had to spend money; it was the only way he could improve the Bruins on the ice and rehabilitate his public image to return the Bs to being the cash cow they once were. Peter Chiarelli was hired as the new GM, and he immediately signed Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard for amounts that would previously have given J.J. hot flashes. They spent to the cap, and little by little the fans came back.

They came back because the owner had changed his ways. He was spending. He was eating money. (Is Dave Lewis still on the payroll?) He was empowering people like Cam Neely to build a winner at all costs, and Bruins fans were rubbing their eyes. Could this be the same guy? Had Ebenezer Jacobs been visited by the ghosts of Bruins owners past? Yup, it was the very same guy.

And the fever dream continued, as the improbable 2010-11 season ended with a championship. A man who many thought had arms too short to reach his wallet was now hoisting the Stanley Cup. This was it. With a title in hand, Jeremy Jacobs had finally changed his penny-pinching ways for good.

But as this week's vote showed, deep down inside, J.J. is still the same shriveled money grubber who, in the name of a better deal, is more than willing to lead the NHL into another potentially devastating lockout. For the love of cash, hes fine with throwing away all the goodwill he created with his fan base, and all the progress and momentum the league has generated. He was never reformed, just disguised. And dont let the recent contract signings fool you. Hes letting Chiarelli lock up Marchand and Seguin so he can chop their pay at the bargaining table.

Nope, when it comes to the fans and the good of the game, a T-Rex has a better chance of reaching his pocket than Jacobs. If Thursdays labor meetings told us anything, its that Ebenezer Jacobs is back and ready to steal Tiny Tims cane and sell it for kindling.

Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

bruins_ryan_spooner_120216.jpg

Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It certainly doesn’t feel like it will go on forever this way for the Bruins, but at this point it’s essentially a case of musical left wings on the David Krejci line as it’s been for much of this season. 

Ryan Spooner has spent the majority of the season adjusting to playing the wing with Krejci, and has been just okay trying to play away from his natural center spot while using his speed and playmaking on the wing. But the speedy Spooner also spent his share of time lately on the fourth line after getting off to a slow offensive start this season with three goals and eight points along with a minus-1 rating in 23 games. 

The bouncing between the second and fourth line has undoubtedly been frustrating for the 24-year-old getting pushed off his natural position after posting 49 points in his first full year as a third line center. But Spooner has continued to toe the company line, work on keeping his confidence high for a productive offensive season and do what he needs to in an effort to get off a fourth line.

That’s opened the door for hard-nosed former Providence College standout Tim Schaller to get some top-6 forward time on the Krejci line as well, but he’s just posted a single assist in the last three games while working hard to keep up offensively with David Krejci and David Backes. The 6-foot-2, 219-pound Schaller has the grittiness to do the dirty work for that line in the corners and in front of the net, and he can certainly skate well enough for a big, energy forward. 

“To think this was going to happen, I would say ‘no’,” said Schaller when asked if he could have predicted at the start of the season that he’d be getting a look from the B’s in a top-6 role. “I’ve been able to play with whoever and whenever my whole career. I wouldn’t want to say it’s one of those things that I had expected, but I’m always ready for it. 

“We’ve been working pretty well together. I don’t know that we’ve had too many great [offensive] opportunities to capitalize on, but Backes and Krejci are good enough players that they’ll come. They’re good enough to bury on those chances, so the goals will come. I’m always going to play the same way no matter who I’m with. Those guys might have the puck on their sticks a little longer than other linemates of mine, but that will just create more space and opportunities.”

So Spooner and Schaller bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table as the B’s coaching staff searches for the right fit alongside Krejci and Backes, and Julien sounds like a coach that’s going to keep swinging back and forth between the two players. He certainly did that with Spooner during the third period in Philly, which led to an immediate goal for Krejci in the third period comeback, and toward the end of the Carolina win with the B's desperate for offense. 

Julien also didn’t rule out Matt Beleskey getting another look there as well with the Bruins having a tough time finding anybody to consistently fill Loui Eriksson’s role from last season.

“At times I don’t think that offense has been producing much because maybe it’s lacking a little bit of speed at that time, so you put Spooner back up there. But sometimes you feel like that line isn’t winning enough battles or spending enough time in the offensive zone, so you put Schaller back in there because he’s going to play a little grittier. So we’re looking there,” said Julien. “We’d love to be able to find somebody to be a consistent player there. We’ve had Matt Beleskey there and that line never really did anything. 

“[Beleskey] has been much better on the [third] line and he’s been getting more chances, so I’ve been trying to put the best scenario together, I guess. Sometimes it’s the situation and sometimes it’s the matchup [against the other team] as well. So there are different reasons for that. I’ve just got to make it work. If it’s working with [Schaller] on that night then you stick with it, and if you don’t think you’re getting enough then you move [Spooner] there and see if you can a little spark with some speed. It doesn’t mean Beleskey won’t go back there. That’s what we have right now.”

So it’s clear Julien, and the B’s coaching staff, have simply tried to find something that will work on a consistent basis with a couple of key offensive players on Boston’s second most important forward line. The one wild card in all of this: the impending return of Frank Vatrano, who has been skating for nearly two weeks as he works toward a return from foot surgery.

Vatrano was initially penciled in as the left winger alongside Krejci to start NHL camp this fall, and the Bruins were hoping he was going to build on the eight goals he scored in Boston last season in a limited role.

Vatrano could be ready to play within the next couple of weeks, and should be back in the B’s lineup prior to the early January timetable originally offered at the time of his surgery. So perhaps the 22-year-old Vatrano can end this season-long carousel of Bruins left wingers getting paraded on and off the Krejci line, and finally give the B’s greater options at left wing. 

But the Czech playmaking center could use some stability also as he looks to find the highest level of his game in a challenging year for the Black and Gold, and do it while the Bruins find the right kind of talent to skate alongside him. 

Blidh plans to bring some energy to Bruins after call-up

Blidh plans to bring some energy to Bruins after call-up

BRIGHTON, Mass. – Anton Blidh plans on keeping things pretty straightforward on his first call-up to the NHL. 

The former sixth-round pick of the Bruins has earned his stripes at the AHL level with Providence over the last couple of seasons, and comes to Boston as a gritty, energy forward capable of stirring things up in otherwise sleepy games. There’s also a bit of offensive upside for a fourth line-type player with five goals and nine points with 22 penalty minutes and a plus-eight rating in 19 games for the P-Bruins this season. 

It remains to be seen if the Blidh call-up means that the Bruins intend to scratch a player or that somebody is questionable for Saturday afternoon’s game in Buffalo, but Patrice Bergeron did miss Friday’s practice without any real defined reason for his absence. The 21-year-old Swede said he plans to play to his strengths if he gets into the lineup for the Black and Gold, and that could mean getting under the skin of his Sabres opponents. 

“It’s my first time called up, so I’m happy,” said Blidh, who was asked what he'll bring if he gets into the lineup. “I’ll just play simple and play my own game: be hard on the puck and play with some energy. I worked hard [in Providence] and then I got some confidence. I’m not a goal-scorer, but I scored a couple of goals and got some confidence.”

Claude Julien hasn’t been able to catch up Blidh’s work since the season got started, but was pleased by the youngster’s progress in training camp, where he earned notice for his feisty, physical play on a line with Noel Acciari. 

“They said he’s playing well, so they brought him up. We’ll get to see him, hopefully tomorrow,” said Julien. “I didn’t hear a ton of fine details aside from him being a guy that was certainly playing with a lot of energy. I didn’t mind him in training camp either. He works really hard and competes hard, and we could use that.”

That would certainly be the case after watching the Bruins go through the motions for long stretches Thursday night against Carolina before essentially stealing a game that they didn’t deserve to win.