Boston, Vancouver have very different views on toughness

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Boston, Vancouver have very different views on toughness

Its pretty clear at this point that the hockey markets of Boston and Vancouver despise each other. Its getting to the same levels of hatred that the Celtics and Lakers had for each other in the 1980s, and that the Yankees and Red Sox have harbored for each other since Babe Ruth was more than a candy bar.

A full four days after the Stanley Cup Finals rematch went down on the Garden ice, the arrows are still being winged from both camps about who started what.

It has played out more like a messy Hollywood divorce than a hockey rivalry.

The verbal joust on "Sticks and Stones" between Shawn Thornton and Vancouver Province columnist Tony Gallagher is the perfect example of the differing mentalities employed by the two hockey havens. There couldnt be two more alternate views of the honest way to approach the game of hockey.

After last week, its clear that the Canucks believe in playing things out through the media and league offices rather than battling it out on the ice.

Dale Weise all 6-foot-2, 210-pounds of him proved the perfect embodiment of this mindset. After backing out of a fight with the 6-foot-2, 217-pound Thornton, Weise looked like a less-than-honorable figure after hed given all the telltale signs he was ready for a round of fisticuffs. Never mind that Weise has engaged in six NHL fights this season versus Thorntons 10, and that it appeared both players were properly matched up in the same weight class. Weise became the picture of exactly what the Boston hockey fan abhors most: cowardice and lack of accountability.

The Bruins, on the other hand, have been defined by their long history of the "Big Bad Bs." It's telling that Boston fans never truly embraced the laid-back persona of a bona fide superstar like Joe Thornton. Instead they worship at the alter of physical players that push the edge like Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic. As long as Cam Neely is the organizations president, their style isnt likely to change.

The city of Boston wouldnt have it any other way.

In Vancouver, they seem to favor other qualities over toughness. Apparently, their philosophy seems to center around backing away from conflicts. In terms of fight or flight instincts, the Canucks usually choose "flight" without the bat of an eyelash.

Gallagher openly wondered why the Canucks are so hated when they don't act like bullies.

"Here's what I don't understand. I don't understand how a team can be so hated I understand they have a couple of vexing guys like Alex Burrows and Maxim Lapierre. They're agitators and just about every team has a couple of them. But they have no toughness. Normally, teams that are hated have a horde of tough guys that just maraud and punch other teams into oblivion. How can you be hated when you have no toughness?"

Perhaps in some NHL quarters (ahem, Montreal) there are heads nodding in unison as Gallagher launched into the woe is Vancouver soliloquy.

But in most corners of the hockey world toughness is worn like a proud badge.

Players are "honest" when they respect their opponents, answer the bell when its expected. Most refuse to feign injury just because it will net their team a delayed penalty call.

Sometimes honest players and teams stumble -- as Marchand did when he clearly sought out a cheap shot on Sami Salo last weekend. But he's paying the price with a five-game suspension.

The Canucks are also paying the price for the cost of doing business their way: they're hated.

Nobody will ever respect a team that uses cunning and blinding arrogance to light their path toward Presidents Trophies. Some might have said after watching Game One of last years Stanley Cup Finals that the Canucks were unfit to raise the Cup after Burrows bit Patrice Bergeron, and the hockey gods seemed to agree as the Bruins celebrated on Vancouver ice last spring.

The Bruins are the bear with overpowering strength and quick-trigger temper that sometimes gets them in trouble. The Canucks are the weasel, constantly avoiding accountability with mealy-mouthed excuses and dirty tricks.

The difference between the two teams is more than punching or marauding. Its about how nearly everyone in the Vancouver organization carries themselves.

Maybe someday people like Gallagher will get why the Canucks are such a reviled organization, but somehow I doubt it.

Haggerty: No move may be the best move for Bruins at deadline

Haggerty: No move may be the best move for Bruins at deadline

The NHL trade deadline is now less than a week away, with plenty of movement expected despite the perpetual lack of sellers, and an expansion draft perhaps preventing some teams from taking on players they will then need to protect. 

The Bruins shouldn’t be much of a seller as long as they can continue their current good stretch for three more games before the March 1 deadline. The expansion draft shouldn’t be much of a scare either based on the players {Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller, Malcolm Subban) they might be in danger of losing to the Vegas Golden Knights this summer.

With the Bruins currently outside of a playoff spot by virtue of the one game in hand held by the Florida Panthers (both teams have 66 points vying for the final wild-card spot), it would be no surprise if GM Don Sweeney wanted to be a buyer at the deadline for a Boston roster that could use a big top-six winger with finishing ability, a top-four defenseman that can move the puck and a backup goaltender should Anton Khudobin have any more struggles this season.

The Bruins and Avalanche had been talking steadily in recent weeks about a possible deal for 24-year-old left wing Gabriel Landeskog, but those discussions have hit a standstill with Sweeney refusing to part with either Brandon Carlo or Charlie McAvoy in the trade package. That's the 100 percent right move for a Bruins team that shouldn't start trading away blue chip D-man prospects. 

Landeskog has made sense for the Black and Gold because he’s signed long term with a reasonable $5.7 million cap hit, and because he’d theoretically be a good, power forward fit alongside David Krejci.

It’s that type of trade Sweeney and the Bruins are looking to make for a young player with term that will be part of the long-term solution in Boston. They aren’t looking for a repeat of last season where they shipped off good future assets in exchange for pedestrian rental players Lee Stempniak and John-Michael Liles and missed the playoffs anyway after dipping into the trade market.

In other words, Sweeney doesn’t sound all that keen in dipping heavily into the rental market, for a Patrick Eaves or a Dmitry Kulikov for instance, as he did a year ago.  

“Do I think we have an opportunity to make the playoffs? Absolutely, there’s no question this group has a chance to get in. Whether or not I can find a player between now and the deadline that sort of fills all those gaps, that does remain to be seen,” said Sweeney at the time of the Claude Julien firing, prior to the current four-game winning streak. 

“But I think it dovetails with the fact that I’m not going to be short-sighted. I’m going to stick to the longer term view as to what I have put in place with the intention of being able to bridge and bringing in players like David Backes and surround our guys that we get a chance to win now and be competitive now.

“I’d prefer to err on the side of a player that will integrate into us on the longer-term. Last year, we gave up draft picks. I wasn’t prepared to move players that I felt in the same regard that teams had asked for in order to get a higher-level rental or a different kind of rental. I’m not going to deviate from what I said. Are there players and we have a surplus? That’s what I want to try and evaluate and find out whether or not we can deal from a position of strength.”

Some of that may change after a current four-game winning streak with a Bruins team that looks much more playoff-worthy than the aimless group that struggled through the first 55 games. But it would have to be the perfect rental at the right price for it to make sense for the Bruins this time around and chances are that might not materialize for a team just looking to hang in there until McAvoy, Anders Bjork, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson and Zach Senyshyn are ready to contribute a couple of years down the road.

So, would people be okay if Sweeney and the Bruins stand pat at the trade deadline if they can’t swing a big hockey deal for a young player like Landeskog who would be part of the long-term plan? Is it acceptable to just let it ride with the current group that has suddenly shown a different gear under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy, and bet on the core group rising to the occasion like they didn’t the last couple of years under Julien?

The answer from this humble hockey writer is that Sweeney should pass on anything less than a home run deal for the Black and Gold. The worst thing the Bruins GM could do is get in the way of the momentum that’s naturally starting to roll with his team, or make another severe misstep with his NHL talent evaluation. Right now, draft and development seem to be his strengths, and he should lean into those and away from being a wheeler dealer with wiser, more experienced managers around the NHL looking to once again rob the Black and Gold blind.

So, there’s a chance the Bruins do very little at the deadline and, after thinking about it, the fickle fans should be perfectly okay with that as they watch a newly transformed hockey club. 

Wednesday, Feb. 22: Talking Bruins with Ray Ferraro

Wednesday, Feb. 22: Talking Bruins with Ray Ferraro

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while getting ready for the February heat wave headed our way.

*In the interest of self-promotion, here’s a podcast I did on Tuesday talking Bruins with former Hartford Whalers great and current outstanding TSN hockey analyst Ray Ferraro, who is also a great FOH (Friend of Haggs).

*Good piece on a Hockey Night in Canada broadcaster that has already gained plenty of internet plaudits for his great, and now legendary, Nick Bonino goal call in last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

*It’s never too early to look at this summer’s crop of NHL draft-eligible players. Right, Kevin Allen?

*Apparently Toronto Maple Leafs rookie Auston Matthews has his own rap song, so he’s got that going for him…which is nice.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) and PHT writer Jason Brough has James Wisniewski trying to revive his NHL career after a short stint in the KHL.

*There’s a call for Nashville backup Juuse Saros to get more playing time between the pipes for the Predators.

*Larry Brooks brings his always interesting take to the Bruins situation in allowing Claude Julien to take the head gig in Montreal, and said it all came down to money. Big surprise there. I think there was also a concern from the B’s about having another PR nightmare on their hands if it was perceived that they stepped in and didn’t allow Julien to gain employment someplace else, regardless of what waited for him in the offseason. It also tells me that the Bruins aren’t afraid of Julien coaching their arch-rivals, which makes perfect sense since they just fired him.

*For something completely different: the image of Woody Harrelson in the Falcon cockpit is both jarring and super awesome.