Bruins know how Red Sox feel post-collapse

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Bruins know how Red Sox feel post-collapse

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON -- Andrew Ference had a pretty simple message for any Red Sox player he might bump into at Whole Foods or see at a charity event.

It wont be maudlin sympathy or a contrived new-age message of redemption after the Sox suffered the worst regular-season collapse in baseball history. It will be the hockey solution to starting the healing process.

Id ask them if they want to go get a beer," said Ference, who was a part one of the worst collapses in NHL playoff history when the Bruins lost to the Flyers after leading the 2010 Eastern Conference Semifinals, three games to none. That's about it. I dont think there was a single guy around here after Flyers loss that was looking for a shoulder to cry on or looking for sympathy. We were mad with each other.

It almost seemed surreal to those Bruins players watching it unfold Wednesday night in real time, just as it did to a nation of Red Sox fans that are still slack-jawed and a little stunned Thursday. The Evan Longoria home run added another chapter of Red Sox misery that had been remarkably absent since the 2004 World Series title.

I watch about three hours of baseball and that was it for me last night," Ference said. "It was nuts. It was almost like it was scripted for it to be as hurtful as possible. It sucks. Its not fun. Its a bad feeling to go through as a player. Youre not trying to tank. Its almost like you try too hard to turn things around and it just gets worse.

You only go through the media gauntlet if youre reading the papers and listening to what people say outside the room. I dont think as bad it was that guys cared too much what was said on the outside. We were harsh enough on the inside of the room with ourselves. From our GM to the coach and the players, we were extremely hard on each other. I dont know if the situation is the same with the Red Sox or not, but I know we were all glad the next year that we didnt blow it all up because we believed in each other.

Tim Thomas is a pretty big baseball fan and watched a few innings, but ultimately lost the remote-control battle with his kids on Wednesday night.

The Bs goaltender saw that the Red Sox were leading and the Yankees were losing big before moving on to other things in the Thomas household. He wasnt filled in until Thursday morning at the Garden about the gory details of the Red Sox demise: Jonathan Papelbons blown save and Carl Crawfords limp attempt to snag a fly ball in left field closing the pathetic final chapter for this seasons star-crossed Sox squad.

Thomas wasnt the goaltender of record when the Bruins fell to the Flyers in four straight playoff games, but he has little doubt the Sox 7-20 record in September can help them in the long run if its addressed and harnessed properly.

I dont think they need any advice," Thomas said. "I think it will simmer in those guys all winter and it will help them with motivation for next year. Thats what I think happened with us. With the way it worked out in the Eastern Conference finals against Tampa Bay, being able to come back like that, I hate to say it but it seems like it was meant to be.

Thats why sports are sports. You dont know what the outcome is going to be in situations like that.

The funny thing about the Bs collapse two years ago is that it really raised the stakes and the fan attention for the Boston hockey franchise. It seems that the more dramatic and compelling the failure, the more emotionally tied the fan base becomes in the ensuing season. For the Bruins, the pain and heartache of becoming the butt of jokes in their entire league steeled them against all coming adversity that entire year.

Coach Claude Julien believes the proud franchise of the Red Sox will bounce back.

Sports is what it is," Julien said. "One day its great and the next day its something like that. We can all stand here and speculate and have our reasons or answers. But only they know what the cause of it is. I know they had injuries and that can sometimes break team chemistry. There are a lot of reasons why those kinds of things can happen. But as outsiders, the natural thing to do is always attack the team.

Its tough. Weve been through it. Its tough to swallow and Im sure those guys arent going to be happy and proud today. But theyre going to bounce back. Theyre a very proud organization and Im sure theyre going to bounce back.

The best way to get the proud Sox franchise headed in the right direction: Save the excuses and lame attempts to explain away something that uncovered serious flaws within the team structure.

Its a matter of getting over it," said Ference. You suck it up and take responsibility for it. I think you only get into trouble if you start pointing fingers and looking for excuses. But if you take accountability and responsibly for not getting the job done, then you can move on from it.

The suck it up season started for the Sox Thursday morning.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

NHL shouldn't overthink offsides challenges any longer; they should just get rid of them

NHL shouldn't overthink offsides challenges any longer; they should just get rid of them

When the hockey world grew tired of shootouts, the league took something of a half measure. Rather than eliminate the shootout, the league moved overtime from 4-on-4 to 3-on-3. It worked; games that were tied at the end of regulation were more likely to end in the five-minute OT period than before, thus reducing the frequency of shootouts. 

Now, the NHL is dealing with its latest cumbersome gameplay issue: the offsides challenge. A half-measure isn’t as desirable in this case. No more half measures, Walter. 

The offsides challenge was introduced with good intentions, but it’s simply too easy to abuse. And really, when the option is there with only a timeout at risk, why wouldn’t a coach roll the dice that maybe a guy was offsides entering the zone 29 seconds before the goal was scored? 

The option needs to be taken away. Rely on blueline cameras and automatically look at anything close on a goal that’s scored off the rush. It would take two seconds and would save the refs from another Matt Duchene incident while saving the viewer a lot of time. Let anything else go the way of the dry scrape. 

There’s the temptation to instead tweak -- maybe make offsides challengeable if the entry in question occurs within however many seconds -- but that would just mean more time would be wasted seeing if a play was even challengeable. 

It was proposed at the GM meetings in Chicago that if a coach loses an offsides challenge, his team will be assessed a two-minute penalty. That sounds great as a deterrent, but it won’t stop instances of the needless why-the-hell-not challenge. Late in games, coaches might be just as likely to take their chances in a tie game or a one-goal game. That goal allowed could likely be the deciding tally, so if they’re likely to lose anyway, some coaches might still go for the time-wasting Hail Mary. 

And of course, the loser there is the person hoping to catch their train out of North Station in time, or the person who might doze off during the stupid challenge, wake up four hours later on their couch and develop back issues over time. That was a friend, not me. 

Colin Campbell said at the GM meetings in Chicago ahead of the draft that the league is trying to "temper" the negative reaction the offside challenge has received from players and fans. 

There’s really only way to do that, and that’s to get rid of it.

See you in a year when we’re going through the same thing with goalie interference. 

Haggerty: Bruins need more than draft-weekend output if they want improvement

Haggerty: Bruins need more than draft-weekend output if they want improvement

CHICAGO – With the 2017 NHL Draft officially wrapped up and the proverbial eve of NHL free agency upon us, there wasn’t anything to get particularly alarmed or excited about when it comes to the Bruins actions over the last few days.

The Bruins lost a potential-filled defenseman that might never actually realize any of it in Colin Miller, and they followed up the expansion draft subtraction with an average draft class where they addressed defense, goaltending and their depth up front. But at the same time, it didn’t really feel like the Bruins got anybody in the draft that they were particularly bowled over by, and the B’s lost a potential trade chip once they’d used their 18th overall pick in the first round to select smooth-skating defenseman Urho Vaakenainen.

MORE: NHL shouldn't overthink offsides challenges any longer; they should just get rid of them

The sense at this address, though not confirmed by anybody inside either organization, is that the Bruins weren’t willing to trade a first-round pick as part of a package for Wild defenseman Marco Scandella, and would have preferred Jonas Brodin if they were going to give up that kind of asset. Don Sweeney confirmed that Boston’s first-round pick was in play, but stressed it was for “target specific” players that the Bruins coveted.

A deal was never worked out for one of those “target specific” players, so the Bruins continue to move on and hope that something breaks over the next few weeks.

“I was on record saying we’d be offering our first-round pick for target-specific players, and we did do that,” said Sweeney. “I don’t blame teams for not necessarily wanting to do it, so we went ahead with our own pick. I was target specific on a few players and there were other considerations being discussed.

“It’s an area we’d like to address and help our team currently. I’m not going to stop exploring areas where we can improve our club. It’s hard to tell [which way trade talks will go]. Maybe people will feel that picks from next year’s draft will be even better, or they like that pool of prospects a little bit better. It’s hard to tell [where trade discussions will go], to be perfectly honest.”

At least the Bruins were right on time with picking a Finnish player in the first round as a record six players from Finland were nabbed in the first round of the draft, and one would hope that means all will benefit from the hockey talent streaming out of that Scandinavian country right now. It will take years to determine how Vaakenainen, Jack Studnicka, Jeremy Swayman and the other members of the 2017 draft class ultimately pan out, but it sure doesn’t feel like the same outpouring of talent as in 2015 when Brandon Carlo, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Jake DeBrusk and the rest of the Bruins draft picks officially entered the Black and Gold system.

B’s assistant GM Scott Bradley admitted as much when discussing the entire draft class on Saturday afternoon at the United Center, home of the Chicago Blackhawks. The Bruins got good value, addressed organizational needs and felt good about the players they picked in each and every spot, but there isn’t going to be a Charlie McAvoy or David Pastrnak coming out of a really “meh” group of draft-eligible hockey players.

“Our first rounder is somebody we’re excited about. His skating is close to what we call a ‘5’ in our system. He’s a left-shot. You compare his skating to [Paul] Coffey at times, really mobile and transition defenseman,” said Bradley, who hadn’t run a draft board for the Bruins in roughly ten years while Wayne Smith and Keith Gretzky had been in charge of the Black and Gold’s scouting operations. “I think we addressed a lot of our needs. It wasn’t sexy, but I think we did well in addressing a lot of the organization’s needs.”  

So with the amateur draft and the expansion draft both in the rearview mirror, the Bruins must move on in the roster-building process while still facing a pair of big needs in top-6 left wing and top-4 left side defenseman. They may be able to nail down one of those needs by swinging a trade with their list of available assets including Ryan Spooner, Jimmy Hayes, Jakub Zboril, Adam McQuaid and next year’s first-round pick.

A deal that would send a Spooner-led package elsewhere might be enough to land the big, skilled, young winger that the Bruins are currently in the market for, and provide top-6 insurance in case DeBrusk, Danton Heinen or Anders Bjork all aren’t quite ready for full-time duty skating, passing and finishing off plays with David Krejci.

It might be that the Bruins have to begin thinking about free agency as a viable place if they want to land a solid, top-4 D-man for the next handful of years to pair with Charlie McAvoy. Karl Alzner headlines a list of players that would be a good fit for the Black and Gold, but they would absolutely have to overpay for a 28-year-old UFA that’s averaged 20:13 of ice time per game over the course of his 591 career games with the Washington Capitals. More affordable would be a young, free agent defenseman like Dmitry Kulikov, who is still extremely young as he comes off a rough year with the Buffalo Sabres after getting traded there from Florida. Or other potentially available left-shot free agent defenseman like Brendan Smith or Ron Hainsey could be stop-gap answers for the Bruins until the next crop of D-men in Jakob Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon and Vaakenainen, and others, are ready to step up just like Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy did last season.

The bottom line is that the Bruins did perfectly fine over draft weekend with no true idea until a few years have passed for these teenage prospects, but they need to aim higher than “perfectly fine” with their offseason if they want to be any better at the NHL level next season. A big move or two will be needed from the Bruins front office if the B’s are going to make the jump that everybody wants to see from them over the next couple of seasons.