Ference feeling good about new season

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Ference feeling good about new season

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins InsiderFollow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON -- Andrew Ference has always bristled at the notion he was injury prone, or perhaps too small to consistently withstand the NHL pounding a defenseman must endurewithout sustaining bodily injuries.It was tough to argue he wasn't exactly that while missing an average of 30 games each season during his first three full years with the Bruins. But then last year's Stanley Cup season happened, and Ference maintained his health and wellness for the majority of a bruising campaign.

The 32-year-old Ference enjoyed his first largely healthy season with the Bruins while playing 70 games along with a full playoff effort of 25 contests, and posted 15 points along witha plus-22 while avoiding all of the lower bodyissues that have plagued him through the years. His year-long presence was unmistakable along the Boston back line, and the leadership within the dressing room during the postseason simply couldn't be ignored.

Its no coincidence that good health and beneficial fortune for Ference coincided with his hockey clubfinally capturing the Stanley Cup. Even better, the defenseman enjoyed a healthy summer of workouts getting ready for the new season and a chance to repeat as Stanley Cup champs.

Ference joked that he probably felt a lot better when he was 18 years old, but is as good as ever physically given all of the knee,groinleg issues hes battled throughwith since landing in Boston midway through the 2006-07 season.

You saw a long list the last couple of years of ourguys having surgeries in the summer and spending all of those weeks simply rehabbing the injuries. Those are difficult off-seasons that eat up your entire summer, said Ference. To not have that to deal with this summer, you feel a lot better about things. "I wasnt limping around the whole summer. That was great."Groin problems and sports hernia issues really hampered Ference through each of the prior two playoff runs for Boston, and became a public sticking point when the veteran blueliner had inked a three-year contract extension before last year. But the Bs defenseman proved the critics wrong en route to enjoying his best season in Black and Gold, and provided the kind of embracing, thoughtful leadership that the rest of the team gladlyfall in behind.

Ference is ready to provide that steady hand along the blueline again as the team goes about the difficult chore of attempting to capture another Cup, and he along with the rest of his teammates knows it wont be easy. Staying healthy, focused and successful within the brutal NHL landscape is the ultimate challenge that the Bs are gearing up for.Ference knows that all too well.The biggest challenge is, of course, the mental challenge to stay sharp, to remember what it took to get there and know how hard the battle was, said Ference. We have an honest and open group and were fairly level-headed about knowing what it took for a team like us to win it in the first place. Were not a very flashy group. Nobody is kidding themselves into thinking that and with so many guys returning we have a pretty easy time talking about that.

With Ference taking a healthy, prominent role again this upcoming season, the Stanley Cup champion B's are already ahead of the game.

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

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Hindsight is always 20/20, of course, but it appears the Bruins made a mistake buying out veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg from the final couple of years of his contract. 

Seidenberg just finished up a wildly successful stint with host Team Germany at the IIHF World Championships, where he was named Directorate Best Defenseman (the tournament’s best defenseman) after leading all D-men with a goal and eight points. This came after Seidenberg, at age 35, posted 5 goals and 22 points in 73 games for the Islanders, with whom he signed after being cut loose by the B's, while averaging a shade under 20 minutes per game.  Seidenberg also had an excellent World Cup of Hockey tournament for Team Europe last summer (where he was teamed once again with Zdeno Chara), thus managing to play at a high level from September all the way through May.

A faction of Bruins fans thought he was on the serious decline after the 2015-16 season and, clearly, the Bruins agreed, opting to buy him out with two more years still left on a sizable contract extension. (They owe him $2.16 million next season and then will be charged $1.16 million on their salary cap over the next two seasons.) But the B's could have used a durable, defensive warrior like Seidenberg in the playoffs, when they lost three of their top four defensemen against the Ottawa Senators. A rejuvenated Seidenberg, able to play both the left and right side, would have been a better option than Colin Miller.

The Bruins made a conscious decision to hand things over to younger defensemen like Miller, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo and Joe Morrow in cutting ties with Seidenberg. But they also perhaps miscalculated how much Seidenberg still had left in the tank after his best season in at least three years. 

“Well, at the time we felt like [Seidenberg's] game had really dropped off to where we thought he couldn’t contribute, and we wanted to see if some younger players could come in and help us out,” Bruins president Cam Neely said at the end-of-the-season press conference earlier this month. “I’ve got to say he played well this year for Long Island. But at the time we thought it was the right move. You can’t envision us having three of our top four D’s get hurt [in the playoffs]. We went through a lot of D’s in the postseason. You can’t predict that.”

Neely is referring to the decision made after Seidenberg’s second straight minus season in Boston, when back injuries and a major knee injury had seemed to slow him down a bit. It seemed the only way to properly evaluate some of their other, younger defenseman was to cut Seidenberg loose, but one has to wonder if the Bruins would have possibly done it had they known he was still capable of playing like he did this season for the Islanders. 

Either way, the buyout of Seidenberg is an extremely legitimate second guess of Bruins management in a year where they did a lot of things right. 
 

Monday, May 22: Senators all out of playoff magic?

Monday, May 22: Senators all out of playoff magic?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while feeling like we’ll be getting a Pittsburgh/Nashville Stanley Cup Final, which I suppose would be the best possible outcome at this point.

*You hear the name and it just gets you angry all over again if you grew up watching the Bruins. Ulf Samuelsson is in the running for an assistant coaching job with the Chicago Blackhawks, according to a report.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Chris Johnston says it appears that the time is running out on a Cinderella season for the Ottawa Senators.

*A taste of winning at the world championships with Team Sweden could fuel Alex Edler’s desire for a change from the rebuilding Vancouver Canucks.

*Interesting piece on a former can’t miss goaltending prospect with the Nashville Predators that ended up totally missing, and what he’s been up to in life since then.

*Guy Boucher explains to Pro Hockey Talk why he kept changing goaltenders in the Game 5 blowout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

*Don Cherry explains that he hates afternoon hockey during his Coach’s Corner from Hockey Night in Canada in the Game 5 blowout between the Penguins and Predators.

*A good piece from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Alex Prewitt on the Nashville Predators, and the evolution of the franchise into a team on the verge of a Stanley Cup Final appearance.

*For something completely different: What a win by the Boston Celtics in Game 3 in Cleveland, and quite an interesting, fired up interview with Al Horford afterward.