Boston Bruins

Hagg Bag, Summer Edition: Will the kids be all right?

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Hagg Bag, Summer Edition: Will the kids be all right?

With the Bruins in the middle of the NHL dead zone for activity and offseason transactions, there isn’t much that’s going to happen in the next couple of weeks. The draft and first waves of free agency are well into the rear view mirror, and there won’t be another wave of veteran free-agent signings for another couple weeks once camps are almost at hand. Certainly, the ongoing negotiations between the B’s and David Pastrnak is something to think about, but there’s a very real possibility that doesn’t get resolved until camp has arrived in September.

Perhaps it goes even longer than that, so there will be plenty of time to dissect the pros and cons of the negotiations while it’s happening. So, with that in mind, let’s open up the summer Hagg Bag mailbag and let things air out for a while. As always, these are real tweets to my Twitter account using the #HaggBag hash tag, emails to my account at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com and messages to my CSN Facebook page.

Without further ado, on to the bag:

B’s should've drafted DeBrincat over [Trent Frederic]. Higher ceiling but risky due to his size & speed. Pure sniper though. Chicago didn’t hesitate

--Jeff Almeida (@almeida022680)

JH: Yeah, this is one that we’ll have to see how it plays out. Frederic is coming off a very strong freshman season at the University of Wisconsin and he looked better at this summer’s World Junior Summer Showcase than he did last season. You see a little more skill and willingness to make plays with the puck, but he still looks to me like a third-line, big-bodied center that isn’t going to be a major offense producer in the NHL. He certainly is big and strong, has good leadership skills and plays with tenacity. He gets a lot of the important D-zone face-offs for Team USA late in games when it can mean the difference between a win and a loss, and there’s something to be said for that.

But the only way I want a first-round pick used is if Frederic turns into a David Backes-type player. If he’s a 12-goal, 40-point guy who plays a good, hard, two-way game, then that’s somebody you can find in the second or third round. Alex DeBrincat led all of junior hockey in points last season and was selected in the first few picks of the second round in 2016 after Frederic went at the end of the first. He may never pan out at 5-foot-7, but I like that the Blackhawks took a risk on a player with high skill who could pay off in a Johnny Gaudreau or Tyler Johnson kind of way. It’s the same philosophy of going high-risk, high-reward in taking Kailer Yamomoto in this summer’s first round rather than playing it safe with two-way defenseman Urho Vaakanainen. The Bruins have started getting conservative with their first-round picks even though they’re loaded with prospects. That’s now how I’d be running things if I were them.

Hey Joe, have there been any talks between Stafford's camp and the Bruins for a new contract?

--Matt McGuirk

JH: There’s been an open line of communication between Stafford and the Bruins, but it looks like he might be one of those players who needs to go into an camp on a tryout basis. There may be a big group of those types headed into fall and perhaps he could come back to Boston in that kind of a capacity. A veteran like that would be good insurance in case many of the young wingers aren’t ready for prime time once big- boy camp starts, but I don’t want to see a guaranteed contract for Stafford potentially blocking the way for Jake DeBrusk, Zach Senyshyn, Anders Bjork or Danton Heinen.   

What are your thoughts?

--Angry Grampa (@angrygrampa603)

JH: Remarkably few and far between.

 
Who do you think will make the jump from the ahl to nhl from providence?

-Dylan (@dylana45)

JH: I think Jake DeBrusk will get a long look in training camp and might get a chance with David Krejci if the Bruins opt for Anders Bjork on the right wing with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. If I had to guess, I don’t think Zach Senyshyn will be ready for NHL duty right off the hop this fall. I also wouldn’t rule out Danton Heinen stepping up and riding the momentum he built up over the second half of last season in Providence. He was a stud in the playoffs for the P-Bruins but he needs to be much more assertive with NHL players than he was last season. Most nights in played in Boston, you didn’t even notice him out on the ice.

what excites u most about #ThorRagnarok, #BlackPanther & #AvengersInfinityWar ?

--Thomas Deon (@tdeon26)

JH: I honestly wasn’t a big Thor fan growing up, but I have liked his standalone movies and look forward to him having a space buddy movie with Hulk. Plus, I dig that they’re introducing Hela and Valkyrie in this one too. I was sold at the trailer. I’m certain I’ll love Black Panther and Infinity War as well, but that’s the one I’m most looking forward to see until I get a better look at some of the Infinity War teasers and trailers.  

Joe, when do you think you'll have a positive comment on anything bruins?

--Bruins4life (BackusDaryl)

JH: Check back around January, and we’ll see where I’m at. BTW, I was glowingly positive about the step this Bruins team took in getting back into the playoffs along with the prospect waves that are strengthening the roster. Maybe you should read and listen a little bit more often? Or you could possibly thank me calling them like I see them when it came to the need for a coaching change last season? Those kinds of changes don’t always happen if the media are a bunch of Black and Gold pompom-waving cheerleaders, or when super-fans like you are afraid of asking the tough questions. Just a thought.

Do you think the Bruins still have an eye on adding a top four defenseman, possibly during preseason from a team close to the cap?

--Corey (@cheaward)

JH: If I were to give an educated guess, I think the Bruins will go into the regular season with what they currently have for defensemen. They’ll take a look at Kevan Miller on his left side playing with Charlie McAvoy as a pairing. Perhaps they’ll even try Torey Krug with McAvoy as well in a super-puck moving pair. I have my doubts that Krug-McAvoy could survive defensively with the right shot D-man still in his NHL infancy, but I also think he’s capable of rising to the occasion when he faces challenges with the Black and Gold.

If those combos don’t work out over the first few months of the season, then you’ll see Don Sweeney and the Bruins step up their top-four defenseman search in earnest. Or perhaps somebody like Jakub Zboril will be ready for NHL duty after spending some development time at the AHL level? I don’t think another rookie or young D-man is the answer, though, with 19-year-old McAvoy and 20-year-old Carlo already among their top-6. They need a young, veteran two-way defenseman that can keep up with McAvoy and potentially play a lot of minutes. Those guys don’t come cheap. That’s exactly why it’s an ongoing search for Sweeney and the B’s that feels like a perpetually unfulfilled thing. 

Who do you think gets cast as Adam Warlock in GotG3?

--Dan Noonan (@dnoonan222)

JH: I was out of my comic book-reading prime by the time the Infinity War came along, so I’m not super-familiar with Adam Warlock beyond his look and the fact he played a major role in that storyline. But given what I know I’d say perhaps like Brad Pitt, or maybe the actor that plays Jaime Lannister on "Game of Thrones". I’m really interested to see what role he plays in Guardians, and if that plays out into something greater in the MCU.

Joe how much do you think the Bruins are going to rely on McAvoy this year? Fans expectations are high but he is still a rookie

--Struzz15 (@struzz15)

JH: I think the Bruins are counting on McAvoy to be a top-four defenseman who can play in all situations right off the bat. I think there will be ups and downs for him in his first full pro hockey season, but getting his feet wet in the playoffs was a huge NHL orientation program for him. I think it’s still a little premature to expect great things from McAvoy and Carlo this season as they’re still developing as young players, but you can see that Boston’s back end is going to be a huge strength of this team a couple of years down the road.

As a B’s public service announcement, I think it’s best if Bruins fans back off the expectations for McAvoy a bit this season and let him gradually grow into the elite No. 1 defenseman that his skills indicate he can be.

Terrible trade. Whats 2 2nds worth? A guy like JB55 or a guy like Brett Connolly? These players are not at the same level. #assetmanagement

--Top Corner (@TopCornerShot99)

JH: Thanks for reminding me. I was just starting to forget about that one. There’s some negativity for Mr. Positive from a few questions ago.  

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Bruins have just as good a chance as the Celtics do this season (which is small)

Bruins have just as good a chance as the Celtics do this season (which is small)

Dan Shaughnessy ran a piece this week calling the Bruins the No. 4 team in town these days. He wasn’t wrong. They are. 

Of course, the claim isn’t really a discussion about the Patriots or Red Sox, as they’ll always be the two most popular teams in town. It’s about the Bruins being behind the Celtics, which again, they are. 

Yet while the general premise of the story was correct, there was an issue to be taken with the piece. Shaughnessy wrote that, “In terms of overall interest and championship hopes, [the Bruins] are a distant fourth.”

That’s where he’s wrong. Nobody would argue against the Celtics garnering more interest (even if the Bruins might have a stronger fanbase), but championship hopes? The teams are deadlocked. 

The Celtics are one of the top teams in a league in which only one team (the Warriors) has a chance. The Bruins are a middle-of-the-pack team in a league in which the literal last team in the playoffs (the No. 16 seed Predators) went to the Stanley Cup Final last season. 
 
This isn’t about which team is better, because that’s not close. The Celtics have three All-Stars in their starting five and the third overall picks from each of the last two drafts. They’ve also got one of the best coaches in the league. 

It’s also not about who will likely go farther. The Celtics will at the very least reach the Eastern Conference finals. The issue is that they’ll then either be eliminated by the Cavaliers or earn the opportunity to perhaps get swept by the Warriors in the Finals. 

That leaves the Celtics with a certainty of a very good season, but also close to an impossibility of a championship season. 

As for the Bruins, they probably won’t be much better than they were last season, if at all. This season was always the one to watch in the Sweeney era, as it will see the biggest implementation of the young players drafted. There should be at least four Sweeney draft picks on the team this year (Brandon Carlo, Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk and Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson), plus youngsters from the Chiarelli era still pushing for jobs. 

The biggest change figures to be on the back end, where the Bruins should have the best top-four they’ve had since Sweeney dealt Dougie Hamilton. A lot of that rides on McAvoy, but there remains hope on the back end in future seasons with Jeremy Lauzon and Jakub Zboril trying to eventually break in. 

Will the Bruins rule their division the way the Celtics will? Most likely not. The guess here is that Tampa and Montreal will finish ahead of teams like Boston, Ottawa and Toronto. 

Yet there isn’t a Cleveland or a Golden State waiting to swallow up whoever does emerge throughout the playoffs, and that’s what leaves the Bruins and Celtics with equal chances at a title. The Penguins have won back-to-back titles, but the Bruins have gone 4-1-1 against them in the regular season the last two years. They’re hardly the unstoppable force that exists in Golden State. 

So in terms of buzz, offseason moves and anticipation for a new season? Sure, the Celtics have it all over the B’s. I’m certainly way more excited for basketball season. When it comes to championship hopes, however, the B’s and C’s are no different. 

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