Boston Bruins

Haggerty: Bruins case for hanging onto (and paying) Ryan Spooner

Haggerty: Bruins case for hanging onto (and paying) Ryan Spooner

Don Sweeney hasn’t been part of an arbitration hearing since taking over as general manager of the Bruins a couple of years ago, but that may change at the end of this month. Ryan Spooner and the Bruins have an arbitration date set for July 26, according to a source with knowledge of the negotiations, and it looks like the 25-year-old third line center is going to get awarded something between $2.7 million and 3.5 million for next season before it’s all said and done. 

The 5-foot-10, 184-pounder has averaged 12 goals and 44 points in each of the last two full seasons for the Black and Gold, but was a healthy scratch for playoff games at the end of Boston’s first round series against the Ottawa Senators. He’s been dangled in trade talks since the season ended for the B’s, and the expectation is that Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson will be getting a crack at the third line center job at the NHL sooner rather than later. 

Who can also forget just exactly how non-committal that Sweeney was toward Spooner when asked his future with the Bruins back at the end of April?

“To be determined,” said Sweeney at the end-of-the-season press conference. “We’ll look at our roster and what our options are. [Spooner] has options as well as an RFA. We’ll have discussions with his representatives and see where there’s a fit.

“Ryan’s a talented player. He’s had a lot of success. Our power play is better when he plays as well as he’s capable of playing, and he can really be a good complement to our group.”

All of that makes it interesting to see what the Bruins are going to do in the aftermath of what could be a contentious arbitration hearing with a player in Spooner, who isn’t likely to forget any slights by the organization thrown toward his game during the process. That’s the difficulty with the arbitration process and the biggest reason why teams look to avoid it at all costs with their young restricted free agents eligible for arbitration. 

In a perfect world, the Bruins would likely take their chances with Spooner at a reasonable number for the next couple of years as a 25-year-old likely to either maintain, or improve upon his numbers from the last couple of seasons. It’s no coincidence that the B’s power play has been excellent (seventh in the NHL in each of the last two seasons) with Spooner working the half-wall on the first unit, and a salary cap figure somewhere in the $3 million range would be excellent if they can find a way to get Spooner a top-6 role. 

If all things were equal, one would almost expect the Bruins to try and move David Krejci once they’ve settled things with Spooner. There are some very interesting analytical arguments to be made that Spooner would be as good, or better, than Krejci as a second line center over the next couple of seasons as a player that’s six years younger than him. 

This past season Spooner and Krejci had close to identical production (2.19 points per 60 for Spooner vs. 2.20 for Krejci), and a perusal of the fancy stats show that Spooner appears to have elevated Krejci’s 5-vs-5 play last season in just about every category – from generating shot attempts, to suppressing opponents’ attempts, and also in terms of finding the back of opponents’ nets and keeping the puck out of the Bruins’ net – while Spooner was playing an unfamiliar, uncomfortable position as a left winger after playing his entire pro career at center. 

  TOI  GF60 (5v5)  GA60 (5v5)  GF% (5v5)  CF60 (5v5)  CA60 (5v5)  CF% (5v5) 
               
Krejci with Spooner: 325:58 2.7 2.01 57.7 61.65 49.6 55.4
               
Krejci without Spooner:  822:25 2.19 2.99 42.3 59.39 53.77 52.5

Interestingly enough, the highest paid player on the team in Krejci, at $7.25 million per season, also didn’t do much to elevate the play of those on his line. One would expect Krejci to make players on his wings better given his playmaking, his past performance as a player and a greater focus on the offensive end from the new Bruins coaching staff. Another deep dive on the fancy stats showed that Krejci’s most common wingers (David Backes and David Pastrnak) were significantly better without Krejci than with him. 

  TOI  GF60 (5v5)  GA60 (5v5)  GF% (5v5)  CF60 (5v5)  CA60 (5v5)  CF% (5v5) 
               
Backes with Krejci  524:13 2.4 2.98 44.7 62.04 49.67 55.5
               
Backes without Krecji  482:18 3.11 1.99 61 62.95 49.02 56.2

 

  TOI  GF60 (5v5)  GA60 (5v5)  GF% (5v5)  CF60 (5v5)  CA60 (5v5)  CF% (5v5) 
               
Pastrnak with Krejci    2.41 2.83 45.9 60.42 56.32 51.8 
               
Pastrnak without Krejci   3.36 2.05 62.1 71.98 46.9 60.5 

So what does all of this mean?

Well, it means the Bruins are stuck in a difficult place with an aging Krejci that’s clearly slowing down his playmaking pace despite scoring an impressive 23 goals last season. The 31-year-old Krejci has voiced zero desire to waive his no-movement clause and allow the Bruins to get out from under a weighty contract that still has years to go before it’s done. The Bruins might just be better off with Spooner, or one of their other young centers, as a No. 2 pivot behind Patrice Bergeron over the next few seasons, and there’s an argument to be made for holding onto the 25-year-old despite his five-on-five play inconsistency and the areas of his game (defense, face-offs) that are perpetual works in progress. 

Clearly Spooner's skating speed and his ability to generate offense are the kinds of traits the Bruins are looking for under Bruce Cassidy. They just need more of it during even-strength play, and they need it from him on a consistent basis. 

Don’t be surprised if Spooner more than doubles his salary in arbitration for this upcoming season, and winds up on Boston’s third line once again this season if Sweeney doesn’t get what he’s looking for with any deals involving the speedy, skilled center. 

Marchand stepping up his twitter game to hilarious effect

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Marchand stepping up his twitter game to hilarious effect

BOSTON – It was probably only a matter of time before it happened, but it looks like Boston’s favorite Little Ball of Hate is stepping up his game on social media.

Brad Marchand is known as much for his rabble-rousing and trash-talking on the ice as he is for massive offensive production while serving as Boston’s top scorer in each of the last few seasons. So Marchand has the perfect mixture of good humor and clout as a star NHL player, and that usually combines for a pretty powerful voice on Twitter.

Marchand has been noticeably more active on Twitter in recent days with a wide-ranging group of tweets, and the big winner is the hockey fan that gets a little more exposure to some classic Nose Face Killah wit. Some of the tweets have been as a Bruins team leader where he’s praising the talented young crop of B’s prospects that he’s watching during training camp:

Some have been about chirping the NHL for their decision to skip the Olympics this winter where Marchand most certainly would have been primed for a chance at a Gold Medal:

Some have been engaging with “fans” and dropping classic pop culture references from children’s books while showing the nasty edge that routinely drives opponents up a wall:

The Charlotte’s Web reference is a devastating classic from Marchand, a noted longtime fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Sometimes it’s just telling a quick story in a tweet that gives you an inside look at the kind of chirping that goes on when Marchand is on the ice:

A social media platform like Twitter was made for a personality like Marchand, and a stepped-up presence is good for him and good for hockey fans. So why all of a sudden is No. 63 tweeting with greater frequency over the last few days?

It sounds like it’s a combination of training camp boredom and a genuine interest in amplifying his voice on all manner of subjects.

“I’ve just been kind of lying around with nothing to do and I jumped on [twitter]…thought it was kind of funny,” said Marchand. “I thought I’d get a little more involved. I don’t know if I’m going to have enough time to do it every day, but it’s fun.”

As fun as it’s been for Marchand, it’s no doubt even more fun for the fans that might get a chance to interact with him even if it’s as the unwitting foil for one of his well-placed chirps. 

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Cassidy: Khudobin 'has a leg up' on backup competition in Bruins camp

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Cassidy: Khudobin 'has a leg up' on backup competition in Bruins camp

BOSTON – Fresh off a strong performance allowing just a single goal on 31 shots in his preseason debut, Tuukka Rask looked close to the top of his game and exactly where he needs to be with the regular season a couple of weeks away. Nearly as important as Rask’s state as the regular season nears, the Bruins coaching staff has been keeping a keen eye through camp on the all-important backup goaltender position as well. 

It’s important that the Bruins have a quality backup goalie in place as they hope to start Rask in just 55-60 games this season, and manage the slender puck-stopper in a way where they can get the best out of him from beginning to end. Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy indicated Anton Khudobin has the inside track on the backup job after finding his groove in the second half of last season, and it would appear he’s well on his way to retaining his job with a Malcolm Subban/Zane McIntyre tandem in Providence.

“Tuukka looks good, and looks good in practice and healthy. So that’s reassuring,” said Cassidy. “[Anton Khudobin] I thought played very well in his game. He had the one unfortunate goal, but I thought he was rock-solid the rest of the game. He’s in very good shape and he’s practiced well, so he’s got a leg up on the other [goalies] based on his experience.

“We know that going in, but he’s going to get pushed. Zane [McIntyre] was good in a game, and Malcolm let in a couple where he could have been more aggressive. But it was a first game, so right now they all look good. That’s a good problem to have if they all push each other, but to get direct to the point Anton has done nothing to lose that backup spot.”

At this point, it would likely be McIntyre rather than Subban that would challenge for the NHL backup job if Khudobin did stumble at all in training camp or early in the regular season as he did last year. There will be no backup controversy, however, if the 31-year-old plays like he did in stopping 20-of-22 shots in Tuesday night’s win vs. the Red Wings or as he did going 6-1-0 with a .922 save percentage after the All-Star break last season.  

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