Haggerty: Lucic trade rumors literally make zero sense

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Haggerty: Lucic trade rumors literally make zero sense

While its always difficult to guarantee 100-percent truth from any statement made by an NHL general manager while wheeling and dealing is going on in the summertime, theres always some worth in taking words at face value.

So what to make of an ESPNBoston.com report that both David Krejci and Milan Lucic arent being made available by the Bruins via trade talks despite Boston kicking the tires on a potential Bobby Ryan deal?

Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli has been 100-percent consistent in summer statements that hes not disbanding the current team and his desire is to keep the current nucleus of Bruins players together.

That could change if the right deal came along, of course, and this humble hockey writer isnt 100-percent convinced that weve heard the last about rumors involving Krejci.

But one player that absolutely 100-percent wont be dealt is Bs power forward Milan Lucic and with good reason.

Actually, there are many reasons given that Lucic has averaged 28 goals scored and 128 penalty minutes over the last two years.
Theres been a surprising sentiment in some corners of Boston that Lucic has been on a downward trend over the last few seasons, and perhaps the Bruins would be correct in dealing the 24-year-old hulking forward away.

There are accusations perhaps he is moving away from his games bread and butter as the leagues foremost battering ram. Some think hes moved away from the intimidating and bruising game that allowed Lucic to storm on the NHL scene five years ago as a 19-year-old rookie.

But much of that couldnt be further from the hockey truth.

While its true Lucic has struggled mightily in the playoffs over the last two seasons with only five goals and 15 points in 32 postseason games, thats no reason to give up on a player just entering his prime.

Lucic had arguably his best and most consistent season with the Bruins last year while avoiding the prolonged slumps and bouts of invisibility that have plagued his still-developing game in the past.

Lucic had the second-most registered hits (201) of his career last season and the most since his breakout second NHL season in 2008-09. Above and beyond that he scares the bejesus out of his opponents: the prototypical power forward was voted by his fellow NHL peers as the toughest player in the NHL last season.

He also ostensibly wrecked the Buffalo Sabres entire season with his own brand of nasty when he trucked goalie Ryan Miller during a game in November. Lucic is perhaps the biggest factor in the Northeast Division muscling up program thats taking place this offseason in Buffalo and Montreal.

So Bostons opponents are specifically game-planning against a player thats lost his hockey bloodlust overt he last two years?

Not likely.

Lucic also had nine fights last year with assorted NHL tough customers like Brandon Prust and Matt Carkner on top of the customary crushing body checks in the corner. His demolition job on Prust in front of both benches at Madison Square Garden was perhaps the perfect Exhibit A of what Lucic consistently brings to the table as expectations seem to be rising to ridiculous proportions for No. 17.
That physicality literally changes games and alters the way defenseman tiptoe into the corner to retrieve pucks with the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Lucic bearing down on them.

But its not just anecdotal when it comes to Lucic.

Through the 2011-12 NHL season only Lucic, Scott Hartnell, Wayne Simmonds, Corey Perry, and David Clarkson both scored more than 25 goals and racked up more than 100 penalty minutes in the ultimate show of snarling might and offensive magic.

Lucic, Hartnell and Perry are the only players to reach that rarified level over each of the last two seasons, and consistently bring that rare powerskill combination to the fore.

If that doesnt illustrate the rare skill set Lucic brings to the table then its likely that nothing ever will.

Especially for those that are so hung up on some lackluster playoff games over the last two years that theyre ready to discard a dominant player the other 29 NHL teams would literally salivate over if placed on the trade market.

Morning Skate: Another setback for Flyers top pick Nolan Patrick

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Morning Skate: Another setback for Flyers top pick Nolan Patrick

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while wondering what Melissa McCarthy is going to do now that Spicey is gone.

*The debut for Philadelphia Flyers top pick Nolan Patrick has been scratched due to “an infection in his face.” Boy, this kid can’t get healthy, can he?

*Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill is 100 percent sure that the Winged Wheels will be making a return to the playoffs this season.

*PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough has hope returning to the city of Houston that they might get an NHL franchise one of these days.

*Travis Yost delves into shooting percentage and some of the nuances when properly trying to break it down statistically.

*There are new season ticket charges for Habs fans in Montreal, and boy are they pissed off about it. Feels like the kind of thing that could push them to riot in the streets or flood 911 emergency lines if the Canadiens aren’t too careful about it.

*Young Blues defenseman Colton Parayko signs a five-year deal with St. Louis to avoid salary arbitration while the D-man taken exactly one pick before him by the Bruins in the draft, Matt Grzelcyk, is going to be hard-pressed to move past the AHL level this season.

*For something completely different: What would Ivan Drago have been doing with his life after his showdown with Rocky in Mother Russia?

 

 

Vaakanainen lives up to skating reputation in first camp with Bruins

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Vaakanainen lives up to skating reputation in first camp with Bruins

Urho Vaakanainen was billed as a smooth-skating, solid defenseman when the Bruins selected him in the middle of the first round in last month’s draft.

That’s exactly what the 18-year-old D-man put on display at his first chance to participate in Bruins Development Camp earlier this month as one of the younger players taking his first paces with the B’s organization.

Vaakanainen skated with ease and smoothness and didn’t have much in the way of panic when he was breaking the puck out of the zone during workouts. To be sure, it was clear that many of the tools are there for the Finnish prospect. Bruins assistant GM Scott Bradley had likened him to Hall of Famer Paul Coffey for his skating ability in the days after he was drafted last month in Chicago, and Bruins player development coordinator Jamie Langenbrunner used the equally impressive Devils player comparison of Scott Niedermayer when discussing Boston’s top pick.

The bottom line is that Vaakanainen would appear to be well-suited to an evolving hockey league where the skating game is arguably the most important quality and it’s pretty much a prerequisite for success if you’re going to be a D-man in the NHL.

“I think it’s the effortlessness that he skates with, it’s smooth," Langenbrunner said. "I think Scott [Bradley] had mentioned to me yesterday, Scott Niedermayer. That’s obviously high praise with a guy that is effortless and can skate

"[All] around the rink,” said Langenbrunner. “He seems to have a little bit of those tendencies that kind of floats on his skates a little bit. That’s something that I don’t believe you can really teach. Some guys have that and some guys, it’s a little more work.

“You’re talking about a 17-year-old kid that played in the Finnish Elite League. For him to put up huge offensive numbers, I think would be pretty tough. I think now, going into his second year there is a little more confidence. Obviously, you hear more growth. You’ll see maybe a little more of an uptick there. He’s a smooth skater. He sees the ice well, he’s got good size, and he can make plays. So, I think as the confidence grows, numbers will grow just if you’re making the right plays over and over again.”

Clearly, there is some polish still to come to Vaakanainen’s offensive game after watching him in drills with his fellow prospects at development camp. That’s reflected in the two goals and six points in 41 games for JYP in the Finnish Elite League last season as well, a level of production that caused some to question just how top-end he’ll be offensively in the NHL when he does mature into his 6-foot, 183-pound body.

Vaakanainen showed a decent, accurate shot from the point and some solid instincts when it comes to making plays with the puck, but it’s also clear he doesn’t have quite the same level of pure offensive as Charlie McAvoy. The good stick, solid defensive instincts and strength for his size were all there as advertised. The skating game will cover up a lot of the things that Vaakanainen still needs to work on.

Some of the young player’s lessons can be learned and improved with greater offensive experience afforded him when he returns to Finland for the upcoming season. Some of that may mean a modestly effective offensive player in Vaakanainen once he’s met his NHL potential. It’s simply too early to tell and a lot could be learned based on his level of improvement in Europe this season and the preview everybody will get when he plays in the World Juniors for Team Finland around the holidays.  

For his part, Vaakanainen had a great week at development camp learning the streets of Boston, meeting his fellow Bruins prospects and officially making a good first impression in his first action as a first-round pick.

“As the camp went on you felt so much better and relaxed, and I had so much fun,” said Vaakanainen, who actually stayed with Langenbrunner and his family at his house after the draft. “You’ll learn new things and you get to know all the new people that are in the Bruins organization. It’s going to help me in the future to know everybody.

“I think maybe they want to see more of my offensive game because there hasn’t been so much of that the last couple of years. The role might be bigger now and more offensive, so it’s coming. Of course, you have to work hard for that, but when you play more minutes it absolutely helps to get more comfortable with what you’re doing.”

The bottom line with this pick hasn’t really changed even as Vaakanainen showed what he could do in a week of practices at Warrior Ice Arena. The Finnish teenager is a fine D-man prospect who looks like he’ll going to enjoy a solid 10-year career once he actually cracks the NHL roster and there’s nothing wrong with that.

The one thing we’ll all see over the next few years is whether or not the Bruins could have done better for themselves with the No. 18 pick in a draft class with an admittedly shallow talent pool as compared to the past couple of seasons.