Boston Bruins

Mike from Attleboro: Jacobs still cheap

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Mike from Attleboro: Jacobs still cheap

When the National Hockey League owners voted unanimously Thursday to lock out the players, it made two things crystal clear:

1. Unless there's a Hail Mary -- a last-second delivery of common sense to the NHLPA and, especially, the owners -- we are not going to see NHL hockey anytime soon.

2. Despite everything that's happened in the last few years, including winning a trophy (and a big one it was), Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs hasnt changed a single bit. By calling for that vote and committing to lock the players out, J.J. confirmed that he is still concerned with one thing and one thing only: Money.

If you lived through the Jacobs years, or grew up through them like I did, you know what people thought of the old Jeremy Jacobs. He was a penny-pinching miser who entrusted his spendthrift caporegime, Harry Sinden, to spend enough to keep the Bruins competitive (and to make heaps of money), but not enough to actually build a champion. This led to 20 straight playoff appearances with nothing to show for it except the ignominy of taking Ray Bourque, arguably the second-greatest defenseman in NHL history, to arbitration.

When the Bruins had a chance to draft a potential superstar like Brian Bellows, Harry picked the already gimpy, but more affordable, Gord Kluzak. And J.J. counted his money.

When a player neared a new contract, Harry dealt him for parts. And J.J. counted his money.

When the Bruins needed to add a player to put them over the top, Harry would trade some food stamps for Brent Ashton. And J.J. counted his money.

The one time Harry did use J.J.s check book, it went straight into Kevin Stevens' crack pipe. But the turnstiles still spun and J.J. happily counted his money.

Fast forward to the last lockout, with J.J. again at the forefront. He got his salary cap; the good times -- and more importantly, the profits -- were supposed to roll. Unfortunately for J.J., reality took a hot steaming dump all over his portfolio. The lockout was not only a monumental disaster for the league, but also for Sinden and his coupon-cutting errand boy, Mike OConnell. Their let the entire team walk post-lockout strategy blew up faster than Dustin Byfuglien at a Steak & Shake. Before the ink was dry on Alexi Zhamnovs write off, the Bruins were among the dregs of the league.

Thats when the fans decided, "Enough!" They revolted. No more sellouts. No more concession stands bursting with cash. The Bruins' on-ice product was terrible and the single most loyal fan base in this town wasnt going to shell out cash for it any more.

With his team hemorrhaging season-ticket holders and ad revenue, Jeremy Jacobs was forced into a corner. He had to spend money; it was the only way he could improve the Bruins on the ice and rehabilitate his public image to return the Bs to being the cash cow they once were. Peter Chiarelli was hired as the new GM, and he immediately signed Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard for amounts that would previously have given J.J. hot flashes. They spent to the cap, and little by little the fans came back.

They came back because the owner had changed his ways. He was spending. He was eating money. (Is Dave Lewis still on the payroll?) He was empowering people like Cam Neely to build a winner at all costs, and Bruins fans were rubbing their eyes. Could this be the same guy? Had Ebenezer Jacobs been visited by the ghosts of Bruins owners past? Yup, it was the very same guy.

And the fever dream continued, as the improbable 2010-11 season ended with a championship. A man who many thought had arms too short to reach his wallet was now hoisting the Stanley Cup. This was it. With a title in hand, Jeremy Jacobs had finally changed his penny-pinching ways for good.

But as this week's vote showed, deep down inside, J.J. is still the same shriveled money grubber who, in the name of a better deal, is more than willing to lead the NHL into another potentially devastating lockout. For the love of cash, hes fine with throwing away all the goodwill he created with his fan base, and all the progress and momentum the league has generated. He was never reformed, just disguised. And dont let the recent contract signings fool you. Hes letting Chiarelli lock up Marchand and Seguin so he can chop their pay at the bargaining table.

Nope, when it comes to the fans and the good of the game, a T-Rex has a better chance of reaching his pocket than Jacobs. If Thursdays labor meetings told us anything, its that Ebenezer Jacobs is back and ready to steal Tiny Tims cane and sell it for kindling.

Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

Morning Skate: Star players must get more involved in CBA negotiations to make Olympics a reality

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Morning Skate: Star players must get more involved in CBA negotiations to make Olympics a reality

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while marveling that we’re just now learning about the massive rap skills of the brotherly duo of Andrew and Pete Frates. 

 

*Ken Campbell from the Hockey News says that if influential players, like Connor McDavid, want to go to the Olympics then they need to get more involved in the CBA negotiations

 

*Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang shows what a class act he is by taking the Stanley Cup to a children’s hospital in Montreal.

 

*PHT writer James O’Brien has the Minnesota Wild looking to find long term deals for both restricted free agents Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter. That was pretty clear when they chose to deal off Marco Scandella in order to clear up some cap space to afford both of them. 

 

*The Edmonton Oilers are going to face higher expectations for next season, and are willing to embrace that kind of pressure.

 

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Craig Custance wonders aloud whether there will be any offer sheets coming for restricted free agents. I appreciate Craig wanting to add a little more intrigue to the NHL’s offseason, but it isn’t going to happen as long as GMs are treated like they have small pox once they go that route with an offer sheet. Take a look at the future job prospects for general managers that went with offer sheets in the past, and you’ll see why GMs simply don’t do them. This is why the Bruins are uncomfortable with David Pastrnak sitting unsigned as a restricted free agent, but not overly concerned that he’s going to sign a mega-offer sheet elsewhere.  

 

*The CCM hockey brand is apparently changing hands from its former home at Adidas

 

*For something completely different: Speaking of Pete Frates, MLB has announced a fundraising drive for ALS research in his name. 

Haggerty: Spooner deal represents his last chance with Bruins

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Haggerty: Spooner deal represents his last chance with Bruins

The Bruins and Ryan Spooner wisely came to a contract agreement on a one-year, $2.825 million deal just prior to the start of Wednesday’s arbitration hearing. Don Sweeney hasn’t yet taken a B’s player to arbitration during his three years running the Black and Gold, and it could have grown unnecessarily contentious with a player like Spooner if they’d been forced to point out his flaws as a player in the uncomfortable setting of an arbitration hearing.

“It’s a fair deal for both sides in our opinion,” said Spooner’s agent Murray Kuntz to CSN after the one-year contract had been agreed upon. 

Now that Spooner has been signed to the one-year deal, it represents the last chance for the 25-year-old to show some growth as a player if he wants to be a member of the Bruins for much. Spooner has averaged 12 goals and 44 points over the last two seasons as Boston’s third line center, and has amassed 35 PP points while serving as the trigger man on Boston’s power play from the right-side half-wall. 

But he dropped from 49 points two seasons ago to 39 points last year, and didn’t exactly flourish under the more offensive-minded coaching of Bruce Cassidy. 

Spooner is an excellent special teams player and has been one of the key ingredients in Boston finishing with the NHL’s 7th ranked power play in each of the last two seasons. But he tailed off badly late last season after suffering a concussion, and showed so much tentativeness in his overall game that he became a healthy scratch by the end of Boston’s first round playoff series against the Ottawa Senators. Spooner also continues to sit under a 40 percent success rate in the face-off circle, and shows little consistent interest in winning one-on-one battles anywhere along the ice.

The work on the draws is something, in particular, that comes down to hard work and diligence at practice, and should be an area Spooner can become at least average while practicing every day against a face-off maestro like Patrice Bergeron.  

All of this might be easier to overlook if he consistently utilized his excellent skating speed and considerable skill level to create offense during 5-on-5 play, but that hasn’t been the case enough over the last couple of seasons. A one-year deal for $2.85 gives Spooner one last opportunity to show some growth in those areas with the Bruins, and if he doesn’t then it should be fully expected the Bruins will rekindle trade discussions around Spooner. 

His situation is unmistakable: Spooner isn't going to be a top-6 center with the B's because Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci are firmly entrenched at this spots, and Spooner really doesn't have the right skill set to be a fourth line center. So it's third line center or bust for Spooner as the internal competition grows around him. 

Spooner is now 25 years old and should no longer be viewed as a young player that’s still in the development phase. He should be close to a finished NHL product, and may not get demonstrably better in any area of his game if he doesn’t show it this upcoming season. He was one of the main pieces discussed when the Bruins talked trade with the Minnesota Wild prior to them dealing Marco Scandella to Buffalo, and there is clearly trade value for the former second round pick. 

But the Bruins also have a potential third line center replacement in Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson after signing him out of Boston University at the end of last season. Forsbacka Karlsson may need some AHL time to start this season after looking overmatched in his only NHL appearance late last season, but he’s the eventual two-way center replacement for Spooner in the long term. 

Forsbacka Karlsson may not be as fast or as flashy as Spooner, but he projects to be better on draws, better at winning battles and puck possession and better at being more difficult to play against while boasting his own set of offensive skills. 

It’s now up to Spooner to win that training camp competition with Forsbacka Karlsson for his current third line center position, and protect his own spot on the B’s roster by playing like his very job security depends on it. If he doesn’t show that kind of urgency and hop to his game right from the start of training camp, then it’s only a matter of time before he becomes trade fodder at a salary cap number ($2.825 million) that should be easy to move.

It’s no hyperbole to say that Spooner is entering his final chance with the Black and Gold after avoiding arbitration, and it’s wholly up to him to dictate exactly how long it lasts for.