Boston Bruins

Morning Skate 31: Operation 'rest Thomas' underway

Morning Skate 31: Operation 'rest Thomas' underway

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.comOTTAWA The road trip has nearly come to an end for the Boston Bruins as they sit 5-0-0 and inch toward a perfect six-game swing through Canada and Long Island a pair of places that wont be confused for one another.Tuukka Rask started the first two games of the two-part trip, and won both games against the New York Islanders and Ottawa Senators. Now it appears that the 23-year-old will start the last two games of the road trip after capturing a narrow victory in Edmonton and being the first goaltender off the ice during morning skate at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa.Rask sits at 8-11-1 after a modest three-game winning streak, and will be getting consecutive starts for only the third time this season when he takes the ice against the Senators.Operation Tim Thomas gets a breather is in full deployment for the Black and Gold, and it looks like the perfect time to get Rask back to work. The Ottawa Senators are a team filled with hungry AHL players from the Binghamton Senators after a flurry of trade deadline moves by Ottawa GM Bryan Murray.So they may just be ripe for the picking, and ready to give Boston that perfect road trip theyve been yearning.On to the links:The Blackhawks are finally starting to resemble last years Stanley Cup squad after going through a long hangover period in the early months of the season.Rolling Stones web site has the exclusive new Dropkick Murphys video Going Out in Style that features Bobby Orr, Milan Lucic, Shawn Thornton and Kevin Youkilis among others. Cool stuff, and Thornton swears those were shots of diet coke he was throwing back.David Steckel really didnt expect to be traded to the New Jersey Devils, and Im not quite sure that deal makes Washington a better team.Sergei Samsonovs reaction to the Observer while suiting up at the RBC Center with the Florida Panthers to play the Hurricanes team that just dealt him? Weird, was the only way to describe it.Texas oil mogul Douglas Miller makes a bid to purchase the Dallas Stars, according to a report in The Hockey News. Somebody needs to take the team of Tom Hicks hands.Newsday writer Katie Strang gives everyone a peekbehind the scenes on NHL trade deadline day while keeping in contact with Zenon Konopka.Good look by Sporting News writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Craig Custance at the way Sidney Crosbys concussion might force the NHLs hand in creating more stringent rules about head shots.

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.   

Morning Skate: Markov's time with Canadiens likely up

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Morning Skate: Markov's time with Canadiens likely up

Here are all the hockey links from around the world, and what I’m reading while once again shaking my head reading the news headlines this morning. 

 

*Congrats to FOH (Friend of Haggs) Aaron Portzline, who is another esteemed hockey writer joining up with The Athletic’s Cleveland bureau

 

*Eric Engels says that the Habs signing Mark Streit to a short term deal means that Andrei Markov’s time in Montreal has come to a close. 

 

*The writers for the Pittsburgh Penguins have provided what they call “an Intimate Portrait” of Sidney Crosby from his closest boyhood friends. 

 

*Longtime NHL head coach Bruce Boudreau is trying something a little different out as an owner of a junior hockey team. 

 

*The Nashville Predators are expecting a decision to come soon on Mike Fisher as to whether or not he’s going to keep on playing in Music City. 

 

*Sounds like Mika Zibanejad is going to be filling a No. 1 center role for the New York Rangers after signing a big contract with the Blueshirts. 

 

*For something completely different: Jay Baruchel is looking to revive the Canadian superhero scene after growing up with Captain Canada and Alpha Flight.