Boston Bruins

Morning Skate 311: B's new guys need to step up

Morning Skate 311: B's new guys need to step up

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.comIts time for the new guys in Black and Goldto step up after an extremely promising start.It looked like Tomas Kaberle, Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly were going to enjoy seamless transitions into the Bruins way of doing things after a handful of games, but it hasnt been all roses, puppy dogs and rainbows over the last two weeks.Its time for that to change after Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli hand-picked each ofthese particular players to assistvaulting him team over the top.Kaberle arrived in Boston with an All-Star pedigree and reputationas a bona fide difference-maker on the power play, but the puck-moving defenseman holds justone lonelyassist in nine games while Bostons vaunted power play is mired in an 0-for-19 drought dating back to Kaberles first game with Boston.Meanwhile Peverley clanged the left post in overtime last night on a nice littleplay that would have gone into the books as a rousing game-winner after he faked out the entire Sabres defense.The play clearly showed off some of the nifty, slippery moves in Peverley'sarsenal that have made him a 20-goal scorer in the NHL.But it was a few too many inches to the left as it rang post, and PeverleyKelly have three points (one goal, two assists) in 17 games with their new team, and need to start producing a few more results. In total, Peverley, Kaberle and Kelly have five points in 26 games with the Bruins and havent been the offensive booster shot that anyone had hoped for but there also needs to be some time allowed for transitioning into a new way of doing things.The new trio got that time in the Western part of Canada during a week-long Bruins orientation trip, and now its about getting things done on the ice.Yeah, weve got all those things starting to go right now, said Peverley of the chances he received in his first game with a couple of new linemates. Were getting chances. But weve got to keep shooting. At this point its about getting some production because were getting the chances.Peverley has been given power play minutes and now sits with a prominent role on the right wing with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand and needs to start showing some of the spark he featured during low-pressure situations with the Atlanta Thrashers.Nathan Horton has caught fire with Bostons first line and the fourth line continues to kick in valued offense, so now its up to the new guys to start pulling their fair share of the weight.On to the links:Gary Bettman is getting into Richard measuring contests with sponsors and other NHL power brokers, but theres a reason for that: hes in the beginning of a new five-year deal as NHL commissioner, as noted by NBC Pro Hockey Talk.The Montreal Gazette gets a 2-for-1 in writing a love letter to Habs coach Jacques Martin while also cracking on Team 990 sports radio personalities in Montreal. Hey, I like the Team 990.Steve Montador can do a lot more than serve as a punching bag for opponents as an NHL defenseman. He can also attempt to bad-mouth the Captain of the Bruins in an interesting interview with Buffalo radio.Bruce Arthur doesnt like the hockey play defense for certain controversial hockey hits. As far I can tell, this is a Bruce Arthur problem rather than an NHL problem.Antti Niemi is coming up big for the San Jose Sharks in their second-half surge, and USA Todays Kevin Allen is there to provide detail.A Montreal newspaper believes that Zdeno Chara crossed the line by hitting Max Pacioretty. You dont say?CSNNE.coms own Mike Felger lambasting the Montreal Canadiens fan base in his always-entertaining mailbag. Let the bridges he burns light the way.The Hockey News Adam Proteau takes a crack at why so few NHL coaches have been fired this year, and no its not because its the most well-coached season in pro hockey history.A good piece by SI.coms Adrian Dater on the resurgence of the Calgary Flames under the watchful eye of GM Jay Feaster. Its amazing what happens when you call in a hockey exterminator and start getting rid of those pesky Sutters.

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.