Bruins now turn to finding a defenseman

191545.jpg

Bruins now turn to finding a defenseman

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Now that the Bruins have found themselves a center to stabilize their forward group in Chris Kelly, the focus shifts solely to defenseman for the Bruins.

General manager Peter Chiarelli met with the media at 11:15 p.m. on Tuesday night to discuss the deal that sent a 2011 second-round pick a draft pick acquired in the deal with Minnesota last season for Chuck Kobasew to the Ottawa Senators for the gritty center, and revealed that the Bruins have nine defensemen on their board that seriously interest them.

Atop the list of available defenseman is Tomas Kaberle, who would lead all Bs defensemen with 37 points and 22 power-play assists and has been the subject of trade overtures from Boston in each of the last three years. He was nearly acquired in a draft-day deal for Phil Kessel two years ago in Montreal and then again last summer when the Bs were shopping Marc Savard to either the Senators or the Maple Leafs.

Now Kaberle is approaching unrestricted free agency following another lost year in Toronto, and the Bruins are once again in the market for the puck-moving defenseman capable of running the power play with surgical precision.

The Bs could have used Kaberle while going 1-for-4 on the power play and getting little oomph out of the man advantage in a 4-3 loss to the Maple Leafs in a frustrating game at TD Garden that had Bs coach Claude Julien spitting nails after the game.

We had four power plays. One-for-four, and there is a time where we could have maybe put the game in a different direction, changed momentum with the power play, said Chiarelli following the loss to Toronto. Thats been a recurring theme.

I think its just a solid defenseman that were looking for that can log some minutes. There are some out there like that, solid two-way defensemen. There are other defensemen also, different types of defensemen. Its hard to find a match as far as a team that is willing to maybe trade just for futures. There are different routes to get to that defenseman, but there are some decent options.

Both Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke and Bruins president Cam Neely admitted to 98.5 the Sports Hub that the two teams were talking about a deal, and Kaberle is the clear players being talked about. While Sportsnet.ca indicated that Kaberle would be amenable to a trade to Boston should that work out, hockey sources told CSNNE.com that the Leafs defenseman hasnt been approached about waiving his no-trade clause.

Until Kaberle is asked to waive his blanket no-trade clause, a deal between the two teams really isnt all that close to happening. Regardless of whether or not the deal is close to fruition, the 32-year-old Kaberle seemed to be warming up to the potential idea of playing in Boston and getting to the playoffs for the first time in five years.

I would think so. Obviously they have a pretty good team and good goaltending, said Kaberle. I have played a lot of games against them and they are always tough to beat. We will see what is going to happen.

For sure it is always nice when you have a chance to play in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Obviously I havent played in them in five years. Right now it is tough on me and my teammates in Toronto. We dont want to have a distraction.

There were plenty of trade whispers, fake twitter accounts announcing phantom deals and rampant speculation that Kaberle would be getting dealt while Toronto was visiting in Boston, but that certainly didnt happen. Instead the Bruins will keep talking to Toronto, who sources told CSNNE.com was asking for a bit too much of a return for a strict rental player like Kaberle.

Who are some of the other defenseman that the Bruins are considering in potential deals alongside the seemingly perfect of Kaberle?

Here are some of the other names among the nine tossed out there by Chiarelli:

Chris Phillips the 32-year-old defenseman is a minus-7 with a single assist in his last 10 games, and hes passed 20 minutes of ice time per game only four times over that period of games. There are plenty of rumors about Phillips coming to Boston, but he should be nothing more than a fallback option.

Jon-Michael Liles Even worse than Phillips, perhaps, is Liles. He has one assist in his last 11 games with a minus-17 to show for it, and had a horrendous game against the Bruins in Colorado when he was stuck with a minus-4. Liles has a good offensive resume, but hes been awful for the Avs.

Joni Pitkanen Hes possibly the best combination of affordable and available defensemen should Carolina fall out of the ice, and Pitkanen become available on the trade market. As it is right now, Pitkanen isnt being offered around as the Hurricanes battle for playoff contention, but he does have eight assists in his last 10 games.

Zach Bogosian a 20-year-old defenseman who was a No. 3 overall pick three years and apparently wants out of Atlanta after underachieving thus far. Bogosian would cost the Bruins a No. 1 pick, Mark Stuart and Blake Wheeler in a costly deal that might not help them win this season.

Brian McCabe The 35-year-old McCabe is out of action for the Florida Panthers with a jaw injury and hasnt played for a playoff team in a long, long time, but hes got plenty of offensive spark and power play juice to help the Bs.

Eric Brewer The 31-year-old has averaged upwards of 20 minutes of ice time per game throughout his career and has been healthy this year for the first time in three years. Brewer is on a pace for 12 goals and 20 plus points this season, and isnt the dream defenseman for the Bruins. But hed do nicely.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

NHL notes: Local boy making (very) good in Florida

florida-panthers-eric-joyce-052316.jpg

NHL notes: Local boy making (very) good in Florida

Eric Joyce came upon the game of hockey in a different way than most.

Sure, the 37-year-old Joyce grew up in Dorchester, where hockey is pretty much a way of life for those who get their secondary education on the blue collar, rough-around-the-edges streets. But the primary reason was something more uncommon.

Joyce was born with a club foot that his doctors suspect was connected to environmental toxins his father came into contact with while fighting in Vietnam. His family was told that Eric would never enjoy a normal athletic childhood,  playing sports as freely and easily as the other kids.

But, somehow, hockey became a source of joy, a way to escape and something the determined youngster would build his identity around.

“It’s actually kind of a unique story, and it explains of why I’m not only dedicated to winning a Cup with the Florida Panthers . . . but also giving back to kids,” Joyce said during last week’s podcast episode of the Great American Hockey Show

“I had (the club foot) corrected at Children’s Hospital in Boston with a man named Dr. McKay, who did a wonderful job. We saw a bunch of doctors that said ‘Hey, your son will be able to walk and stuff. But he’s never going to be able to run, or really be an athlete.' My mom didn’t accept that answer, so we went back to Dr. McKay and asked him what was the best thing to strengthen my legs. He said ‘Why don’t you put him on skates? Hockey players usually have huge asses and it looks like they have strong legs, so put him on skates and see what happens.’

So Joyce and his mom trudged out to Devine Rink with the milk crates to perform a tiny little miracle for a 2-year-old, right around the same time local heroes Mike Eruzione and Jackie O’Callahan were performing their own Miracles on Ice  

“My dad was more of a baseball and basketball guy without much of a hockey background, but I enjoyed it and it definitely helped me out,” said Joyce. “I played Dorchester Youth growing up, played in Quincy a little bit and on a Hyde Park team when they had the likes of Mike Mottau and Brian Cummings."

Joyce did much more than simply use skating and ice hockey purely for therapeutic reasons. He played a couple of years at BC High, and then ended up at the Pingree School in South Hamilton (Joyce said he had to do a double-take the first time he saw one of his classmates driving a BMW around the campus). From there, he played Division I college hockey at West Point . . . all based off the experiences he had from initially pushing himself to overcome his challenges.

Joyce is quick to say he was never the most talented guy on any of his teams, and other local players -- like Mottau -- were the ones catching much of the attention and accolades on the South Shore in the mid-1990s. But that passion led him to play three years at Army, with 5 goals and 16 points .

The hockey experience, and the lessons learned on the ice, clearly stayed with him through an honorable, rigorous career in the armed forces. Prior to joining the Panthers front office, Joyce served in numerous governmental roles focusing on National Security, including a stint as a Captain in the U.S. Army Infantry, where he was deployed to Mosul, Iraq for roughly two years.  While serving in Iraq with the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, Joyce earned a Combat Infantryman’s Badge and a Bronze Star, and his unit earned the Valorous Unit Citation.

Most recently, Joyce was an instructor for the Department of Social Sciences at the United States Military Academy at West Point, specializing in instruction in Counterterrorism and Homeland Security.

It doesn’t feel like the typical background for an NHL executive, but it’s clearly something that bestowed Joyce with a number of different skills sets outside the norm in NHL front offices.

Joyce is also one of a couple of locals with more prominent roles in a reconfigured front office for the ascending Panthers. Joyce and general manager and Lynn native Tom Rowe both report to club president Dale Tallon after a management reshuffling that was made official last week, and continued Monday when head of scouting Scott Luce was fired.

As outlined in this excellent piece from James Murphy at Vice Sports, new Florida owner Vincent Viola and the Panthers are putting a premium on military experience in many of their organizational hires these days.

There have been recent questions about Tallon’s role within the freshly shuffled reorganization, but a couple of things remain clear about the longstanding Florida exec: He has final say on hockey matters presented to ownership, and he’s been freed up to do what he does best: Scouring the land in search of hockey talent.

“This is just how I grew up being a kid from Dorchester and also with the military background. You just view yourself as part of a team,” said Joyce. “The great thing about Dale is that he’s an incredibly gracious guy. He puts the scowl on and he plays the part, but at the end of the day he’s like a Teddy Bear in the sense that he really cares about the people that work for him, he cares about the organization and he wants to win.

“We talked about evaluating players . . . I wasn’t always the best player on the ice, so I had to spend a lot of time evaluating my competition during that time in order to just be effective. I basically told him what I see with the players, and the direction that I see the game going. And he listened. Most NHL GMs would say ‘Who is this kid trying to push his way into pro hockey that’s only been here for five minutes?’ But he took the time to talk to me, and we formed a pretty good relationship.”

A relationship between Joyce, who earned a Masters from the Harvard School of Government, and Viola was the key to opening the NHL door to him prior to 2013-14 with a job as assistant to the general manager. Since then it’s been Joyce’s job to kick-start the Panthers analytics department and forge relationship with the area doing community relations outreach for the Panthers in the southern Florida region.

It’s been a steady rise since then for Joyce, who's served as GM of the San Antonio Rampage and Portland Pirates over the last couple of seasons as the Panthers franchise has gone from teetering on bankruptcy to winning the Atlantic Division. He played a role in helping shepherd through the Jimmy Hayes-for-Reilly Smith trade that worked out well last season for the Panthers, and is part of a Florida group that looks poised for a long, extended run of contention.

Aaron Ekblad, Vincent Trocheck, Nick Bjugstad, Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau form a young nucleus buffeted by key veterans like Jaromir Jagr, Roberto Luongo and Brian Campbell, and the analytics will play a key role in maintaining, building and taking the Panthers to places they’ve never been before.

“It’s a real testament to our scouting staff," said Joyce. "I know a lot of people use the term ‘analytics’, or say ‘Oh, Joyce . . . he’s an analytics guy.’ We’re just looking at every single data point we can get, whether it’s a scout talking about his character, a report on how he skates or an Excel spread sheet that says when this guy is on the ice going things tend to happen, or when this other guy is on the ice not-so-good things happen. It’s a combination of [things]. I’d like to tell you there’s a silver bullet (in advanced statistics), but it all depends on what kind of player you need and when do you need them. Let’s just take secondary scoring with speed for example.

“Last year our recommendation was ‘Let’s try to acquire Reilly Smith from the Boston Bruins’ because he’d provided secondary scoring up until last season. But he also added another element. He added some speed. When you looked at our roster two years ago, one of the things we lacked was speed. So we made the decision to give up secondary scoring in Jimmy Hayes to acquire secondary scoring in Reilly Smith. The reason we did that was because Boston was looking for a bigger, Zdeno Chara-like presence in front of the net on the power play, where that player could be effective putting pucks home at a 20-25 goal rate. Reilly Smith did a lot of the same things well as Hayes did, but he also did with speed. That’s something that’s kind of a subjective thing on our scouting reports, rather than a possession numbers thing where Smith drives X possession and Hayes drives Y possession.”

Joyce admits a metrics-conscious Florida team would still go with a scouting report over a spreadsheet if it’s a dead heat in a choice between similar players for one spot on the roster. It seems like the statistical reports, including ones utilized and introduced by an actual math professor on staff with the Panthers, is about assigning a monetary value to any and every player within the league’s overall salary cap structure.

At the end of the day, though, it’s about putting all the factors together to put a value on every player, and making sure the team doesn’t overstep on those valuations. It will be interesting to see where the Panthers go with Huberdeau, Ekblad and Trocheck all looking at new contracts over the next calendar year, and the Florida franchise not exactly a money-making machine even after a successful playoff season.

That’s where being smarter and bolder than the other teams becomes necessary, and that’s where Joyce will lend his voice after a lifetime of bucking the odds.

ONE TIMERS

-- The Bruins will hold this summer’s development with on-ice sessions at Ristuccia Arena from July 12-15, with each day's practice session set to begin at 10 a.m. There will also be a host of TBA community events for the B’s prospects to participate in on July 13.

-- I'm very new to the entire GIF world, so it’s been very disappointing I haven’t been able to track down any old footage of Hillbilly Jim’s WWF wrestling matches to have at the ready when Jumbo Joe Thornton hits the ice with that bird’s nest of a playoff beard. Clearly it’s working for him and Brent Burns, and one can only hope they get a chance to dip those scraggly beers in a Stanley Cup full of adult beverages just a couple of weeks from now.

Remember, keep shooting the puck at the net and good things are bound to happen.  

Monday, May 23: Fleury admits he should have been better for Penguins

cp-morning-skate.jpg

Monday, May 23: Fleury admits he should have been better for Penguins

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading after an epic Game of Thrones episode on Sunday night.

-- PHT writer Cam Tucker has Marc-Andre Fleury admitting that he should have been better after getting the call for the Penguins, and falling short, in Game 5.

-- Step right up to check out the Finnish Don Cherry, who likes to keep it classy and says anything the Finns do is done with class.

-- Speaking of the genuine article in Cherry, here’s a clip from last weekend’s Coach’s Corner discussing a number of topics from the NHL.  

-- Wrestler Shawn Micheals has become a thing in Pittsburgh after the “HBK Line” had previously taken off and carried the offense for the Penguins.

-- Let’s all go back in the way-back machine to when Zdeno Chara was an NHL rookie and he was strong in the Mullet Force.

-- Down Goes Grown tackles a number of different topics with his Grab Bag for the week, including whether there is a big problem with the current playoff format.

-- The “quiet, calm” Tampa Bay Lightning are taking care of business now with a 3-2 lead over the Penguins, and a chance to close things out without Steve Stamkos. It will be really interesting to see how things are handled with Stamkos if the Bolts get to the Stanley Cup Final.

-- Pierre Lebrun says there are some tough decisions ahead for Team Canada’s management group as they put together a World Cup of Hockey squad.

-- For something completely different: A breakdown of why things got so emotional for so many in a pivotal episode of Game of Thrones.

 

Sunday, May 22: Kessel not part of the plan

cp-morning-skate.jpg

Sunday, May 22: Kessel not part of the plan

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while the Boston Red Sox continue to punish any and all pitching that they face this season.

*The Sharks are starting to feel the heat in the Western Conference Finals. Want proof? Sharks coach Pete DeBoer is taking jabs at St. Louis head coach Ken Hitchcock.

*The Pittsburgh Penguins rookies hesitate to pick their heads up and look around while the team is in the heat of a playoff run. 

*Is Rick Nash on his way out with the New York Rangers? PHT writer Joey Alfieri has all of the details after a tough season for all involved in Gotham.

*Steve Simmons says Phil Kessel didn’t fit into the new rebuild template for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Sadly there is no interview with any Toronto hot dog vendors included here.

*Bruce Garrioch goes deep for a piece on new Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion, who is following in the footsteps of his late father.

*In the interest of shameless plugs: here is the latest Great American Hockey Show podcast with Jimmy Murphy and yours truly talking to Dorchester native and newly named Florida Panthers assistant GM Eric Joyce, and revisiting the Jumbo Joe Thornton piece that essentially ushered his exit from Boston with the author, Kevin Paul Dupont.

*For something completely different: Speaking of FOH (Friend of Haggs) Dupont, here’s an excellent piece from him on CSN anchor Trenni Kusnierek.

 Joe Haggerty can be followed on Twitter @HacksWithHaggs.