Haggerty: Bruins not yet satisfied

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Haggerty: Bruins not yet satisfied

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Its difficult to recall now on the eve of Bostons first Eastern Conference Finals appearance in 19 years, but the goals of many within the organization were crystal clear before the playoffs began.

The Bruins mantra was all about getting past the second round and delving deeper into the playoffs than the previous two seasons. With the playoff series victories came the ultimate eraser to wipe away the stain of last years collapse to the Flyers.

With two playoff round wins, there was also a tacit guarantee Claude Julien, Peter Chiarelli and the rest of the Bs organizational structure would remain stable and intact for the foreseeable future.

With all that ridingin triumphsover the Habs and Flyers, it was mission accomplished with emotion, precision and a business-like efficiency that hasnt always been there for the Black and Gold.

But there is also danger in broaching new, uncharted ground within the Stanley Cup playoffs for the Bruins.

Nirvana and the Seattle grunge scene were brand new the last time Boston stood only four wins away from a legit shot at drinking deeply out of Stanleys Cup, and theres a lethalamount of comfort and security that can arrive with that kind of team achievement.

Certainly a rapidly growing Bruins fan base while always clamoring for bigger, better and badder would be satiated with a deep journey into the conference finals this season win, lose or draw. The promise of a young Bs nucleus ready to consistently compete in the East could certainly ease the pain of the masses if Bostonfalls short of the Stanley Cup Finals.

But greed is good when its come to the NHL playoffs, and the Bruins should be getting their Gordon Gecko on as one of the final four hockey clubs. Now is not the time for settling and counting past achievements.

Its important talented youngsters like 23-year-old Milan Lucic, 24-year-old David Krejci, 19-year-old Tyler Seguin, 23-year-old Brad Marchand and 25-year-old Patrice Bergeron listen to their older teammates that prowl aroundhungrily sniffingfor the Cup.

Mark Recchi and Shawn Thornton both know what it takes to be the last hockey team standing in the playoffs, but it goes beyond them.

Even more filled with that third round hunger is a guy like Andrew Ference. The 32-year-old defenseman has enjoyed a solid NHL career with notoriety both on and off the ice, but one of his most wince-inducinghockey memories iscoming up justshort ofwinning a Cup with the Calgary Flames in 2004.

Ference didnt give a flying crap what Bostons organizational goals were for this postseason. As far as Ference is concerned, he still has a date with the Cup thats been overdue since the very-same Lightning team took down his Flames seven years ago. The ache gnaws at him greatly, and he still regularly commiserates with his former Calgary teammates about what might have been against the Bolts.

Oh, its still raw, said Ference. A lot of us still see each other in the summer. Ive got guys from Calgary calling me up now saying take it to those guys, you know? You hate the people that beat you. I think there are only two guys that were on that team that beat us, but youre in that city. Youre in that same building.

Its not one of those things where you say oh well, we were close. The only way to erase any of that is to win the whole thing.

Ference says the Cup Finals loss is one of the first things that shoots into his brain whenever he spies the Lightning logo, and it will certainly be on his mind when he suits up against Tampa for Game One.

Getting past the second roundmight have been an organizational goal, but I know there are a lot of guys in this room myself included that have absolutely zero satisfaction unless we win the whole thing, said Ference. Ive been close before. Weve talked to guys over and over about that. Its the hardest thing in this game to get that close to the Cup and then to lose.

Theres only one group that gets to be truly happy, and thats the group that ends up winning. I can see satisfaction from the city or the organization that getting to the third round is a positive thing, but Ive been there. Raising a Western Conference championship banner in Calgary didnt give me any satisfaction. It doesnt feel good and I have no problem telling that to guys over and over. And I have done that.

Instead Ference and fellow aging core Bruins veterans like Zdeno Chara and Tim Thomas have forged a group of players over the age of 30 that realize this spring might be their best, lastchance to taste hockey immortality.

Thomas went so far as to say he dreamt about winning the Cup before the season began, and Chara has been so laser focused that the complacency issue is something that hadnt even entered his mind before it was mentioned.

I havent felt that at all, said Chara. I never got that sense even after we won four straight against Philly that anybody was saying oh year, we are all set now. We were glad that we got past the second round, but we all had eyes on the third round and our next opponent.

We knew who we were facing. We approached it like we won a game. We all know that its a long road and its not just about the conference finals.

As Thomas is known for saying, the proof will be in the pudding as to whether the Bruins started feeling satisfied heading into the conference finals. But its hard to believe a 37-year-old Thomas and a 34-year-old Chara would ever let that happen to their best chance at Cup glory.

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

Haggerty: Bruins would be foolish to trade Brandon Carlo

Haggerty: Bruins would be foolish to trade Brandon Carlo

There’s been smoke for weeks signaling trade talks between the Boston Bruins and the Colorado Avalanche, and things are reportedly heating up with the Bruins potentially reaching a tipping point with their subpar play on the ice. According to Bleacher Report columnist Adrian Dater, things may be progressing between the two teams because the Bruins are beginning to entertain the idea of trading away 20-year-old top pairing rookie defenseman Brandon Carlo.

Bruins Director of Player Personnel John Ferguson Jr. was expected to be out in Colorado scouting the Avalanche/Blackhawks game on Tuesday night, and perhaps getting a long look at players like Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene and Tyson Barrie among others.

The expectation is that 24-year-old Landeskog is in the middle of these trade discussions, and that he would be one of the players targeted by a Bruins team that could use more size on the wing, and more players that can put the puck in the net. Certainly Landeskog has done that in his brief NHL career after being a No. 2 overall pick, and has four 20-goal seasons on his resume prior to a disappointing, injury-plagued current season in Colorado.

The word around the league was that talks fizzled between the Bruins and Avs previously when Joe Sakic asked about the availability of the Colorado Springs native Carlo, and those discussions hit the same crunching roadblock that Winnipeg did in discussions with Boston about Jacob Trouba.

Perhaps that has changed in the last 24 hours after Cam Neely and Don Sweeney watched their Bruins completely no-show against the worst team in the Eastern Conference, the New York Islanders, on Monday afternoon. Now one would expect that Bruins management is getting desperate feeling that a third “Did Not Qualify” for the Stanley Cup playoffs could be in their future if they don’t make a bold, swift move to shake up their dazed hockey club.

But let’s not pull any punches here. The entire Bruins management group should be fired on the spot if they trade a 20-year-old, top pairing shutdown defenseman on an entry level contract like Carlo unless they are getting a bona fide superstar in return. Carlo, Charlie McAvoy and David Pastrnak should all be young, untouchable assets for a Bruins organization that is years away from legitimately holding a chance at a Stanley Cup.

Landeskog is not a bona fide superstar. He’s a good player that’s topped out at 26 goals and 65 points in the NHL, but he’s also the Captain on a horrendous, underachieving Avalanche team over the last three years.

If the price were right for Landeskog it would make all the sense in the world for the Bruins to deal him, but it’s a giant honking red flag that Colorado is looking to unload a player like him that’s signed for a reasonable $5.5 million price tag over the next four seasons. Teams don’t trade young players like that with term unless there’s more to the story, and that’s something the Bruins would do well to consider before giving up a player that could be a top-4 shutdown defenseman in Boston for the next 10 years.

Teams like the Bruins that are in reloading mode also shouldn’t be trading 20-year-old players for 24-year-old players that have already cashed in on their second contract. That’s exactly how the Bruins can get right back into salary cap trouble, and do it with a team that’s producing far less than the Peter Chiarelli groups that were at least still making the playoffs.  

Certainly the Bruins have other young D-men like Charlie McAvoy, Jakub Zboril and Jeremy Lauzon coming down the pipeline, but none of those defensemen are in the mold of a true shutdown D like the 6-foot-5 Carlo. With Zdeno Chara in the final few years of his career with the Black and Gold, the B’s are going to need Carlo to slide into that defensive stopper role given his size, strength, wing span and willingness to do the dirty work the D-zone.

That goes beyond the simple fact that rebuilding the back end with ALL of those young stud D-men is the best way to actually build the Bruins back up into a legitimate Eastern Conference power. 

It would be a giant mistake for the Bruins to ship away a player like Carlo with the hope Landeskog can put Boston over the hump for the playoffs this season, and perhaps ease some of the intense pressure currently weighing on Sweeney and Neely. That kind of desperate move smacks of doing it for all of the wrong reasons, and that’s one way to ensure that the Bruins will never escape the web of mediocrity that they’re currently caught in. 

Haggerty: From top to bottom, still no urgency from Bruins

Haggerty: From top to bottom, still no urgency from Bruins

BRIGHTON -- The Bruins pulled the worst of their no-shows on Monday afternoon in the 4-0 shutout loss to the Islanders.

It was a lethargic, mediocre start in the first period that devolved into the bottom dropping out on the Black and Gold when they allowed three unanswered goals in the second. Then, to top it all off, they showed zero urgency or push to make a comeback in the final period. 

It was “unacceptable” in the words of the Bruins players from beginning to end with careless, elementary mistakes in the defensive zone and absolutely zero sustained push in the offensive zone despite a deceiving 32 shots on net.

So, where was the urgency for a Bruins team that’s barely ahead of the Maple Leafs and Senators in the Atlantic Division despite having played six more games than each of those two?

Apparently the Bruins were feeling a little cocky after playing a solid five-game stretch where they’d gone 3-1-1 and taken down the Panthers, Blues and Flyers while elevating their level of play. Heart and soul team leader Patrice Bergeron admitted as much on Tuesday morning as the Bruins cancelled practice and turned their attention toward righting the ship Wednesday night in Detroit.

It was frankly a little stunning to hear Bergeron admit that his Bruins team thought they could win just by showing up on Monday afternoon, but that’s exactly what he copped to in something of an apologetic way.

Brad Marchand said Monday postgame that the Bruins “just weren’t ready [to play]” against the Islanders, and it sounded like his linemate agreed with him.

“It’s about realizing that you can’t take teams lightly, or take the foot off the gas pedal for a period, for a game, or whatever. It hurts us every time we do it, so we have to learn and realize that it just cannot happen. Teams are too good and the points are too valuable for us,” said Bergeron. “You never want to do that, but at the same time maybe it was something that happened because it was a terrible start, and to not respond when they scored the goals. Maybe that’s what happened yesterday.

“As much as you don’t want it to happen, maybe we thought it was going to be an easier game than it actually was against them.”

On the one hand, it’s somewhat shocking to hear that admission from a player that’s always played with full work ethic and an effort level that’s never been questioned. But Bergeron was also a minus-3 in the 4-0 loss and was every bit as guilty as everybody else up and down the roster for the team’s most pathetic loss of the season at a time when results are all that matter.

Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising, though, because the lack of urgency on the bench is mirrored by the lack of urgency upstairs in the Bruins management office right now. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney told the Boston Globe last week that he’s considering a move with the head coach along with a number of other things to spark a team treading water, but it doesn’t feel like a major move is on the horizon with this Bruins team.

Trade talks are still in the formative, discussion stages as GMs like Joe Sakic and John Chayka are overvaluing their players looking for a king’s ransom for guys like Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata. While Claude Julien should be under the microscope with a team sleepwalking its way through perhaps a third season in a row without the playoffs, it also doesn’t feel like the Bruins are going to pull the trigger on that move until the offseason at the earliest.

This humble hockey writer still insists that this playoff-caliber Bruins team plays at times like a one that needs a swift kick in the backside. Perhaps Julien isn’t up for it after 10 long, successful years of battles with the same core group.   

So, what is there to do then besides make cosmetic moves like shipping underperforming Anton Khudobin down to Providence, or rearrange the deck chairs on a third and fourth line that it’s difficult to tell apart on most days in Boston?

If the Bruins front office wants to truly get to the bottom of their team’s lack of urgency on the ice, perhaps a look in the mirror might be in order. Because that same lack of urgency is playing out with a management group that’s watching their team sink into the Atlantic Division muck right now and seems gun-shy on making a move that could rattle cages.

“Right now where we are in the standings, we’ve got a lot of games to play but we’re still in a playoff spot,” said Julien. “We try and play with the expectations that we have, and that’s to do the best with what we’ve got. We’ve got a lot of new faces and we’re trying to build with what we’ve got here moving forward.”

Certainly nobody is talking about trading away their blue chip prospects like Brandon Carlo or Charlie McAvoy, but there are veteran players on Boston’s current roster that aren’t cut out for battling into the postseason with a young team. It’s plain to see when a middling hockey team can’t find the inspiration to go out and take care of business against a bad Islanders group on a sleepy Monday afternoon just a month after they made the same mistake against the same team on home ice.

The Bruins showed in a five-game stretch leading up to the Islanders debacle that they should be held to a higher standard - that of a team that should qualify for the postseason. But one question arose again and again watching the poorest of poor efforts play out on Monday afternoon: why should the Bruins players show any feet-in-the-fire urgency on the ice when it doesn’t feel like there’s much feet-in-the-fire urgency from upper management to improve the flailing hockey club?

Until that organizational dynamic changes, it’s difficult to see things getting much better, or worse, for a Bruins team that looks destined for the mediocre middle once again this season.