Haggerty: Bruins, Savard make the right decision

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Haggerty: Bruins, Savard make the right decision

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Marc Savard and the Boston Bruins arent about to make the same mistake again.

Savard suffered whats looking more and more like a career-altering concussion from an unpunished Matt Cooke elbow a hit that was dirtier than the grime beneath a mechanics fingernails that continues to haunt the playmaking center.

The 32-year-old is such a competitor that he, in retrospect, pushed himself back a bit too early when he returned for the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Philadelphia Flyers last spring. Savard has since admitted that post-concussion-syndrome symptoms recurred as that postseason series went on.

The tipping point for Savard came when he played 23 minutes in Game Four following David Krejcis season-ending wrist injury. He hasnt been the same since.

His team needed him, and he obliged with as much as he could possibly give against the Flyers. But he paid the price, suffering through a summer filled with fatigue, depression and symptoms associated with post-concussion syndrome.

Savard finally cleared that hurdle this season for a semi-triumphant return, but the damning fog returned after hits from Deryk Engelland of the Penguins and Matt Hunwick of the Colorado Avalanche two weeks ago.

Hoping to avoid a repeat of last season, when Savard perhaps pushed his body past the breaking point in the name of capturing a Cup, the Bruins are doing the right thing while leaving no wiggle room for themselves or their player.

General manager Peter Chiarelli announced Monday afternoon theyll be shutting Savard down for the remainder of the regular season and playoffs in the hopes of giving him the proper time to convalesce.

We feel that its best for his short-term, medium-term, and long-term welfare, security, his family, said Chiarelli. There are obviously a lot of consequences that flow from this.

Savards teammates, coaches, managers and friends all were uniform in their feelings on a day that felt more like a funeral than anything else: its about Savard the person getting better way before its about Savard the player returning to the ice.

I know he was working hard to come back and get to where he was at. I think he was frustrated at times, because it didnt come all the way back, said Chiarelli of Savard, who had 10 points and a minus-7 in 25 games. So those hits, I think they were in the gray area. Yeah, there was a concern, as a manager and as a friend . . .

Patrice Bergeron, along with fellow team captains Zdeno Chara and Mark Recchi, attended the press conference. He couldnt help but flash back to himself three years ago while watching Savard pale, frightened, withdrawn answering questions.

Bergeron could have been in the same situation had the Bruins advanced past the Montreal Canadiens in the 2007-08 playoffs. A Boston victory could have led to Bergeron returning from a concussion that cost him almost the entire regular season.

Looking back on it in retrospect, Bergeron said the Bruins dropping Game Seven to the Habs might have been the best thing that ever happened in his recovery from a sickening hit handed out by Philly defenseman Randy Jones.

You never want to see that happen to anybody, and when it happens to your teammate and friend its even worse, said Bergeron, who said hes texted back and forth with Savard about the symptoms hes going through in the latest concussion. Hes the one that knows his body the most, and he needs to make sure hes honest with himself.

Its not easy sitting out the rest of the season and Im sure that he really wants to come back this season. People talk about money, but thats not even an issue. This is our passion and we love to play this game. Hes shut down for the rest of the year and Im sure he doesnt even know what to do with himself. Hes probably going to take a lot of time to think about his future. Hes got to think about himself first and make sure hes feeling normal before he makes any decisions.

Bergeron knows how frustrated Savard feels about missing the upcoming postseason, and also knows itll be doubly frustrating if hes feeling fully back to health.

But sometimes professional athletes used to pushing their bodies past the limits of exertion need a concerned outside party holding them back from hurting themselves, and thats what the Bruins are doing.

Bergeron needed it when he was raring to hop into the playoffs in 2008, months before his body was again strong enough to take the NHL pounding.

Savard needs that kind of patience now.

Ive been through it. When the playoffs came around I was really itching to get back, said Bergeron. I was feeling better, but not returning was probably the best decision for me. The doctors making that decision and then me eventually agreeing with that decision was the best thing for me.

Looking back on it, I dont regret anything I did while recovering because I needed that full time to get back to normal, feeling confident and catching up to the speed of the game. For Savvy its about getting back to normal, working hard over the summer and getting ready for training camp.

Savard admitted to suffering fatigue, short-term memory loss and bouts of vertigo, along with random headaches and clear personality changes obvious to anyone familiar with him during his five years in Boston.

It made Savard seem like a ghost, or a haunted hockey soul, on a sad Monday afternoon at TD Garden.

Im having still some headaches off and on, said Savard. I think the things that scare me the most is little memory things or you know, I forget Ive asked someone a question or little things like that that scare me, and the odd dizzy stuff. So thats some stuff thats worried me.

Several times during the 24-minute press conference, Savard expressed frustration, sadness and obvious signs of depression while his eyes welled up as he vocalized his plight.

Savard was clearly thinking about hockey, but also 100 percent worried about the effect it might have on his career and life.

I think its just a mix. Ive got a lot of feelings going on. I think Im frustrated, mostly. Its tough to understand why this happens and obviously the most frustrating thing is to not be able to just know exactly whats going on and how to cure it, said Savard. And I think its just time and patience and those are things I feel like I dont have much of, so that makes it tough.

Nobody that watched Savard rolling around on the ice at the Pepsi Center, openly sobbing into a towel as he skated off the ice and asking Bs trainers Donnie DelNegro Why? Why me? can ever forget how damaging concussions have become in the NHL world.

The hope is that Savard can someday be a happy, healthy hockey player again bringing life and vivacious energy to the Bruins locker room. The Bruins made the bang-on correct decision by shutting down No. 91 to get him on that path.

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

Backes: "Time will be the judge" on his long term deal with Bruins

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Backes: "Time will be the judge" on his long term deal with Bruins

JAMAICA PLAIN – Newest Bruins forward David Backes has heard the trepidation from Bruins fans about the five-year term of his contract, and he’s probably also caught wind of St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong stating publicly that contract length was an area he was uncomfortable getting to on a theoretical extension with his outbound.

The prevailing wisdom is that the decade of rugged, physical play from the 32-year-old in St. Louis will cause him to start slowing down sooner rather than later, and the last couple of seasons won’t be as high quality as the first couple in Boston.

So what does the actual player think about any questions surrounding his five year, $30 million contract?

The 6-foot-3, 221-pound Backes confidently said that concerns about his age, or him slowing down demonstrably in the last few years of his new contract, are “a bunch of malarkey” to borrow a favorite phrase from Vice President Joe Biden.

“I’m 32, not 52. Time will tell, but I feel really good and I take care of my body. I lay it all on the line, but when I’m not at the rink I’m resting and recovering for the next time I have to pour it all into a game,” said Backes, who logged 727 hard-hitting games all with the St. Louis Blues organization over the last 10 seasons. “Time will be the judge, but I feel like [after] five years I’ll even have a couple more [seasons] after that.

“I don’t think this is going to be end. That’s my plan. I’m still going to get better over the next five years, and hopefully have a couple of opportunities to hoist that big trophy I’ve been chasing around for the last 10 years.”

One area of concern from last season: the 21 goals and 45 points in 79 games for the Blues were Backes’ lowest totals over a full season since his first few years in the league. It might be the first signs of decline in a player that’s logged some heavy miles, or it could be a simple down season for a player that’s always focused on setting the physical tone, and defense, just as much as his offensive output at the other end of the ice.

As Backes himself said, “time will be judge” of just how well the five year contract turns out for a natural leader that will undoubtedly give the Bruins a boost as a hard-nosed, top-6 forward as he moves into the Boston phase of his NHL career.

Thursday, July 28: Will the Bruins end up with Jimmy Vesey?

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Thursday, July 28: Will the Bruins end up with Jimmy Vesey?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading after a pretty amazing, on-point succession of speeches by Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg and Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention last night. It was quite a contrast to the absolute circus sideshow that went on in Cleveland last week.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Greg Wyshynksi chronicles the Jimmy Vesey Sweepstakes, and the late entry of the Chicago Blackhawks as a suitor. Wysh still feels, as I do, that the Bruins end up getting this talented player at the end of the day.

*The details of the charges levied against Evander Kane paint an ugly picture of a hockey player doing a lot of the wrong things.

*PHT writer Mike Halford says that the Carolina Hurricanes might be ready to snap their playoff drought after extending head coach Bill Peters.

*John Tavares tells the Toronto media not to count on him ever pulling over a Maple Leafs jersey amid post-Stamkos speculation.

*Well, would you look at this? The Nashville Predators are providing salary cap and contract info on their own team website. What a concept!

*The Edmonton Oilers say they will have a new captain in place by opening night, and it will be interesting to see if they go the Connor McDavid route.

*Brian Elliott is thrilled at the opportunity to be “the man” between the pipes for the Calgary Flames this season after splitting time in St. Louis.

*For something completely different: a great feature on Howard Stern, and his transformation from shock jock to master interviewer.

Joe Haggerty can be followed on Twitter: @HacksWithHaggs

Bergeron and Marchand convinced Backes to join Bruins

Bergeron and Marchand convinced Backes to join Bruins

JAMAICA PLAIN -- For those excited about the idea of an intense, hard-hitting David Backes in a Bruins uniform for the next five years, you have Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand to partially thank.

Backes, 32, didn’t know either of them all that well prior to this summer, aside from his experiences on ice against them. But Bergeron and Marchand called Backes multiple times while recruiting him to Boston, and it was a major factor in the former Blues captain signing a five-year, $30 million deal with the B's.

“Being an outsider, we need to have a little bit of confession here that Marchand is the kind of guy that gets under everybody’s skin. I was no different,” said the 6-foot-3, 221-pound Backes, who has 206 goals and 460 points in 727 career NHL games, all with St. Louis. “But then talking to him a little bit in the interview process prior to July 1, I hung up the phone and had to take a deep breath and say to myself, ‘That little disturber, he’s actually a pretty good guy.’ Those guys end up being the best teammates.

“A guy like Bergeron, when you play against him [he's] always in the right spot, and is never making mistakes. Those types of guys, again, are guys you want on your team, and guys you want to go to war with. They’re All-World players, Bergeron is an All-World player. But he’s also a down-to-earth guy that puts his work boots on, takes his lunch pail and plays his butt off. He’s nice to the young kids, and he’s nurturing in helping them come along. I think you’ve seen in the NHL that you need a few guys on entry-level deals, or a few guys to outperform their contracts, in order to have success in the salary-cap era. That nurturing and mentorship can really foster those kinds of performances.”

While Backes went on to mention Zdeno Chara as another highly respected, formidable opponent with whom he’ll now share a dressing room, it was interesting to note that players who currently have letters on their sweaters, like Chara and David Krejci, didn’t play a part in the recruiting process. Instead it was the next captain of the team (Bergeron) and a player (Marchand) currently in the middle of negotiations entering the last year of his contract.

“I talked to both Bergeron and Marchand twice before July 1," said Backes. "Just the way that they spoke about their team mentality, and teaming up together and sharing the load of hard minutes that need to be played, and also sharing the load of the offensive necessities that a team has . . . those things just rang true to my beliefs of a team.

“You’re all equals whether you’re the top-paid guy, or the top-minute guy, or the low-minute guy, or the guy that’s playing every other game because you’re the healthy scratch in the other games.

“We all needed to be treated equal, and do whatever we can to support the next guy. When the next guy has success, we have to be just as happy as if we scored the goal. That’s the type of thing where, when you get that from the full 20 guys on the ice, it’s so tough to be beat. Those are the teams that win championships.”

It will be interesting to see just how much involvement Backes has with the Bergeron and Marchand combination. He could very easily be a right-wing fit with those two dynamic forwards next season, or he could be a third-line center behind Bergeron and Krejci and give the Bruins elite depth down the middle of the ice.

True to his team-oriented nature, Backes said he’ll be happy to play at either position and do whatever Claude Julien feels is best.