Haggerty: Bruins' youth gives them upper hand

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Haggerty: Bruins' youth gives them upper hand

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs

BOSTON -- The one thing that might just save the Bruins in this Stanley Cup hangover season: The playoff-hardened youth that the Bs roster is built on.

The 22 players most likely to make up the Bs roster when the team breaks camp in the beginning of October averages slightly over 27 years old, and could be one of the many reasons the Bruins can buck a 14-year trend.

No team has been able to win back-to-back Stanley Cups over those 14 years, but its difficult to recall a defending champ with a nucleus as fresh-faced as the Bruins. Its hard to believe, but Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Tyler Seguin, Tuukka Rask and Nathan Horton are all 26 years old or younger and just entering the prime of their hockey careers.

That means the organization can still expect better performances from many of the players entering their athletic peaks, and should be locked in for at least another five years of elite performance in the Eastern Conference.

Certainly Tim Thomas is perhaps the single biggest singe factor behind Bostons run to the Cup, and the seasoned netminder is at an age (37) when most goaltenders have become coaches running goalie clinics. But if the Bruins are going to have continued success this season after capturing the Cup its going to be on the strength of the young skating legs up and down the roster.

It also means the rest of the young core needs to take ownership of the team within the dressing room, and become a big part of the leadership group policing themselves and each other. Bergeron is the most visible given his role as an alternate captain, and the fact that hes already been in the NHL for seven full seasons gives him the most gravity of any voice in the room.

I think we have to do it," said Bergeron. "We have to all find ways to be more vocal and grab some of that void that Mark Recchi left in that leadership role. We've just got to all step up and find a way to do it.

It's not about not being ourselves. Youve got to make sure you stay yourself and it comes out the right way. You can't just force it. That's the biggest thing when you make sure the message goes out.

Its certainly easier said than done, but the proof is in the performances moving forward. Horton was a playoff hero with Game 7 goals and an intimidating physicality, but the winger only scored 24 regular-season goals while adjusting to his first season in Boston. Krejci nearly matched his season goal production in 75 games with a team-best 12 goals in 25 Stanley Cup playoff games, and admits theres another level of consistency he can reach with the Bruins.

Lucic may be hard-pressed to again reach 30 goals this upcoming season as he did while breaking through last year, but theres no reason to think that Lucic and Marchand cant combine offense and tone-setting physicality for a team that thrives on both skills mixed together.

Rask is there to spell Thomas during the regular season and provide the 37-year-old netminder with a little bit of rest after the Vezina Trophy winner played in a whopping 82 games last year.

Perhaps the biggest X-factor is Seguin, who should be able to build on a promise-filled rookie campaign and could be the scoring catalyst that helps the Bruins pass right on by their hangover doldrums.

After all, hangovers were a lot less painful at 19 years old, werent they?

I think the one thing thats for sure is that weve still got a young team," Claude Julien said. "When you look at players on our top two lines they generally are all young. And it got a lot younger with Mark Recchi retiring. But somebody else is going to step in there and replace Recchi and its probably going to be a young player as well.

Theres no doubt that theres room to grow still and a lot of it will be experience. Last year with the experience from the playoffs it is certainly going to serve us well this year . . . if they want it to serve us well.

Older veterans like Andrew Ference, Shawn Thornton, Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg are still veterans capable of contributing heavily to whatever the Bruins do this season. But youth will have to be served if the Black and Gold are going to fare better than some of their fellow Stanley Cup champs over the years but the good news is that veteran youth is perhaps unlike anything the NHL has experienced in a long, long time.

Its going to be an interesting hockey season in Boston, and it starts with a group of homegrown young players that have grown to savor the taste of winning.

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

Haggerty: Trouba deal is one Bruins need to get done

Haggerty: Trouba deal is one Bruins need to get done

Bruins management has been in a holding pattern waiting for something to “shake free” in the top-four defensemen department and that might have finally happened this weekend.

With the news on Saturday that Jacob Trouba won’t be reporting to training camp with the Winnipeg Jets and has asked for a trade, a player is becoming available that the Black and Gold have had their eyes on for months and months.

CSN was the first to report that the Bruins were putting together a plan for an offer sheet for the 22-year-old American-born defenseman back in June, but that never materialized. GM Don Sweeney eventually backed off that aggressive plan to nab a player they have tapped as a top-four, right-shot defenseman, but clearly there is still interest from a Boston team that literally did nothing to upgrade their back end over the summer.

Cam Neely admitted to CSN a couple of weeks ago that the Bruins were still positioned to make a move for a D-man if something opened up on the market.

“Basically from April to now everybody is talking about our back end, and not being able to land a top-four defenseman. We still have an opportunity as far as cap space goes if something shakes free, and I know Don [Sweeney] has been working hard trying to do something,” said Neely. “But I feel like as a group we can do better than we did last year.

“I think Tuukka [Rask] can play better than he did last year. If that happens we should be a better club. It’s going to be a challenge and it’s going to be competitive. But I feel like the changes we’ve made through the organization, and not just in player personnel, that there’s opportunity for our group to improve.”

Well, here’s a memo for the B’s brass on Causeway Street: things just opened up as high and wide as a vintage Rich Peverley shot off the high glass. The ninth overall pick in the 2012 draft is going to be made available and will undoubtedly be the best defenseman to move in trade between now and the start of the regular season.

He’d also go a long way toward providing the B’s with the kind of bridge D-man that could improve markedly in the present, and allow the back end to be much closer to good until young defenesmen Charlie McAvoy, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon and Brandon Carlo are ready for prime time.

This Saturday night statement from agent Kurt Overhardt explains the situation succinctly, but basically Trouba doesn’t want wind his career away stuck behind Dustin Byfuglien and Tyler Myers on the right side of Winnipeg’s defense.

“Our client, Jacob Trouba, will not be attending the Winnipeg Jets NHL training camp. Since May, we have been working with the Jets management in an effort to facilitate a trade of Jacob’s rights. Both parties continue to work on this matter,” said Overhardt in the statement. “There has been no negotiation regarding the terms of a contract between our client and the Jets over the course of the last several months. The situation is not about money; it is solely about our client having the opportunity to realize his potential as a right shot NHL defenseman.

“To the Jets credit, the club has two outstanding right shot veteran defensemen and our client simply wants the opportunity to have a greater role. As a consequence of the Jets depth on the right side, we believe it is in both parties’ best interest to facilitate a mutually advantageous trade.

Our client has nothing but respect for the people and City of Winnipeg, the Winnipeg Jets, its fans, management and ownership - our desire to get him moved has everything to do with opportunity. We will continue to work with the Jets in good faith to achieve this end.”

Clearly, Trouba will draw big interest around the league: he’s a 6-foot-1, 200-pound, right-shot defenseman who posted 10 goals and 29 points in his rookie season as a teenager and has averaged more than 22 minutes of ice time per game since entering the league. 

This is yet another chance for Sweeney and Co. to close a deal on a defenseman and finally start to address some of the damage done while shipping away Johnny Boychuk and Dougie Hamilton in successive years. It will undoubtedly cost a pretty penny in terms of assets, but there has to be a reason why Sweeney has been stockpiling centers headed into training camp.

A package of Ryan Spooner, Joe Morrow and a first-round pick would be considerable, but it also might not be enough to get a deal done for a high-demand talent in Trouba. Undoubtedly the Jets would also for a blue chip D-man prospect such as Carlo, or perhaps they’d be more interested in  veteran right-shot option Adam McQuaid, who could immediately replace Trouba in the Winnipeg lineup.

The worst-case scenario is Kevin Cheveldayoff taking a page from the Kevin Shattenkirk trade talks, and both starting and ending any conversations with David Pastrnak as the main trade chip. The Bruins have made it clear they’re done “sprinkling their talent around the rest of the league” as one B’s front office exec made clear to CSN.   

The bottom line: it’s not going to be easy, but this is exactly the kind of situation where Sweeney needs to become a closer rather than a lamenter who starts an explanation with “price are high” or “it takes two to tango.”

It takes a good manager to close a deal his team desperately needs. This Trouba situation is shaping up to provide the B’s with that opportunity. 
 

Rask: Last season 'something to rebound from' personally

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Rask: Last season 'something to rebound from' personally

BRIGHTON, Mass. – While David Pastrnak, Tuukka Rask and David Backes are back from competing in the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto, that doesn’t mean you’ll see those players on the ice over the next couple of days. Perhaps the trio will practice on Monday in the fourth on-ice session at main training camp, but Bruins GM Don Sweeney confirmed that none of those returning players will suit up against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the B’s preseason debut at TD Garden on Monday night.

“Yeah…absolutely,” said Sweeney when asked if those three players have been ruled out for Monday night. “They’re going to get through the weekend here. Next week, we’ll evaluate [them] when they get on the ice. But, all those guys will not be on the ice until next week.

“It might be case-by-case for each guy. Those guys have been playing for a while at a high level. It’s unique for David Backes coming into the organization, so he’d like to integrate himself. I talked yesterday with all three of them just to get a read of where they’re at. But, sometime first of next week, they’ll be on [the ice].”

Both Pastrnak and Rask have checked in with the Bruins media over the last couple of days after returning from Toronto, and the Bruins goaltender, in particular, has plenty of motivation coming off a down statistical season. The 2.56 goals against average and .915 save percentage were well below his career numbers, and people like B’s President Cam Neely have pointed to Rask as somebody that needs to have a better season for Boston to rebound back into the playoffs this year.

“There were a couple of years where the standards pretty high, so obviously when they go down there’s something to rebound from. You kind of know where you can be. That’s where I try to be every year and I’m working on being there this year, and taking us to the playoffs and moving forward,” said Rask. “But every year is a new year where you’ve got to work hard, and set your goals to be at your best. More often than not you hope [being at your best] is going to happen, and I hope this year is going to be a great year for us.”

Clearly Rask wasn’t alone in his struggles last season behind a mistake-prone defense that allowed plenty of Grade chances, and that could be a repeating phenomenon again this season for the Bruins unless the defense is substantially upgraded along the way.

As far as the other three B’s players still taking part in the World Cup, it could be a while for Patrice and Brad Marchand as Team Canada has advanced to the final best-of-three series that could also feature Zdeno Chara if Team Europe is victorious.