Haggerty: NHL finally gets it

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Haggerty: NHL finally gets it

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON The Boston Bruins can finally feel like proper justice was served after one of the horrendous hits leading to a severe concussion has been properly handled by the league.

It didnt really happen with Patrice Bergeron three years ago, and it certainly didnt happen when Marc Savard left a good chunk of his pro hockey career on the ice in Pittsburgh after taking a blindside Matt Cooke elbow to the head.

This time Aaron Rome was suspended for four games the duration of the Stanley Cup Finals, plus any remaining games in next years regular season if there are fewer than four games played in the remainder of the Finals for his too-tardy hit targeted at Nathan Hortons head in the end of the first period. The blow has caused a severe concussion for Horton, and ended the right wingers season prematurely in the most important time of year.

Bruins coach Claude Julien informed the media Horton has been released from the hospital, and getting the 6-foot-2, 220-pounder healthy next season after a long road to recovery is now one of the biggest orders of business for the Bruins.

You want to win it for a guy like Horton," Milan Lucic said. "Hes done so much for us this year and getting us to this point. You can use it in motivation for yourself. Hes had a lot of impact on me as a friend and as a linemate.

In terms of proper punishment, Julien perhaps said it best when all parties agreed the hit was late after Game 3 and that one second, which seemed like an eternity, was enough time for Rome to pull up before he left his feet to bury Horton with a shoulder to the head.

The Bruins have been at the forefront of criticizing even their own teammates at times about head hits this year due to the sensitivity of past injuries to Savard and Bergeron Andrew Ference heard guff around the league for calling out Daniel Paille for a head shot against the Dallas Stars earlier this season and Julien once again stuck with his consistent message that it should always be about protecting the players in the league.

I don't think I've ever changed my approach on that," Julien said. "I said all along, whether it was the first incident in this series, I like to leave things the rulings to the NHL . . . and you move on. I don't want that job, to be honest with you. It's a tough job. I'm one of those guys or one of those coaches that respects whatever they do.

For people that thought I was disappointed with the Alexandre Burrows biting thing, I wasn't. I moved on. In regards to this one here, they made a decision. I think it's important for our whole league to protect our players from those kinds of hits. I support them. Whether you agree or not, you support them. I support them with the Burrows decision and I'm supporting them with this one, as well.

All Bruins players clearly agreed with the favorable ruling from the league, while also putting Horton in their thoughts as they attempt to regain focus on the task at hand.

Earlier in the year avoiding allowing the hit to be a distraction would have been a lot tougher, but this time of year the greater goal, fortunately, is that we want to win that trophy. Thats the big picture. Thats what were focused on, said Shawn Thornton.

While Thornton and the rest of his teammates are fixed on winning the Bruins' first Stanley Cup since 1972, there is also a strong feeling from the Bruins side of things that the NHL is slowly crawling in the right direction. In the last 10 years there had been three Finals suspensions for one game apiece to -- Detroits Jiri Fischer (cross-check) in 2002, Calgarys Ville Nieminen in 2004 and Anaheims Chris Pronger (hit to the head) in 2007 -- so a four-game suspension shows the league is lowering its tolerance for headshots in the NHLs showpiece event.

Teammate or no teammate, you never want to see a guy laying out on the ice looking like hes out of it, Shawn Thornton said. Its not good for anybody.

"Theyre making the right strides, but at the end of the day GMs arent out there to tell players to stop cutting across and leaving their feet to hit a guy, added Thornton. Thats us. Maybe those meetings should be going on at the players meetings rather than the GM meetings. But I think the league is doing a good job going in the right direction where players are being held accountable for their actions.

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

Friday, July 29: Good signs in Bruins-Marchand negotiations

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Friday, July 29: Good signs in Bruins-Marchand negotiations

Here are the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while using “malarkey” in my day-to-day vocabulary as much as possible. 
 
-- Dale Tallon was promoted with the Florida Panthers to accentuate his strengths as a talent evaluator, but maintains that he still has final say on hockey decisions
 
-- PHT writer Cam Tucker has another young D-man off the board with the Wild’s Matthew Dumba signing a two year, $5.1 million deal with Minnesota
 
-- In the interest of self-promotion, here’s my take on the negotiations between Brad Marchand and the Bruins: There’s a couple of good signs at the outset of negotiations
 
-- The Arizona Coyotes are stressing the defensive side of things in a big, big way, and it appears to be part of John Chayka’s master plan

 -- Alex Pietrangelo would be a natural selection to replace David Backes as the next captain of the St. Louis Blues. 

-- A moving letter from Sens forward Bobby Ryan to his recently passed mother is up at the Players Tribune website. 

-- Chris Kreider has re-signed with the New York Rangers, and plans to get out of his head and onto the score sheet more often. 
 
-- For something completely different: Jerod Mayo will bring a new voice to Tom E. Curran’s Quick Slants program on our very own CSN network. 

 

List of Bruins prospects includes two familiar names

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List of Bruins prospects includes two familiar names

With decidedly Boston-sounding names and thoroughly familiar faces, given their resemblances to their ex-Bruin dads, it might have been easy to overlook Ryan Donato and Ryan Fitzgerald and focus on the truly little-known prospects at Development Camp earlier this month.

But on the ice, their brimming confidence, their offensive skills and the maturity to their all-around game was impossible to ignore.

When it was over, general manager Don Sweeney singled out Donato, who plays at Harvard, and Fitzgerald, from Boston College -- along with Notre Dame forward Anders Bjork and former Boston University defenseman Matt Grzelcyk -- as players who have developed significantly.
 
“[They're] just comfortable in what they’re doing,” said Sweeney. “I mean, they’ve played at the college hockey level . . . two, three, four years with some of these kids. They’re very comfortable in their own skin and in what they do.”
 
Donato, 20, is actually coming off his first season at Harvard, where he posted 13 goals and 21 points in 32 games. He looked like he was in midseason form during Development Camp, showing off a scoring touch, skill with the puck on his stick in tight traffic, and the instincts to anticipate plays that allow him to beat defenders to spots in the offensive zone. He’s primed for a giant sophomore season with the Crimson, based on his showing at camp.
 
“Every year is a blast," said Donato, son of former Bruins forward and current Harvard coach Ted Donato. "You just come in [to development camp] with an open mindset where you soak everything up from the coaches like a sponge, and see what they say. Then I just do my best to incorporate it into my game and bring it with me to school next year.
 
“One of the things that [Bruins coaches and management] has said to me -- and it’s the same message for everybody -- is that every area of your game is an important one to develop. The thing about the NHL is that every little detail makes the difference, and that’s what I’ve been working on whether it’s my skating, or my defensive play. Every little piece of my game needs to be developed.”
 
Then there's Fitzgerald, 21, who is entering his senior season at BC after notching 24 goals and 47 points in 40 games last year in a real breakout season. The 2013 fourth-round pick showed speed and finishing ability during his Development Camp stint and clearly is close to being a finished hockey product at the collegiate level.
 
“It was good. It’s definitely a fun time being here, seeing these guys and putting the logo on,” said Fitzgerald, son of former Bruins forward Tom Fitzgerald, after his fourth Development Camp. “One thing I’m focusing on this summer is getting stronger, but it’s also about just progressing and maturing.
 
“I thought . . . last year [at BC] was a pretty good one, so I just try to build off that and roll into my senior season. [The Bruins] have told me to pretty much continue what I’m doing in school. When the time is right I’ll go ahead [and turn pro], so probably after I graduate I’ll jump on and make an impact.”
 
Fitzgerald certainly didn’t mention or give any hints that it could happen, but these days it has to give an NHL organization a bit of trepidation anytime one of their draft picks makes it all the way to their senior season. There’s always the possibility of it turning into a Jimmy Vesey-type situation if a player -- like Fitzgerald -- has a huge final year and draws enough NHL interest to forego signing with the team that drafted him for a shot at free agency in the August following his senior season.
 
It may be a moot point with Fitzgerald, a Boston kid already living a dream as a Bruins draft pick, but it’s always a possibility until he actually signs.
 
In any case, both Donato and Fitzgerald beat watching in their respective college seasons after both saw their development level take a healthy leap forward.