Haggerty: Pouliot seeks revenge against Habs

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Haggerty: Pouliot seeks revenge against Habs

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
MONTREAL Benoit Pouliot wont play in the Bell Centre tonight against the Canadiens, and he hasnt circled any dates on the hockey calendar.

But theres little doubt that the rangy 6-foot-3 forward wants a piece of the Habs after player and hockey club suffered through a messy breakup at the end of last season. Pouliot was scratched for the final handful of games in Montreals playoff series against the Bruins, and there wasnt even a whiff of interest from his Habs employer before he signed a deal with the Bruins.

Thats left a distinct impression on a player in Pouliot who seems to up his game when he feels like hes got something to prove. He knows that hell be playing the Canadiens six times during the regular season, and there exist plenty of chances to right the wrongs in his mind.

When you get let go by a team, you want to prove to them that they shouldnt have, said Pouliot, who looked comfortable in Sunday nights game in Halifax skating with Zach Hamill and Brad Marchand. Hopefully well be playing them enough this year so I can make sure that I do that. So we should be good.

Pouliot has been lauded by Claude Julien for providing a physical element to the forward lines, and has consistently remarked that the Bs coaches felt he was the most consistently physical winger among the Habs forwards they faced last season. Just ask Johnny Boychuk, who was hit with the flying elbow off the top turnbuckle that launched NESNs Jack Edwards into his chump tirade.

Pouliot, Jordan Caron and Chris Clark appear to be in competition for two spots on the Bs final roster, but the ex-Habs and ex-Wild forward seems to have at least an inside track on one of those two jobs. How he will fit into the Bs roster puzzle remains largely unknown, but it should be interesting watching Pouliot try to put it all together as a 24-year-old with all the talent and tools in the world.

Pouliot is doing and saying all the right things, and hoping to stay out of the coachs dog house that seemed to be his permanent residence with Jacques Martin at the Bell Centre. The Bs are hoping to tap into his underachieving tendencies as they did with Nathan Horton last season, and perhaps reap more than the 15 goals scored hes averaged over the last two years with the Habs.

Its always a little different when youre on the other side. But, hey, Im a Bruin now and Im very happy. You know what? Ive worked hard all summer, Im having a good camp and done everything that the coaches want me to do, said Pouliot. Obviously its a big rivalry and I heard about it all summer after signing in Boston because I live in Montreal during the summer.

Pouliot is hoping to be able to return the chirping favor to his friends and neighbors in Montreal next summer. More importantly, hes hoping to get his career back on track just as Horton did during a career-altering season with the Bruins.

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

Haggerty: Bruins putting a lot of their hopes in one roster fix

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Haggerty: Bruins putting a lot of their hopes in one roster fix

The improvement plan has become as clear as it’s going to be for the Bruins this offseason.

With Bruins general manager Don Sweeney locking up Kevan Miller to a four-year, $10 million deal this week and vowing to sign Torey Krug as well, the Bruins defensemen corps is going to look awfully similar to last season’s misbegotten group.

Almost identical, it would seem.

Sure, Sweeney said on Wednesday that the Bruins are actively seeking out “a transitional defenseman” that’s presumably a little better than 35-year-old journeyman John-Michael Liles, and can be paired with Zdeno Chara as a top duo for next season. It’s the No. 1 priority on the Bruins offseason shopping list just as it was last season once they shipped Dougie Hamilton to Calgary for draft picks and were instead saddled with a fearsome, crippling black hole at the top of their organizational D-man charts.

The trade market has been set to a degree by the Erik Gudbranson trade from the Florida Panthers to the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night with Jim Benning giving up a Grade-A center prospect in Jared McCann, a second-round pick and a fourth-round pick in exchange for the 24-year-old top-four defenseman. Per a hockey source with knowledge of the situation, the Bruins were not involved in any talks for the towering Gudbranso. It sounded like the Panthers and Canucks were pretty locked in with each other on making a deal.

That’s an unfortunate product of Boston not being able to match up with the available center prospect that might have interested Florida and having dealt some of those 2016 draft picks on fruitless deadline rental deals for Lee Stempniak and Liles.

So, how difficult will it be to land Kevin Shattenkirk, or Jacob Trouba, or Sami Vatanen, or Tyson Barrie, or any other mobile blueliner able to play big minutes, move pucks and survive against the other team’s best offensive players while being sheltered defensively by Zdeno Chara?

“Time will tell on that one, you know? Either through free agency or through acquisition, it’s a matter of finding a trading partner or finding a match in the marketplace. We’re going to be aggressive,” said Sweeney. “We certainly have identified, we had our pro meetings … I’m not going to give my whole plan out to you today. But we have areas that we want to address in the depth of our organization more likely in the forward position, either on the right wing or the center, or again on the backend. We’re exploring a bunch of different things trade-wise. It’s difficult in this league, but I think that we’re in the position with two first-round picks to be either selecting really good players or to be in the marketplace.”

The Bruins had better hope it’s a miracle-working puck-mover that they bring to Boston because otherwise they are on course for bringing back the same old sorry usual suspects from last season. Miller and Adam McQuaid will be taking up a combined $5.25 million on the salary cap, Krug will have a salary in the range of $5 million per season after watching the B’s largesse in the Miller deal and both Chara and Seidenberg will trudge on as proud, aging warriors well on the back end of their careers after outstanding service in Boston.

That means many defenders, including Joe Morrow and Colin Miller, return. Defense was the clear weakness on the team, which finished 19th in the NHL after being in the bottom third of the league pretty much all season. It was inarguably the worst defensive group of Claude Julien’s 10-year tenure with the Bruins and had major difficulties in all areas ranging from tape-to-tape passes, to coverage breakdowns and good, old-fashioned lost battles in all of the danger areas.

So, with the plan to add one high-caliber “transitional defenseman” already laid out, it’s clear the B’s belief is that will be enough to substantially improve things on the ice.

At least that’s the theory before the bullets start flying next season and Sweeney gave a few perfunctory lines about the team improving in every area.  

“This is a results-oriented business, so we have to get better in areas. We have to improve our roster. I’ve said all along that we need to continue to improve our roster. We’ll be in the marketplace in every different way, shape, or form to try and acquire players that will continue to help us do so,” said Sweeney. “Talking with Claude and going over the time he spent with Butch [Cassidy], through my dealings with Butch, and realizing the development of a lot of the players that have been a part of our roster and success is the transition game and stuff that Butch has brought to the table.

“[It’s] how he saw the game, how he expects players to play and move pucks and work on it every day, is an area that I think he’s going to be an addition to our [coaching] staff and how he sees the game. I think I identified that if Butch was playing in this day and age now, he’d be a very welcome addition to our roster.”

So that’s the plan, folks. The big move of the summer is getting a defenseman they badly need, filling in a few roster spots, signing a good deal of their own players and then hoping for a better result next time around.

Isn’t there some kind of line about insanity and expecting different results with the same cast of characters year in and year out? 

 

Thursday, May 26: Will going with Fleury haunt Penguins?

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Thursday, May 26: Will going with Fleury haunt Penguins?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while still laughing at the #TeamFrich movement.

*Dave Lozo says that the decision by Mike Sullivan to play Marc-Andre Fleury could still come back to haunt the Pittsburgh Penguins.

*Miracle on Ice goaltender Jim Craig marvels at the evolution of USA Hockey from the Miracle days to the current system that just keeps on producing top talent.

*Mike from Woburn hates the Kevan Miller contract almost as much as I do.

*Speaking of the Kevin Miller deal, here’s a scenario where the big overpay for Miller might help them land another talented young player.

*In other hockey news, the Vancouver Canucks landed legitimate top-4 defenseman Erik Gudbranson while the ink was drying on the Kevan Miller contract.

*Chris Phillips is expected to announce his retirement from the Ottawa Senators after a long career in Ottawa as a defensive warrior.

*PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough says some tough decisions await the St. Louis Blues after dropping the conference finals to the San Jose Sharks.

*The San Jose media has decreed that it was worth spending a first-round pick for Martin Jones after he helped carry them to the Cup Final. For the Bruins it means that their first round pick will be No. 29 or No. 30 in the first round, so whoop-de-do for that.

*For something completely different: 21 scientists say that Tom Brady is right and the NFL is wrong about Deflategate.