By Joe Haggerty
MARINA DEL REY, CA With Sidney Crosby officially out of the All-Star game proceedings after suffering a concussion at or immediately after the Winter Classic, its clear theres a spot to be filled on the roster of 40-something players taking part in the game. The NHL has already asserted that some of the top rookies selected for the Superskills competition would be the first choice as replacements for All-Stars too injured to take part in All-Star weekend in Carolina.But lets be honest here. Nobody is coming to All-Star weekend to watch rookies that arent quite ready for prime time skating against the best players in the world, and there are still plenty of worthy choices ready, willing and able to play that werent among the original crop of All-Stars. Pierre Lebrun clarified this morning on his Twitter accountthat only All-Stars pulling out on ThursdayFriday at the last minute would be replaced by rookies, so there is a chance that Bergeron could be included.Guys like Tomas Plekanec, Mike Richardsand Paul Stastny would be great replacement choices for Crosby, but the most fitting in this humble writers opinion would be Patrice Bergeron as he continues coming on strong this season. Bergeron has helped carry the Bruins offensively over the last six weeks and finds himself on a 27-goal, 67-point pace thats in line with his pre-concussion offensive numbers.Add to that hes Bostons leading scorer, tied for seventh in the NHL with a plus-21 and will again be one of the top contenders for the Selke Award as the NHLs best defensive forward along with the offense, and youve got yourselves one of the most complete players in the league. Bergeron is too classy, selfless and team-oriented to campaign for something individual like the All-Star game, but theres little doubt hes both deserving and interested if the NHL did come calling in the next couple of days.The NHL rookies will get their time to fill in and be All-Stars on their own, but the NHL should do the right thing and find worthy veteran players on track with All-Star seasons as injury replacements for those like Crosby that are unable to play. On to the links:
Three goaltenders is a crowd for the Maple Leafs, who need to start making some decisions and trading some players as the season slips away from them. Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk has had it with his underachieving Senators teams, according to AOL Fanhouse, and hes ready to begin dismantling things this year with an eye toward a complete overhaul this summer. "Hi, Evgeni . . . this is Garth Snow. Hello? Hello? The epic fail that is the New York Islanders just continues to grow with each passing day. Patrick King does a great job with junior hockey for Sportsnet, and he comes through with a weekly review of players and teams for those of us that need a little schooling in junior hockey. RaleighDurham native Clay Aiken is setto sing the National Anthem at the NHL All-Star game in Carolina this weekend. Chaka Khan must have been unavailable. Elliotte Friedmans always great 30 thoughts for the week, including some rumors that Ottawa native Peter Chiarelli could be headed back to Ottawa if their GM positions opens up in the future. Interesting.
Joe Haggerty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs
Little more than a year after he was drafted in the middle of the first round by the Boston Bruins, some are whispering that 19-year-old Jakub Zboril isn’t going to live up to advanced billing. Clearly the Czech defenseman took a step back for the Saint John Sea Dogs after being taken 13th by the Bruins in last year’s draft, and dropped to six goals and 20 points in 50 games in the QMJHL while watching second round pick Jeremy Lauzon pass him by on the prospect hype chart.
Perhaps the more concerning thing have been the whispers about an erratic work ethic and bad habits in Zboril’s game, a couple of criticisms that haven’t exactly gone away since the Bruins signed him to a contract last summer following development camp. Bruins assistant general manager Scott Bradley was asked about those concerns with the young D-man as he heads into an important training camp with Boston this fall, and didn’t seem all that concerned about his first round pick being a “bust.”
“I think his offensive production was down, and that he struggled a little bit coming out of the gate” said Bradley of Zboril, who had 13 goals and 33 points in 44 games during his first season in the Quebec Major Junior League prior to getting drafted by Boston. “But he had a strong playoff. Everybody forgets that he’s a gritty guy, and a strong player that moves the puck. The thing that stands out about him are that his numbers are down from last year.
“But everything is on track with him. He’s going to come to camp and hopefully shines, and has a good year this year…patience.
“I think it’s great if the second rounders are on par with him: the [Brandon] Carlos and the [Jeremy] Lauzons. If you look at the whole of our draft last year you can’t rule out the first eight picks that they might play [in the NHL]. We’re excited. Donnie and I were at the Memorial Cup, and Lauzon raised our eyebrows every night that he played. You’d come away with a good feeling like this kid plays hard, plays the Bruins style, moves the puck and is tough. Obviously [you had to like] what Carlo did when he was brought in [to Providence] at the end. It just bodes well for what we have coming this year. Zboril and Lauzon are probably going back to junior, but Carlo is going to get a long look.”
The young Czech D-man is still at a point where his stock can still shoot higher than it’s ever been with a good showing at training camp, and a strong season for the Sea Dogs entering into his professional hockey career. But he can’t afford to go through another down season, or that talk of him being a first round bust is only going to get louder and stronger.
Joe Haggerty joins Dalen Cuff on SNC via phone to discuss the Bruins chances at landing a top free agent, the NHL Draft, and where the team still needs to improve.
Here are the links from all around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while happy to be back in the city of Boston.
*The Buffalo Sabres don’t sound happy about the accusations against Evander Kane that cropped up during NHL Draft weekend, why would they be?
*NHL teams can now start discussing free agents, exchanging ideas with them and start the chase up to July 1.
*PHT writer James O’Brien has the biggest winners in the 2016 NHL Draft. Here’s a shocker: the Bruins aren’t among them.
*A good piece from Alex Prewitt on the importance of the land line phones on the draft floor during NHL Draft weekend.
*The Edmonton Oilers are another team that didn’t come out of draft weekend with a defenseman, and are still in search of their back end help.
*A nice piece on Philadelphia Flyers draft pick Pascal Laberge, who could have been plucked by the Bruins at No. 29 rather than Trent Frederic.
*Bruce Garrioch has his Sunday NHL notes, and says that Steven Stamkos appears destined to play somewhere other than Tampa Bay.
*For something completely different: Jonah Keri has TV critic Alan Sepinwall on his podcast, and one can only hope it’s to explain how and why he could have disliked last week’s episode of Game of Thrones.