Morning Skate 33: Time to hit Gillies hard

Morning Skate 33: Time to hit Gillies hard

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.comBOSTON Its time to get Trevor Gillies out of the NHL, and not let the NHL swinging door hit him on the way out.The New York Islanders goon concussed Pittsburgh Penguins Eric Tangradi with a blind side hit during the embarrassing fight night between the Isles and Pens several weeks back as one its main perpetrators. But thats just the beginning.He also laughed and mocked the fallen player while watching medical staff rush onto the ice to treat Tangradi after Gillies delivered the knockout hit and then pummeled Tangradi as he crumpled toward the frozen sheet.It was a disgusting moment in a sport where honor, reputation and a code of conduct have been set in place since the very first puck was dropped.So Gillies, the Mohawk-sporting thug, serves a nine-game suspension for his little piece of deranged behavior against the Penguins, and then Wednesday night tries to take out tough guy Cal Clutterbuck with a head shot in his first game back from the league-mandated discipline against the Minnesota Wild. Word in hockey circles is that Gillies is a mixed martial arts fan and Ultimate Fighting guy that fancies himself that kind of colorful character on the ice. He seems to have no desire to better himself as a player or become a real hockey asset, and instead is overjoyed to simply be what fellow hockey players derisively call a meathead on a hockey team.The hit on Clutterbuck was away from the play, and nowhere near the puck in true meathead fashion. Gillies didnt even try to take the body or make a hockey play -- and instead directed his glove, stick butt end and fist right at the side of Clutterbucks face while his back was turned to the charging Islanders skater. Meanwhile Tangradi is clearing the fog out of his head for the Penguins, and things simply get uglier on Long Island.In many ways the Isles situation seems like Reg Dunlops Chiefs from Slap Shot after the Hansen Brothers have taken over. Its where the Isles have given up any pretense of winning or losing for the season and instead are paying players to go out hunting for heads. For a team thats already been on the NHL fringe for quite some time, its a dangerous place for the squad to position itself.That kind of things need to be dealt with swiftly and mercilessly by the NHL as they meet with Gillies and decide on some form of supplementary discipline. Theres no place in the game for a guy like Gillies looking to make a name by hurting his fellow players.Colin Campbell and the NHL should make that clear while they have the chance to end this Gillies situation, once and for all, before somebody truly gets hurt.On to the links:Bob Probert had evidence of degenerative brain disease after all the hits and fights during his NHL career. Not really surprising and a little scary to guys living the Probert Way of Life in the NHL.CSN controversy magnet and self-styled truth teller Mike Felger doesnt think the Bruins belong in the conversation as one of the Top Four teams in the NHL.Justin Bourne takes a look at why some teams manage to pull themselves together in the sport of hockey despite crippling injuries.A good piece by SI.coms Michael Farber about the number of quality ex-NHL coaches that are simply hanging around waiting for a phone call.More SI.com with another believer that Tim Thomas could and should be in the running for the Hart Trophy this season. I have a vote and Im certainly listening to any and all arguments that goaltenders should qualify for the award.Dan Hamhuis ready to suit up against the Nashville Predators team that saw him walkaway via free agencylast season.Adrian Dater ticks off the top five NHL fan groups, and somehow has the Los Angeles Kings in there for VERSUS.cominstead of some much more traditional choices like Boston for instance.A really well-constructed piece about Sidney Crosby from Pittsburgh Magazine, concussions and the effect its had on the league and its players.

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.