Wheeler, Stuart have a little Stanley Cup lament


Wheeler, Stuart have a little Stanley Cup lament

BOSTON Mark Stuart and Blake Wheeler both admitted it was difficult watching the Bruins win the Stanley Cup last season.

Both players were dealt to the Atlanta Thrashers for Rich Peverley and defenseman throw-in Boris Valabik prior to the trade deadline, and never got to take part in the best part after helping to build the Bruins back into a perennial contender from some modest beginnings.

Both players also live in Minnesota in the offseason and have more than a few heart-to-heart talks in the spring while their former teammates were battling against the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup Finals.

It was gratifying but it was hard at the same time. You wanted to be a part of it, said Wheeler. You get something out of it seeing the guys celebrate that you played with for a few years. That was the hardest part about getting traded. Stuart and I both knew it was very real possibility that winning the Cup was going to happen.

To see it come true was kind of a mixed bag of emotions. I was happy for the guys, they worked hard and they deserved it. Stuart and I had a few powwows in the summertime for sure. We live all of about 10 minutes apart, so we definitely met up a few times and talked about it. It made it a little easier to swallow. We were happy for the guys, but we wanted to be out there too.

Wheeler was always viewed as a project with good size, skill and speed levels that could just never put it all together, and perhaps didnt have the instincts or grit that was needed on a Cup contender. The talent is still there, however, and hes got 11 points in 22 games for the Jets while starting to play more consistent hockey with Winnipeg lately.

Thats not bad, but Wheeler still has a way to go to catch up to the surprising Kyle Wellwood leading the club in scoring with 17 points thus far.

Stuart, on the other hand, was a player the Bruins didnt want to give up on with his leadership abilities and physical tenacity, but he was also becoming a player in Boston made obsolete by a younger, cheaper alternative in Adam McQuaid.

So both players were shipped out for a player in Peverley with a little more offensive production and grittiness borne out of working his through the lower minor league levels, and theyve gone from Atlanta to Winnipeg along with the rest of the franchise. Stuart has taken to a leadership role with the Jets while Wheeler is getting accustomed to the zero degree temperatures that come along with living in Manitoba.

Hes also playing 20 minutes a night for the Jets and being allowed to blossom as a stay-at-home defensemen when it appeared that was never going to be possible during his time with the Black and Gold.

Is Stuart expecting any kind of ovation from the Bruins crowd that respected his thumping style of play?

I think I got one in my first game back last year with the Thrashers so theyve probably forgotten about me now, said Stuart. Theyve got a lot of stuff to celebrate around here.

I think its so hard not to think about if hed remained with the Bruins. But you try not to dwell on that too much because youll make yourself go crazy. That thought crept in, but you just move ahead. Im happy in Winnipeg. I think Im lucky with where Ive ended up. I was in Boston for so long in a great city and great organization, and Im very proud to be part of things in Winnipeg. Its a great hockey city with some great fans.

So Wheeler and Stuart have certainly moved on from the Bruins winning the Cup to life in Winnipeg.

But theyll have that lasting reminder every time they travel to Boston and see the Stanley Cup-winning banner hanging in the rafters, and that will no doubt serve as motivation to hoist a Cup of their own one of these days.

Tuesday, Oct. 25: Carlo for Calder?


Tuesday, Oct. 25: Carlo for Calder?

Here are the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while having watched the Curious George Halloween special about eight times over the last three or four days thanks to my three-year-old son.

*Bob McKenzie with a great story in former NHL defenseman Mike Commodore talking a shift as an Uber driver as his hockey work has dried up.

*Alex Radulov is earning some early respect for his play from his Habs teammates and the fickle Canadiens fans, but let’s see how the whole season plays out for the notoriously combustible Russian winger.

*Zach Werenski has taken an early lead among his NHL rookie peers for the Calder Trophy, but it looks like it’s going to be a crowded field this year. Just a couple of weeks in, Brandon Carlo certainly looks like he could be in the conversation as well.

*Pioneering female goaltender Shannon Szabados has been cut from the Peoria team in the Southern Pro League.

*The Chicago Blackhawks have plenty of advice for the Chicago Cubs about playing in the big games as the Cubbies get ready for their World Series close-up.

*A more mature David Perron is having greater success the second time around with the St. Louis Blues while contributing in many different areas.

*For something completely different: a really fun story of a Hollywood Reporter contributor recording the reactions of her 7-year-old son watching Empire Strikes Back for the first time. I was around the same age when Empire came out, so I’m sure my reactions were pretty similar to his at different points in the movie.

Injuries have created a muddled picture with Bruins goaltenders

Injuries have created a muddled picture with Bruins goaltenders

It’s hard to believe that it’s already come to this, but it might just be Malcolm Subban between the pipes for the Bruins on Tuesday night against the Minnesota Wild, and perhaps again on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.

The 22-year-old Subban has been pulled from two ineffective starts for the P-Bruins in four AHL starts this season (.846 save percentage and a 4.50 goals against average in four games) while coming back from last year’s fractured larynx injury. He's also a player the organization was uncertain enough about that they signed veteran backup Anton Khudobin to a two-year deal on the July 1 open of NHL free agency.

Subban attributed his start to a slow opening few weeks with a new P-Bruins roster of players, but that hasn’t stopped fellow P-Bruins goalie Zane McIntyre from putting up excellent numbers between the pipes in the early going.

But Khudobin went down with an injury mere minutes into Monday morning’s Bruins practice at Warrior Ice Arena, and Tuukka Rask been battling a nagging leg injury since the season opening win against the Blue Jackets.

So Subban was the last goalie standing on Monday as an emergency recall from Providence, and could be in line to play Tuesday night against the Wild if the Bruins medical staff can’t perform some Mr. Miyagi-style healing techniques on Rask or Khudobin.

“Khudobin got injured and couldn’t practice with us, but I haven’t heard anything yet [on an update],” said Julien following practice. “This is hockey. We deal with it on daily basis with the injuries. We wait for the news and then it’s about doing your job as it’s required. If we have to make some adjustments and have to have some different personnel, then we’ll deal with it when we have more of an update. Tuukka is still day-to-day, so nothing is changed there.

“We’re in a situation here where we’ll see what happens, and if [Subban] needs to go in goal then he’ll go in goal. It’s as simple as that. As a coach, there’s one thing that worries me and that’s ‘stop the puck.’ I’m not a goalie coach, so I’m just demanding on making the saves.”

Subban, of course, hasn’t been making the saves down in Providence early in the going there this season, and is entering the stage of his career where he needs to begin showing signs of being a potential No. 1 guy at the NHL level.

Fellow goalies from the 2012 NHL draft class like Andrei Vasilevskiy, Joonas Korpisalo, Matt Murray, Connor Hellebuyck and Frederik Andersen have all begun making their mark in the league, and Subban was selected higher than all of them except for Tampa’s Vasilevskiy. So in the final year of his entry level deal it’s high time for the 22-year-old to begin showing signs he can play in the league, whether it’s in Boston or elsewhere.

He admitted on Monday he might have been putting too much pressure on himself down in Providence while watching the injury issues play out with Tuukka Rask in Boston.

Subban was worried about the big picture of stringing together saves so he was the guy called up if the Bruins needed a goalie, and instead should have been focusing more on the present opponents at the AHL level.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself. I think anybody that knows me well knows that. I don’t like to let in goals no matter what happens, whether it’s breakdowns or not it’s my job [to stop the puck]. If there were no breakdowns then you wouldn’t need a goaltender,” said Subban. “I want to make every save and get a shutout every game. I think the biggest thing is just relaxing and playing, and knowing that it’s okay to let a goal in every once in a while.

“So I think in my position right now I’m supposed to be playing really well down there, and I think that go in my head a little bit. I was trying to get a shutout every game rather than going game-by-game and shot-by-shot. I was overthinking it too much. But collectively as a team we’re a new team and we were trying to get the chemistry together, and once we do that the D-zone will be better and the offensive zone game will come.”

If Subban does indeed get the emergency start on Tuesday night against the Wild, the Bruins just have to hope that it’s a better outing than getting pulled in his NHL debut against the Blues two seasons ago after allowing three goals on three straight shots to start the second period. They also have to hope that Rask or Khudobin get well quick given Boston’s shaky situation on defense in front of the goaltender, and the stretch they’re in of playing six straight opponents that qualified for last spring’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

If not then watch out below because every hockey person knows there’s no quicker way for a hockey club to really begin imploding than if the goaltending starts to become a major problem whether it’s because of injury, inconsistent performance or simply because of being a straight-up sieve.