Wheeler, Stuart have a little Stanley Cup lament

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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.

Amid signs his job might be in trouble, Julien says: 'I'm not quitting on this team'

Amid signs his job might be in trouble, Julien says: 'I'm not quitting on this team'

BRIGHTON, Mass – Roughly 12 hours after embattled Bruins coach Claude Julien bristled at a question about his job security and labeled it “shock journalism” in the heat of the moment after a tight loss to the Blackhawks, the B’s bench boss delivered a classy, heartfelt response to the same question.

Julien was asked about it in French by a reporter from the Montreal Gazette, but answered in English because of the “loyalty he feels to the people in Boston.”

In essence, Julien basically said he should be relieved of his duties if he’s deemed to be behind what ails the Black and Gold, but he’s going to keep working to fix things until that day comes.

It was exactly the kind of response you would expect from a coach who's taken the B’s to the mountaintop in his 10 years running the team and will always be respected and loved in Boston long after his coaching days are done.

“How do I deal with all of the rumors and all that is going on? I didn’t feel like [Friday night] was the appropriate time for me to answer that after a game where you’re emotions are pretty high. I wasn’t getting into that, but to be honest with you my job is to coach the hockey club,” said Julien. “Am I worried about my job? No, I’m not. Because it’s not my job to worry about it. My job is to fix things, and my job is to coach this team and do everything I can. If I become one of the reasons that we’re not doing well, then management has to make that decision.

“It’s not my decision to make. I’m not quitting on this team. I’m not quitting on anybody. I’m not quitting on management. I’m ready and willing to go through the hard times, and I said that at the end of last year. If it’s deemed my fault, then I shouldn’t be here, and that’s all I can say.”

While the Bruins roster is clearly less than perfect and has a larger dose of youthful players than in years past, Julien also freely admitted that they should be held to a higher standard after proving many nights that they should be a playoff team. That’s the mandate from Bruins ownership and that’s the challenge that Julien has willingly accepted.

It’s also the challenge that’s falling a bit short now as they’ve lost three crushing games in a row and have fallen behind the Ottawa Senators in the playoff standings, with Toronto also right behind them holding six games in hand.

“If we’re going with what we said we were going with and there’s going to be some growing pains along the way, so be it,” said Julien. “I think we put ourselves in a position earlier in the year where we could all of a sudden believe that we’re a playoff team...absolutely. I still think we’re a playoff team. Whether we can do it or not we’ll find out at the end of the year, but my job is to do everything I can to get us into the playoffs and that’s what I’m going to do.

“As far as the rumors are concerned, they’re out there and I know that. But I don’t worry about it because worrying is wasting a lot of my time. And my time is spent trying to fix things here.”

Julien and the Bruins are headed to Pittsburgh for a Sunday matinee against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and will have two games against the red-hot Pens headed into an All-Star break weekend that must feel like a well-earned oasis for Julien at this point in the season. 

Haggerty: Good, but not good enough, again the story for Bruins

Haggerty: Good, but not good enough, again the story for Bruins

BOSTON – The all-important results continue to elude the Bruins at the time when they need them most.

The Black and Gold lost their third game in a row, 1-0, to the Chicago Blackhawks at TD Garden Friday night when they allowed the game-winning goal with less than 90 seconds remaining in regulation. It was a simple defensive breakdown and some great tic-tac-toe passing with Marian Hossa finishing things off, but it also felt like a game where the Blackhawks coasted against a wounded Bruins team for 58 minutes before turning it on when it was winning time.

The winning goal was a cross-ice pass from Tanner Kero to Hossa, with the puck sliding right between the legs of Adam McQuaid in the slot, and Hossa picking a corner while giving Tuukka Rask zero time to react side to side.

“We had a game plan in place and our guys executed well, they were ready to play,” said Claude Julien. “One little mistake and it’s in our net, and you lose yourself a pretty important hockey game.”

So, now the Bruins have taken only one point in their past three games, have dropped behind the Ottawa Senators in the Atlantic Division standings and continue to skate around like they’re wearing the weight of the entire organization on their shoulders.

“At the end of the night it is another loss and that’s the biggest thing. Did your team play fairly well? I think so. I think we competed hard, but then again you’re dealing with some growing pains. We had an icing late in the game so that’s not necessary, but the winning goal that goes through three of our guys and in our net with a minute-and- a-half left,” said Julien. “We have to stand there again, and take the responsibility for our own actions. It’s unfortunate because that minute-and-a-half that was left in the game kind of tarnished everything we had done for the first 58 minutes.

“I thought we played pretty well against a good team. We had contained the guys that we needed to contain. We didn’t score any goals – I don’t think we did a good enough job there - we had some chances but again you got to find ways to score goals. That’s where we are at.”

Clearly, the Bruins didn’t give up a ton defensively and Rask had been solid for the first two-plus periods, but there was also a sense Chicago didn’t bring its best game either when Boston outshot the Blackhawks 17-6 in the opening period. It was also clear that, aside from a couple of good, early chances from Tim Schaller and Brad Marchand, along with a Joe Morrow breakaway chance, the Bruins offense wasn’t doing enough work to get closer to the Chicago net for any sustained pressure.

So, instead of a solid result with dark clouds swirling over Causeway Street that a big change is needed to jolt a stagnant team, the Bruins hang up another loss where they outshot their opponent and end up with nothing to show for it.

These are the kinds of losses that test morale and togetherness and could either be taken as a sign of things tightening up for the Bruins or of things continuing to spiral away from a team that just needs wins at this point.

“I’m sure everybody’s feeling down right now because we lost, but you can’t start pouting too much. You’ve got to move on,” said Rask, who allowed one goal on 22 shots in the loss. “[There’s a] big game coming up Sunday, and next week, so it’s a loss and we have to move on. [We have to] get ready for the next one. I’m sure guys are pissed today, but tomorrow’s a new day.”

Tomorrow is a new day for everybody on the Black and Gold including Julien, who is scheduled to still run practice on Saturday as the B’s bench boss before speaking to the media prior to the team leaving for Pittsburgh. So, it’s business as usual after another loss on Friday night in a classic Original Six matchup that’s clearly most of the luster from where it was at four years ago, but one can only sit and wonder how much longer business as usual cuts it for a hockey club that continues to flounder.