Zdeno Chara: The Bruins' leading man

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Zdeno Chara: The Bruins' leading man

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

Zdeno Chara's captaincy is being questioned. I say this and he immediately jumps in.

"Are they?" he asks.

My stomach drops at the reaction. He really doesn't know.

That statement, the preface to a longer question, causes his eyebrows to rise. He doesn't laugh, doesn't roll his eyes. No flash of recognition in his face betrays an insecurity found out. Chara sets his jaw and waits patiently for his chance to speak.

"Maybe some people are not believing in me being the right captain or they are questioning my leadership,'' he says. "I think I am the right captain."

So? What of the mob spitting beer-soaked disdain in his direction?

"I can't really control what they're saying. It's their opinion,'' he says. "But when I came here I really took over as captain when the team was at the lowest of the low. Maybe a lot of people forget that the team was out of the playoffs. They didn't really have anybody as a leader. Joe was young and he was one of the best players in the league, but as a leader maybe he wasn't as good. When you look at what's happened in the last four years, where the team went from five years ago, four years ago, to where we are now, I think we are going in the right direction.''

"Joe," of course, is former Bruins captain Joe Thornton. Like Chara, Jumbo Joe shouldered a terribly heavy mantle of expectations when that "C" was stitched onto his sweater. Apparently, that's the only thing they share.

"I think Joe and I are totally two different people. I know Joe a little bit but I think a lot of things are different as far as my training, diet and the way I work out...the way I act with the guys,'' he says.

It's understandable Chara would put distance between himself and his predecessor.

More of Mary Paoletti's 1-on-1 interview with Zdeno Chara.

The trade of the team's leading scorer was an ugly move for the then-struggling Bruins, summed up well by the talented center's departing words. "We haven't been winning. Whose fault is that? I'm not sure," the blindsided Thornton blustered, "but I'm out of here so it must be mine."

It's no secret that the individual stock of a player can rise and fall with his team's record. For a captain, it's unavoidable. Especially in light of the B's historic and humiliating loss to Philly.

"People do get frustrated,'' Chara says. "They are very passionate about it and they want to win. They've been waiting a long time for it. We all want to win as much as our fans, but for sure, it's not all blaming the captain for it. Sometimes you could have a great captain but you might not be winning. Sometimes the captain might not do a good job but the team is winning and everybody thinks he's great, but that's not the case.''

"I think I'm doing a good job as a captain,'' he says again.

The phrase isn't repeated as a part of a convoluted psychology to convince himself, to convince me. It is a simple statement of what he believes is fact. Chara likes facts. He is an information gatherer, what he calls an "organized person." And it's in this analytical realism of his, a brand that's lined with the emotions of a competitor, that lead him to a basic conclusion: You think things are bad now? Look where you were without me.

"It's heartbreaking that we lost in that way, Game Seven, second round. But it's progress. It's not something that's gonna happen overnight. Sometimes it takes teams, to win, many years. But I think we're going in the right direction. Being a leader . . . it's something that would be such a great feeling, to bring the Cup back to Boston. To the fans.''

Patience is all he asks. But that's a tall order for a city that has been waiting, not just since Chara got here five years ago, but since 1972.

Zee is more disciplined about patience. If there is a chip on his shoulder it's because his rise to didn't come quickly or easily. Chara battled methodically to get here.

He was told ad nauseum throughout his teenage years that he would ''never make it'' as a hockey player. This battle wages on still -- however more peripherally -- in his words. Chara has been a part of the NHL system for 14 years. But when he talks about it, he doesn't talk about the simple joy of skating onto the ice or a connection he feels for the sport itself. He talks about his embrace of pressure and his will to win.

Zdeno's Chara father talks with CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty

"It's been like that since a very young age. I really was up to challenges. If somebody told me, 'You cannot do it,' I always try my hardest, do my best to prove them wrong. You know, when I was pretty young I was assistant captain my fourth year in the league and then I was assistant captain for five years in Ottawa, then, obviously, I came here,'' he says.

"Knowing Bruins' GM Peter Chiarelli helped too. But I think Peter knew at that point that serving as an assistant captain, being in that leadership role for the past seven, eight years made me accountable and responsible to a team."

Is the title restrictive? Does it, at times, feel like a hand around his throat, squeezing when he wants to tell an unfocused teammate to just piss off?

"I think that there is a right timing and place for it,'' he says. "You have to have a feel for the team. You can't be always screaming or always being nice guy. You have to really know how to read the feeling of the team.''

It is fascinating to watch Chara talk about his team. For a guy rumored to be protected at best, dour at worst, there shines an intensity and passion in his eyes when describing the logistics of navigating an NHL locker room. Example? Training regiments. Chara is obsessive by his own word. So one would assume that it's maddening for him to see any of his troops do less.

"Not everybody's meant to, or not everybody can, push themself as hard as you can,'' he counters. "Everybody grew up in different circumstances and some guys have way more talent than maybe I have, so I have to replace that part with the work ethic I am having to put into it. You have star players in the league that, they put skates on and they just fly. So if that guy was working as hard as I am, maybe he wouldn't be as good. Maybe he would be too muscular, you know? So you can't blame them, even if you would like to see them work as hard.''

"You have to understand that we all, 25 or sometimes more guys, come from different parts of the world, different cultures. We all come together and go toward the same goal. So you have to respect each other. You have to have that mix on a team where this guy's a hard worker, this guy is really skilled, this guy is really good at blocking shots. That's what makes a team, all the complimentary things come together.''

It's like a chess match. While they all commit to performing on the ice, Chara has another game to play. It is on the captain more than anyone else to pilot between demanding excellence and respecting different styles.

"If you tell somebody, 'Hey, you have to pick it up,' or 'You have to do this better,' or 'You need to play at this level,' that's the business. And you need to understand that it's not personal, that we all want to perform, we all want to win. If I don't perform you have all the right to tell me even though I'm a captain. That openness or that communication has to be there without any barriers or being too sensitive.

"If somebody needs to be told that, 'You can do it better,' and you have to make sure it's done in a positive way, you can't just always be negative -- you have to do that. But I try to be as positive as possible. And you have to read who can be approached in front of everybody and who can't. Somebody, if you do that, it brings the best out of him. But if you do that to somebody maybe next to him, it might go totally the other way and he might not perform for another two, three days.''

Who realizes this balancing act commanded by captaincy? That final compilation on the ice is the only thing the fans see. So when the Bruins get bounced from the playoffs prematurely, well . . . the captain should be tougher, right?

He should have unleashed a fury of bone-crushing hits and 105-mph slapshots. It must be that simple.

"No,'' Chara says. "I can be doing that but then I won't be doing the other things. My number one job right now is playing on the stop line and preventing them from scoring goals. If I was sitting in the penalty box I don't think I could do that. Doing everything is not going to help. You have to focus on playing your game and playing the right way.''

Take over? Dominate? He could.

"If try to do everything -- and trust me, I can do everything: I can score, I can pass, I can hit, I can fight -- but if I try to do everything in every game, I mean, that would be impossible,'' he says.

"You have to have to read how you're going to approach every situation. Because if you keep going and finish everybody's checks then they might score. Again, if I fight every second night and be in the penalty box for five or ten, fifteen minutes, again, I'm giving the other teams chances to get some power plays, to score and get some goals. For sure, if you're a big guy then they're expecting that. But I'm not just a big guy. I think I can bring everything to the table and I have to be smart about it.''

Chara was not so wise until the end of 2006-07. His first season in Black and Gold was disappointing; the B's finished last in the division and their new captain owned a dismal -21 plusminus rating. Chiarelli said that Chara was trying to do too much. Big Z agrees.

"Coming to a new team and being captain you try your best and try your heart out every night and do everything. And some nights I was trying to finish checks, I was trying to play the puck, I was trying to lead the rushes, trying to be . . . everything,'' he says.

That's not his game.

This is his game. He is the centerpiece in the NHL's stingiest defense (second and first in goals allowed per game in the last two years, respectively). A player who, on October 2, was called the toughest competitor in the NHL by Alexander Ovechkin. Teammates Matt Bradley and Eric Fehr echoed Washington's captain.

But it's a wasted anecdote. The misperception between on-ice expectations and reality is for athletes to understand, not armchair GMs throwing remotes against the wall about the 37.5 million captain after another loss.

"That pressure is there all the time. Really. It doesn't matter if you're here or in any other city. The pressure to win and perform is always there, but that is just the norm. I think it goes with the territory of being a professional. We are under such a microscope that they basically analyze it and write about it and they talk about it. We are always under somebody's eyes.''

The eyes are often unsympathetic. Whatever. He gets it.

"Sometimes they only see the money. They don't see the sacrifice,'' the captain muses. "But it's hard. It's not easy when you're playing hurt or when you when have to constantly train, you can't eat whatever you want,'' he says.

"And I'm not complaining.''

Chara smiles as if anticipating my reaction. So-called sacrifices of the multimillion dollar athlete. Plenty of people do it. Even the ones who say he isn't overrated will say they think Chara's overpaid.

But for him, the money is a benefit realized because of his innate drive.

"I love it. I love being always being under that schedule. And I would still be even if I stopped playing hockey, I would always want to eat and live well and be healthy,'' he says. "But I don't know if many people can realize the pressure of always being on some schedule or if they would like it. It takes a lot of discipline, it takes a lot of dedication, a lot of focus. It should be a professional athlete is not just collecting big check.''

It could be the case with Zdeno Chara. But without a Stanley Cup raised over his head, people probably don't care. Until then, fans will question his moves without knowing why he makes them and they'll question his heart without knowing how hard it beats, for as long as he's captain.

Chara now knows that people doubt him. It's a good thing for the Bruins -- the best thing -- that he doesn't agree.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Bjork returns to Notre Dame after impressing at Bruins' development camp

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Bjork returns to Notre Dame after impressing at Bruins' development camp

Given that he’s a former fifth-round pick, he’s not a local guy with any Boston ties to speak of and that there isn’t a lot of fancy to his game, Anders Bjork might be a bit under the radar as far as Bruins prospects go right now. 

Still, the 19-year-old Notre Dame forward has been steadily rising among the ranks at the NCAA level and Bjork put on a pretty impressive show at B’s development camp right along with more hyped forwards like Danton Heinen and Jake DeBrusk.

Bjork showed great skating speed and a hard-nosed willingness to battle whether the puck was on or off his stick. Even better, he showed a finishing flourish with the puck whenever he was around the net. He was literally blowing by defenders with his speed throughout drills each and every day at camp, and it was hard not to notice. Time after time Bjork buried those chances earned through speed and tenacity and showed the offensive confidence that saw him lead Notre Dame in points (12 goals and 35 points in 35 games) last season as a sophomore.

“You can tell the guys that have been here. Grizzy [Matt Grzelcyk] has a great week and Anders [Bjork] has a great week because they’re just comfortable in what they’re doing,” said Bruins general manager Don Sweeney. “I mean they’ve played at the college hockey level for two, three, four years in some of these cases. They’re very comfortable in their own skin and in what they do.

"In Anders’ case he gained a tremendous amount of confidence in the World Juniors last year and you can tell he’s carrying that over offensively. He also plays in a very tight system at Notre Dame, so the habits away from the puck are really ingrained in him. Now he’s looking to explore his offensive side.”

The good news for the Bruins: Bjork wants to keep improving on the offensive end and pump up the goal-scoring numbers in his third season with the Fighting Irish. If the week spent at Ristuccia Arena is any indication, Bjork should be lighting it up in Hockey East next season after being a second team All-Hockey East selection last season.

“I’m just working on trying to contribute a little more offensively, and really work on my goal-scoring and offensive abilities like that,” said Bjork, who is a bit of a legacy at Notre Dame with his father, mother, siblings and cousin NHL forward Erik Condra all having matriculated in South Bend as well. “Working on the little things in areas like goal-scoring and playing on the wall are what I’ve been focused on. The feedback from the Bruins has been really good, and really helpful.

“Sometimes they’ll check in after a game or after a weekend of games, and give really helpful feedback. Sometimes it’s even different than what my coach said, so it’s nice to get my viewpoint and sometimes they see things that my coach doesn’t notice. Stuff like that has been really helpful, and has helped me develop as a player definitely.”

Bjork said the Bruins have stressed consistency and greater focus in his game from shift-to-shift and game-to-game and that’s something he clearly took to heart in a dominant week at development camp. Given the rising number of college hockey players that are foregoing the teams that drafted them and become free agents following their senior seasons, one would expect that next season will be Bjork’s last at Notre Dame before signing with the Bruins.

The way that the 6-foot, 188-pound Bjork is improving his game each and every season after being projected a couple of years ago as a possible third-line player in the NHL, the Bruins should be looking to bring him into the Black and Gold fold sooner rather than later. 
 

Tuesday, July 26: Daley’s surprise visit with the Cup

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Tuesday, July 26: Daley’s surprise visit with the Cup

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while never getting tired of the Bernie Sanders/Curb Your Enthusiasm parallels.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker has Trevor Daley making a surprise visit with the Stanley Cup and talking more about his emotional moment hoisting the Cup right after the win by the Penguins.

*Don Cherry and Ron MacLean get their just reward with a star on the Canada Walk of Fame after years of great hockey entertainment.

*Adam Larsson has heard the fan reaction in Edmonton after being traded for Taylor Hall, and he’s downplaying it all.

*A lack of a deal for RFA defenseman Jacob Trouba with the Winnipeg Jets doesn’t mean Trouba trouble quite yet. But it sure doesn’t sound like things are all ducky in Winnipeg.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Dan Rosen sits down with Arizona Coyotes GM John Chayka to answer five questions about his new gig, and some big changes for the Desert Dogs.

*Scott Powers has Jimmy Vesey’s camp confirming that the Chicago Blackhawks will be one of the teams on Vesey’s “short list” when he speaks with teams on Aug. 15. Watch out for Stan Bowman and the Blackhawks, who have been out to see Vesey a couple of times in Foxboro over the last month.

*The Washington Capitals continue to build depth among their forward group, and have constructed a strong roster for next season.

*For something completely different: if you love baseball or have ever enjoyed some of the truly great Dan Shaughnessy columns over the years, you will enjoy this column from Shaughnessy about his Hall of Fame induction. Congrats to Dan, a true titan in our industry.

 

Hagg Bag: Some offseason B’s questions while waiting for Vesey’s decision

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Hagg Bag: Some offseason B’s questions while waiting for Vesey’s decision

With Bruins development camp in the rear-view mirror and the Bruins roster pretty close to full barring any bold moves from B’s general manager Don Sweeney, there isn’t much movement anticipated for the Black and Gold the next few weeks. 

Certainly there isn’t much expected until the Bruins learn about their chances in the Jimmy Vesey Sweepstakes Aug. 15. The addition of the Hobey Baker winner and Harvard captain could spur on a couple of moves from the Bruins front office and would certainly result in some alterations in terms of talent and salary cap makeup on the NHL roster.

But it’s all quiet on the Black and Gold front for right now, so there’s ample time for another edition of the Hagg Bag mailbag. As always, these are tweets to my Twitter account using the #HaggBag hash tag, emails to my jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com and messages to my CSN Facebook page. Now, on to the tag:

Joe

I still keep coming back to that interview, which for a Bruins fan had to make you giddy like Jimmy [Vesey] was when he responded to you about the possibility of putting a B's jersey on.  

After hearing your podcast with Jim Murphy, I agree with you there are a lot of options out there such as Toronto, Buffalo, Chicago, San Jose to play with [Joe] Thornton his idol, or New Jersey but if his father lets him make his own decision, as he's stated, then the B's have a great chance of signing him.

He wanted the B's to [draft] him but Don was not the GM then so being given a chance on August 15 to do just that has to be one of his biggest factors. Add that to having his family close by, knowing Jimmy Hayes, Matt Grzelcyk, & Ryan Donato (plus knowing and appreciating Torey) I can't wait until the 15th. Why wait until your later years to play in Boston when you can sign now?

Question is with Loui gone taking 30 goals off the board I think his signing on top of acquiring [David] Backes will be more than replace those goals. But who then can the B's trade away, not right away, but into the season to acquire some help in other areas?

The first name is [David] Krejci, [Adam] McQuaid, and possibly Jimmy Hayes if he has a second subpar season. Could the inclusion of Krejci, who can produce, be dealt along with some other pieces to acquire a player like [Jonas] Brodin or [Matthew] Dumba & also have a chance of getting a player like Charlie Coyle?

What lines do you see?  What about the following:

1st Line- Jimmy Vesey-David Krejci- David Backes

2nd Line- Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-& David Pastrnak who, like Seguin, might be better suited with Patrice?

3rd Line- Matt Beleskey-Ryan Spooner-Jimmy Hayes

4th Line- Frank Vatrano- Noel Acciari- Riley Nash

Backend- Zdeno Chara-Colin Miller; Torey Krug-Kevan Miller; & John Michael Liles-Adam McQuaid or Brandon Carlo (long shot is to acquire Jacob Trouba from Winnipeg because he wants top four minutes and has Buff and Myers ahead of him on the depth chart…if possible slot him in the second unit with Torey and deal either McQuaid or Miller)

Another point I would like to touch on is also from your comments on the podcast or NHL XM/Sirius radio when you mentioned the Bruins have to caution themselves from dealing away valuable picks, or assets, for rental players at the trade deadline.  One point that Don Sweeney has made on a number of occasions was that the Bruins targeted defensemen and big center-men. My hope now is that since they have re-stocked the system they need to draft the top potential player available on the board rather than selecting based upon a particular need. Not to knock who they have drafted but they need to pick the best player available keeping in mind the importance placed on picks to having hockey sense and leadership or character traits. The selection of David Pastrnak is a case in point as he's a high skilled player who needed to learn the defensive game.  I hope that future drafts will see the Bruins focused on the best player available not based on the position they play. 

Greig Young

 
JH: Glad you enjoyed the Jimmy Vesey, interview. I came away with a much better feeling about the kid in general than I did going in without knowing much about him. I think a lot of the whispered stuff you hear about him is coming from those around him rather than him. It’s understandable that Vesey’s dad might have strong opinions about it all given that he played in the NHL. So, surely he’s advising his son, but I got the strong sense this is about the 23-year-old Vesey making the decision for himself, and what’s best for his career and his own chances of NHL success.

I went into the interview thinking that the Bruins had a very good chance based upon what I’d heard, and talking with Vesey did nothing to dissuade me from that feeling. Could the Blackhawks swoop in and snatch him at the last minute? Maybe. Or maybe he’s had designs on going to Toronto all the time.

But I’ve heard Boston was one of the frontrunners all along, and I’m going to continue to believe that until we know for sure.

Whether it’s Brodin, Dumba, Kevin Shattenkirk, Cam Fowler, Jacob Trouba, Tyson Barrie or somebody else, I do think the Bruins are poised to pull the trigger on another move if Vesey does indeed sign with Boston next month. It would certainly make a winger on the NHL roster expendable, and the Bruins already have a slew of NHL-caliber centers as well.

As for the draft, I’m a firm believer in always picking the best player available. When you pick by positional needs over best player, that’s when you end up with nonsensical choices like Malcolm Subban in the first round in 2012.

 
If they get Vesey do they run at Barrie with 54, 72 & 51?

--Russ Romandini (@goldenpipesss)

 
JH: Who knows? If the arbitration process goes badly enough for Tyson Barrie and the Avalanche then perhaps he’ll get dealt somewhere. If the Bruins sign Vesey, then I’d expect a couple of those players you mentioned (Adam McQuaid, Frank Vatrano, Ryan Spooner) might be in play to get a dynamic, young top-four defenseman the Bruins could immediately plug in as a top-pairing candidate with Zdeno Chara.

That would be my expectation of how things go down with the Bruins, but if we’ve learned one thing it should be this: it’s awfully, awfully difficult to close a deal in the NHL for a high-caliber defenseman, and it might not be in the cards for Don Sweeney and the Bruins prior to the start of the season.

The Bruins need to get one of those D-men if they really want to compete this season, so we’ll see what happens if/when Vesey signs with them. If Vesey signs elsewhere then I’d expect the Bruins will go into the season with what they currently have.

 

#StrangerThings have you ever played D&D like Mike, Dustin and Lucas? Did you ever sport a mullet in the 80s?

--borisan (@borisan28)

 
JH: Yes, and don’t forget about poor Will. He was there playing at the beginning and the end too. Right around that age I played my share of Dungeons and Dragons along with love of baseball cards, addiction to Strat-O-Matic baseball, football, basketball and hockey and a steady diet of outdoor sports playing with the many kids in my neighborhood.

I definitely owned a Players Handbook (though I was never hardcore enough into it to be a Dungeon Master, and wasn’t nearly geeky enough to suitably fit in with the real bone fide D&D nerds in the town I grew up in), and had a longstanding high-level fighter/magic user named Huon Pendragon that I role-played with. I’m willing to bet I still have some 20-sided dice around the house somewhere. And don’t forget about the golden age of Nintendo right around then as well: RBI Baseball, Tecmo Bowl, Mike Tyson’s Punchout, Spy Hunter, and Nintendo Hockey among others.

What a great time to be a kid. I definitely had some form of a mullet in middle school during the mid-1980’s, but it was probably not as definitive as many during that time period.

 
Which prospect will surprise us and make the roster?

--Michael Matthews (@MMATTHEWS4)

 
JH: Brandon Carlo and Danton Heinen are both expected to compete for spots, so I’m not sure I’d label either one of them a surprise. How about Jeremy Lauzon? He’s a 2015 second-round pick coming off a big junior season and the Bruins rave about his approach, his work ethic and certainly seem to think he’ll be a top-four defenseman someday soon. Perhaps it’s as soon as this season. Jake DeBrusk would be my best guess among the forwards after a strong development camp performance. Claude Julien is already on record as being a fan of his toughness and his willingness to do the work as a young player, and the NHL bloodlines from his dad Louie don’t hurt either.  

 
With plenty of cap space and losing a 30 goal scorer, was it foolish of Sweeney not getting Versteeg for a cheap 1 or 2 yrs?

--Jeremiah Kilburn (@vtmxjer66)

 
JH: Not a huge Kris Versteeg fan and, incidentally, neither is the rest of the NHL if he had to go to Europe for steady work for next season. Versteeg is a tough player: good enough to be paid decently in the NHL based on his numbers, but not a good fit in anything but a supporting role on a good hockey team. I’d rather see the Bruins bring along young kids in that spot or hope that something has inspired Jimmy Hayes this summer.

 
Will Rask bounce back from last year? What will Cassidy provide behind the bench to help the B’s this year?

--Bob Falfa (@FalfaBob)

 
JH: I think Rask will have a better season provided the Bruins can execute a deal for another puck-moving defenseman. If they go into the season with the current group of D-men, then I think Rask will be in line for another season similar to this past one. Why would anybody think there’s going to be a radically different result?

I obviously don’t think Rask was consistently at his best last season, but I also think 80-90 percent of his troubles last season are attributable to the shoddy defense in front of him. Plain and simple, cut and dried. Bruce Cassidy is a keen offensive mind and he’s good with young players, which means he either A) will be a nice compliment to Julien as sort of a counter-point on the coaching staff or B) will end up replacing Julien and pushing the Bruins more in the offense and youth direction if the B’s struggle mightily at the start of next season.

The Bruins should get more out of Ryan Spooner and Colin Miller with Cassidy on the staff, or should in theory at least.

I’ve long been of the opinion that things are a little stale with this Bruins group, and that a change of coaching voice might be the best thing for them given the current direction of the franchise. It doesn’t take away what Julien has done over the past 10 years, or reflect his standing as an excellent hockey coach. He just might not be the right coach for this Bruins team and the direction that they’re headed. It should be a really interesting season because I don’t think Cassidy takes the NHL assistant gig in Boston unless he thinks there’s another NHL head coaching shot in his future. That’s just my opinion, of course, but certainly an informed one.

 
Hey Joe - why do the Bruins not promote Tommy Cross? Too old now?

--John Thiell (via CSN Facebook page)

 
JH: Tommy Cross is what he is: a solid, tough pro and leader of men at the AHL level, who can perform in spots when called upon at the NHL level. I just don’t think he skates well enough anymore to be a regular NHL D-man after all of his knee surgeries, and it’s a shame given the kind of player he was before all of the knee issues. He would not be an upgrade if he was among the Bruins D-men group to break NHL camp this fall.

 
I think the B's will be better than predicted. But if things go south do you think they move Chara at the deadline? #HaggBag

--Ray Guarino (@rayguarino)

 
JH: I like your optimism. If things go south for the Bruins, I would hope they’d explore that kind of a move while clearly changing the blue line guard. They should have explored it last year as well, in my humble opinion.

 
Who the hell is Chief Hopper feeding in @Stranger_Things? Elle? Demogorgon? Ryan Fitzpatrick?

--CP (@cpierce1994)

JH: I’m going with “El”, but not ruling out Ryan Fitzpatrick. Something tells me that El and the Demogorgon are linked together, or perhaps two sides of the same being. It will be interesting to see how they explore it in Season Two, but suffice to say that I recommend “Stranger Things” on Netflix to anybody that hasn’t seen it: an awesome, addictive 1980’s homage eight episode series that combines E.T., Poltergeist, Firestarter, War Games, Goonies and Nightmare on Elm Street. It’s just that good.

 
Brad Marchand for Hampus Lindholm and Chris Wagner

--Joe Harris (via CSN Facebook page)

JH: Okay, but are you asking me or telling me? If you’re asking me, I don’t think the Ducks are going to do that unless Marchand is signed to a reasonable, long-term contract. And I don’t think he’s going to be signing one of those: he’s going to get something in the neighborhood of eight years and $50 million on a new contract if the Bruins are willing to go there.

 
Joe, will the Bruins look at either Kris Russell or James Wisniewski before camp or wait till to see what happens with the young guys

--Eugene Mannarino (@steelman58)

JH: Perhaps, but the price would have to be right. I also don’t think either of those would be candidates unless the Bruins go into training camp and don’t like what they see out of Joe Morrow, Miller and Carlo. Russell was a consideration, but I think he’s still looking for far too much money and term for the Bruins to be interested right now.

 
What is the most realistic situation for the Bruins adding to their D? And who do you see as the most promising B's prospect

--Colin Miller (@sportschatterHD)

 
JH: The most realistic situation is the Bruins signing Vesey, and then trading Vatrano or Spooner and a first round pick to St. Louis for Kevin Shattenkirk, or perhaps even trading David Krejci to the Blues for Shattenkirk once they get into the season and show that he’s fully recovered from his hip surgery. I think Charlie McAvoy is the most promising Bruins prospect and that he’s a legit top-pairing talent a couple of years down the line.

He’s got the skating, the passing, the size, the willingness to mix it up physically, and the offensive instincts to be effective while skating big, big minutes. He says he wants to play like Drew Doughty and there’s more than a little of that kind of player within McAvoy’s game. Even if he can be 80 percent of Doughty, that is a guy the Bruins can win with as one of their top defenders. He’s exactly what they need, but it will be a year or two before the 18-year-old is ready for Boston.

Combine McAvoy with Carlo, Jakub Zboril, Lauzon and a young NHL talent in Torey Krug, and you have the makings of a pretty talented back end a few years down the road. That doesn’t excuse the mess of a blue line the Bruins have right now, however, that’s alarmingly the same as last year’s weak unit that dragged down the hockey club.

 
Joe,

I am very disillusioned with the Boston Bruins.  I am angry they traded Seguin (Chiarelli), Reilly Smith and Dougie Hamilton, for essentially nothing.

They allowed Eriksson to walk, not even getting a draft pick.  They draft terribly and usually choose checkers…meanwhile, other teams in the East are improving. Bruins are not pro-active. I honestly think they do not know what they are doing.  Sweeney and Neely must be listening to dinosaur Harry Sinden.  Harry also hated scorers and offensive-minded prayers.

This team needs an upgraded defense, plus some young dynamic scoring (work so hard to score goals) talent up front, especially now that Eriksson is gone. I am so frustrated with idiots Don Sweeny, Cam Neely, Gretzky, Claude and scouts.  I want them to be fired immediately; I want Jacobs to sell the team. I want some young scoring forwards on this team... and a coach/organization that is more offensive-minded/friendly. They are so boring....

Thanks for your attention.
J.E. Shay

JH: Get it all, out. Get it all out, J.E. This mailbag is cheaper than any Bruins therapy session you’d ever attend in person. I suspect your opinion will change if the Bruins make the playoffs this season while introducing more of the young talent in their pipeline. If they don’t, then I’ll expect another one of these from you next summer. See you guys in a couple of weeks and thanks for the great questions.