Boston Bruins

Getting our Phil of sports topics

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Getting our Phil of sports topics

By Michael Felger

It won't be anywhere near as twisted as a Tanguay's 10, but here's a Felger five-pack just the same.

1. I'm torn regarding the embarrassing Phil Kessel episode the other night at the NHL All-Star draft. In case you missed it, the former Bruin was picked last.

After watching that clip, and if you have an ounce of humanity, you had to feel badly for Kessel sitting there alone. Then came the uncomfortable post-draft interview ("Phil. Phil? Come on down here") and the awarding of a free car. All for being the schmuck. I didn't think that being the last pick of this draft would be a big deal, but I was wrong. That was sort of hard to watch. Awkward. Again, it's hard not to have some sympathy for him.

On the other hand, Kessel's lack of popularity among his peers is no fluke. He's earned it. That's what you get when you don't play hard, don't go into the corners and don't help your teammates in your own end. Kessel is being paid 5 million a year and is a minus-19. Sort of worthy of being picked last, don't you think? It's obvious the other players up on stage weren't shedding any tears -- that's for sure.

2. Given how it transpired with Kessel, the NHL may never do an All-Star draft again, which is too bad. It was great theatre for hockey junkies, certainly better than the game that took place yesterday.

In fact, if I were the NFL I'd be looking into something similar. Given the fantasy football mania that has griped this country, having a similar draw at the Pro Bowl would be an instant hit. Can't you just imagine Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher pickings sides? Would it be Brady or Manning? or Brees or Rodgers? Polamalu or Reed? Revis or Asomugha?

Again, just like in hockey, it would be far more entertaining than the game itself.

Speaking of which, Bill Belichick has certainly lost his touch in January, hasn't he?

3. As has been the case in the past, the Patriots' greatest misstep in the Logan Mankins situation wasn't necessarily how they approached his contract at the end. It's how they approached it a few years prior.

It never had to come to this. The Pats signed him to a five-year rookie deal in 2005, and even though it was obvious Mankins would be a top interior lineman in the league early on in his career, the Pats let the months and years tick off the contract. If they had come to him a year early, or two years early, they certainly could have gotten him at a discounted rate. Yes, they would have had to come up with some new bonus money, but not as much as they do now. Remember, the price always goes up.

Instead, the Pats stubbornly held onto the leverage they owned on his rookie contract. Just like they did with Deion Branch (the first time). Just like they did with Asante Samuel. Just like they did with Vince Wilfork.

And now if they want Mankins back they'll have to be the high bidder, something they avoid like the plague. Or they'll have to franchise him, which is just asking for more trouble. Or they'll simply lose him, which would be frustrating. There's no reason why Logan Mankins shouldn't have been a Patriot for life.

Whatever the outcome, this isn't about the Pats being cheap. It's about them being stubborn. It's about asset management. They're generally pretty good with it, with a few notable exceptions. Unfortunately, Mankins is one.

4. How was Kevin Garnett NOT suspended for blatantly hitting Channing Frye in the nuggets in Phoenix on Friday? I mean, what do you have to do to earn a seat?

But hey, I'm just glad KG got to wear his special sneakers against the Lakers.

What a league.

5. While Kessel licks his wounds from the weekend, keep an eye on his Maple Leafs in the second half of the season. Remember, the Bruins' still have Toronto's first-rounder this summer, and the Leafs currently reside in 26th place. That means if the season ended today, the B's would be back in the lottery. A nice implosion by Toronto over the final two-plus months could very well give the B's another top two pick.

Meanwhile, eyes in Boston will be focused on what the other Toronto first-rounder from the Kessel trade netted: Tyler Seguin. He has seven goals heading into February, which is basically the same pace at which his dream comparison for B's fans, Stephen Stamkos, was at for the Lightning in 2008. Stamkos turned it on after that All-Star break, scoring 17 goals in the second half, and he's been one of the league's best offensive players since.

The Bruins can only hope Seguin comes close to that production.

E-mail Felger HERE and read the mailbag on Thursday. Listen to Felger on the radio, live this week from the Super Bowl in Dallas from 2-6 p.m. on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

Haggerty: Not many fans of face-off changes among Bruins

Haggerty: Not many fans of face-off changes among Bruins

BOSTON – It may just be that all of these slashing penalties and face-off violations will become a training camp fad of sorts and the preseason period of adjustment will give way to business as usual once the regular season opens.

The NHL can’t possibly hope to sell fans on games like the Bruins' 2-1 overtime win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night at TD Garden that included 16 penalties and 12 power plays that completely marred the normal game flow. Some of it was about the seven slashing penalties handed out by the officiating crew and the ensuing special teams flow that never allowed either team to truly find their 5-on-5 footing.

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Even more prominent, however, is the frustration that many players from both teams are feeling for the strict enforcement of the face-off rules and the impact it’s having on the flow of the game. Brad Marchand called it “an absolute joke” a couple of days ago after watching the first night of preseason hockey. He doubled down on his criticism after watching it play out in a game.

He said it was so bad that players from both teams were laughing at the sheer absurdity of the standstill face-off posture and just how much it’s taking away from the enjoyment, whether it’s fans, the media or even the officials, of a free-flowing NHL game.

“It’s really taking a lot away from the game. You can’t have a winger taking all the face-offs. I mean if you look at the percentages of how many times guys got kicked out tonight, and what it’s taking away from the teams, it’s not worth what’s coming with it,” said Marchand. “Literally both teams were laughing out there about how bad the rule is. It’s becoming a big joke, so there’s got to be something tweaked with it.

“These games are painful. I thought it was a bad rule before I played, but it’s even worse after going through it and actually seeing what it’s like. It’s basically an automatic [face-off] win for the other team. The only thing you’re worried about is not moving before the puck is shot.”

The choppiness resulted in some pretty bad nights in the face-off circle for the Bruins. Ryan Spooner lost 9 of 10 draws and Riley Nash 12 of 19 face-offs while Claude Giroux somehow won 20 of 25 draws despite the difficulty all around him. While Patrice Bergeron was a solidly respectable 9 of 18 in the face-off circle for the evening, the four-time Selke Trophy made no bones wondering aloud what exactly is the point of all this.

Bergeron is rarely critical of anything despite his standing as a prominent, respected player in the league, but he seemed to take major umbrage with rules that are totally messing with his considerable face-off skills. The Bruins top face-off man likened it to Pee Wee hockey when he was 12 where everybody would just stand perfectly still in the face-off circle until the puck was dropped. That little tweak wrings every last bit of competitiveness and 1-on-1 battle out of the ultimate hockey showdown and has left Bergeron with a bad taste in his mouth.

“I think that the face-off is definitely an adjustment. I think that the face-off is a skill and you work your whole career to develop that and you work on your hand-eye and timing and everything and try to take that away. You have to adapt I guess. It’s something that I’ll definitely do, but I don’t think I’m a huge fan,” said Bergeron. “I wonder what they’re really trying to get out of it. I understand that it’s feet above those lines and sticks and whatnot. That being said it also kind of sucks. Hockey is a fast game and they’re really slowing it down.

“Faceoff is a skill and you work on timing, you work on hand-eye, and you know when the linesman is going to drop the puck. And I was thinking more about him kicking me out than dropping the puck. That’s what makes you second guess. It just makes you hesitate and everyone is just standing there. There’s no battle right now. It’s like face-offs when I was 12 years old. Everyone is just standing still and no one is really moving.”

So what’s the ultimate answer from an NHL that wasn’t tremendously forthcoming with these preseason tweaks and now has a stand-up, influential player like Bergeron kicking it around just like everybody else? It might be time for the league to revisit their face-off crackdown and perhaps get a little more advice from accomplished players like Bergeron for the next time around. But Bergeron, Marchand and others aren’t exactly holding their breath for any more changes. Instead, they simply hope that some of the referees apply a common-sense approach once the regular season begins. 
 

Belichick on CTE following Hernandez news: 'I'm not a doctor'

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Belichick on CTE following Hernandez news: 'I'm not a doctor'

FOXBORO -- In wake of Aaron Hernandez’ estate filing a federal lawsuit against the NFL and the Patriots over the late tight end’s head trauma, Bill Belichick was expectedly mum when asked Friday about CTE. 

Hernandez, who died in prison of an apparent suicide in April shortly after being acquitted of a 2012 double-murder, had “the most severe case” of chronic traumatic encephalopathy that researchers had ever seen in a 27-year-old, according to his lawyer. 

Belichick, who drafted Hernandez in 2010 and coached the player until his 2013 release, reiterated his September 2016 quote about not being a doctor on Friday. 

“That’s really, the whole medicals questions are ones that come outside my area,” he said Friday when asked what the team tells players about CTE. “Our medical department, our medical staff cover a lot of things on the medical end. It’s not just one specific thing. We cover a lot.” 

Asked if he feels the NFL does a good enough job of warning players about CTE, Belichick repeated his answer. 

“Again, I’m not a doctor. I’m not a trainer. I’m a coach,” he said. “The medical part, they handle the medical part of it. I don’t do that.”

Hernandez was listed as having one concussion during his NFL career.