Kraft and Jacobs: From one extreme to the other

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Kraft and Jacobs: From one extreme to the other

On Friday at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Patriots owner Robert Kraft dedicated a permanently empty black seat to the memory of this nations service men and women who have been prisoners of war or have gone missing in action.  It was a touching tribute to those who have paid the ultimate price for the preservation of the American way of life and just another example why the Krafts are widely regarded as the gold standard for owners in the realm of professional sports franchises.

On Friday in New York, Boston Bruins owner and Chairman of the NHL Board of Governors Jeremy Jacobs was doing his best to make sure that every seat at the TD Garden remains empty for the rest of this hockey season.  

Has there ever been a larger dichotomy between a towns team owners in the history of professional sports?  

On one hand you have Robert Kraft, who is almost universally loved.  A rocky relationship with NFL coach-and-prostitute extraordinaire Bill Parcels, and a aborted move to Connecticut, are distant memories for fans who now adore the Krafts and their loving stewardship of New Englands NFL franchise. Their hard work and personal capital have built a new stadium and instilled a championship tradition into a franchise that used to be a laughingstock. The days of the superflush gave way to three Super Bowls and more than a decade of championship contention and relevance.

And on the other hand you have the Jacobs family.  Since 1975 Jeremy and company have taken a successful and beloved franchise, rich with history and tradition, with undoubtedly the most loyal following in town, and done everything in their power to turn the fan base against them.  The Jacobs legacy, as far as Bruins fans are concerned, is composed of miserly spending, invisible leadership and years of profitable mediocrity.  This resulted in over 30 years of promise ending in failure and disappointment.  The ledger being in the black was always more import than the Bruins being in contention.   Forget one seat; Jacobs had to color half the seats in the then Fleet Center black so the vast number of MIA fans would be less evident to TV telecasts.  

You would think that these two couldnt be in any more diametrical opposition than the above examples, but the gulf between the two only widens when you compare the roles Kraft and Jacobs have played in their leagues respective labor disputes.  

Robert Kraft is widely credited as the man who instigated the deal between the NFL owners and the Players association during the 2011 NFL Lockout.  In-between caring for his wife Myra as she battled terminal cancer, Robert Kraft worked to bridge the gap between the players and owners.  Nobody who saw it will ever forget the announcement that ended the lockout where a haggard and drained Kraft was embraced by player rep Jeff Saturday and thanked personally for his role in bringing about labor peace. Football fans all over the country found out on that day what fans in New England already knew: That Robert Kraft loved the sport of football and was there for it and its fans when the sport needed him the most.

Jeremy Jacobs? He is widely regarded as the driving force behind not one but two crippling NHL work stoppages.  

In 2004, JJs years of frugality at the expense of contention came to fruition as Jacobs and the rest of the owners finally got the salary cap he lusted for.  No Bruins fan will ever forget Jacobs willfully killing off a season in exchange for his precious cap.   Nor will they forget that in the process, the best Bruins squad in a decade was gutted during the lockout and it left the team woefully ill-equipped to contend afterwards.  But in Jeremy Jacobss world, cost certainty made it all worth it.  Bruins fans would beg to differ.  

The Bruins suffered through a rebuilding process that included front office turnover, roster churning, and a period of fan apathy like no other.  But after years of rebuilding, Jacobs had a sport experiencing record growth, a Stanley Cup and a new chance to rewrite his hockey legacy.

Once again labor related turmoil is threatening the NHL.  With the blood feud to establish a hard salary cap behind them, the opportunity for compromise between the players and owners seemed attainable.  The chance to mediate a settlement and complete his legacy rehabilitation was there to be had for Jacobs. But unfortunately, there was also a chance at more money.  

Instead of stepping to the forefront to broker an agreement and save hockey from another cataclysmic event, Jeremy Jacobs is once again the leader of a cabal of hardline owners determined to line their pockets at the expense of the NHL and its fans.  According to some reports, Jacobss mere presence at Fridays meetings may have derailed any recent progress. 

Jacobs never was and never will be a caretaker of the game like Kraft.  Hes never really been a fan, just a guy out to make a buck.  In order to make more money Jacobs is again willing to risk the future of a contending team and a fragile niche sport.  In his never-ending quest for a better deal, Jeremy Jacobs is more than willing to spit in the faces of the players the fans.  When this mess gets sorted out there wont be a photo op of Sidney Crosby thanking Jacobs with a impromptu embrace, and if  Sid the Kid did hug J.J. hed  be wise to check for his wallet afterward.

On Friday in Foxboro, Robert Kraft once again proved that he and his family are worthy caretakers of the Patriots.  A bust in Canton will bare his likeness because, like the POWMIA slogan, Robert Kraft has never forgotten his role as the caretaker his the team, the sport and the fans he serves.  

On Friday in New York, Jeremy Jacobs proved he is once again willing to put his sport at risk for money.  The Jacobs name will live in infamy and be forever synonymous with unquenchable greed.  Jeremy Jacobs willfully and repeatedly damaged the NHL and the sport of hockey. For this he will never be forgotten or forgiven.

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Is trading for Paul George worth the risk?

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Is trading for Paul George worth the risk?

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0:41 - Michael Holley, Kayce Smith and Tom Giles recap their thoughts on drafting Jayson Tatum and trade rumors involving the Celtics.

6:21 - Ian Thomsen joins BST to discuss if it would be worth trading for Paul George as a one-year rental and if there would be a chance he could still around long-term if traded to Boston.

11:13 - Evan Drellich joins BST to talk about Rick Porcello’s outing, the Red Sox offense coming to life, and Doug Fister being claimed by the Red Sox. 

15:10 - Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely look back at the Celtics/Nets trade, what the assets have turned into, and if Danny Ainge has done a good job turning those assets into players. 

Haggerty: Bruins playing it pretty safe at the NHL Draft

Haggerty: Bruins playing it pretty safe at the NHL Draft

CHICAGO – As opening nights go at the NHL Draft, Friday night was a bit of a ho-hum affair for the Boston Bruins at the United Center home of the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Bruins went the safe route by drafting a smooth, defensive-minded defenseman with the 18th overall pick when they selected Finnish product Urho Vaakenainen, and in doing so left more dynamic forwards like Kristian Vesalainen and Kailer Yamamoto still on the draft board for other teams to claim as their own. It was a bit of a curious choice given how many defensemen the Bruins already have in the prospect pipeline, but the lack of strength in the draft class seemed to lead teams to carve their own paths looking for players.

MORE: Bruins select defenseman Urho Vaakanainen with No. 18 pick

The 6-foot-1, 188-pounder clearly has miles to go offensively despite his smooth skating and solid passing skills, but there’s also a consideration that the teenager has been playing in the men’s league in Finland for the last couple of seasons. It makes things a little more difficult to project for the Finn D-man, but the Bruins believe there is some upside to his offensive game given the skills, the hockey IQ and the considerable confidence that the player has in his own game.

“His gap control and skating ability are really good. He’s obviously played in the Finnish Elite League at a very young age for one and a half years now and he’s played on the big stage at the world juniors. We feel like there’s a lot of upside for a 200-foot player that gets back on pucks, and then can transition them back out. Being able to cover ice is an important part of the game, and it continues to evolve in that direction,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney, who indicated Vaakenainen will play in North America in 2018-19 after fulfilling his contractual obligations in Finland. “We tracked what he did on offense at the junior league level prior to him jumping to the elite league, and it lines up pretty well with other elite players that made the jump to that level.

“It’s a valid question and whether he gets put into those [offensive] situations this year is what we’re excited about with his [Finnish] team moving forward.”

While Vaakenainen sounded surprised the Bruins selected him after only a single meeting at the NHL scouting combine, Sweeney said that Boston’s head scout in Finland has enough history with the family to vouch for the kid’s makeup.

So while it’s far from a sexy pick and the Bruins could have tried to hit a home run with an 18th overall selection in a mediocre draft, the B’s will also get some time before anybody is ready to label the Finnish blueliner a boom or a bust.

The rest of the draft night didn’t add up to much for the B’s, however. They made the selection of Vaakenainen after strongly considering dropping down in the first round, and in doing so lost one of the better trade chips in the form of their 2017 first round pick. There were discussions with Minnesota about Marco Scandella and a few trade feelers to other clubs that might listen on a D-man, but the Bruins now have to hit the reset button on trade discussions for left-shot defensemen or top-6 left wings.

Perhaps Scandella’s $4 million per season salary was an issue for the Bruins, or maybe the Bruins didn’t want to give up their first round pick for a 27-year-old D-man coming off a so-so season with the Wild. Either way, there wasn’t enough momentum for the Bruins to get a trade done with a bevy of defensemen rumored to be available if the offer is good enough.

“I was on the record saying that we’d be offering our first round pick for target-specific players, and we did do that,” said Sweeney. “I don’t blame teams for not necessarily wanting to go through with it, so we went ahead with a player we wanted with our own pick. We continue to build what we think is a good group of guys moving forward.

“There are a couple of areas we’d like to address and get better. We’re trying to help our team currently. Certainly Brandon [Carlo] jumped into our lineup and we hope Charlie [McAvoy] will carry over what he did, and we have other players that will push. We have six returning defensemen we feel good about and we’ll certainly push from underneath, but it’s an area we’ll continue to address. We have some forwards that we also hope will come online, but we’ll never stop exploring and trying to improve our club.”

So let’s sum it all up after a week of additions and subtractions from the Original Six organization: The Bruins added a decidedly vanilla defenseman in the first round of the NHL Draft that might be a simple stay-at-home guy, and they weren’t able to muster any kind of deals for a D-man or winger to enhance the NHL roster. On the other hand, they didn’t give up much over the week as well and they didn’t do much at all to harm a solid roster that looked like they were finally on the right track pushing into the playoffs last season.

The Bruins could be in store for an action-packed Day Two of the draft on Saturday full of promising prospects and bountiful trades, but it sure feels like the 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago isn’t going to be a very memorable one for the Black and Gold.