A real Top Ten

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A real Top Ten

By Michael Felger

A top-ten for your Monday perusal:

1. Fraud of the Month award goes to Penguins owner Mario Lemieux, who on Sunday blasted the league over its handling of the Islanders-Penguins brawl that netted 346 penalty minutes and 10 ejections on Friday in New York. Lemieux said the league failed to send the proper message by not handing out tougher suspensions. We, as a league, must do a better job of protecting the integrity of the game and the safety of our players,'' said Lemieux.

This from the man who employs Matt Cooke.

Funny how we didn't hear these comments after Cooke sent Marc Savard to the hospital last year. Funny how we didn't hear them after Cooke viciously boarded Columbus' Fedor Tyutin last week. Funny how Lemieux continues to sign Cooke's checks.

Fraud.

2. And some people still believe LeBron is a more dangerous player than Kobe? Please. Is there any question what Bryant would have done with those two free throws on Sunday?

3. Anyone who deluded themselves into believing the Bruins were an elite team should have been set straight this weekend, when they were rocked in a pair of games by the Red Wings. The aggregate score was 10-3. The shots were 70-51. Lidstrom. Datsyuk. Zetterberg. Bertuzzi. Holmstrom. Rafalski. That's what a true Stanley Cup contender looks like.

The Bruins, meanwhile, still look like two-and-done fodder. That's for now. The trade deadline is two weeks from today.

4. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I expect a big year from Jonathan Papelbon. He made a conscious effort a few years ago to change his mechanics so as not to throw out his arm. The reason he did that was to make it to his walk year. Now that he's here, something tells me he's going to open it up.

5. Interesting decision by NBC not to roll video during a discussion about fighting in the NHL during the Bruins broadcast on Sunday. The stated reason was that they didn't want to "celebrate'' it. Sigh. Then why spend two segments talking about it?

A more important question is why the league continues to be ashamed of itself. Here's an idea: Stop trying to sell the sport to people and places who don't get it and, frankly, don't want to get it. Focus on those of us who DO love the sport, and give us what we want. And that includes fighting.

6. Remember all those people who said last year that Tiger Woods would be able to brush off his fall from grace and continue to dominate pro golf? Over 12 months later, it still hasn't happened.

7. I keep getting emails that say things like this:

-- Steven Stamkos through Feb. 14 as a rookie in 2008-09: seven goals.

-- Tyler Seguin through Feb. 14 as a rookie in 2010-11: Nine goals.

Hey, whatever makes you feel better.

8. I know Logan Mankins is going to be upset if and when the Pats apply the franchise tag to him, but there's got to be at least part of him that would like to call the Pats' bluff and play a season under the tag. That's because the franchise number for offensive linemen this year is 10.7 million. That's an absurd number for a guard, but because tackles are used to compute the number for all linemen, Mankins benefits. Again, over 10 million, guaranteed, for one season to play guard. That's more than the franchise numbers at cornerback (9.5 million), defensive tackle (7 million), running back (8.1 million) and receiver (9.5 million).

So if I were Mankins I might be tempted to say: You want to pay me 10 million guaranteed to play guard for one year? Go right ahead.

9. It's just fun writing bad things about LeBron. So it took him 21 shots to score 22 points in a have-to-have-it game . . . with a point guard checking him?

Tremendous.

10. Go Huskies!

E-mail Felger HERE and read the mailbag on Thursdays. Listen to Felger on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

Jae Crowder: Bucks came out and "hit us in the mouth" early, good test

Jae Crowder: Bucks came out and "hit us in the mouth" early, good test

Jae Crowder and Brad Stevens react to the Celtics loss to the Bucks on Wednesday night, followed by Kyle Draper and Brian Scalabrine talking about where this loss leaves Boston in the race for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

Haggerty: Bruins plan to take it slow with McAvoy, unless . . .

Haggerty: Bruins plan to take it slow with McAvoy, unless . . .

BRIGHTON -- Nobody doubts that 19-year-old Charlie McAvoy is going to be a game-changer down the road for the Boston Bruins.

The Boston University sophomore, expected to be in the NHL next season, is the crown jewel of a draft-and-development movement led by general manager Don Sweeney over the last three years. And if McAvoy hits the ground running with the Providence Bruins over the weekend, he may even make his NHL debut with the Bruins sometime in the next 10 days, even though playing in as much as a single game with Boston this season would burn a year off his entry-level contract.

"[The NHL] is still to be determined. It will be contract first and [the AHL] as a good first step for us," said Sweeney after signing McAvoy to an ATO (Amateur Tryout Agreement). "He's made the decision to leave [college] and we're excited about that process. It leaves some options open [for McAvoy], but first and foremost gets him playing and acclimated to pro hockey."

But there's also the reality that a 19-year-old like McAvoy is going to face challenges in pro hockey. Mastering the defenseman position at the NHL level is an extremely complicated process. It's the reason we see a lot more teenage forwards take the league by storm than teenage D-men, who typically need more development time in the AHL to hone their skills at both ends of the rink.

"[The challenge] would be getting him to figure out what works at this level and what doesn't, just like if he were in Providence," said interim coach Bruce Cassidy about the theoretical possibility of McAvoy playing in Boston soon. "We've used seven defensemen here over the last eight weeks and they've done a good job for us, so we'd have to see where he fit in and go from there . . . I've seen him here and there, but I don't know enough about his individual game at this point to know what he would specifically need to do . . .

"[Defense] is a tougher position in the NHL because mistakes are magnified. If you're a forward you've got another layer of defense to support you, so you can get away with some of that stuff. I think that's why you see generally that most of the rookies that age in the NHL are forwards."

Torey Krug signed with the Bruins out of college five years ago and had a one-game cameo with them before spending the entire next season in Providence. Krug says now that, looking back, he knows he wasn't ready to play in the NHL coming out of school and needed a season to sort things out defensively against bigger, stronger, smarter and faster opponents.

"The speed itself wasn't much of an issue, but if you fall asleep even for a second it's going to turn into a scoring chance for the other team," Krug said of the adjustment from college hockey to the NHL. "These games are not easy to play in, even for veterans in the league . . .

"I thought offensively I was ready [right away], but defensively I had a lot to learn. It's a tough league to play in. Offensively it was fun, but defensively I had my share of hiccups realizing I had to go down to Providence to work on some things."

McAvoy isn't expected to follow Krug's path. He'll get development opportunities at the AHL level at the end of this season just like fellow young D-man Brandon Carlo, who used last spring's AHL experience to vault directly into the NHL this season as a 19-year-old playing top-four minutes right from opening night.

It's also the track taken by Zach Werenski last year with the Columbus Blue Jackets. An AHL playoff run fully prepped him for his breakout season as the league's best rookie defenseman.

"It's a long time ago, but I used that [ATO] myself as a benefit and I've always been an advocate of it, and I think Robbie O'Gara, Danton Heinen and Carlo all [did it]," said Sweeney. "All the players that have been able to come on and play at a very high level against men, generally in a playoff stretch drive or the playoffs themselves, it's a unique [experience].

"When you first turn pro, you're introduced to it at a really high level and you have to adjust to it on the fly. It's about structure and understanding the voices you're hearing. And reading and reacting at the pro level are all very important [skills]. [I think] it's a great on-the-job training exercise and right now Brandon is the best example of it. He's been able to jump into our lineup this year, and that's a testament to him and also the work he did last year."

So the Bruins should take their time with McAvoy, though also allow that he could be a dominant exception to the rule and become a force right out of the chute. It certainly appears Sweeney is going to leave that door ajar,  to make sure the Bruins don't miss out on anything with a young defenseman who's already drawn comparisons to Norris Trophy winner Drew Doughty.