Savard happy; not "a bright future" for playing again

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Savard happy; not "a bright future" for playing again

Marc Savard insists hes happy, hes watching his kids grow up as hockey players in Peterborough and day-to-day life is manageable.

All of that is encouraging news, but No. 91 also frankly admitted its tough to see a bright future when it comes to his NHL playing career in his current state. Savard admitted he still wades his way through post-concussion syndrome symptoms like memory loss and headaches, and routinely forgets his phone at home or leaves his car keys in the ignition after exiting the vehicle.

Despite all of that hes overcome the feelings of depression and sounds very much like a man moving on with his life with or without hockey.

Im doing good. Im feeling better. I have my days still, but Im doing a lot better. Im happy, said Savard. Im with my family and my kids, and going to watch them play hockey. Im getting a while different side of life.

I do feel really good just being in the building today. Im excited to be back. I miss being out there, thats for sure. But just being around the crowd and the atmosphere is going to be nice.

Savard didnt smile much or show his normally chirpy personality during his lengthy 10 plus minute meeting with reporters prior to Saturday afternoons BruinsRangers matinee at TD Garden. But the mere sight of the Bs fallen center at his second hockey home in Boston is cause for good news.

Savard will today host a group of pediatric Childrens Hospital patients battling through head trauma and their families in a suite hes sponsoring all of this season and the entire 2012-13 season.

The charitable endeavor convinced Savard to make his first trip to Boston this year, and hell be a more frequent visitor in the coming years regardless of whether he ever dons the Bruins sweater again.

I know what Ive gone through and what Ive been going through lately. At this present time Id like to do something for Boston because theyve been so great to me, said Savard, who hoped to drop into the Garden for games a few times per season when he was feeling up to it. I just felt that I know what these kids are going through in some of these departments. I just saw that this was something minor I could do to put a smile on their faces.

The center hasnt returned in almost exactly a calendar year when he took perhaps his final hit in the NHL from Matt Hunwick that caused him to bang his head into the dasher. Savard left the ice immediately after the hit, and has suffered through headaches and memory loss associated with the injuries ever since. It hasnt been an easy road, and its got to be difficult living as a cautionary tale as Savard is with the danger of concussions.

The way Im feeling and the daily issues Im having, its tough to see a bright future right now to be honest with you, admitted Savard. Its tough. I still have my tough days that I want to get back and play.

But at the end of the day I know that I could possibly get hit in the head again and what could happen. Im still hoping that something happens and I feel a lot better, but if I feel like this I still couldnt play.

The severity of Savards symptoms make it difficult to envision a return to the Bruins as an active player, and even Peter Chiarelli and Claude Julien have spoken in terms of his career likely being over. While the Hunwick hit was the final straw, it was a blind side elbow from Matt Cooke two years ago that affected Savards career path permanently. Cookes cheap shot has forced No. 91 into a reluctant role as one of the most ardent spokesmen for severe head shot penalties in hockey.

Savard hopes for much steeper penalties that would even make things that much easier for both the players and NHL disciplinarians. Certain on-ice crimes come with certain levels of suspensions, and there would be little gray area in Savards world of supplementary discipline.

I think the league has done a great job. At the end of the day Brendan Shanahan has done a wonderful job. I think about this head shot rule, Rule 48 or whatever its called, and maybe it just needs to be 10 games or more, said Savard. If you do it you just know that youre getting 10 games. Its in black and white. I almost think a lot of the rules should go that way.

It sounds like Savard has been doing quite a bit of thinking about ways to improve player safety in the world of the NHL, and perhaps keep other players from going through the same personal struggle he has gone through. The center has come out on the other side through the support of those that care about him.

Savard wants to be one of the last of the cautionary tales around the league when it comes to career-ending concussions.

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.