When people think back to the golden age of the Boston Bruins, it’s natural to conjure up images of Bobby Orr’s majestic end-to-end rushes and Phil Esposito’s knack for scoring rebound goals. Yet those early ’70s teams were also the pugilistic precursors to the Broadstreet Bullies, earning the alliterative nickname “The Big Bad Bruins” as they blended grit and skill on their way to two Stanley Cup victories. (Heck, even Orr was known for his considerable – if infrequent – bouts of anger.)
Despite the all-too-short Cam Neely era, the Bruins haven’t been able to approach that mixture of skill and sinister play in decades. While it is obviously too early to say that this version of the team has Cup victories in their future, they might have the best chance to mimic the team’s successful combination of talent and testosterone.
Now, any team can throw a bunch of knuckle-draggers on the ice, as evidenced by the New York Islanders’ convenient decision to call up enforcer Michael Haley for the team’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday. The difference with the Bruins is that they have some tough guys who can actually play. Just look at Milan Lucic, a power forward who draws Neely comparisons for his dual abilities to duel and fill the net.
The Bruins’ almost-over-the-line display of aggression against the Montreal Canadiens might be considered a “coming out party” for the renewed badness in Boston, but they’ve transformed into a meaner breed overall. The Bruins are tied with the St. Louis Blues for second place in the NHL with 56 major penalties, already seven more than they earned throughout the 2009-10 season. It’s not as if this Boston group is just a bunch of big dumb animals either, considering the fact that they only rank ninth in the league in minor penalties with 208. The fact that they seemingly pick their spots shows that this increase in nastiness is far from a coincidence.
Add that to their status as the top team in the Northeast Division, and it’s possible that this might be part of a successful blueprint for the Bruins.
Claude Julien’s system, Zdeno Chara’s elite defensive play and the Vezina-worthy work of Tim Thomas already make the Bruins a tough to team to score against. Yet with this considerable jump in brutishness, Boston now ranks among the most miserable opponents to play against, period.
They might not have the name recognition of other Eastern Conference favorites like Philadelphia, Washington or Pittsburgh, but any team would be foolish to sleep on the Bruins. Especially since they might just be big and bad again.
The Detroit Red Wings didn’t need Petr Mrazek‘s arbitration hearing either.
The day after the Wings avoided the process by locking up defenseman Danny DeKeyser, they agreed on a two-year deal with Mrazek, with a reported cap hit of $4 million.
Mrazek, 24, went 27-16-6 last season with a .921 save percentage. Those numbers compared favorably to Jimmy Howard‘s (14-14-5, .906); however, GM Ken Holland has argued that keeping Howard could be best for Mrazek’s development.
“It could possibly be detrimental if we put Petr in a situation where we’re just going to throw him out and play 70 games and no matter how you play, we’re going to keep putting you out,” said Holland.
Granted, it may be that Howard is simply untradeable. He’s 32 years old, hasn’t put up solid numbers the past three seasons, and has three years remaining on his contract with a cap hit of just under $5.3 million.
If Howard remains, the Wings will have just under $9.3 million in cap space allocated to their goaltenders next season, one of the highest totals in the league.
Mrazek, by the way, will still be a restricted free agent when his new contract expires in the summer of 2018.
With new majority owners and now talk of a new arena, the future of the New York Islanders has been a popular topic lately.
Not surprisingly, it’s led to plenty of discussion about the future of captain John Tavares, who can become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2018.
Ownership has insisted that it won’t get that far, that Tavares will be re-signed. The Isles will have “no financial constraints,” owner Jon Ledecky promised.
But what about Tavares? What does he think?
“I think I’ve always showed my commitment, my appreciation and my desire to play on Long Island,” the 25-year-old told Sportsnet 590 radio on Tuesday, per NHL.com. “I would love for that to continue for the long haul. I think you look at some of the greatest players in the game have been able to spend their entire career somewhere. I hope I’m in that same position.”
As for the speculation he could sign in Toronto?
“I would not count on that,” he said.
So start the countdown to July 1, 2017. That’s when Tavares can officially start negotiating an extension with the Isles.
Perhaps by then we’ll even know where the team will be playing its future games. Will it be Brooklyn or somewhere else?
Only 18 NHLers have scored more goals than Mike Hoffman has over the last two seasons.
Today, the Ottawa Senators signed the 26-year-old sniper to a four-year contract with a reported cap hit of $5.1875 million.
Hoffman had an arbitration hearing scheduled for Aug. 4. The breakdown of his new deal, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman:
His contract done, Hoffman can now focus fully on next season, which he’s excited about.
“New coach coming in, Guy Boucher, I had him in junior when I played in Drummondville of the Quebec League,” Hoffman said recently. “Very good relationship with him, we won a championship together. So definitely looking forward to working with him this year.”
As for Sens GM Pierre Dorion, he’s still got some offseason work to do. Defenseman Cody Cedi is a restricted free agent, and there’s no arbitration date to encourage a settlement in his case. While Dorion is confident that something that will get done with the 22-year-old, what remains to be seen is if it’s a short- or long-term deal.
The Carolina Hurricanes may have missed the playoffs in each of Bill Peters’ two seasons behind the bench, but GM Ron Francis is clearly pleased with the job his head coach has done.
Today, the ‘Canes announced that Peters has been signed to a contract extension through the 2018-19 season.
“Bill is a talented, young coach in the National Hockey League,” said Francis in a release. “We are happy that he has made a commitment to the Hurricanes, and that he will be a major part of the team continuing to grow.”
The ‘Canes still won’t be a popular pick to make the playoffs in 2016-17, but with all the young talent that the organization has amassed, Peters will certainly be expected to get them there before his contract expires. (The ‘Canes were actually a pretty solid possession team last season, but were let down by their goaltending and inability to convert scoring chances.)
Carolina last made the playoffs in 2009.
Related: ‘Canes enjoying stronger ticket sales, but ‘fence-sitters’ still need convincing