James O'Brien

Toronto Maple Leafs v Tampa Bay Lightning

Praise rolls in for Sami Salo upon retirement

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Injuries might have been a frequent headache for Sami Salo during his hockey career, but he was still able to make an impression on quite a few people.

Finnish outlet Ilta-Sanomat passes along word that Salo said he “can no longer play,” or some rough translation of that, which ultimately means that he’s retiring from hockey.

It looks like a wrist or hand injury is the final ailment that meant curtains for the 40-year-old veteran, but it’s clear that he’s absorbed a lot of wear-and-tear over the years.

Salo played 13 seasons in the NHL, making his biggest impression during nine with the Vancouver Canucks. His last NHL appearances came during his second season with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2013-14.

Teammates, coaches, writers and fans came out in droves to tip their caps to the retiring Finn.

That’s some great praise for a guy who suffered through often awful injury luck and had to prove himself as a ninth-rounder (239th overall) back in 1996.

Two-time Stanley Cup-winner Bob Fillion passes away at 95

Guy Lafleur, Bob Fillion
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Former Montreal Canadiens forward Bob Fillion died at age 95 on Wednesday, the team announced.

It’s been a tough year for the organization, as Elmer Lach and John Mahaffy also passed away earlier in 2015.

At 95, Fillion had been the oldest Canadien. Habs PR ambassador Rejean Houle told the Canadian Press that Gerry Plamondon, 91, is now the oldest surviving member of the franchise.

Houle described Fillion (pictured to Guy Lafleur’s right in this main photo) as a “real Canadiens fan” after his career.

“He had the problems of old age; I guess you could say he died of natural causes,” said Houle. “He was a real Montreal Canadiens fan.

“He always came to the building and took notes. He followed the team very closely.”

Fillion won two Stanley Cups with the Canadiens: one in 1944 and one in 1946. He generated 103 points in 327 regular season games and 11 points in 33 playoff contests.

Greatest Hockey Legends provided some interesting insight about his career and hobbies:

He may not have been a Picasso on the ice but Fillion was very much interested in artists of a different sort. He often visited artist studios while on road trips and took up painting himself! It may have been a bigger passion for him than hockey!

Bob, the brother of Marcel Fillion who played 1 game in the NHL, worked in public relations for years after retiring from hockey.

Boston Bruins ’15-16 Outlook

Tuukka Rask, Patrice Bergeron
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Considering the significant changes that took place this summer, you’d think that the Boston Bruins fell from contender to cellar-dweller.

In truth, they didn’t miss the 2014-15 postseason by much, falling two points behind eighth-place Pittsburgh. Losing Dougie Hamilton and Milan Lucic won’t help matters, yet it’s not outrageous to imagine them back in the playoffs next season.

They do still employ Tuukka Rask, Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron, after all.

Now, it’s reasonable to wonder if they’re still a Cup contender, but what are their chances of making the playoffs?

Let’s ponder that in a slightly different way: by looking at how they compare to the rest of the Eastern Conference.

Division opponents

Lightning – Tampa Bay made a huge leap last season, but they didn’t lose any significant players and are buoyed by young talent. They’re likely out of Boston’s league right now.

Canadiens – Some question Montreal’s possession merits, yet the Habs’ results have been satisfactory so far.

Senators – A clash of fading veterans in Boston and up-and-comers in Ottawa made for an exciting stretch run in 2014-15. Expect a sequel.

Red Wings – A franchise experiencing comparably large front office changes, although Detroit made some key additions instead of subtractions this summer. These two veteran-heavy teams may just battle it out in the bubble.

Panthers – The Bruins must watch out for a team brimming with young talent and familiar faces from the past in Jaromir Jagr and Roberto Luongo.

Sabres – Much improved, yet it’s an open question regarding how far Buffalo must go to merely be respectable again.

Maple Leafs – Lottery fodder, you’d think

Metro considerations

Capitals and Islanders – Two teams that may only climb further out of Boston’s reach in the race for playoff spots.

Rangers – Could this team be a little vulnerable? Martin St. Louis’ retirement and Carl Hagelin’s trade lowers the skill level a bit, while a regime change is in order with Jeff Gorton taking over GM duties for Glen Sather. One would think that the defending Presidents’ Trophy winners hold an edge over Boston, perception-wise.

Penguins – Pittsburgh was right there with Boston as far as almost missing a playoff spot goes. The Pens’ outlook sure looks different with former Bruin draftee Phil Kessel in the mix, though, right? If it does come down to these two teams, just imagine Kessel being the deciding factor.

Blue Jackets – A dangerous team that almost seems like it’s being built in the bruising, Bruins’ mold.

FlyersDevils and Hurricanes – You’d think these teams will struggle in 2015-16, but at the same time, it’s dangerous to write these franchises off entirely. Still, you’d think that the Bruins would pass them by.

***

Looking at the East teams, do you think the Bruins might make the playoffs? Could they even threaten to win the Atlantic or, conversely, fall into the lottery? It’s an interesting outlook when you try to ponder Boston’s place compared in this mix.

Looking to make the leap: Zach Trotman

Boston Bruins v Tampa Bay Lightning

For the second straight season, the Boston Bruins must absorb the loss of a key right-shot defenseman after Dougie Hamilton was traded to Calgary.

That prospect is unsettling for the Bruins’ short-term outlook, but it opens the door for young players to sink or swim. Torey Krug may be getting the most prominent bump from this situation, but more will be expected from youngsters like Zach Trotman.

Bruins head coach Claude Julien said as much while discussing new GM Don Sweeney’s tweaks in late June.

“I can’t go into the year saying it’s going to be tough, I need to be optimistic, I need to believe,” said Julien. “We have guys who can skate, the Joe Morrows are down there, the [Zach] Trotmans, and there’s some more time here to maybe add if we need to.”

Trotman, 24, has already got his feet wet a bit at the NHL level, playing in 27 games in 2014-15. He also played a couple in 2013-14.

The blueliner only averaged 16:24 minutes of ice time last season, but people seemed impressed with how he handled an elevated role after Hamilton was injured in late March.

While Krug may carry a heavier burden, Trotman could very well enjoy a prominent role as Zdeno Chara’s partner, as the Boston Globe noted. That’s already quite the accomplishment for a guy who was “Mr. Irrelevant” of the 2010 NHL Draft, going 210th overall out of Lake Superior State University.

Trotman isn’t the only young guy to watch on the blue line, as Joe Morrow and Colin Miller (another right-handed shot) may also get their chances.

Meanwhile, up front, Bruins fans will definitely be curious to see if Alexander Khokhlachev can make the leap from AHL star to NHL regular.

It’s Boston Bruins day at PHT

Toronto Maple Leafs Vs. Boston Bruins At TD Garden
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If nothing else, you shouldn’t confuse next season’s Boston Bruins with the group who failed to make the playoffs in 2014-15.

After a pretty impressive run of seven postseason berths, the Bruins fell two points short of the postseason, but apparently the bitter flavor of that campaign was too much for management.

Granted, as much as new GM Don Sweeney wants to modernize the team’s transition game, there are still some core tenants remaining.

The defense will depend upon aging star defenseman Zdeno Chara, perhaps more than ever. Tuukka Rask may be expected to earn every cent of his $7.5 million salary in 2015-16. It looked dicey for some time, but Claude Julien remains behind the bench.

It’s tough to gauge what, exactly, we should expect from a very different Bruins team. People probably won’t be any happier if they miss the playoffs again, though.

Off-season recap

That’s because their offseason seemingly went from – pardon the cliche – rebuilding to reloading.

OK, maybe it’s wisest to label it a partial rebuild. Would they be totally blowing things up and still sign Matt Beleskey to a five year, $19 million contract? More than a few Bruins fans cringed at acquiring Zac Rinaldo, yet the move argues at least partially for a change of pace rather than punting on competitiveness altogether.

After all, they’re investing plenty of money in Chara, Rask, David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron, right?

It’s true that the Bruins did sacrifice the present a bit for the future, however. Moving Milan Lucic out of town took many aback, and trading away Dougie Hamilton will stand as a polarizing decision (to say the least).

One could say that Hamilton and eventually Lucic would be too expensive to keep, but again, they spent some of the cash they conceivably could have used on Hamilton to sign Beleskey.

In summary, the Bruins fired Peter Chiarelli in favor of Sweeney, essentially traded Lucic for Beleskey, added beef actually trading Reilly Smith for Jimmy Hayes and parted ways with Hamilton.

That’s a brain-full, and we could see even more changes if the Bruins don’t make gains next season. Stay tuned.