Zdeno Chara

The Bruins are fighting the tax man over expensed meals

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The Boston Bruins are in a battle with the Internal Revenue Service in U.S. Tax Court, with the hockey team arguing that player meals on the road should be 100 percent tax deductible.

From the Boston Globe:

The IRS limits deductions for meal expenses to 50 percent in most cases.

The Bruins contend the 50 percent cap — contained in a section of the tax code for “entertainment, amusement, or recreation” — should not apply because fueling world-class athletes for competition is a fundamental part of their business.

“In short, the pregame mandatory meals and the meetings at away city hotels allow the club and the players to prepare for the upcoming game — both physically and mentally,” the petition by the Bruins owner said. “In this regard, the pregame meals and the meetings serve as a necessary component of the Bruins’ hockey operations.”

We’re no tax experts here at PHT, but we’d tend to agree with the team’s assertion that fueling Zdeno Chara is a “necessary component of the Bruins’ hockey operations.” Even more so next season!

Bloomberg BNA was the first to report on this story.

Boston Bruins ’15-16 Outlook

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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.

Bruins’ biggest question: Is the blue line good enough?

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It was no coincidence that the Bruins missed the playoffs after trading Johnny Boychuk to the Islanders in October.

Boychuk’s departure left a big hole in Boston’s top four, one that became even more pronounced when Zdeno Chara was injured a short time later.

Now consider that young Dougie Hamilton is gone from the B’s, too. Last season, Hamilton led all Boston d-men with 42 points in 72 games, while logging an average of 21:20 per game.

Minus Boychuk and Hamilton, the Bruins have been left with Chara, who’s 38, Dennis Seidenberg, who’s 34, plus Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller, Matt Irwin, Zach Trotman, Joe Morrow, and Colin Miller.

Of those nine defensemen, only two — Chara and Seidenberg, neither young anymore — have ever averaged more than 20 minutes per game in a full NHL season.

Hence, the ongoing speculation that GM Don Sweeney will sign a veteran free agent, someone like Cody Franson, Christian Ehrhoff, or Marek Zidlicky. (The B’s were believed to be in talks with Mike Green, before he signed with Detroit.)

But regardless if that happens or not, expect the Bruins to make some tweaks to their system.

“At times, we probably got a little bit too stationary on our breakouts,” Sweeney said, per the Boston Globe. “We need to be in motion a little bit.”

Of course, for any system to be successful, it needs the right horses. And as it stands today, the Bruins’ stable of defensemen is more questionable than it’s been in quite some time.

Related: Vote on whether the Bruins’ Stanley Cup window has closed

Under Pressure: Claude Julien

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Unlike Peter Chiarelli, head coach Claude Julien got to keep his job after the Boston Bruins missed the playoffs in 2014-15.

But retaining Julien was no slam-dunk decision for new GM Don Sweeney. First, the two men had to make sure they were on the same page, philosophically speaking.

Turns out, both were.

“Don and I have had talks and have a very, very similar outlook on what’s needed and what we want to do,” Julien said, per the Boston Herald. “There was never an issue there at all. That’s why it’s worked out. We seemed to be seeing the same things. Personality-wise, we’ve known each other for a long time. It wasn’t as tough a process as far as evaluating as people might think, but it was more about the time that was needed for him to feel comfortable with everything.”

All that being said, it’s hard to imagine Julien keeping his job if the Bruins fall flat again. Ownership still has high expectations for this team; that much was made crystal clear last season.

The challenge for Julien is that Boston is a team in transition. While core players like Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Tuukka Rask, and Brad Marchand remain, their success will depend greatly on the success of their youngsters.

“I came up coaching junior hockey, and I know how those young players are,” Julien said in June, per NESN. “I’ve had a lot of patience with those guys. Sometimes, you have to take a hard stance, but it doesn’t mean you’re not patient with them, and that you’re not trying to make those guys better.”

Though his reputation may say otherwise, Julien has had success with youth in the lineup. When the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011, Marchard and Adam McQuaid were rookies, and Milan Lucic was younger than both of them.

The difference then, however, was that the youngsters were significantly outnumbered by players with experience.

As Julien was quick to point out, “there’s a lot of veteran players on that Chicago team, and that’s why they’ve been there three years in a row.”

Related: Julien ‘pretty impressed’ with Sweeney’s moves

Poll: Has the Bruins’ Stanley Cup window closed?

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Back in 2013, the last time the Bruins made the Stanley Cup Final, their leading playoff scorers were, in order, David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton, Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Brad Marchard, Jaromir Jagr, Daniel Paille, Tyler Seguin, and Johnny Boychuk.

Of those 10 players, only four — Krejci, Bergeron, Chara and Marchand — remain on the roster. And Chara is 38 years old now.

Add to the fact Dougie Hamilton is gone too, plus the fact the Bruins missed the playoffs last year, and it’s no surprise that many feel their Cup window has closed.

But you won’t hear new GM Don Sweeney say that. Not with youngsters like Jimmy Hayes, Brett Connolly, Ryan Spooner, David Pastrnak, and Alex Khokhlachev up front. And not after picking up 27-year-old Matt Beleskey in free agency.

Remember that the NHL is a young man’s league. Teams that aren’t constantly refreshing their lineups are teams that get into trouble.

“I don’t think it’s a rebuild. We didn’t strip this down,” Sweeney said in June, per NHL.com. “We have a tremendous core group of guys that are going to obviously carry an even heavier load here in the short term while these other kids can come in and start to take footing.”

OK, time to vote:

Related: Zach Trotman is looking to make the leap