Zdeno Chara

McQuaid camp ‘holding out hope’ to re-sign with Bruins

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New Bruins GM Don Sweeney has some decisions to make on the blue line.

As of now, the B’s only have four of their defensemen from the past season under contract: Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Torey Krug, and Kevan Miller. They have one big restricted free agent to sign in Dougie Hamilton, but that’s expected to get done somehow.

One of their unrestricted free agents is Adam McQuaid. The 28-year-old said last month he “can’t picture” moving on from Boston. But that may not be his call.

“We’re holding out hope [to get something done],” McQuaid’s agent, Paul Krepelka, tells CSNNE.com. “He’s a good fit here [in Boston].”

The other UFA on defense is Matt Bartkowski, who just so happened to be the subject of a speculative piece in today’s Vancouver Province. (The Canucks are, of course, led by GM Jim Benning, who knows Bartkowski well from his time in Boston.)

But it’s McQuaid that has the larger history with the B’s. He was a young depth defenseman on the 2011 Stanley Cup champion team, providing size and toughness behind an excellent top four of Chara, Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk, and Andrew Ference. He played a similar role in 2013, when the B’s lost to Chicago in the final.

McQuaid is the kind of player that would seem to match the Bruins’ plans to get back to their aggressive ways. On the other hand, after being asked to play a larger role this season following the departure of Boychuk, he definitely had his struggles.

It begs the question — if the B’s choose to bring him back, what role do they envision him playing? Because the top four may be too big of an ask.

“I guess time will tell,” McQuaid said in April. “I’ll wait and see if it comes to [hitting free agency], and then obviously you have to go down that avenue.”

Hossa’s age just one of the challenges facing Blackhawks

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Did you know that Marian Hossa is the second-oldest forward still playing in these playoffs?

It’s true — only Martin St. Louis, 39, is older.

In the playoffs, Hossa, 36, has been the fifth-oldest forward overall. During the regular season, only 17 forwards in the entire league were older than he was.

Why are we bringing this up? Because Hossa only played 14:44 last night in Anaheim, his lowest ice time in these playoffs.

So, is he hurt? Or, is he just tired?  

Yesterday, an article in the Chicago Sun-Times questioned whether all the “marathons” the Blackhawks have played this postseason were taking a toll:

Hossa as much as any Hawk gives it all he’s got. You can see the determination in his game. But the reality is that after 17 seasons in the NHL, he is challenged more than most to maintain his level of impact as the minutes pile up. 

To be sure, Hossa remains a very effective player. He has 11 points in 15 playoff games, and his possession stats are among the best on the Blackhawks. But his age is a factor, whether fans like it or not. It’s the same thing in Boston with Zdeno Chara and Detroit with Pavel Datsyuk.

Hossa may not get the accolades those two do, possibly because so much attention is given to teammates Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith. But he’s been vitally important in the Blackhawks’ two championship runs in the last five years. There aren’t many, if any, wingers who play such a strong two-way game.

Hossa isn’t going anywhere. He still has six seasons left on his front-loaded, 12-year contract — the kind of contract they don’t allow anymore. There could be a cap-recapture issue down the line.

But for the Blackhawks to remain contenders over the next few years, it’ll be up to youngsters like Teuvo Teravainen and Artemi Panarin to step up and offset the decline in Hossa’s play — a decline that happens to even the greatest players as they get older.

Sweeney vows to return ‘aggressiveness’ to Bruins

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Cam Neely spoke last month about the big, bad “identity” of the Boston Bruins, and how getting away from that identity had made them not as “tough to play against as we’d like to be.”

And so it was no surprise when new general manager Don Sweeney, flanked by Neely, spoke today about getting back to that identity, in hopes of returning to the playoffs and competing for a Stanley Cup.

“We’re not as far away as people may think,” Sweeney said. “We have to get back, a little bit, the aggressiveness that was lost in our group.”

Sweeney suggested that the Bruins, having won the Stanley Cup in 2011 and gone to the finals in 2013, had grown “stagnant” or overly “comfortable” with their mix.

Not anymore, he promised.

“There will be some changes going forward,” he said. “There will be personnel changes. There will be staff member changes.”

On that note, Sweeney did not commit to keeping head coach Claude Julien.

“I have some things that I want to sit down with Claude and go through in a very orderly fashion, as to where I think things need to change, and what direction we need to change as a group,” said Sweeney.

“So it’s just about lining up philosophical approaches that I believe in, that he believes in, and that we can move the group forward.”

Sweeney, the longtime Bruins defenseman who’s been in the front office since 2006, was asked about the importance of returning to the “style” that people have come to expect from the organization.

“I think it’s incredibly important,” he said. “It’s one thing to throw the words ‘culture’ and ‘identity’ around, it’s another to live it, breathe it, and teach it.”

Of course, it’s still another thing to assemble the players to be successful with that style.

Or any style, really.

Because the Bruins did not win the Stanley Cup in 2011 by aggression alone. To suggest they did would be to ignore the actual hockey-playing performances they received from the likes of Tim Thomas, Zdeno Chara, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, Dennis Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk, Nathan Horton, Mark Recchi, and the list goes on.

That team, big and bad as it was, had a lot more than toughness going for it. An elite goalie. An elite defenseman, still in his prime. An elite two-way center. A scoring center. Depth on defense. Four lines that all contributed. Energetic youngsters. Veteran leaders. And on top of all that, the Bruins stayed relatively healthy through 25 hard-fought playoff games.

The 2014-15 roster still had some of those things. But it did not have all of those things.

Conceded Sweeney: “I think it would’ve taken a lot of things to fall our way for us to be in a position to challenge this year.”

So…a lot of things on Sweeney’s plate.

That includes throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at tonight’s Boston Red Sox game.

Welcome to the spotlight.

Related: Bruins fire Chiarelli after missing playoffs

Meanwhile, the Ducks are feeling great about their defensive depth

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Enough has already been written on the Blackhawks’ defense. And with Kyle Cumiskey looking like he could step in for David Rundblad for tomorrow’s Game 2 of the Western Conference Final, more will be written still.

But this post is about Anaheim’s defense. Unlike Chicago’s, it’s looking pretty darn deep.

It’s so deep, in fact, that veteran James Wisniewski can’t get into the lineup.

“We thought we got all these guys and [Simon Despres] would be the seventh D,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said today. “Now it would be pretty hard arguably to take him out. [GM Bob Murray] did a tremendous job acquiring him.

“I think [assistant coach Trent Yawney has] done a tremendous job as far as handling all six defensemen. I think with their minutes, with their responsibilities, now there’s not a fear of putting any one of them into any situation that comes to the front.”

Deep and talented as the Ducks defense may be, it does not have a Norris Trophy candidate, like Chicago does with Duncan Keith. That’s notable if only because most (not all, but the large majority of) Stanley Cup champions do have that kind of defenseman. Los Angeles had Drew Doughty, Boston had Zdeno Chara, Detroit had Nicklas Lidstrom, etc.

To be sure, the Ducks may one day soon have a Norris Trophy candidate. Hampus Lindholm and Cam Fowler each have the potential. But both are still very young, at 21 and 23 years old, respectively.

Hence, the importance of veteran Francois Beauchemin.

“He’s the voice,” Boudreau said of the 34-year-old. “Everybody else is so young. [He] is the voice back there. You can hear him talking all the time.

“The other one that’s helping, but not playing, is Wiz. He’s helping the defensemen out there. Obviously he wants to play, but he’s been so professional about all of this. He’ll take [Sami Vatanen] aside, he’ll take the young guys aside and say, ‘This is what Chicago is doing, this is this, this is that.’ Those two older guys are great teachers and the guys look up to them an awful lot.”

Related: Coach Q denies Chicago’s depth issues, but Kesler suggests otherwise

Chara doesn’t ‘understand why all of a sudden my age is an issue’

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Zdeno Chara doesn’t get why his age is such a big deal. And the 38-year-old, younger than just 13 other NHLers this season, is getting tired of hearing about it.

“I don’t understand why all of a sudden my age is an issue just because I got hurt and I missed a lot of games, a big chunk of the season,” Chara told the Boston Globe. “I don’t like it. I don’t like when people start to judge you based on age or the amount of games you played.

“I still feel very motivated, very confident that I’m going to be healthy and strong next season. I don’t know. Obviously I am planning to play beyond what maybe people are guessing or expecting.

“Age is obviously a number, but some players or some people are meant to play for way beyond that.”

The counterpoint is that Chara’s advancing age was a topic well before he got hurt this season. The big defenseman’s fitness is legendary, but he’s still human. Next season, there will be even fewer NHLers older than he is. (Kimmo Timonen, 40, will retire, to name just one.)

Really, it’s the ultimate compliment when Bruins fans fret and skeptics wonder how Chara’s age will affect his team’s chances at competing for a Stanley Cup. Without him, would the B’s have won it all in 2011? Almost certainly not. It was the same thing in Detroit when Nicklas Lidstrom was approaching retirement. Lidstrom called it quits soon after he turned 42. The Wings last won the Cup when he was 38.

To be sure, Chara still has a couple of seasons left where he can play at a high level (even if it’s not as high as it used to be). If the Bruins are going to compete for a title while he’s still around, it’ll be up to youngsters like Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug to keep improving, and for whoever the next GM may be to improve the depth on the back end, not to mention any issues up front.