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Trading Savard stirs up more questions than answers

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff  June 29, 2010 01:19 PM

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Under Marc Savard's entry in the Bruins media guide there are a series of glib getting-to-know-you questions and answers. He says the strangest thing about Boston is the one-way streets. He offers the celebrity parents he'd pick are Tiger and Elin Woods. (You get a mulligan on that one, Savvy.) He said if he could play with any Bruin in history he'd pick...Cam Neely.

Now, that's an odd one-way street because it appears Neely, the newly-anointed club president, isn't so keen on Savard playing on his team. At this point the Bruins might as well put the slick center on eBay with the volume of trade rumors that have surrounded Savard.

It would seem strange for Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli to be pushing Savard out the door, since one of Chiarelli's initial major moves after taking over in 2006 was to sign Savard as a free agent the same day he inked team captain Zdeno Chara. Plus, Chiarelli handed Savard a seven-year, $28.05 million contract extension about eight months ago.

This has the distinct feel of a Neely power play with an assist from Harry Sinden, who is already on record as not being head of the Savard Fan Club.

You would think Neely, who rode shotgun with Craig Janney and Adam Oates, of all people would covet a creative and productive pivot. Savard has produced since pulling on a Spoked-B sweater. Since 2006, only Joe Thornton (0.95) and Sidney Crosby (0.87) have averaged more assists per game than Savard, who is tied with current Hart Trophy (NHL MVP) winner Henrik Sedin at 0.81 assists per game. Savard has averaged better than a point per game during that time period (1.09) and made two All-Star games.

That doesn't sound like a player the offensively-starved Bruins would want to -- or should -- part with. So, why are the Black and Gold powers that be so bent on shipping Savard out of Boston?

The urge to give Savard the gate goes more to temperament than talent. You don't have to be around the Bruins very long to hear the murmurs and whispers that Savard is not exactly beloved by his teammates. It was kind of telling that when Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke delivered his blindside blast to Savard, even the Bruins' delayed reactions to the play lacked the alacrity you would expect when another team cheap-shots your best player.

It was also somewhat telling that when locker room sage and de facto captain Mark Recchi was asked about possibly dealing Savard during a conference call with reporters, his words came far closer to endorsing the idea than condemning it.

Recchi gave his imprimatur to the Bruins off-season plan, a big part of which appears to be sending Savard elsewhere, saying Chiarelli "had a great feel for what was needed," and that he thought the team was going to get younger and faster, a trend that started with the drafting of Savard's presumed replacement, Tyler Seguin.

Recchi said complimentary things about Savard -- "I really like Savvy," and called him a"dynamic passer" -- but certainly didn't make any pronounced public plea to keep him, which you might expect a fellow forward to do for his team's top centerman.

"If there’s a viable option to Marc Savard, you’ve obviously got to look at it," said Recchi. "[Chiarelli] might be looking for a different dynamic. We’ve got [David Krejci], [Patrice] Bergeron, and Seguin as centermen. We’ve got some younger centermen coming up. He might be looking at the big picture right now."

A picture that doesn't include Savard.

Savard certainly didn't win any points for the way he handled the too-many-men on the ice fiasco in Game 7 of the Bruins' historic collapse against the Philadelphia Flyers. He was indecisive on the play, but quite decisive in avoiding the blame.

Savard's co-conspirator in that fatal folly, Vladimir Sobotka, has already been shipped out of town and he still has the tread marks on him from where Savard threw him under the bus. No doubt, that didn't sit well with Neely.

There is a legitimate and logical on-ice case, albeit it not as strong considering his production, to trade Savard, who turns 33 on July 17, as well.

He endured an injury-plagued season last year, missing 41 games, the final 18 due to a Grade-2 concussion, which he valiantly returned from to help the Bruins build a 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals. He scored the game-winner in overtime in Game 1, his first game since the Cooke hit, but it was all down hill from there for Savard, who had just two assists the rest of the series.

Perhaps the Bruins are concerned that he won't ever return to form, although that seems a little spurious considering the way they've stood by Bergeron, who has bounced back from a Grade-3 concussion.

Savard is a very good player, but he's not a franchise forward. The Bruins believe they drafted one in Seguin and now have a surfeit of centers with him, Savard, David Krejci, the team's best player in the playoffs, and Bergeron.

The Bruins are dealing from a position of strength at center and Savard looms as an attractive option for any team in need of a primo playmaking pivot and could bring back hockey's new holy grail, the (say it all together now) puck-moving defenseman.

But Neely, Chiarelli or whomever is calling the shots on Causeway Street clearly want to dish off Savard like one of the center's nifty setups. Less clear is exactly why.

If they follow through and run No. 91 out of town they better make sure they make a savvy swap of Savvy or they'll be the ones that have to offer up some answers to not so glib questions.

One-way streets are accepted in Boston, but one-way trades aren't (see: Thornton, Joe).

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The word

Christopher L. Gasper riffs on the news

Dearth

...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.

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