Question: My understanding of the role of a "puck moving" defenseman is someone who can (A) retrieve the puck efficiently after an opponent's
clear-in to his team's defensive end and outlet the pass quickly to a forward (starting the breakout - see Ray Bourque), (B) rush it out (see Robert Gordon Orr) or (C) intercept an opponent's mid-ice pass and turn it around quickly into an offensive thrust. Given coach Claude Julien's emphasis on the D to D back-pass in the B's end, or the cross rink D to D at mid ice, exactly how is a defenseman to quickly take the Bs from defense to offense given the back-passing to consolidate possession while allowing the opponent to establish defensive positioning? -- Bill McCabe, Feeding Hills, Mass.
KPD: Those who have a problem with the Bruins break-out design,
please form a line to the right ... that's it, keep lining up ... a little tighter please ...
Look, it's not news that the Bruins have a very conservative method of play, including how the defensemen handle the puck in their own end and then attempt to start it out of their zone. From strictly a viewing perspective, it's not a lot of fun to watch.
But success has its own beauty, and Julien is only one of three NHL coaches (along with Mike Babcock in Detroit and Bruce Boudreau in Washington) to average 100-plus points over the last four seasons.
I am reminded of Pat Burns during his tour in Boston, then later in New Jersey. Much of his "attack" was very defensive, but it worked well enough for the Devils to win a Cup under his tutelage in 2003.
Question: How does a goalie go from Vezina Trophy winner to benchwarmer, and back to Vezina Trophy winner in a span of three consecutive seasons? Did something happen last year with Tim Thomas that was not disclosed? -- Bryan, from Englewood, NJ.
KPD: Thomas underwent hip surgery to repair a torn labrum immediately after last season. He also hurt his hand fairly early in the 2009-10 campaign when he punched a wall in the old Pittsburgh Igloo after a disappointing loss.
So, yes, something happened last season. Thomas simply wasn't up to the task of day-to-day netminding. All healed and very fit, he has performed to true Vezina standard in 2010-'11.
Question: Just wanted to get your thoughts on what type of player you think the Bruins will draft this spring. There have been some suggestions that they might take a defenseman with size. I hope that's not the case, they should be looking to implement more speed and skill. Unless they can get Murphy or Larson, I would stay away from the other defensemen with our first pick. Those others with the size usually end up being a solid defenseman at best. I think we need to try and hit a home run with this first pick, so hopefully they will take the best player available. Your thoughts? -- Keith Gorman, Princeton, Ontario.
KPD: We are fortunate if the Bruins tell us who will play in net on
any given night. So good luck finding out who they'll take with the No. 9 pick in this year's draft, if they indeed use the pick. I don't think anyone would be surprised if they dealt it away in trade. Last year, you might recall, GM Peter Chiarelli said weeks before the draft that he would take either Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin with the No. 2 pick. For a guy who plays his cards very close to the vest, that was quite a departure from standard operating procedure.
But Hall and Seguin were clearly the No. 1 and 2 picks in the draft. At No. 9, it's a far more wide-open field. My gut read: if they don't dish away the pick, they'll go for a skilled backliner, and they'll value his toolkit over his size.
Question: I think if a team scores a short-handed goal, their player
should come out of the penalty box and thus end the other team's power play. Maybe even make the other team short-handed for whatever time was left on their original power play. any thoughts on that idea? A lot of hockey fans that I tell this to love the idea. -- Jason Cabral, Vineyard Haven, Mass.
KPD: Interesting ... but I will share with you what one GM shared with me when I wrote to him with my suggestion that the NHL consider not allowing goalies to use sticks, or perhaps require that they use sticks that are no bigger than sticks used by all other players. His response to me, which I will now send along to you: "Clearly,
your talents are wasted on a keyboard."
Question: Do you get annoyed come playoff time when Gasper and Mazz suddenly take an interest in hockey? Are you planning on covering the MLB playoffs once summer has come to a close and you have got bored of sitting
on a beach and drinking pina coladas? -- Kevin Clarke, London.
KPD: I began my day-to-day journalistic life as a baseball beat
reporter (Red Sox, 1977-into the early-'80s). Trust me, I'll be fine if my only trips to the ballpark are for days spent in the stands, nursing a beer, ripping the starting pitcher (either team) and hooting on the ump. As for Gasper and Mazz ... two of my favorite reads. Always good to see them in my barn(s).
See you soon at Wimbledon, by the way.
Question: How about some love for David Poile in Nashville as GM of
the year? David put the Caps in the playoffs 15 straight years before moving to Nashville, where he continues to do a stellar job far from the hockey spotlight. The Preds have now won their first playoff series, and look like a real threat in the west. Poile is a Huntington Ave. Husky, as you may know, a quiet unassuming guy I used to enjoy chatting with every year at the annual Northeastern alumni gala. His strength, he maintained, was a card file he kept on every kid who ever laced up a pair of skates. -- Jim Burrows, Annapolis, Md.
KPD: Lots of respect here for Poile, whose trade for Rod Langway
decades ago provided a huge kickstart for the then moribund Caps. Agreed, Poile is very quiet and unassuming, but a very astute hockey guy, who also helped Brian Burke shape the Team USA team that played so well (silver medal) at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
There are many good guys in the game, but Poile is among the best. Always great to see good guys succeed. But I still like the Canucks in Round 2 vs. the Preds.
Question: Do you think the Bruins will ever get away from this lunchpail type of hockey team and build a really good skilled team like the Capitals or a more puck-possession team like Detroit? I remember seeing the Bruins get schooled by the Red Wings this year in a home/home two-game series. They completely humbled the Bruins. I really think that a skill team is what would ultimately give the Bruins a better chance to win a Cup. If the Bruins had the No. 1 pick in 2010, they likely would have chosen Taylor Hall and not Seguin. Given that hypothetical situation, do you think
the Bruins would have limited Hall's playing time as they did with Seguin and do you think Hall would have been a better fit for the Bruins? I know it is hypothetical. Does ownership really want to win a cup? -- Anthony from Toronto, ON.
KPD: Well, I think everyone would agree that they would like to see
more skill added to the Boston roster. And when I say everyone, I include GM Peter Chiarelli.
Yes, I believe Boston would have preferred Hall as its top pick last year. He would have played less than he did in Edmonton this season, but I am convinced he would have played much more than Seguin did in his rookie year with the Black and Gold. Hall plays a more mature, NHL-ready, tougher game. I am willing to bet he would have found a home among Boston's top six forwards this season. Thus, he would have been a better fit, no question. At this point, I am not certain Seguin will acquire the toughness necessary to be an effective NHL player. But he's young, and by no means should be written off.
I know its popular to question Boston ownership's commitment to winning, but I think that question died some 10 years ago. Owner Jeremy Jacobs and Co. continue to pay top dollar for talent. They just haven't always gotten the best bang for their buck(s).
Question: It seems Andy Brickley is very knowledgeable in the hockey
sense. Given his background as a player, do you think he would or could coach the elite in the NHL? -- Chris Hubbard, Rochester, NH.
KPD: Totally agree that "Brick" knows his stuff and does an exceptional job of communicating the X's, O's, whys and what-have-yous in his color role, especially with Versus.
Now, would that make him a good coach? I don't have the slightest idea. The essence of coaching is teaching, and I've seen very bright, knowledgeable teachers fall flat on their face in the classroom. I've also seen some teachers, with less intelligence, do a great job of selling their subject to students and therefore make outstanding teachers.
So, the only way to find out if ''Brick'' could bring it would be to see him on the job.
Question: Have not seen a response from the NHL as to why Bergeron was not awarded a penalty shot in the double-overtime Game 5. Paraphrasing, the rule book says if a player loses a scoring chance when there is no one between him and the goal, the result should be a penalty shot. Pretty clear as day that should have been. Do you have any insight? -- Matt Baker, Palm Beach, FL.
KPD: Sure ... just yet another case of the view from the TV screen
and from the press box often not matching that of the referee(s). C'est la vie.
For my money (of which there is little), I believe there is far too much carping over calls/non-calls. I listen to some telecasts, and it's amazing how many times the referees blow the calls when the "home" team (that of the broadcasters) should have been awarded a power play. But the same non-call, when it's to the home team's benefit, doesn't even get a mention from the broadcast booth.
Overall, I think the referees get it right most of the time, by a wide margin. When they blow it, so be it. As a coach, I would try to get my team to answer back with even greater commitment and a increased sense of urgency to score. If I had to point out that "even the referees are against us!" ... well, c'est la vie.