The questions rolled in fast and furious this week in anticipation of the first mailbag. You can submit a question anytime for consideration in a future mailbag. Let’s get to it.
Q: Since the Bruins have moved into the Garden in 1995 why can’t they dominate at home like they did in the old Garden? They have lost three Game Sevens at home in the last six years. –Timothy Flanigan, Schenectady, NY
KPD: It’s not the building. It’s the quality of the players sitting on the Boston bench in the building.
I’ll agree that the old Garden, with its smaller neutral zone, played to the Bruins’ advantage, because the visiting teams weren’t accustomed to the cozy configuration. But overall, I don’t think the playing talent of the Bruins of the mid-’90s forward can match what we saw in the period circa 1968-’95.
Q: Much of the B’s playoff success last year was in games in which they appeared to play less dump-and-chase hockey. During their recent slump, they appeared to be playing more of the dumping game as opposed to having a forward carry the puck into the zone. Have you observed that as well? Is that a coaching system approach? — Dr. Peter Mallouhm, Toronto, Ont.
KPD: Sounds to me like you are channeling your inner Herb Brooks. I don’t disagree. Far better to maintain possession of the puck rather than give it up in hopes of recovering it.
When the Bruins are playing aggressively, with speed and confidence, they do hold the puck more and look to make plays, in all three zones. When they’re in a rut, they are quick to surrender it in the attack zone, play dump-and-chase as a failsafe. That’s not unusual in today’s game, from amateur hockey up through the pros, because simpler is always perceived as safer.
Personally, I think that’s a false perception. I would risk losing the puck when there’s a chance to make a play, rather than simply coughing it up in the hopes of winning a battle against the rear wall.
Q: Why does the Bruin management still hang on to Thomas? Why haven’t they fired their whole scouting department, because they never come up with a goalie who can carry the Bruins.
If you look around the league there are several good goalies, however, as in the past, the B’s are slow to find a goalie that could steal games for them. Thomas is certainly out of the question. Rask is young and needs more exposure. Look at Ottawa and now Toronto. They have two good goalies. Reimer of Toronto beat the B’s and that useless dead wood Thomas. I have been a fan of the B’s since 1969 and I am waiting for the Cup since 1973. As for your brown nosing columns (to the management) do us a favor and write the truth and call a spade a spade not sugar coat the situation.
— John Dawes
KPD: Get out all the hate there, John, I know it will make you feel better. I think you are in a distincty minority with your view on Thomas. He has one Vezina (2009) and could very well be awarded a second one three months from now. Some of the league’s beat writers say they will pick him as this year’s MVP.
But again, it’s all opinion, and you could well be right and the world be wrong. Hope you feel better soon.
Q: My question relates to the comments made during the CBC broadcast of the Bruins/Toronto game that there is trouble in the dressing room. In particular, they pointed to the reaction of Rask after goals. I got the impression they might have been grasping at straws as Rask has a history of being an emotional guy. What is your take, especially with the playoffs fast approaching? — Greg Borisko, Saskatoon, SK, Canada
KPD: From my perspective, being around the team constantly, Rask seems well liked by his teammates. I saw him get hot in one practice, when a high shot by Bergeron nailed him in the neck, but I’ve seen goalies react like that for decades. Not a big deal, in my opinion.
Now, in the CBC game you refer to, I think the on-air crew might have jumped to a conclusion. Rask didn’t like the way his defense took away his view on a Leafs goal, and he let them know it. When the third period began, Thomas was back in net, after being Yanked in favor of Rask in the second.
When I asked Rask, Thomas and Julien about it after the game, none of them had issue with the decision to bring Thomas back into the game. Julien, when asked about the assertion that the move was made because of Rask taking his teammates to task: ‘’Ridiculous.’’
Q: I have a few questions. With the deadline trades this year, can such important roster moves so late in the season have a negative effect in terms of chemistry? Are the Bruins too predictable on the power play? I mean every team knows Kaberle, Krejci, and Bergeron are going to pass instead of shoot, and Chara with the slot guy are going to shoot, therefore does that make it easy to defend? Would you say that 2010-2011 season was a successful season if they don’t win the Cup? — Gee-Z Laval, Quebec
KPD: Yes, late-in-the-season deals can disrupt team chemistry. I don’t get that sense with the additions of Kaberle, Peverley and Kelly. I think they’ve been of limited impact thus far, but I don’t think they’ve ruined the broth.
And yes, they are far too predictable on the power play. By my eye, the issue is movement, or lack of it. As a unit, the five players don’t skate enough, pass enough or look for cross-slot options to move the puck. Too stagnant.
I think the season is a success if they Bruins reach at least the conference final. Short of that, I think they’ll have to take a serious look at the composition of the roster and the coaching approach.
Q: Considering Tyler Seguin is only 19 years old, how does he fit in the room? What coach works with him most? Who are his friends? What player mentors him most? — MeanE, North Kingstown, RI
KPD: I think he’s emerging as a player, but not at the rate many expected. Personally, I’ve learned to lower my expectations for all draft picks, even those like Seguin who arrived here amid much ballyhoo after being selected second overall in last June’s draft.
He is fast and has a very good shot, fired with a quick release. He needs to use it more. He needs to demonstrate a tougher game, show more urgency in getting to pucks and keeping them in his possession. Ultimately, I think he will pass or fail based on whether he can add that grit. Some players never get it, and sometimes their refined talent (such as speed and shooting) preventd them from seeing their deficiencies.
From what I’ve witnessed, all the coaches work with him, and he seems to fit well into the room. He’s quiet, it’s a culture that expects that from rookies.
Q: I am excited about the playoffs, however I always like to plan ahead. Would you consider this if you were the Bruins. Shea Weber is an RFA next year and Nashville is going to have trouble signing him. With $6 million available already in Cap space and 18 players signed including Savard’s contract. With a little extra juggling(Ference’s and Paille’s contracts, if Savard comes back) would you make an offer of the Leafs pick, 2012 1st rounder and a combo of Caron or Marchand and Kampfer or McQuaid for this guy? He is a 25-year-old hard hitting 17-20 goal a season defenseman. They are hard to come by and I would be willing to throw in another pick or prospect as well. That would give you the best one-two combo D-man and goalies tandem in the league and still have a young strong core of fowards under control.Bergeron,Horton, Krejci, Lucic, Seguin to start plus a Ryan Spooner/Jared Knight and either Caron or Marchand. — DJ LundLondon, Ontario
KPD: Two things you haven’t mentioned: 1. Weber will be 26 in August, which means he’s extra attractive because he’s entering his prime;
2. What are you willing to pay him, and over how many years? I suspect he’ll get around $30 million, maybe a little more, on a five-year deal.
So, would I make a big move for him? Yes.
That said, I think you may be too generous with your proposal, but I’ll admit it will take that kind of package. OK, you’ve sold me. Do it.
Q: Is the B’s inconsistency problem related to the adherence to coach
Claude Julien’s defense-first system? To make it easier, is the slow transition from defense to offense affecting the team’s ability to score? Think Buck Showalter when answering if you will. — Carson Graves, Keene, N.H.
KPD: I think the system is part of it. I also think it’s the fact that they lack team speed and they are without their No. 1 pivot, Marc Savard.
Mix in more speed and skill, and voila, we wouldn’t be as critical of Julien’s system. He also might change the approach if he were handed more skill in the lineup.
Do I like the system? Not particularly. I like a flow game, based on speed and creativity and puck possession. But that’s not where Julien is from and management knew that before he was hired, and it’s also why they’ve made such a rich, long-term investment in Zdeno Chara. It is a defense-first team. That’s their DNA.
So, based on the genetic engineering of the roster, coupled with the loss of Savard, I think what we can say of the system is that this is as good as it gets. At least for now. Either enjoy the show, or move to a different theater.
Q: Do you think that the NHL should make the ice surface larger and take away the instigating rule? — John Arnprior, Canada
KPD: I don’t see bigger rinks making for a better product. I think the players have too much protective equipment (see: football-like shoulder pads)and there is too much emphasis on pointless, destructive hitting. It would be a much better game if some of the equipment were downsized and the rules, specific to hits that cause injury, were improved and enforced.
I think getting rid of the ‘’instigator’’ rule would help. It wouldn’t fix all problems pertaining to cheap hits, but it would be a step in the right direction.
Q: Is Cam Neely just a figurehead ? That question ALWAYS comes up on the boards. It’s either, Cam is a figurehead. Or Cam reports to the owner. Can you help clarify Cam’s position? — Jim B. Alary, Jasper, Alberta, Canada
KPD: No, Cam is far more than a figurehead as president, but to date GM Peter Chiarelli has far more influence on roster composition and day-to-day operations.
The GM job requires a huge work commitment, much of it not the kind of work Neely is versed in or would enjoy. Frankly, it’s a lot of paperwork and people management. Cam’s skill is more on identifying players and further developing the model of the kind of player the Bruins want to employ. I think Charelli and Neely co-exist together quite well.
Now, could the day come when Neely, as team president, overrules Chiarelli on a very important issue, acquisition or trade? Yes. And that could present a problem. That’s not to say it’s inevitable, but it is possible, and that’s another reason never to leave Boston.com.
Q: I’ve been a hockey and Bruins fan since the late ‘50s. My mom is 90 in September; loves football and hockey. I told her I find the game today (for most games) boring compared to the years past. Not sure it’s the ‘trap’; bigger, faster; too much center ice play.My question/thoughts are:
— I love the 4-4 in OT which suggests to me that if the rinks were larger by, say, 10’ and 5’ — more open ice would help.
— Eliminate all off-sides; auto icing calls.
— Allow more 4-4 when there are joint penalties What can they do to bring back excitement, other than the playoffs. — Steve Vozella, Beverly
KPD: More ice might help, but I’m not convinced. I’ve seen some European hockey, and players can hide out there with all that room available. I grew up on the North American game and prefer contact. But it’s all a moot point because NHL owners will not make their sheets bigger, simply because they don’t want to lose the seat revenue.
I’d tweak icing, only in the sense that I would not allow teams on the PK to fire the puck 150 or 200 feet without whistling the puck down. Leave the icing standard alone, start to finish. It makes no sense to call a foul on a team, then allow the penalized team to play under a different set of rules.
Sign me up for more 4-on-4, in situations that make sense. All for it.
Open play = excitement. We could use up all the space on the internet, debating what leads to open play. Oddly, removing the red line was supposed to help. All I see is more players getting hurt and scoring chances not necessarily being more plentiful.
Q: What’s your take on the ability of the Bruins to develop prospects under the Chiarelli regime? Hamill unfortunately looks like a washout and Colborne is no longer in the system. Are we Bruins fans to pin our hopes on sixth-rounders like Zane Gothberg? — Justin Walden, Bellefonte, Pa.
KPD: The scouting track record under Chiarelli has been very spotty to date. He is finishing up his fifth year in the corner office. If we don’t see a gem or two on the Boston roster in very short order, then it won’t speak well of his regime’s ability to identify and develop young talent.
It’s no longer the prior regime’s bunch of kids. It’s Chaiarelli’s bunch of kids. Thus far, I have not been impressed.
Q: I’m a Bruins fan , a transplant from Woonsocket, R.I., my question to you is :1, what do the bruins need to do to bury the puck more on the PP; 2. If I may, do you feel the Bruins can improve on home ice, with most of their remaining games this season at TD? — Bobby Desjardins, New Orleans
KPD: 1. More movement, both in terms of skating and passing, and quicker decision-making. All that would help the PP.
2. They have not been great on home ice (18-13-5) and that does not portend well for the playoffs. How to improve? Well, home or away, they are better when they emphasize speed and contact. More of that would certainly help.
Q: Do you think the Bruins will ever win a Stanley cup as long as the Jacobs own the team? It seems as though their goal (as always) is to make the playoffs and put on a good show. Do you think the Jacobs even care about anything other than the bottom line? There is an interesting interview with Phil Esposito on why some teams don’t want to win a cup…rather they want to make it to the finals go 7 games and lose. The interview is here.
Owners have to pay out millions in bonuses to the players if they win the Cup. I once read Charlie Jacobs say that ‘‘We want to PLAY A ROLL in the finals’’ What does it mean to ‘‘play a roll’’ in the finals? He said nothing of winning the finals, just ‘‘playing a roll’’ It seems a strange statement, and appears to give insight into his thought process. Anyway, I just wondered what your opinion is on this matter. I’m also curious as to why fans continue to support this teams despite the seeming apathy of the ownership, but I suppose that is a different matter. — Eric Cormier, Berkeley, Calif.
KPD: I think questioning ownership’s intentions was for a number of years, but that began to change dramatically in the years leading up to the institution of the salary cap. Since, oh, the late-199Os, the franchise has not been shy about spending money. The larger issue has been not spending that money prudently (hello, Martin Lapointe).
In my opinion, the bigger issues in Boston have been poor spending and poor drafting. They need to realize more bang for the bucks they spend, and they need more draft picks to find their way to the roster. As the playoffs approached, only a half-dozen players on the Boston roster joined the organization via the draft. That is not a prescription for success.
Q: Wouldn’t Tyler Seguin have been better off developing in Providence this year? Yes, he has shown flashes of offensive ability, but he is clearly not a complete player yet. — Matt Hall, Yokohama, Japan
KPD: Absolutely, Seguin’s game would have developed better at the AHL level. However, the working relationship between the NHL and junior hockey prohibits players of Seguin’s age and experience from being assigned to the minors.
It’s not necessarily a flaw in the system, but for players in Seguin’s situation it is unfortunate. NHL and junior hockey administrators have talked for years about ways to improve the system. Thus far, only talk.
Q: Why are the Bruins shown in 3rd place in the Eastern Conference standings when it looks that their record indicates they should be in 4th and Pittsburgh in 3rd? — Ralph Diagostino, Melrose
KPD: The top three seeds in each conference are awarded to the six clubs that win their respective divisions. That’s why you see these mathematical quirks in the standings. Just another thing that makes hockey unique.
I’m still trying to figure out what the NHL refs call slashing when it comes stick onto stick? If you slash my stick with yours, will you only get a penalty if you either break my stick or if it falls out of my hands? I don’t see a lot of consistency in this call. — Bob, Pittsburgh,Pa.
KPD: I’ve given up trying to figure out what is and what isn’t a penalty. Your slashing scenario is a perfect example. All I can tell you is that one ref sees it one way, and another ref sees it another. Beauty, or ugliness, is in the eye of the beholder….or in the whistle of he who holds it.
Q: Now that the Bruins have made the playoffs, will they rest any players, will they inject anybody from Providence for a look see, or will they just try keeping the momentum? — Gary Krause, Niagara Falls, Ont.
KPD: I think the current varsity roster is the one you’ll see the rest of the way, unless Julien wants to give a player or two a rest over the last few days.
But again, that’s a player or two. Julien isn’t one to back off, either in terms of game plan or personnel. Look for status quo to prevail.
Q: With the goalies equipment shrunk as far as it probably will go, today’s players are not shooting at the same net that Howe, Lafleur, Gretzky shot at. The goaltenders are bigger, more athletic and obviously the equipment has changed.
Francois Allaire recently said the bigger the goalie the smaller the net. In order to get more scoring in the game is it feasible to enlarge the nets 6’’ in width, and 5’’ in height. It wouldn’t even be noticeable from the stands, yet it would prevent a butterfly goalie from just stretching out and covering the entire lower half of the net. More scoring would open up the game, and face it, fans would not mind more 4-3 games.Nets were last enlarged in 1950, it’s time for some tinkering. — Bernard Davidoff, Prescott Valley, Ariz.
KPD: The Lords of the Boards gave serious consideration to change the size and shape of the nets a few years ago, during the 2004-’05 lockout. They decided to stick with the standard 24-square-foot piece of real estate.
Would it lead to more scoring? Absolutely. But my guess is, the last thing they would change is the size of the net. That’s not to say you are off-base in suggesting it, but those in charge of the game are not radical thinkers. They prefer smaller, more subtle changes.
I could see them downsizing the big paddles goalies are allowed to use. Heck, why note, they’ve got so much equipment now, why not make them use the same stick everyone else uses. Or how about not allowing them a stick at all? Much of the action in the offensive zone is controlled by a goalie who is adept at handling the puck. Want more action? Limit the the goalies’ ability to stop the puck, control the game.