Murphy’s Hockey Law: Good to be Home!
Good To Be Home!
When I walked into TD Garden last Tuesday for what would end up being a 2-1 preseason overtime win for the Boston Bruins, there was a concoction of feelings flowing through me. It was surreal, new and yet familiar and as fellow Bruins Daily writer Bob Snow put it to fellow puck scribe Joe Haggerty of CSNNE.com and me, “the circle of life”.
The last time I was covering the Bruins in what had grown to be a second home for me covering the team from 2001-2013 as was June 24, 2013 when the Bruins lost Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final to the Chicago Blackhawks. Sure I had been back as a freelancer covering the their bitter rivals, the Canadiens in the 2014 Eastern Conference semifinals and while that was most definitely a weird feeling, this latest visit was so many more and simply unique.
As I did when I first walked into what was then the FleetCenter in October 2001 for the season opener when the Bruins retired Ray Bourque’s No. 77 and he raised it to the rafters, I felt an excitement but also a nervous anxiety at the same time. Huh? This was only a preseason game! But there I was, feeling like I did many moons ago as a young wide-eyed rookie reporter and it was almost like starting over again. I would see tons of old and new faces on this preseason night and then again at practice the following Friday.
From fellow reporters to being greeted with some good old-fashioned ribbing by Jimmy the McDonough Room (media cafeteria) usher, to Branch the longtime kitchen host, to one of the few areas of the Bruins staff that didn’t change, the training and equipment staff to Dennis Seidenberg, Don Sweeney, the usual suspects on scouting row and head coach Claude Julien. Hearing the words ‘welcome back’ or ‘welcome home’ from all of them felt great. I’m sure to see plenty more old faces as I settle back into a world I knew for so long and it’s truly great to be home
But this sense of deja vu described above wasn’t simply from my own experience being back where it all started for me as a hockey reporter. There was and is again a sense of uncertainty and now the task of learning first-hand how much has changed since that night the Bruins blew a late one-goal lead to the Hawks and watched the Chicago players hoist the Stanley Cup in their home barn. Actually the lasting memory I have of that night ironically is of Chicago sniper Patrick Kane trying to get his skates off unsuccessfully before he went to the podium with the Conn Smythe Trophy as the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs MVP. Kane just couldn’t untie his laces and the always ready and adapting NHL PR staff led by Nicole Buckley quickly laid down a carpet to the podium for him. Of course, Kane is trying to get himself out of a much bigger mess now and could PR guru like Nicole, but that’s about as close I’ll get to any opinion on that topic publicly!
Back to the changes around the Bruins. Gone from that team that lost to the Blackhawks in the 2013 Cup Final, are Matt Bartkowski, Gregory Campbell, Andrew Ference, Jordan Caron, Kaspars Daugavins, Dougie Hamilton, Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton, Jaromir Jagr, Anton Khudobin, Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley, Shawn Thornton, Wade Redden and Carl Soderberg. 15 of the 26 players that dressed during that playoff run gone within two seasons. In the famous words of David Bowie “Cha cha cha changes”!
Of course, that’s just the roster subtractions. One of the biggest changes occurred last spring when after missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2006-07 season, the Bruins organization decided to part ways with General Manager Peter Chiarelli. In his nine seasons in charge in Boston, Chiarelli put together seven playoff teams with two of those squads making it to the finals and the 2010-11 Bruins winning the Stanley Cup. But for upper management and ownership, that simply wasn’t enough to mask a non-playoff season and the salary cap troubles Chiarelli and the team had fallen into on his watch. They promoted his assistant and former Bruins defenseman Don Sweeney (who patrolled the blue line when I started covering the Bruins in 2001) to General Manager and Sweeney wasted no time in putting his touch on the roster in a very busy offseason.
Not only is there a new management team of Sweeney at GM, Scott Bradley as Assistant GM, John Ferguson as Executive Director Of Player Personnel, Jay Pandolfo as Director of Player Development and Jamie Langenbrunner as Development Coach but there were more changes to the roster. Lucic, Hamilton and Riley Smith were shipped out via trades and there will be plenty of new faces on the opening night roster such as Matt Beleskey, Zac Rinaldo, Jimmy Hayes, Colin Miller, Matt Irwin, and likely more, including a new back-up goaltender, likely Jeremy Smith or Jonas Gustavsson. Even going back to the end of the 2013-14 season, the Bruins have even more somewhat new players on the roster in Max Talbot and Ryan Spooner.
So what does all this change since I last covered the Bruins or even since the end of a season in which 96 points wasn’t enough to make the playoffs mean? It means at the very least, we’re in for a very interesting season and in this humble hockey scribe’s opinion, very likely more change!
Will Sweeney Help The Defense With A Signing Or Trade?
Last Wednesday, the Bruins announced that they will be without defenseman Dennis Seidenberg for eight weeks as Seidenberg elected to have back surgery now rather than possibly later in the season. But while that could very well be good come November and December, this was a huge blow to a defense that comes into the season as the team’s biggest question mark. Sweeney said he will continue to explore the trade market or possible free agent signings and with teams trimming their rosters down even more as we head into the final full week of the preseason, more players will become available via waivers and possibly trades too.
One NHL executive told Murphy’s Hockey Law that this weekend was a quiet weekend, but things could “heat up very quickly” over the next seven days. There were rumors over the summer that the Bruins were interested in Jets defenseman/forward Dustin Byfuglien but as Haggerty pointed out recently, there will be a hefty price for the rugged 6’5″ 265-pound rear guard. Seidenberg or no Seidenberg, the Bruins need another Top 4 D and preferably one 30 years-old or younger but if they’re looking for a dependable stop gap depth guy for now, free agents Anton Volchenkov (33) or Mike Weaver (37) could help. I had the chance to get to know the latter over my last two years covering hockey in Montreal and he is the warrior type leader that this young and inexperienced defensive corps could benefit. You can never have too many good dressing room guys and Weaver is just that. As many other reporters have noted keep an eye on the Flyers should Sweeney decide to go the trade route as Flyers GM Ron Hextall is reportedly trying to move defensemen Luke Schenn and Andrew MacDonald.
Every week in this column I plan on scouring the internet for the best hockey related pieces and sharing some with you.
Two of the best stories I read over the weekend surrounded two former Bruins. Jamie Rivers — who was also a defenseman on that first Bruins team I covered back in 2001-02 — tells the true tale of how he came back from the dead once. Haggerty had a great feature on former Bruins enforcer Bobby Robbins who achieved his NHL dream but saw it cut very short due to concussions and how Robbins is now trying to help others avoid what he went through with post-concussion syndrome. Really moving stuff and another wake up call to how serious the concussion issue is in the NHL.
As those who know my work and myself know, I’m a huge music fan. So each week here in Murphy’s Hockey Law, we’ll close the column with ‘Puck Rocks’ in which we interview a Bruin or NHLer about his favorite music. This week we feature goaltender Malcolm Subban.
Subban was assigned to Providence in the AHL Sunday but before he got sent down, he took time to discuss his love for EDM music and how if he has his headphones on during a workout or before a game in the dressing room, he’s likely jamming out to Calvin Harris.
“That’s my music for sure and I love Calvin Harris,” said Subban who had to explain to this 40-something scribe what EDM is. “I really enjoy it and it helps me get going.”
Thanks to his father Karl who hails from Jamaica, Subban also has a love for roots reggae. But amazingly the Bruins 2012 first round pick did not know of the Jamaican legend Toots And The Maytals. Well, Malcolm do yourself a favor and get immersed in Toots’ music and you can start with this classic!
James Murphy has covered the NHL as a freelance reporter for the last 13 seasons. He has written for NHL.com, TSN.ca, ESPN.com, The Boston Herald, XNsports.com, ESPNBoston.com, NESN.com, Boston Metro, Insidehockey.com and Le Hockey Magazine. Murphy also hosted a hockey radio show on Sirius/XM NHL Network Radio from 2005-2014, most recently the Top Shelf Radio Show. In addition to his print and radio work, Murphy has appeared as a TV hockey analyst on ESPN, NESN, Fox 25 News in Boston and CTV Montreal. For all his hockey commentary and more, follow Murph on Twitter at @MurphysLaw74!