So, was Tuesday's visit to Causeway Street by the Sharks a litmus test or wake-up call for the Bruins? Frankly, more the former than the latter. The Sharks are good, and better than some (faithful puck scribe included) may have believed. Without question, though, the Bruins with a full, healthy lineup (if that's not an oxymoron) would have put on a better show in the East-West showdown.
By the way, Ryane Clowe, as in three-assist Ryane Clowe . . . didn't you get the memo that the league can accommodate only one good Newfoundland-born player and Michael Ryder has that slot filled?
"He looked a little like a man among boys, didn't he?" said Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli.
Despite their slight dip of late, the Bruins are all but a lock to be one of the top four playoff seeds, if not No. 1, in the East. With the March 4 trade deadline 2 1/2 weeks away, however, Chiarelli is shaping his shopping list, and just the other day he revealed that there are eight names on it, a group of forwards and defensemen who could bolster a playoff run.
And the names?
Yeah, right. Might as well try to pry that little black book, "Suckers and Other Good Friends," out of Bernie Madoff's back pocket.
But that doesn't stop us from guessing.
Would one of these eight be enough?Chris Pronger. Just the kind of big bopper that every playoff team wants. However, it's not clear that the Ducks, still in the playoff hunt, will surrender the 6-foot-6-inch blue liner. The cost would be pricy: a young roster player (such as Milan Lucic or Phil Kessel), a prospect (Zach Hamill?), and a first- or second-round draft pick. Pronger, about to play his 1,000th NHL game, would be an even bigger monstah among a blue line corps that already includes Zdeno Chara.Keith Tkachuk. Blues president John Davidson won't say he'll deal the former Malden Catholic powerhouse, who turns 37 next month, simply because the Blues still have a remote shot at the No. 8 seed in the West. The Blues have seven more games (a possible 14 points) before the deadline. They are 7-2-4 (18 of 26 points) in their last 13 games. If they don't do better than .500 in their eight games before the break, Tkachuk will be gone. He would provide the Bruins with a replacement for Marco Sturm at wing, plus added depth and much-needed size at pivot. Erik Cole. With yesterday's victory, the Oilers have won three of their last seven games (3-3-1) but are in the mix for the No. 8 seed. Sellers? Not at the moment, but back-to-backs this week in San Jose and Dallas could change GM Steve Tambellini's outlook. Cole, like Tkachuk, is an unrestricted free agent as of July 1, which will lessen Edmonton's bargaining power. Good size (6-2, 205) and speed; a more developed and tested version of Blake Wheeler.
Jay Bouwmeester. Florida's prime puck-moving defenseman, he would bring the Panthers a package even bigger than the Pronger take, even though Pronger has one year left on his deal ($6.25 million) and the 25-year-old Bouwmeester is on target to become an unrestricted free agent July 1. The Bruins would have to give up a pair of young roster players, perhaps Kessel and Dennis Wideman. Ridiculous to consider yielding such goods, unless all sides, Bouwmeester included, agreed to a sign-and-trade. Possible, but not likely. Tomas Kaberle. The 30-year-old Czech defenseman has spent his career in Toronto and has two more years left on his deal, worth $4.25 million per season. Kaberle would be another great acquisition, but given the Leafs' lack of depth and skill, it's not a good bet he'll be moved. Not the kind of talent Toronto can allow to leave. Nik Antropov. The 6-6 Russian pivot might have looked good Tuesday, hunkering down against Joe Thornton in the faceoff circle. But for all his size, he doesn't bring the requisite grit, part of the reason new Leafs GM Brian Burke last week said, "It might be a time for a change of scenery" for the career Leaf, now in his ninth season. No doubt Burke's way of trying to get the big guy to play like a big guy. He makes $2.15 million this season, and is due to be an unrestricted free agent July 1. Dominic Moore. Enjoying a career year for the Leafs (same point total as Ryder) after being claimed from the waiver trash heap via Minnesota Jan. 11, 2008. Short money (what's left of his $900,000 salary), cheap insurance for center and wing. Excellent legs, spotty scoring touch, only 28. Oh, also formerly of Harvard (Class of '03), which carries some equity inside the ivy-covered walls of the Vault. A third- or fourth-round pick could get him to the Hub. Fredrik Modin. Another huge (6-4, 220) left winger, and a one-time Cup winner in Tampa. Fires a hard, heavy slapper, which could make him an interesting upgrade on a Boston power play that has sputtered of late. Now in year No. 3 with the Blue Jackets, Modin has one more year on his deal, which carries a $3.25 million cap hit. Played on Sweden's '06 Olympic gold-medal team with P.J. Axelsson. Like Cole, he hasn't produced much this season, in part because of an underperforming team. Probably could be had for a prospect (Vladimir Sobotka or Matt Lashoff) and draft pick.
Reaching a breaking point on stick budgets?
The odds that the hockey world would ever go back to wood sticks are probably on a par with goalies everywhere going back to pads stuffed with horsehair.
But it sure gets frustrating, night after night, to see NHL ice surfaces littered with shattered pricy carbon shafts, which seem to have a way of vaporizing just as a point man puts the hammer down on a 40-foot slapper. Imagine the pain felt by parents who shell out $100, $200, or more for a stick, only to take home two halves to stake tomato plants in summer gardens.
"It's a big point of contention among GMs throughout the league, I'll tell you that," said Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli. "The stick budget for every team keeps going up."
According to Chiarelli, the Bruins spend some $400,000 per annum on the lightweight sticks.
"They all want them to be light, and I understand that," said Chiarelli. "But the trick is to find a balance between what the player wants and a stick that will stay intact."
Bruins coach Claude Julien, who carried a wood stick through his amateur and pro careers, doesn't hide his disdain for the new-age lumber.
"Frustrating," he said. "The coaches and the fans . . . we're the ones stuck watching it."
Will the players ever go back?
"Well, they think they are getting more positives than negatives out of them," mused Julien. "You look at Zdeno Chara, and every guy in the league able to shoot it so hard. They feel better with lighter sticks, so I don't think it will change, not unless they think there are more negatives than positives."
Streaking into history
Capitals blue liner Mike Green
set an NHL record for defensemen by scoring a goal in his eighth consecutive game in Washington's 5-1 win over Tampa Bay last night. On Wednesday, he stretched his run to seven games, tying the mark set in the early '80s by Boston's Mike O'Connell
. "Gee, I wish I'd known I was famous back then," said O'Connell. "They could have introduced me not just as a member of the Boston Bruins, but it could have been, 'Mike O'Connell the record-holder!' " O'Connell recalled that he connected for one of the goals from the red line. Hall of Famer Paul Coffey
, a member of the great Oilers teams, topped out at a five-game streak. "Yeah," said O'Connell, "but I remember he scored two shorthanders against us in one game - I never did anything like that."
Don't count on the NHL relaxing the salary cap, even though the players have agreed to play under the conditions of the current CBA through at least the 2010-11 season. The view from New York headquarters: Giving GMs the ability to spend more money runs contrary to the need for players to set aside escrow money, which took a 22.5 percent bite of their most recent paychecks. Keeping the current salary drags in place won't prevent deals from being made on or before March 4, but it likely will keep down the activity. In the last couple of seasons, clubs have pulled off two dozen deals around the deadline.
As of Friday, less than 72 hours after Petteri Nokelainen
suffered an eye injury that knocked him out of Boston's lineup, only eight Bruins reported to work with visors: Patrice Bergeron
, P.J. Axelsson
, Martins Karsums
, David Krejci
, Stephane Yelle
, Shane Hnidy
, and Vladimir Sobotka
. . . The week after the trade deadline, NHL GMs will meet in Naples, Fla., and further their discussions on the state of fighting in the game. According to commissioner Gary Bettman
, he plans for the GMs to have a lengthy chat about what he terms "rules of engagement." To wit: Should there be restrictions, mandates in regard to whether players keep helmets on during fights? And what of visors? Look for Georges Laraque
, he of 135 career NHL fights, to have a voice on the Competition Committee. Big Georges is all for keeping on the helmets. "I don't know why a guy takes his helmet off to fight," he said. "Would a guy rather break his hand hitting someone on the helmet or die when he hits his head on the ice?" . . . Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire
took a fall last week during a Wild practice, taking the brunt of it on his elbow. "I'll be back shooting in 2-3 days," said Lemaire. Amateur coaches in Minnesota are instructed to wear helmets while on the ice. "Oh, yeah," said Lemaire, asked if he'd opt for head protection out there. "Our guys would have a ball with that." . . . Dr. Mack Cheney
, the surgeon who fixed Michael Ryder's
fractured frontal sinus at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary last week, is the same doctor who gave Boston media madame Margery Eagan
her facelift, which Eagan detailed in Boston Magazine in October 2006 (headline: "Just a Little off the Jowls, Please"). "Within hours after stitching me up, he's off to Ecuador with the Medical Missions for Children Foundation to surgically craft new ears for children born without them," wrote Eagan. "He also treats patients with facial paralysis and those disfigured by burns or cancer. In other words, he's got gravitas."
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com; material from personal interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used.
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