Not a lot from me, here in the early days of the blog, and for that, I apologize. It’s not because I don’t have anything worthy to say (at least compared to most sports bloggers) it’s just that, since I lack the resources and time to check out the Bruins camp at Ristuccia Arena or travel to Halifax and Moncton, I’ve been relying almost exclusively on Fluto Shinzawa’s reports for the Boston Globe to get my Bruins news. Anything I feel the need to write about is usually already covered by Fluto and Kevin Paul Dumont on the Globe’s awesome Bruins Blog, so I’m trying to avoid redundancies.
Therefore, after the jump, just a few thoughts on the various Timbits of news that have emerged from The Hub of Hockey on the eve of the B’s first televised game of the season.
(This post also prevents anyone from reading the godawful misfire of a “NEXT” parody I wrote this afternoon, involving Michael Ryder’s hypothetical search for a Center. Anyone know how to permanently delete things from Google Docs [and the creative center of my brain]?)
ITEM! NESN Bruins Announcers Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley will continue to be paid to root for the Bruins on-air for the next couple of years.
To be honest, I’m a bit taken aback when I hear or read some of the criticism levied against Jack and Brick. I will admit that if I was a non-Bruins fan watching the NESN broadcast on Center Ice or what-have-you, I’d be peeved at the blatant homerism both men show. However, as a Bruins fan living in the Boston area, I kind of dig it. Brickley has that regional accent and conversational style that makes you feel like you’re watching the game with a really knowledgeable buddy. Unlike a lot of color analysts, he doesn’t really “coach from the press box” and never wastes time explaining events or plays that are apparent to most hockey fans, and he’ll call players out for making bad plays; something many people don’t seem to realize because he rarely goes overboard with it. Brickley’s also capable of quite a few good bon mots that make the game worth listening to, such as his occasional descriptions of Dany Heatley plays as “murderous” and, of course, this:
Should I have said NSFW? Oh, I’m sorry.
Edwards bears the brunt of the criticism, and not without good reason. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for at least another year, as it does take some time to really get a feel for calling a game and developing a rapport with your partner. The chemistry is there, but Edwards does tend to allow himself to get carried away at times when providing play-by-play. In close games, witness how his cadence and vocabulary transform, as he describes each successive play on the ice as if it were a Stanley Cup clinching moment. To me, it seems like he does this just in case the game is replayed, with the hope that people will remember “That Jack Edwards call” that perfectly encapsulated a triumphant Bruins victory. It’s bullshit, and he tends to rope Brickley into joining him in those moments, which probably justifies some of the criticism the team has received. Still, the enthusiasm and fun that Edwards has calling the game should not be taken for granted. If I went from prime-time ESPN personality, to doing play-by-play for the fourth most popular team in a city, I’d find it hard to muster the excitement that Jack finds every time Milan Lucic throws a right.
I’ll reserve final judgment for when I finally get to see him play with my own eyes, but from the sound of Fluto Shinzawa’s keyboard, “Ziggy” (a nickname I’d like to see catch on, because I love “The Wire”) is doing everything short of carrying Claude Julien’s bags and changing Peter Chiarelli’s oil to make the Boston roster out of training camp. I say, if he’s willing to work for it, why the hell not? He already spent more time in Boston than in Providence last year, and showed that he was willing to do whatever it took to help the team. He’s still young and prone to being out of position, but there’s not much difference in the kind of experience he’ll get playing eight or more minutes a night on Boston’s fourth line, than refining his game on the wing in Providence, where he’ll rob guys like Blake Wheeler and Matt Marquardt of much-needed first-line development time. As long as he stays out of the TD Banknorth Press Box, Sobotka can absorb the game and hopefully take over for P.J. Axelsson, as he settles into his niche a few years down the road. His roster spot would most likely come at the expense of someone like Petteri Nokelainen, who has shown more offensive upside, or Jeremy Reich, who tends to do either the most with a little amount of talent, or very little with a little amount of talent. Regardless, if the Bruins commit to keeping their younger guys in Boston, and dressed, they’ll benefit from the extra depth come April. In either case, it’s better than having Mark Mowers.
Again, reserving final judgment for when I can see it in person, and it IS only preseason, but Michael Ryder hasn’t done much of anything on a line with Marc Savard and Milan Lucic. To be fair, that sentence could be reconstructed to put both Savard and Lucic’s name in place of Ryder, but it didn’t go unnoticed by anyone following the Bruins that Ryder was the LAST player to report to training camp, and it’s really starting to look like he could have used that extra time to get in sync with his new projected linemates. None of this would be a big deal if Michael Ryder wasn’t receiving nearly the same amount of money that Glen Murray received last year, with the expectation of putting up similar numbers (30 goals, 50 points, a minus rating in the double digits). When Murray, wracked with injuries from which he never really recovered, was bought out after two subpar seasons, Ryder was brought in as his replacement. However, the numbers really scare me. Guess which post-lockout numbers are Ryder’s, and which are Murray’s.
05-06: 30 G/25 A/-5
Yep, the first guy is “30-Goal Scorer!” Ryder and the second is Muzz. Ryder’s got (slightly) better numbers across the board, and, even giving him the benefit of the doubt that last season was partly Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau’s fault, it still doesn’t hide the following fact: Ryder got those numbers playing in 81, 82, and 70 games respectively. Murray provided basically the same output in 64, 59, and 63 games. Is stability and health worth lower average production from your top-line right wing? We’ll wait and see, of course, but if Ryder finds himself run out of town by the end of his contract, I have a feeling Peter Chiarelli will be right behind him.
Just to make things clear, I am not suggesting that I would rather have the injured Glen Murray playing for the Bruins this year over Michael Ryder. I just fear that the Ryder signing was a panic move by a team desperate to show a finicky fanbase an effort to improve the on-ice product; one that will eventually come back to haunt them, if not this year, then the next (and the one after that).
John already covered most of this, but I was already 3/4’s of the way with my own piece on Kessel’s future when John showed me his post, and let’s just say that while he handled things a bit more…tastefully than I did, I still have a few points worth making.
Still, the good news is that Phil Kessel did indeed cause his teammates to do a double-take by sticking up for Sturm, and giving the Halifax crowd what I’m sure was a titillating, blonde-on-blonde catfight. Kessel definitely needs to step up his game this season with the impending end of his entry-level contract, and showing some physicality is definitely a move in the right direction. Remember, there’s a fine line between being “enigmatic” and being an offensive-minded player with no offense.
’08-09 will be the make-or-break year for Kessel. If he turns it up this year, and puts up *cough*Michael Ryder*cough*-esque numbers (lets say 30 goals, 60 points) then by all means the Bruins should moderately reward him with Michael Ryder-esque money. I’m sure being a healthy scratch for three playoff games after playing in all 82 games lit a fire under his sack in his belly, so if he can turn it on, here’s hoping it stays on. God knows we could use the offensive production. However, the knock on Kessel has always been his work ethic, not his talent. If he secures that sweet, sweet, Michael Ryder money, who’s to say he doesn’t throttle it back down to 35, flick the left blinker on, and go home to a sweet Tremont Ave. penthouse balling making love to all the lovely ladies? I have a feeling that the uncertainty surrounding Phil Kessel far outweighs his potential contributions, and that the Bruins should sell high, and they should do it before it’s too late (see: Samsonov, Sergei).
And yes, questioning the work ethic of a Masterson Trophy-winning teenaged cancer survivor makes me feel a bit googly in my gut (as well as giving me an idea to pitch to Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird) so apologies where necessary, and direct all hate mail to me, not John. I will post it.