After getting such good feedback from the first Hagg Bag (probably the only time in the history of WEEI.com you’ll ever come across that sentence) and regaining the will to carry on despite the fact that Felger’s mailbag has now become a bi-weekly entity going forward, I bring you “Hagg Bag II: This Time He Means Business.”
It’s perhaps the best sequel since “The Empire Strikes Back,” but I’ll leave it up you faithful puck readers to come up with that character-revealing choice for yourself. I know some people quote chapter and verse on the “Godfather” movies when taking about great sequels, but Al Pacino agonizing over whacking his family just never did it for me. I’ve only watched the first two “Godfather” movies mixed together into one long film set in chronological order with the old school DeNiro flashbacks setting up the movie, and I don’t think I’ll watch them any other way. Give me Luke Skywalker getting his hand sliced off like it was a side of roast beef, Han Solo frozen into the weirdest pose of all time and Lando sipping a cool Colt .45 in Cloud City and I’m good. I just ask that you please don’t treat me like Fredo because of it.
It’s been an interesting few weeks for the Bruins filled with injuries, adversity and a handful of lackluster performances after so many rousing, tub-thumping blowout wins for the Black and Gold over the first three months of the season.
Some very nervous members of Bruins Nation have started stomping around and crossing their arms while tossing off outer rim trade scenarios (Matt Lashoff, a No. 1 pick and Ned Lukacevic for Vinny Lecavalier — get it done Chiarelli, or else!) and others are beginning to cultivate an irrational fear the Black and Gold won’t make it out of the first round of the playoffs.
Let’s hope not.
It that were to happen all of the good will built up through this hockey season will quickly fall away like shards of glass following a Milan Lucic body-slam into the boards. The B’s are clearly going to have to pull the trigger on some defense and forward help in the second half of the season to fortify the lineup and protect against injuries coming down the stretch, but there is no need for major surgery. A simple nip/tuck here or there will do the trick for these Bruins.
Other Hagg Bag followers just wanted to talk about the unstoppable Bo Jackson and underrated Christian Okoye from Tecmo Bowl, warn me against going on the radio with Felger when he’s in one of his man-love modes or give me reasons by Bobby Orr was the best “evah.” Without further ado, welcome back to the bag.
Haggs, Don’t go on the air with Felger. The day he did his “guys he would do” show, he was on with Tom E. Curran and Curran hasn’t been back since. Fitz
A: This e-mail hit me in a really special spot deep down inside because Fitzy is genuinely concerned for my well being after spending too much time in any capacity with the man that even his wife simply calls Felger. I’m not even sure what you’re saying is true about Curran because I’ve heard him on the airwaves with everbody’s favorite DB since that groundbreaking little piece of radio. (Seriously … I defy you to come up with anybody else that’s got a wife and kids and talked about “guys he would do.” That just doesn’t happen.) But let’s assume what you’re saying is true.
I think I’ll go down with the ship on that one because I genuinely find it funny watching the man try to work his way back with a reasonable explanation for his obsession/fixation with Larry Fitzgerald’s backyard. I can also assure you it’s all coming from a spontaneous place with Mr. Hand Cream. Call him a DB or an idiot or a contrarian or somebody that’s simply trying stir the pot, but he’s always interesting to listen to when he’s ranting and raving about anything from Fitzgerald’s bodacious body parts to how he hated the Celtics as a Paul Mokeski-and-Jack Sikma-loving son of Milwaukee in his youth.
Say what you will about all of these things, but by far the biggest question I get involving any of the writing, TV or radio stuff that I do is some incarnation of “What is Felger really like?” or “Is Felger as big of an idiot as he seems on the radio?” People either love him or just plain love to hate him (I think it may be way more of the latter rather than the former) and having that kind of personality is tailor-made for what Felgie does on TV and the radio. I’ll answer the question: Felger in real life is pretty close to what you actually see or hear on the air, but maybe at a volume and energy level of about a 5 or 6 rather than the 9 or 10 you normally see on the air. He’s definitely got a lot of Larry David-type quirks to him, and that stuff isn’t for show or just for the cameras as I’m sure the Wood or his old producer boy Ross Carey would attest.
Even if he occasionally talks about “guys he would do.” Or waxes poetic about Fitzgerald being blessed with the “rump of all rumps” and then somehow directly translates that into Fitzgerald being a better wide receiver than Randy Moss. That’s 100 pure Felger distilled from a youth of eating the finest of Wisconsin cheeses and painting his face Scarlet and White for four years along Comm. Ave while yelling “sieve” at Boston College guys like Scott LaGrand and Josh Singewald.
I’ve even heard rumors that Felger showed up with his face painted in BU colors to cover the Beanpot back in his early days as an up-and-coming young cub reporter at the Boston Herald, but I’ve never been able to confirm that with any reliable college hockey sources. All that being said, I’ll say thanks for the advice Fitzy. But I’m going to stick with the talent that brought us things like “Guys I would do” and GILFS.
Joe, Andrew Ference has never been great. Too many giveaways in our end. Wideman is at least an A-. Do you really feel Kessel is more feared than Jeff Carter? I think we would have been OK with Phil or Jeff, but Jeff has a little more -- as they like to say in the Harvard Mafia -- JAM in his game.
Whatever, I just hope this keeps up. Keep posting Joe , Love your HOCKEY TALK
A: Thanks Mark…I love the hockey talk too. I think that was obvious when Felger and I tried to do a “hockey minute” on the air last week and it turned into a 10-minute dissertation on the state of all things Bruins.
I would agree Andrew Ference has never been great over the course of an entire season, but he’s had stretches of greatness and he was Boston’s best defenseman early in the season when Chara was still shaking off the rust and Wideman hadn’t found his game. Ference was chewing up an average of 22:25 of ice time per night in those first 16 games, had a whole wheel barrelful of assists while quarterbacking a very effective second power play unit and also punched Sean Avery’s lights out. I’m going to call that a great 16 games to start this season, Mark.
Unfortunately, Ference broke his tibia blocking a shot during a penalty kill situation and then stayed out there to kill the PK with the broken leg before finally dragging himself off the ice. That was Nov. 13, and he hasn’t been seen in a game since then. Wow, think about that. We haven’t seen Ference in the ice since two weeks before Thanksgiving. That, in a few paragraphs, is what the reality of a guy like Ference is. A healthy Ference is going to produce and give you Top 4 defenseman play when he’s in the lineup along with being a solid, carbon footprint-aware citizen off the ice. But he also suffers an injury each and every season through the significant wear and tear of an NHL season. Last year, he played through a knee injury the second half of the season and he went from extremely effective to struggling. He missed 23 games altogether in 2007-08, and had 10 assists and a -2 rating before the All-Star Break last year and had 1 goal and 4 assists along with a -12 rating after the ASB. Certainly not great and he likely won’t ever be great given the fact he can’t consistently shake the injury bug, but Ference is a guy that will help this team provided he can stay out of the trainer’s room in the second half.
Interesting question you bring up about Phil Kessel and Jeff Carter, but they’re two different players. Who wouldn’t want a 6-foot-3, 200-pound stud center that’s already got 30 goals prior to the All-Star break for the Flyers? Kessel has taken a gigantic leap forward this season and that quick-release snapshot of his is lethal.
The question I might ask is would you rather have Mark Stuart (21st overall to the Bruins) from the 2003 jam-packed NHL Draft that delivered Carter to Philly at the 11th pick, or would you rather have a few guys drafted right after Stuart named Ryan Kesler (23rd overall), Mike Richards (24th overall) and Corey Perry (28th overall)? Would any of those established NHL players been of interest to you?
Well, let’s go Mark. I’m waiting for an answer … Go Crimson Mafia.
Hey Haggs, The [Manny Fernandez/undisclosed injury] was an interesting situation and now I'm wondering if the Fernandez "issue" is more than what's being thrown out there as an "injury". CJ comment of "stick-handling" through questions also raised an eyebrow, and the nameplate missing? Fishy if you ask me.
With the Kessel unfortunate situation now revealed may this push the Bruins to make a deal? I know PC has said that they will keep moving forward by plugging in internal pieces, but then again I think he may be showcasing what he was to use as chips in a bigger trade. I'm not convinced however that a trade of a big magnitude would happen but I'm not counting it out either.
Keep up the great work Haggs, please update us B's fans on any rumors / news! Thanks! Jesse
A: Ah yes … Nameplategate. A missing nametag from above a practice locker in Ristuccia Arena has turned into a group therapy session with people trying to figure out if Man-Fern was attempting to get in touch with his inner child after the Bruins defense let up a late goal to the Ottawa Senators in his last outing. Martin St. Pierre and Vladimir Sobotka were both sent back down to Providence following that game – with many feeling that Sobotka was bumped back down because he was one of the skaters that relaxed a little bit and allowed the Senators to score that final careless goal on Fernandez back on Jan 8.
Anyway, the injury – as we all well know – turned out to be a back issue for Fernandez. And I can confirm that the 34-year-old still had some sort of heating pad or other rehab stimulation piece of equipment wrapped around his lower back following Tuesday’s practice. So, the back is an ongoing issue for Fernandez.
Nameplategate? Not so much. I don’t think Fernandez is getting dealt anywhere this season. The Bruins are going to need both of their veteran goalies in the second half of the season. Why should the team mess with a goaltending duo that continues to lead the NHL in save percentage, and gives them two battle-hardened goaltenders when April and May hockey hits? There would be millions of second-guessers if Fernandez was traded for a Top 4 defenseman – a stretch that a 34-year-old UFA goalie would net that kind of ransom in the first place given that guys like Martin Biron and Cristobal Huet were dealt for second round draft picks rather than actual players – and Thomas went down just prior to or during the playoff run. How would everybody feel having Tuukka Rask as your No. 1 goaltender heading into the playoffs with a grand total of four NHL games under his belt? That would be a great set-up for the first-round collapse that all of the Bruins’ crazies are starting to get worked up about at this point.
Manny is staying, and he should be healthy enough to start rotating in and out with Tim Thomas once the season resumes against the Washington Capitals on Jan. 27.
Haggs, I enjoyed your article about Bergy... all of our hearts stopped when he went down but felt a little better when he got up on his own power.
Too bad about Marco Sturm :( ... since he is a loss for the season what do you think will happen to fill his spot? Will it be a recall from Providence or do you think a trade will happen?
A: Well, it’s obviously been a recall for now, but there are some names that keep popping up in potential trade conversations with Bruins officials. Obviously a Top 4 defenseman is also on the Black and Gold shopping list with both Ference and Aaron Ward fighting through injuries in the first half of the year. But a lefty-shooting power play specialist is at the top of the wish list for both Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli and coach Claude Julien.
Which players have those qualities along with a palatable price tag, a little size and the requisite defensive responsibility and grit (or Jam for those members of the Crimson Mafia) required by Julien if you’re going to play for him?
The Bruins have roughly $3.5 million to play with now that Sturm is gone for the season with knee surgery, so here’s a quick list of players that would require little to no financial maneuvering and could potential fit the bill of needs for the B’s: Keith Tkachuk ($4 million), Doug Weight ($4.3 million), Erik Cole ($4 million), Mike Comrie ($4 million), Andy McDonald ($3.3 million), Nik Antropov ($2.05 million), Mark Recchi ($1.5 million), Radek Bonk ($1.475 million), Kyle Calder ($2.7 million), and Tyler Arnason ($1.675 million) to name but a few.
I felt like Tkachuk was playing like it was almost an audition of sorts when the Blues were here last week and the Medford homey would obviously be a great story as the local guy coming back home to win a Cup with the Bruins. Even though he’s a righty shot, Brendan Shanahan also could have been an interesting guy to pick up off the scrap-heap for $800,000 – but the New Jersey Devils finally jumped on that one and he’s already cranked out a power-play goal.
With all of that loosened-up money sitting there for the Bruins and annoying little cracks beginning to surface with the gaggle of Providence Bruins players skating with the team in the first half, there’s a need for a veteran presence. It would be shocking to see the B’s continue on past the early March trade deadline without acquiring some kind of rent-a-player for the second half of the season and playoffs.
The future won’t have to be mortgaged for any of these guys like it would be for a big contract on skates like My Center Vinny down in Tampa, and some of the aforementioned rogue’s gallery of skaters would really add the different veteran element to Boston’s current roster. Stay tuned on this one, and keep the faith, Mandy.
Haggs, What a bettah way to celebrate le habitants 100th than to have 5 bruins starters for the east in the all star game! typically though, those frogs have no sense of humor...all blur blur blur, blur blur blur...no matter what, boston will always be home of the greatest evah...#4 BOBBY ORR! Bad to the Bone
A: This is pure unadulterated Bruins Nation right here. Calling the Canadiens a bunch of frogs? Check. Finishing up the e-mail strong with a Bobby Orr reference, a la Billy Madison when he yells “Nibb High Football Rules!” following an epic “The Puppy that lost his way” speech at the academic decathlon? Check. Calling something, anything the greatest evah? Check.
It’s called Bruins, baby. Love it or leave it. On a side note, I’ll be curious to see how much of a vacation the Habs fans take from the Bruins/Canadiens rivalry to instead observe the 100th Anniversary pomp and circumstance that will be rife throughout NHL All-Star weekend in old Montreal.
Something tells me that they’re not going to forget to boo anything dressed up in a Spoked B whenever appropriate inside the Bell Centre — for my money the best mixture of venue and environment I’ve ever watched a hockey game in.
Haggs, Although I’ve been hesitant to support the current NHL brass regime, it appears some developments; most notably the Outdoor Arena NHL Showcase is making a positive impact upon the game. Where does Gary Bettman stand from a contract perspective? He’s one guy that I’d like to see shipped out. He’s not what our coveted game of Hockey needs and his business practices certainly aren’t filling seats…Any idea on when his tenure is up? Also, any idea where Garth Snow is at these days? Is he still coaching?
Thanks and Congrats on the New Gig!
A: Interesting questions, Steven. Bettman’s contract runs through 2010-11, and actually runs parallel with the CBA between the owners and the NHLPA. I can’t imagine he’s going anywhere, despite the fact fans blame him for everything from losing the TV rights at ESPN to the glowing puck debacle.
You mention the outdoor Winter Classic as something that’s making an impact on the game, and I agree wholeheartedly. You have cities lining up all around North America to host next year’s Winter Classic — picking Las Vegas would be a great way to kill all the momentum that’s been built up through successes in both Buffalo and Chicago — and it’s given the NHL a showpiece event. Even better, it’s given me a great hockey game on a day when I was bored to tears with college football bowl games that mean nothing but advertisements for Doritos and Blockbuster Video. (Can the ShamWow! Bowl be far behind?)
Anyway, the point is that the Winter Classic came under Bettman’s watch, so he’s got to be given credit for that if he’s going to get slammed for the lockout and the general fall from grace that hockey has suffered over the last 5-10 years.
The filling the seats thing needs to be qualified a bit too. Attendance is up this season, TV ratings are up, and fighting and scoring are up across the league as well. I would argue that this NHL season has been as compelling and interesting — and as lucrative for the owners — as hockey has had in quite some time. Average attendance is 17,036 this season, which is up 1.5 percent from last season and is likely buoyed by serious increases in ticket sales in places like Washington, Boston and Chicago where successful teams have breathed new life into those markets. Now 1.5 percent isn’t a huge number, but I’d say it’s pretty impressive when you consider: A) the deplorable state of the economy at this point, and B) the pricey cost of tickets to an NHL hockey game in general.
I see that Bettman-bashing is pretty popular in NHL circles — just as Jacobs-bashing is always en vogue in Boston — but I don’t see either one being tremendously warranted right at this very moment. If Bettman allows a rule go through that again curbs fighting within the game or somehow bars a Sun Belt hockey team from eventually going back to where they belong in a Canadian market, well, then we’ll have something to talk about.
As for Garth Snow, he’s the general manager for the New York Islanders, but I don’t blame you for not having noticed. I haven’t noticed the Islanders since Mike Bossy was playing for them, and things are even worse now with all of Rick DiPietro’s health woes. If that doesn’t scare you about potentially acquiring Lecavalier’s anchor of a contract, then I don’t know what does.
Joey Haggs what's up?
Listen, someone has got to get a hold of Kessel and tell him that they have a Kelly's Roast beef in Saugus and Medford, because staying out of Revere alone cuts your risk of getting mono by 75%. Also, Aqua Net, not a disinfectant. Important information for future reference.
And if that Alexander Semin fight still has left a bad taste in your mouth, invest an couple Andrew Jackson's and watch Fedor Emelianenko and Andre Arlovski redeem your faith in the fighting skills of the former Soviet Union's finest. That there is the MMA equivalent of Domi-Probert and my just require a ringside appearance by Kevin Collins to keep things orderly.
Haggs, I know you must have gotten a million flaming e-mails about the St. Louis high stick goal, so let me add to the steaming pile. First of all that game was insane. For 55 minutes it was a defensive struggle and for the last 5 minutes a game of NHL 94 breaks out. The B's came out on the losing end due to a Buffalo-esque defensive collapse and a St. Louis miracle (thanks Edwards). My question is should a booth review overturned that bit of divine intervention? I'm not a foam claw swinging yahoo, but it sure looked like a high stick knocked that puck in.
Now my problem is not with the way the replay system works, it should be conclusive to overturn a call. My problem is that a conclusive replay wasn't available. The way this league embraced technological gimmickry in the past, you would have thought George Lucas was the commissioner. Not having a crossbar level camera set up at each end of the rink for precise replays is a Jar Jar Binks type screw up. It's like buying a 1080P 72" plasma and then hooking up rabbit ears and your VCR to it, why bother? I have said the same thing about the goal line in football. They need to take care of this before they end up with another post season Brett Hull toe in the crease type cluster F on their lap.
Finally if Adams can get the EEI machine behind a bunch of knuckleheads wailing like a cat getting a corkscrew vasectomy, you can get a Tecmo Superbowl Tournament done. KC and Derrick Thomas await!
A: Hands down the single-greatest e-mailer in the history of WEEI.com mailbags. It’s a pleasure and honor to have Mike from Attleboro tying Jar Jar Binks, Tecmo Bowl and Domi/Probert together in the same e-mail — then also adding a conspiracy theory that Phil Kessel contracted mono from a big beef ordered at the Revere Beach Kelly’s. You, sir, have brought a lot to the table in this one.
I’ve got to agree that it’s really inconceivable — as Wallace Shawn would say in “The Princess Bride” — that each and every NHL rink doesn’t have a goal or crossbar-level replay that could clearly show whether David Backes’ was doing a shoulder-high stick salute prior to scoring with .8 seconds left. It’s too difficult to tell with the Zapruder-film replay the NHL’s Grand Wizard was able to see back in the NHL’s home offices in Toronto. So I didn’t have a huge issue with the ruling at the time.
My take is that the Bruins should have never put themselves in that position in the first place, and needed a bailout call against Western Conference dreck like the St. Louis Blues. Maybe, just maybe, they deserved to have a “Brett Hull toe in the crease type cluster F on their lap” after blocking a great third-period comeback. You know what I’m saying?
I’m still working on compiling my list of favorite Jack Edwards-isms, so I’m going to stay away from the “Miracle” comment during the Blues/Bruins telecast, but I will let you know that I’ve been angling to get Jon Ryder, Mike Adams, Joey the Fish and JPod to put together an NBA Jams/WEEI tournament over at the New Balance Building for a little while now. I’m all for it, but they’re afraid that my 1-2 combination of Derrick Coleman and Kenny Anderson is just way too much for any old Rony Seikaly/Glen Rice combo that the Planet Mikey Show will throw out there. Show me Brad Lohaus and Blue Edwards, and I’ll show you a butt-kicking waiting to happen.
Although D.C. and Kenny still isn’t nearly as lethal as the Derrick Coleman/Drazen Petrovic duo from the NBA Jams Arcade Game back in the day. Now that was an unstoppable force. Not like Tecmo Bowl’s San Francisco 49ers shotgun offense or Nolan Ryan throwing 100-mph cheese in the sixth inning of an RBI Baseball game, but unstoppable nonetheless.