I know I promised this would debut a few weeks ago, but between all of the winning streaks, the injury bug that’s hit the B’s, surviving the holidays and traffic around the Burlington Mall that had me finally understanding all the nuances of road rage and crying out my eyes out a recent Pucks with Haggs screening of “Marley and Me” – I have to admit I got a little sidetracked.
But with the NHL All-Star break approaching this month and the Bruins comfortably in first place in the Eastern Conference, the time has come for the Pucks with Haggs mailbag – or the Hagg Bag if you’re into the whole brevity thing – to debut here at the bastion of breakthrough sports journalism we have going here at weei.com.
So, please feel free to shoot me any emailed questions for either me or for the Bruins players, coaches or management at email@example.com and I’ll do my best to get an answer for you. I’ll try and run this every week or maybe every other week as I have time. With that in mind, let’s get it on with the mail:
The mouth guard used by the Patriots is a medically prepared orthodic, much like a retainer. Boxers who have a diagnosable condition related to slipped cartilage in the jaw joint, have been found to be more susceptible to dizziness, the sensation of seeing stars and concussions.
The week before the concussion Bergy was reported to have flu like symptoms, common with this type of condition. [The orthodic] like the one Matt Cassel wears, it fits tightly on the lower teeth with no plastic on the front teeth affording breathing, drinking and speech. All players should be fitted with these retainer-like aides to concussion prevention. 60% of NHL players wear nothing in their mouths because of these factors.
Most Patriot players are fitted with a corrective mouth guard developed with Marvin Hagler. That may explain how players like Wes Welker keep on ticking. It is well documented that boxers who develop "Glass Jaw" get KO'd easy. MMA fighters like the Iceman who all the sudden get KO'd three times in the past eight months when he never got KO'd his entire career. Why?
A condition within the jaw joint cartilage where the meniscus slips out of its protective position, it normally cushions the blow to the skull base at the ear canal. Bergeron may have this.
JH: Thanks Steve. I’ve heard a bunch of people suggest something like this for Patrice Bergeron to keep the concussions away and so I asked Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli about this when we had him on the Dale and Holley Show last week.
Here’s what Chiarelli had to say since I didn’t stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night and won’t be playing doctor in the mailbag:
“He already has a buttressed helmet with thicker padding that was custom fit for him. We may start looking into the mouth guards that a lot of the NFL players are wearing and we may opt for that. It’s all going to depend on Patrice as the (mouth piece) impacts the breathing too.
There are things that we’ve looked that. We’re not at that stage yet and we want to make sure that he’s up and healthy. We’re going to be careful and we’re going to be patient. There are players that have come back and performed very well after getting a second concussion. We’re fortunate and it’s a good move that we did this collaboratively that he stayed out as long as he did last year because it gave him a better foundation for a recovery [this year].”
Looks like you may have been on to something, Steve. Whether it’s a buttressed helmet or a magic mouth guard, I think I speak for everyone in hoping that Bergeron finds a way to avoid becoming another concussion cautionary tale. I also appreciate any mention of Marvelous Marvin Hagler, which also makes me think of that showboating phony Sugar Ray Leonard.
Get well Bergy! We're making a run for the cup and we need your aggressive two-way smarts.
JH: Damn Skippy, Ray. The Bruins have definitely missed his PK abilities, his calming influence and ability to play the point on the first power play unit and his face-off abilities. Claude Julien had stated before Bergeron’s injury that the youngster was his best face-off guy on the team. Peter Chiarelli said that he started lightly exercising this weekend, which is obviously a great sign, but I wouldn’t expect him back before February at the earliest.
Don't let anything fool you, Joe Haggerty can go toe-to-toe with anybody in the NHL...
JH: I make it a practice not to disagree with anything that a guy named Boom Boom has to say, so, yes, I am a glove-dropping, haymaker-throwing badass that wouldn’t look anything like that slap-throwing bongo boy Alexander Semin. If you don’t know what I’m talking about then type Alexander Semin and Staal into a youtube search and watch the worst hockey fight of all time.
And by worst I don’t mean bloody…I mean that I didn’t know that Semin was Russian for “slap-throwing sissy pants.”
I love the Pats, the Celts, and the Sox, but my first sports memory is Gerry Cheevers’ mask scaring the day lights out of me as a little kid in the early 70's. When I was in the Marines doing a Med float back in 87-88 my mom was sending me game tapes and telegraphs to the ship letting me know scores, injuries, trades etc.
Those game tapes were worth gold to all the guys from hockey areas, and I was able to trade and swap for almost anything I wanted. Back in ‘04 I packaged up all my B's stuff taped the box shut, and addressed it to Joe Thornton; I was so pissed at that collapse. Then when they blew up the team I went on strike and wouldn't watch a game, not even during the Lewis era.
The Julien signing I knew was the key. It was like when they brought in Pat Burns, getting the team back to basics, and the building of a D frame work. Last year’s playoffs got me to dig the box out of storage, and this year I'm actually wearing my B's gear, hat, jacket, and my old Byers sweater. I never miss a game now, and will DVR a game just to watch it in the morning. This team is the most talented, well-coached, and very hard working…one of the best teams I've seen since the 70's.
OK those are my bona fides, so now onto my fear. It's that they are going to “Bourque” Chara and play him 30 to 40 minutes so he ends up just playing D and not being more active in the offense, rushing the puck etc. Also as for Gill he shut down Jagr, any D-man who can put that on his resume is few and far between. OK, well thanks for letting me get my B's talk on.
JH: Sean, first of all thanks for your service and I truly mean that. I always say that to anyone I come across in an Armed Forces uniform and it’s because of people like you that I can get paid to write and talk about kid’s game. So thanks.
I think you’re the classic, dormant hockey Krishna that has been brought out of exile by the team’s run over the first 35 or so games this season. I honestly think it goes back to the Bruins ownership putting Peter Chiarelli, Don Sweeney, Cam Neely and Jim Benning in charge of the current team, and the B’s decision makers finally marrying the organizational concept with exactly what traditional Black and Gold fans yearned for: sandpaper grittiness, tough guys willing to stand up for their teammates and beat the tar out of guys in the opposing sweaters and dominant goaltending. The scoring has been great and unexpected as well, but that grit, toughness and team concept is going to pay huge dividends in April and May when things tighten up.
Second of all…dude. It is time to upgrade the Byers jersey. I love LB just as much as anybody else, but it’s time to buy one of those sleek, new third jerseys with Lucic, Krejci or Kessel scrawled on the back. Or even Thornton. If I had to vote on which one of the current Bruins I’d most want to have a beer with, I’m pretty sure it would be Shawn Thornton. He’s got a good Boston-type sense of humor and there’s about a 75 percent chance he’d be pulling somebody’s shirt over their head and beating the bejesus out of them by the end of the time. That is a full night out in Boston in my mind.
The Bruins recently moved Axelsson to the top line with Savard and Kessel, and dropped Lucic down to the 3rd line. I have a question regarding this move:
1.) By moving a tough guy like Lucic off that line don’t you think that line will suffer now that they wont have a guy taking the body on a regular basis on that line? I think that he provides much needed room for those other two guys to wheel and deal out there.
2.) Who do you think they will move at the deadline: Fernandez or Thomas.
Thanks for any input you can me
Bill in Milford
JH: Hey Bill, Good question and something I plan on writing more about this week.
1) I totally agree with you that the Axelsson move created the short term spark and shock to the system that Julien was looking for, but now it’s time to put Lucic back where he belongs up on the top line. He creates tons of room for both Savard and Kessel to operate and protects them from cheap shot artists that are part and parcel with nearly every NHL team. It was the first thing I thought when I watched Savard set up Axelsson perfectly during an odd man rush from Saturday’s loss to the Sabres, and then watched as the defense-first Swede simply missed on an empty net after the great set-up. Axelsson was great for the short burst on the first PP unit and first line, but I’ve watched Axy for a long time and he isn’t a guy that’s gifted enough to score and flourish on the top line. I don’t think I’m busting wide any great hockey secrets by writing this. Meanwhile, Lucic has reverted back to the fire-breathing, goal-scoring beast that he was earlier in the season and deserves to be back up with the big boys. Julien said he wanted to see more jam from some corners after Saturday’s loss, and Lucic was practically a Smuckers’ factory while doling out six hits and terrorizing the Sabres ‘D’.
2) Neither goalie will be moved. I’ve been told that the Bruins are working on a three-year extension with Thomas, and that originally they would have been looking to deal Fernandez once the season was in its latter stages. But you can’t mess with a goaltending tandem that leads the NHL in save percentage and is giving Bruins fans flashbacks to the salad days of Moog and Lemelin. That is something you don’t mess with on a playoff-bound team that’s getting great veteran play between the pipes. My prediction: Thomas and Tuukka Rask will be the B’s ‘tenders next season and Fernandez signs somewhere else as a free agent…but there will be many great moments shared by Thomas and Fernandez this winter/spring.
Haggs you knucklehead,
Please tell me if you think that the WNBA has overtaken hockey as the 4th major sport?
JH: (crickets chirping…WNBA-loving crickets chirping…catch the WNBA fever because it’s fantastic crickets chirping).
Hi Hags, Happy New Year to you!
My question is do you think that the Bruins are going to look to move either Thomas or Fernandez during this season for either a puck carrying defenseman or another goal scorer? I really hope they don’t do that because as Murphy's Law works, as soon as they trade one of these guys the other will get hurt! I see nothing wrong with keeping this tandem together for the year and then seeing which one is more apt to resign and let the other leave. Although some will say you don’t get anything for that player I disagree. You are getting a great chance to go far this year with that tandem and then you are getting cap space at the end of the year.
What are your thoughts on this?
Tom in Andover
JH: Tom, see above for your answer. You don’t break up the best goaltending duo in the NHL, and you’re right about the $4 million in cap space cleared by Fernandez after the season. You’ll need both guys in the playoffs, guaranteed. This brings up a little pet peeve of mine, though. Haggs has two g’s in it. I think a lot of people out there must have grown up with Hagerty’s that go with the single G spelling, but I’m not one of those Andover Hagertys. I’m from the mean streets of Stoneham where we have 8 Dunkin Donuts in a two-mile radius and boast Hago Harrington’s – the single-best Mini-golf course in all the land and site of Pucks with Haggs first all-time date. I go with double G wide spelling, my man. Pucks with Haggs and www.hackswithhaggs.com
Pass it on! And Happy New Year to you too…thanks for getting involved in the Hagg Bag.
Please mention the addition of Blake Wheeler when speaking to Peter Chiarelli. This guy was a top 5 pick that he stole away for almost nothing....also worth noting is the fact that Kessel and Wheeler played together in Minnesota.
JH: Robert, since I didn’t ask Peter about Blake when we were on the air so I’ll give you some time in the Hagg Bag now (a great consolation prize for sure). The B’s did get a steal in Wheeler, who opted not to sign with the Phoenix Coyotes because he wanted to go to a more traditional hockey market with a competitive team.
The Wheeler signing, for me, signals a real turnaround of this organization as a place that agents, players and advisors are pushing their clients and buddies toward as a great hockey landing spot. There was a time when a talented young player would be treated badly by the B’s organization and would have to beg, plead and often-times hold out to get the money they deserved.
This kind of thing gave the Bruins – and their ownership – a bad reputation among players and agents as a place to avoid when looking for a team to sign with. All that has changed in the last few years, and you need look no further than the Dennis Wideman signing last summer. A situation that could have become acrimonious or become a tension-filled arbitration case instead got settled out before camp, and both player and team were happy with the end result. Now the B’s have the puck-moving defenseman they wanted all along in Wideman, and he’s really helped justify the Brad Boyes trade that brought him here from St. Louis in the first place.
Thanks Haggerty ... keep us posted!
I was listening in on the weekend (Sunday morning) and not sure who it was but they were stating that Bergy's time has come, his prime has come and gone. And the Bruins should trade him because he is becoming susceptible to 'upper body injury'.
Who ever said it did admit that he didn't know the sport of hockey ... even still, he was an idiot for the thought and an even bigger idiot for saying it out loud.
Any word on Sturmy or Ference?
JH: I’m not going to name names and call anybody an idiot over this one, but with a few exceptions (Dale Arnold, Pete Sheppard, Sean McAdam) there aren’t too many people that I would label as hockey experts or even hockey fans at WEEI. I think with the Pats done and the Celtics sleepwalking through the regular season, many of them will have to get up to speed on the B’s and – as Drinkin’ Buddy used to say – “they’re workin’ on it.”.
One thing I can tell you: you’ll never get me to say that I don’t know much about a sport when I’m on the air. No way, no how, not gonna do it. I’m going down in a Blaze of Glory with each and every inane idea that comes out of my mouth. Bank on it.
It’s way too early to bury Bergy or trade him or call him the next Eric Lindros. He’s still only 23 years-old and it took two pretty big, heavy head shots to cause the two concussions that Bergeron suffered over the last two years. When it gets to the point where Bergeron is barely nudged and he gets concussed, then I’ll be a little more concerned about the long term effects.
The kid has had a bad string of luck but he’s begun undertaking a light exercise regimen and he’s on the road to recovery. I’m predicting he’ll be back in February, but nobody has given me any kind of timetable for his return. Sturm may be gone for the season after getting surgery on his left knee and Andrew Ference is ahead of schedule and closing in on a return. He’ll be playing the rest of the season with screws in his surgically repaired leg, and he could play as soon as Tuesday night against the Minnesota Wild. With Aaron Ward battling to stay healthy, Ference’s return will give Boston a huge boost on the blue line.
I had a couple of questions regarding some future possible moves the bruins could and should make and I wanted to get your opinion on them. First of all, is there any way the bruins would trade Manny Fernandez this season and let Tuukka Rask come up and try and fill Fernandez's shoes?
I personally do not like this move because the way I see it, they have a great thing going now with Thomas and Fernandez and if Rask can't handle playing in a playoff atmosphere, not only does it put added pressure on Thomas to win more often but it greatly diminishes the Bruins’ chances of getting home ice and going deep into the playoffs.
Also, I noticed that both Fernandez and Thomas are UFA's at the end of the year, do you let Manny walk if you don’t trade him and sign Thomas to a 2 or 3 year deal and bring Tuukka up to back him up/platoon? You could let Timmy walk but even with his age, but he is in great shape and does not have as checkered an injury past as Manny.
I also noticed that Phil "50 Goal" Kessel is a RFA at the end of the year. Is there any way the Bruins DON’T lock him long term before the season ends? My concern is that this team only has a few years to win a cup because of all their youth. Who do you sign and who do you let go? Do you re-sign Savard or give the money to Krejci and hope he can do the job? Do you re-sign Chara or pin your hopes on Hunwick, Ference and Wideman?
Are you willing to sign Lucic long term? What about Wheeler? While I am trying to enjoy this season, and I really am, my concern is -- with all this young talent emerging – it’s gonna be impossible to keep them all.
Just want your thoughts, by now you know I am a loyal Haggerty reader and have sent a couple of emails to you. You kindly reply to me and give me your best insight and I appreciate that. Hope to hear from you soon and maybe even get to meet you someday and chat about hockey in person.
Hockey Joe from Carver
JH: Hey Hockey Joe. Feel free to give me a shout anytime you want if you’re at Ristuccia Arena if you see me walking through – usually after practice has started with a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee in my hand because I’m running late – or you can always find me at the Fours eating some clam chowder and drinking an adult beverage after Thursday night B’s games. That is a longstanding Pucks with Haggs tradition that I spend my post-game Thursday night’s with Pat the Bartender and a bunch of B’s media types (Mike Petraglia, Mike Salk, Matt Kalman, Mick Colageo, James Murphy, etc.).
I hope my column this week answered some of your questions about the future and there’s no doubt that Chiarelli will be facing some challenges with a salary cap that’s expected to stay about the same next year and possibly even go down the following year when the full effects of the economy settle in. Rather than get worked up about guys like Lucic and Wheeler (I think they definitely re-sign Chara when he’s up and have a huge decision with Savard to make…though Savard told me that he’s already achieved security with his last contract and might be willing to take less to finish his career in Boston) that won’t be up for another season, I’ll focus on Krejci and Kessel. Yes, they are both RFA’s and they are both due for serious raises next year and beyond. But I don’t see anyone signing them to crazy offer sheets given the current economy and the uncertainty about the cap going forward.
Chiarelli told me that he wouldn’t just let assets like Kessel and Krejci get away, and I think the B’s will find a way to sign both of them. Could this mean that a high or medium-priced veteran or two gets dealt down the line? Absolutely, and don’t forget that P.J. Axelsson and Manny Fernandez will be coming off the books at the end of this season and neither is a definite to return. This also doesn’t include the Glen Murray grievance hearing on Jan. 17 that could also take make Murray’s cap hit disappear if they find in favor of the calcified forward.
Besides, Joe, if you’re looking for something to worry about then get concerned that the Bruins will again disappoint their fans by losing in the first round of the playoffs. All of the good will would be gone quickly if they choke as many of the Joe Thornton versions did in the 1990’s. I don’t think it’s going to happen, but this is becoming Felger’s biggest irrational fear when it comes to this team.
I’ll make a deal: you keep reading and I’ll keep cranking out this puck stuff.
Did you just have a caller say pot was new? Is he high?
David Braz, Warwick, RI
JH: Okay, so this is in reference to the Dennis and Callahan show that I co-hosted with Mike Felger on Friday, but this will be a free-form mailbag where I’ll answer just about anything you want to ask from Bruins hockey, to Star Wars trivia and all the way to the wacky tobaccy world of legalizing cannabis and just about anything in between.
Yes, I think he was high (that would explain a whole bunch of the calls that flood the third floor of the New Balance Building from 6 am-11 pm, now wouldn’t it?) and I can also proudly report that the State Trooper threatening to pull Felger and I over after the show never made good on his Friday morning threats.
It didn’t matter, though, as all he would have found in my Jeep Cherokee would be a month-old banana peel that’s beginning to look like a science experiment, a bunch of crushed up Dunkin’ Donuts coffee cups and two years worth of hockey and baseball media guides that my lovely fiancée forced me to vacate from our condo. So now they sit in the back of my car until I find a good home for them. Any suggestions or anybody that wants a 2004 Tampa Bay Devil Rays media guide complete with Lou Piniella scowl?
Joe Haggerty covers the Bruins for WEEI.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.