PRAGUE -- Having been overseas for just over a week now and with the Bruins' season a day away from beginning, it seemed as good a time as ever to bust out a mailbag (the name of it was not my idea). As was expected, there were a few very similar questions regarding Tyler Seguin and what to expect, so I just went with the first one I got.
For future mailbags, or for advice on hitting the Belfast or Prague areas in the future, send whatever you've got to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You keep saying Blake Wheeler's going to be awesome but there hasn't been much about [Michael] Ryder. Is he a lost cause? Does he get traded or sent down?
I don't recall writing "awesome" to describe Wheeler's third season, though he's looked much tougher and should put up bigger numbers than his 18-goal total in the 2009-10 season. Regarding Ryder, it's never wise to call a 30-year-old guy with both 30-goal potential and free agency at season's end a "lost cause." With that having been said, Wheeler does appear to be in better shape for a bounceback season just based on the fact that he will likely be on a line with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi.
As I wrote recently, Ryder is accountable regarding last season but also points out that the whole team is looking to do more offensively. He remains a candidate to go to Providence just for the sake of the team straightening out its salary cap situation once Marc Savard and Marco Sturm return. It would be the cleanest move for them to make, given that shedding his $4 million cap hit would do the trick without involving a bunch of players moving. Assuming he does stay, one would have to guess that he surpasses his 18 goals from last year. In his six-year career, he's turned in less than 25 just twice.
What's the deal with [Brian] McGrattan? Are you sick of the candy bars?
Since this was sent on Wednesday, I'm sure you have by now heard that the team will sign McGrattan, who technically is still with the team on a tryout, to a deal on Monday. James Murphy of ESPN reported the agreement on Thursday. The fact that McGrattan will sign Monday obviously means he won't play in either of the team's first two games, but once he's officially on the roster, he'll be a solid fourth-liner who earns his money with the gloves dropped.
I got some flack from family and friends for "the candy bars," but I can assure you it's no longer an issue. In the past couple of days I've taken to eating at the wonderful restaurants here, and if this trip were longer I would fear a serious weight gain. One can find a great steak over here, and though I've stayed away from the hardcore Czech food, overall the cuisine here edges out that of Belfast.
The first cultural differences was funny but now theyre stupid.
- [No name, though since you sent me an email I know your name]
Thanks Sean, and agreed. You know, Sean, I like to think of myself as being like that show "The League" in my ability to come off as funny for a few seconds before revealing just how terribly boring I am. At any rate, I'll keep them coming, Sean.
How does Tyler [Seguin] look? Is he making any plays?
-- Twitter follower mloyko
My thing with assessing Seguin has pretty much been the same thing since rookie camp. On talent alone he will be a fine scorer in his rookie season. That doesn't meaning every aspect of his game will be overwhelming, however. He admittedly is still coming along defensively, so the process in which he develops into what he and the Bruins hope will be one of the top handful of centers in the league is not one that is anywhere near complete.
Even so, and as I wrote earlier on Thursday, there's no reason to doubt what he'll bring from a scoring standpoint. He wasn't thrilled with his shootout performance at the Garden against the Panthers, but any situation in which he has open space offensively will be fun to watch.
As apparent as Seguin mania has taken over Boston, I'm not sure the fans are going to expect the world from Seguin as a rookie -- at least they shouldn't logically. If fans want to point to one guy as the offensive savior, they've got Nathan Horton for that.
Now, with regard to a prediction for statistical output, assuming the worst and thinking that he'll have a Joe Thornton-like rookie season (seven points in 55 games) would be slightly loony. Instead, something like the 23 goals that Steven Stamkos was able to rack up in his first rookie year would be a little more realistic. Stamkos also had just two OHL seasons before making the jump to the NHL, and though it took him eight games to pick up a point, he hit his stride as the year went on.
Another interesting thing that Seguin and Stamkos have in common. In addition to being righty shooting centers from Ontario with two years of OHL experience, after Saturday both players will have played their first career game in Prague. Stamkos and the Lightning opened the 2008-09 season, Stamkos' rookie campaign, with a pair of games against the Rangers here in Prague.
What did [David] Krejci seem most excited about as the team reached Czech Republic?
- Twitter follower tyynimeri
David Krejci doesn't exactly broadcast his feelings voluntarily, but there might not be a player in the Bruins' locker room who gives more thought-out answers than him. With that being said, if you ask him what it means to be in his home country, it comes pouring out. The thing that seems to mean the most to him about this trip is the fact that he's here as an NHL player. He loves hockey, loves his country and grew up aspiring to play in what he feels is the best league in the world. As a result, he found it very touching that the fans in Liberec, a place that's a four hour drive from his hometown, went absolutely bonkers for him.
Regarding how he felt as they were going to the Czech Republic, Krejci spoke so highly of Belfast and walking in the city that he was probably more concerned with taking in the culture of Northern Ireland in the few days before the team arrived in Prague.
Krejci's home town of Sternberk is about three and a half hours from Prague. He's expecting 20 family members to attend the game. He's been swarmed by the local media, but he did have time to take a few teammates out for goulash when the team arrived on Sunday.
I know he could run for mayor and win, but all I saw from [Milan] Lucic last year was 20 pts. I miss something? Now that he's making big $ does he earn the money this year?
Yes, Ryan, you missed something. You missed the playoffs, in which Lucic scored more than half the number of goals he did in the regular season (five in the postseason after scoring nine in the regular season). It's also hard to totally assess one's play in a season in which they missed as much time as Lucic did. With him missing 32 contests during the season, he gets a bit of a pass for the 20-point total.
As for this season, yes, his extension, which gives him a $4.083 cap hit, kicks in. The cap hit is the fourth highest on the team, behind only Zdeno Chara ($7.5 million), Tim Thomas ($5 million), and Patrice Bergeron ($4.75 million). He's set reaching the 20-goal plateau as a his statistical goal for the season, and there's no reason to believe that he can't do it if he remains healthy. Nathan Horton will be the guy on that first line who gets keyed on by other teams, so it should be interesting how that helps Lucic.
Why haven't they signed Bergeron? Will Chara be back?
If only you had waited a few hours, Jonathan. Bergeron has been extended on a three-year, $15 million deal, according to RDS. Based 1,000 percent on a hunch, my guess is that Chara will get done as well, though time is obviously running our for him to be extended before the season starts. Chara is looking for something in the seven-year range, but how much it's for will naturally be the determining factor as to whether a deal gets done. The good news in that regard is that the team knows they'll have $7.5 million cleared up in cap space with both Michael Ryder and Marco Sturm coming off the books, so if the Bruins want to keep Chara, they can likely afford it. They are also helped by the fact that Bergeron's new deal only bumps up his cap hit by $250,000, which could have been a lot more if he did indeed have a career year this coming season.
Is the locker room speaking Czech yet? Is this trip going to be taxing for when they return home?
Regarding the first one, definitely not. A reporter actually asked David Krejci how Claude Julien's Czech was coming along, to which Krejci responded, "his English is good."
As for the second one, it's tough to say and not something worth reading into until the team loses their first five North American games of the season. Players who have done these trips before will tell you that it's a lot of travel, with Dennis Seidenberg calling last season's Finland trip with the Panthers "annoying" at times. Even so, the players don't seem out of it and the overall excitement from one guy to the next to get the season started is certainly apparent. The team's second game is on Sunday, with their first North American game on the 16th in New Jersey. They'll have more than five days to get over jet lag and get back in the swing of things, so I wouldn't worry about it too much.
Don't forget who those Panthers were playing in Finland -- the eventual Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks.