A Star is Born

The career was conceived on June 30, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  Gary Bettman announced to the world that with the number 2 pick in the 2010 NHL draft the Boston Bruins selected Tyler Seguin.  Since the Phil Kessel trade on September 19 2009, Bruin World had been anxiously awaiting the 2010 draft.  With the Edmonton Oilers selecting fellow phenom Taylor Hall, Seguin fell to the Bruins.  Fans had visions of greatness. Orr, Espositio, Neely, Borque, and now Seguin.

While the NHL career of Tyler Seguin was conceived on June 30, it would be born (almost true to form) 9 and a half months later, May 17, 2011 in Boston.  On that night Tyler Seguin skated circles around everyone on the ice finding the back of the net twice and assisting on two other goals, leading the Bruins to a Game 2 win in the Eastern Conference Finals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  The water broke a few days before, on May 14 when Tyler scored a goal and assisted on another, letting the world now he was about to arrive, in Game 1 of said series.

Continuing with the birth analogy, the nine months the Bruins were “pregnant” with Seguin there were good times and bad.  There were times when critics were already to call Seguin a bust.  There were times Seguin kicked back and showed brief flashes of what he was capable of.  The 74 games he played out of a possible 82 truly define the development of the 18-year-old.  He sat out the first 11 games of the playoffs and was likely to sit out more if Claude Giroux hadn’t laid out Patrice Bergeron.  Some fans wanted Seguin to play in the playoffs and were upset that he was forced to watch the game from high a top whatever arena the game was being played.  Other fans didn’t think Seguin was ready to contribute, the pressure of the playoffs could overcome and permanently scar the young man.

With the injury to Bergeron, Julien was forced to play Seguin.  In two games Seguin has provided a necessary spark to the Bruins offense and power play.  His speed, awareness, and fire are second to none and have Bruins fans beyond giddy for the first time in my lifetime.

With all that being said, people need to stop criticizing Claude Julien.  I am looking at you Michael Felger.  I am actually going to defend “Daddy” here. How does the emergence of Tyler Seguin correlate to firing Julien? The answer? It doesn’t.  If anything Julien has helped nurture and develop Seguin to where he is at today.  True, if Bergeron doesn’t go down Seguin wouldn’t play.  But why can’t we just enjoy the fact that right now the momentum in this series is wholly on the Bruins side right now because of the phenom? He has the fresh legs no one else has right now.  He has a skill set unlike any other player on the ice.  Let’s just celebrate that and not get on Julien for nonsense.

Lastly in defense of Julien, it takes time for players to develop.  Exhibit A: Dustin Pedroia.  In 31 games in 2006 and was hitting as low as .172 to start the 2007 season.  Fans were calling for Alex Cora to be the full-time second baseman.  How did that turn out?  Moral of the story: Good things take time! and Tyler Seguin? He’s a good thing. And he has arrived.

video acquired from colleague Gambo’s Facebook page

I can be followed on Twitter @ ScottieNTCF

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The Backbone of Boston Sports….

Just a few years ago, at this time, the front page of the sports section would be flooded with various articles about Red Sox baseball.  Fast forward one year, and you had the combination of the Celtics race for the championship, and the Red Sox  race to repeat.  Here we are in 2010 and what team is carrying the weight of Boston fandom on its back in the early months of Spring…?

  The Boston Bruins. 

As shocking as it sounds, the team on the upswing in this part of town is 4 years removed from being the red-headed step child of one of the most successful sports regions of the last decade.  This is not to say that they finished last every year.  The Bruins have still made the post-season here and there.  However, when you play under the shadows of the Red Sox reversing the curse, the Patriots owning the last decade, and the Celtics recent resurgence, the Bruins were an afterthought, hardcore fans aside of course Cent.

  When you take into account all that is going on with the franchises of Boston, the Bruins seems to be the most promising in the future.  Let’s not forget that they will be drafting either Seguin or Hall in the upcoming draft.

I am not going to lump the Patriots in here, as I did say Boston franchises, although they are getting a little long in the tooth, as long as you have #12 behind center you got a shot.  The Red Sox were just swept by the Baltimore Orioles, again sorry Cent, and they have reached the point where…(swallows his pride) they can’t take Varitek out of the lineup????  The Celtics have been showing their age as of late and it seems I am one of the few that believe they have a shot against Cleveland.  I do however acknowledge the fact that “the big three” will soon turn into “the old three” and you are left with Rondo running in circles passing the ball to…[insert someone worth it here].

When you look at the Boston Bruins current roster you can’t help but notice the youth on the team.  With Rask (23) in net for the next, I don’t know, decade, you have a chance to steal any game you play with his efforts.  The names you are now getting to know along with Rask; Bergeron, Boychuk, Lucic, Krejci, Ryder, and even Sabotka, may not be as explosive as the lines that the Capitals skate out every shift, but they’re average age is 24 years old.  Another fun fact; they’re STILL PLAYING.

The team play that the Bruins have exhibited this playoffs really shows you the quick learning curve that has taken place in Boston.  Claude Julien needs to be applauded for the job he has done with this team, when, with 3 games left in the season, still didn’t know their fate.

With all of the post-season upsets, the Bruins have home ice against the Flyers and find themselves up 1-0 in great position.  Regardless of the outcome this post-season, the young players on this team are getting a priceless lesson on playoff hockey, and what hockey in May is all about.

April Mumbles

*In my effort to broaden my horizons and experience new things, I actually sat down and watched the third round of the Masters from beginning to end.  I tuned in to see how my main man Tiger would do and if he could keep up his stellar comeback going into moving day.  In all honesty it was one of the most exciting sporting events I have witnessed and I am talking about golf here.  Not because of Tiger, but seeing Phil Mickelson play unconscious for 3 straight holes, eagling 2 of them, one being a 149 yard shot, and missing a 3rd eagle in a row by mere inches.  Seeing 50 year old Fred Couples hang tough with a few chip in’s for below par scores and staying in contention. And seeing leader Lee Westwood hear roar after roar from the patrons all over the course and being able to maintain his focus to keep the lead going into Sunday.  I tuned into see Tiger and left marveling at everything else.

*The Red Sox season is a week old and we have already learned a few things.  1) Count me as one of the Papi nay-sayers.  Not because he is hitting below .200. I understand slow starts happen in baseball.  My problem is that it seems that in every at bat he has been ahead 3-1, 2-1, and 3-0, has gotten batting practice fastballs in those counts and has more often than not swung and missed.  I am usually very patient with my athletes, however it is time for Francona to call a spade a spade and platoon Lowell and Ortiz.

2) To no one’s surprise the starting pitching has come as advertised.  It is the bullpen that is the concern.  Daniel Bard can’t pitch with runners on base and Papelbon can no longer throw a clean inning.  Delcarmen’s velocity is way down from 96 a year ago to 90-91 this season.  On a positive note I like what I have seen from Scott Schoenweis and Scott Atchison.  I admit I am rooting hard for both of them because of different family situations they have faced, but they have pitched well in their roles.

3) The bottom 3 in the order are not Nick Green, Jason Varitek, or David Ortiz from a year ago which seemed to be automatic outs at times.  Newcomers Adrian Beltre, Mike Cameron, and Marco Scutaro have shown that there is at least hope that they will get on base when they come to the plate.

*After getting into the NHL playoffs in thrilling fashion yesterday with a 4-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes, it is fair to say that any damage the Bruins do in the playoffs should be seen as an added bonus.  But I must give them props for the way they won yesterday; 3 short handed goals and a great hustle play by Patrice Bergeron saving the game by preventing an empty note goal off of a delayed penalty.

*While I am excited for the Bruins, I could really give a damn about the Celtics.  Maybe my expectations are too high for them. But then again, my only expectations are that they play quality basketball and they can’t even do that.  It should be noted that the team has been diagnosed with a rare cancer known as "Rasheed Wallace."  It symptoms include laziness, slow motion, and aging 10 years faster than what you actually are.

*If you havent seen Law Abiding Citizen yet you are doing yourself a great disservice.  I also have come to believe that Jaime Foxx is one of the most underrated actors of this generation.  No, he is not Leo, Denzel, or Hanks.  But he always delivers a quality performance.

*With the NFL Draft fast approaching, I am still unsure which way I’d like to see the Pats go.  The most obvious need is a pass rusher but I have long been a fan of drafting the best player available.  I think that at 22, there will be slim pickings at pass rusher positions.  Check back in throughout the week as the Mattyoshow will have his mock draft up.  After all he is the better looking Mel Kieper.

*With the Yankees missing Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, and Melky Cabrera, their lineup is less scary to me for some reason.  I understand Granderson is solid but he is still a sub .250 hitter.  But it is entirely possible the Yankees might have improved over last year simply because they are doing what fans would have done all along.  Put Joba in the bullpen as the eighth inning guy.

*Count me as one that is excited that LOST is coming to an end.  The buildup to the last episode has been great and I think that the producers realized that while it as quite a following, it was time to wrap up the sensation.  After all there was only so much more they could do without providing answers through 6 seasons.  Michael Emerson (Benjamin Linus)  is my runaway pick for best actor on a television show.

*John Lackey approached Dustin Pedroia status with me when he drilled Derek Jeter earlier this week.  I don’t care what anyone says.  It was a purpose pitch after Pettite dinged Youkillis in the dome.  The pitch prior to hitting Jeter, Lackey missed way inside as well.  Lackey showed he will be a great teammate and I was excited to see that out of him.  I have been waiting for 3 years to see some sort of retaliation for this nonsense.  If he could have done it differently however, I hope he’d hit Teixeira instead of Jeter.  Lackey has earned his "B" if you ask me.

The Ten Year Collapse of the Boston Bruins, and Its Recent Endgame

On Sunday, March 21st, the Boston Bruins defeated the New York Rangers 2-1, and for the first time in ten years, I could care less. Recently, in a manner of dissapointing precedence, the Bruins managed to draw negative attention to themselves throughout the world of hockey for their lack of physical play and for their lack of heart. I have been a sympathetic advocate towards their “inabilities” and short comings throughout the years,  however I need to take a step back, after the Matt Cooke incident on March 7th, where a notoriously dirty player on a notoriously clean team elbowed Bruins’ star Marc Savard, a notorious “embelisher”, a diver of sorts, in the head inflicting upon him a second grade concussion, and putting him out for the season. Tom Cruise himself can’t fake a medically certified second grade concussion, and Marc Savard is no Oscar winner. That being said, what we witnessed on the 7th, was a legitimate breaking of the rules, an unjust and unwarranted display of physicality, with an obvious intent to injure. We witnessed a penalty gone un-penalized; a suspendable offense gone without suspension; an act of violence on a teammate, gone without retaliation or justification. We witnessed the collapse of a franchise, the death of a history, and to add even another level of completely justifiable drama, an inexcusable embarrassment, in which a team cannot possibly come back from, within this season, or in my tarnished opinion, ever, with this current lineup. That being said, player by player, who do we keep, and who can we dispose of. The argument is no longer, “is this a team that can win”. That argument became meaningless when they proved not to be a team at all.

There is something to the argument, which I agree whole heartedly with, that Ovechkin beats out Crosby as the best in the game. I believe it is 50% of the game’s objective to play physical, issue a level of physicality, and not have to play protected. I do believe Crosby would fight if his team gave him the opportunity, but somewhere along the lines, lost within the annuls of hockey history, the art of intimidation and violence lost its cool. Teams learned newer, trendier ways of proving themselves to each other, and asserting their camaraderie. Winning was one way, and the Bruins had that last year, quickly losing it in the wake of injuries, spoiled youth, and a blatant disbelief in their Vezina winning goaltender. Winning is not an option.  The other is bringing in a coach that could preach the ways of camaraderie to the team, spoon feed them chemistry. They had this last year as well, and lost it due to the exact same reasons as previously stated. Claude Julien also completely lost control, and apparently lost focus on what team history he is upholding, and what his objectives are game by game. On March 8th it was not Captain Zdeno Chara who had the responsibility of picking his team up, and it was not Shawn “I only have one fight in me a game” Thornton. It was their Coach, their glue, their voice, Claude Julien, and he failed, not just himself, but his players, the franchise, the progress made last season, the 1970 squad sitting in their luxury boxes disappointed and betrayed, and the history of the Boston Bruins. Claude, if I wanted Dave Lewis to come back, I would have shoved a cactus up my ass to prepare for this season.

(Side Note: In 1979, current Bruins analyst, than player, Mike Milbury climbed into the stands at the Madison Square Garden and beat a fan with his own shoe. The times are no longer changing; they have officially changed.)

The Bruins did not spend this season without a goal scorer. They did not play this season without a strong defensive core. They did not play this season without a number one goaltender. They played this season without heart. I have avoided calling it for the past ten years, and though I despise when Ray Bourque brought his Colorado Avalanche Cup to Boston and paraded it around the Hub and will never forgive him for this, the heart left with him and with Neely and has not been able to ever again reemmerge. I have watched teams nearly succeed in this time, and always fail. I have watched hits go unfinished, this season more so than any other, and the March 18th game more than any game this season. To avoid finishing a check in a game that meant nothing more than vengeance and justice, is avoidance to come to terms with a complete lack of chemistry, and this is not built by one or two players, this is built over time. The Bruins built their team to last season, and it did not add up. The equation must start over again, and this means a revamping of the lineup and its personnel.

Side Note: I can’t deny the heart of some of my favorites to ever play for the Bruins, but Donato, Heinz, Dafoe, Murray, Guerin, Lapointe, Sweeney and P.J. Axellson are long gone, and there are only a few shimmers of light left to spark even the remote amount of interest I have left, in this team; and this remote amount will never fade away, and that it is said to confirm that this post is not the death of my fandom, only the suggestions necessary to keep its fire lit.

The post now moves to this so-called endgame. The endgame of the downfall everyone around me saw coming, except me. “They do not play physical…”, I heard and denied. “They do not have a goal scorer…” I heard and witnessed, and still denied. I denied not the fact, but the necessity. This was a mistake. If a team does not and can not possess physicality and goal scoring in hockey, or match any level of play delivered by the elite teams throughout the league, the consistent teams, the guarantees, than a team can not win. That being said, who do we keep, who can we build a TEAM around, who still possesses this drive and the heart necessary to win in the NHL. Out of the woodwork, and the “tactful” decisions made over this past decade, there are a few that can remain, and a few that can still lead; call them the “last hopes” the Bruins have towards their future as a team, and their future in holding any relevance in regards to New England sports. At this time, I do not blame anyone for turning their heads away, once again, from the Boston Bruins. One March 21st, I did the same.

Players to save; the only ones remaining with the ability to save, what the B’s managed to lose in 60 minutes:

Patrice Bergeron: There is no question who the hidden talent is, and his gold medal as a Canadian Olympian is no charity case, but a testament to this talent. Bergeron, however, has been asked, since his call up in ’03, to play over this talent, play a forechecking, defensive minded role. In an equally as brutal fashion to the recent Matt Cooke incident, Randy Jones from the league assholes, the Philadelphia Flyers, served Patrice up a concussion of his own. Bergeron responded by coming back last year, and putting on an absolute clinic in the first round of the playoffs, as the B’s stepped it up and beat their Canadian rivals. He also stepped it up again this season, amidst the injuries and lack of compete level surrounding him. Patrice Bergeron IS and has been for some time now, the most reliable workhorse the B’s have, and any team in the NHL could build a team around this kid. Steady numbers, a great power-play point man and penalty killer, and finesse and finishing skills which can match any player in the NHL, skate for skate and pound for pound. He will not go anywhere.

David Kreijci: Patience, and European finesse launch this Bruin ahead of any other future candidate the B’s had over the past two years. There is an eerie feel of experience possessed by this sophomore, and a veteran quality, even before during and after his all-star caliber Olympic performance. The center core the B’s have to build on is impressive.

Marc Savard: The third Center position installment, a tenacious and crafty playmaker, he was an offensive steel, and once he fully recovers, he is an important stand out and reliable asset.

Zdeno Chara: The epitome of a captain. When he is healthy, he is a monster.

Tuukka Rask: Young, inexperienced, and an incredible talent. He has some big skates to fill, but a team around Rask can win games.

Tim Thomas: Let him have his contract, let him have his ‘B’, and while wearing his silver medal, holding up his Vezina, and at the age of 39, let him skate off into the sunset. His compete level has yet to be matched by any Bruin, and if there was enough of his heart to go around, this team would be viewed in an entirely different light.

I can’t in my right mind go without mentioning “The Next Cam Neely”, Milan Lucic, or the fiery goal scorer Marco Sturm, right? Well let’s just say I stop at Thomas on my list of player’s to keep, and hold Lucic and Sturm directly over the fence of loyalty and devotion. Lucic needs to either play physical or score goals. When he does neither, he is a liability. When he does both he is a necessity. If he chooses incorrectly, he will become a one “hit” wonder, and fade into the annuls of Bruins fandom along side P.J. Stock. P.J. would win. Marco Sturm on the other hand, can’t seem to match himself, and at any given time, becomes, just another player. If he can turn it up for game 6 of the first round of the 07’/08′ playoffs, and for the Winter Classic in 2010, then he should be able to turn it up every minute of every game. This however, is a Bruins virus, spreading throughout talent, and once it hits, it produces the exact results we are now criticizing, we are now turning our heads away from and the exact results we need to change.

Everyone else can go, and if Wideman isn’t one of them, then the whole world is a joke, and I am the epic punchline.

Looking back on this post, it reads more like the diary of a Bruins Fan scorned. I have heard the recent mantra around me, cries of “heart failure” and “I’m done with them…”, but I am not done. I am, however, inclined to set my standards higher, declare who I believe should be kept, and who I could see disposed of. I feel it my responsibility to finally face reality. I also, however, find the responsibility as a fan, not just to criticize, but ride this criticism directly alongside my hope and my love for this team. I will begin watching them again, avidly and without a wavering outlook on their abilities to be successful. I will watch however, with a relentless “toothbrush in the toilet” tainted taste in my mouth, until the moves I want happen, and until the restructuring of this season’s failures occur.

To end this year, I believe the Bruins will sneak into the playoffs, and get destroyed by an absolutely unconscious Washington Capitals team. I believe Rask will be the number one, and Thomas will be shopped around in the offseason. If he stays, he will humbly accept the back up role. When Savard returns, the three star centers named above will need a goal scorer a piece to match the lines. I believe Sturm, Wheeler and Lucic can stay if they want, and fit, but they are not these necessary goal scorers. Recchi, Ryder and Satan will be gone, and Paille and Begin have already overstayed their welcomes. (Side Note: I do not and will never trust division rivals. They are spies.) Their defense, aside from Mark Stuart, possibly this Seidenberg character, who has yet to do anything more than Derek Morris delivered, Johnny Boychuk, who given the right amount of time and training has greatness potential, and of course Chara, can be completely unloaded. Claude Julien? I think he will stay. I think the philosophies will remain. I think they will again be successful. But to forget history, to forget the “black and blue” ways of the black and gold, is to forget what team you are coaching. Julien, you are no longer coaching for Lou in New Jersey, you are coaching for a player, Neely, and the teams’ biggest fan, Chiarelli. You are coaching for that 1970’s team. You are coaching for Boston. You are coaching to keep hockey relevant in the Hub.

Somewhere along the line, this Bruins team lost it. Whatever “it” is, I believe they have the tools to build yet again, to achieve it. I can only hope it will happen next year, but in the wake of such embarrassment, and my current indifference, all I have left is hope, and that is the true endgame of fandom, towards any sports team’s collapse.