Monday, July 23, 2007

As predicted, Toivonen sent packing

As I wrote a few weeks back in the post titled "The Bruins Future in Net: And How Manny Fernandez will fit in with Boston," Hannu Toivonen was dealt today to the St. Louis Blues for Carl Soderberg.

Never heard of him, have you?

Don't feel bad. Neither have I. And most Bs fans are probably in the same boat.

Soderberg won't be the Bruins next Joe Thornton, but he will bring some of that size and skill up the middle.

Most Bs fans would also agree that a goalie needed to be dealt, and that goalie may as well be Toivonen, considering the two starters and the young talent (Rask), all of whom are better than the recently departed.

On the same note, Bruins fans don't want to lose Toivonen just because of an overload at that position. Too many times, the talent coming in has to be questioned. The talent leaving, proven.

Soderberg certainly isn't proven, but neither is Toivenen. If anything, Toivonen has proven that he is unable yet to adequately and consistently be a starter in net. There have been flashes, nothing more.

Soderberg is a 21-year-old kid from Malmo, Sweden. Playing in the Swedish Elite League last year, the 6'3 200 pounder posted 12-18-30 totals in 31 games.

At, Soderberg is rated a 7.5 out of 10. Such a rating is give to forwards who are projected to be somewhere between a potential first or second line guy in the NHL. The site also says the following about Soderberg:

"In the 2003-04 season, after totally dominating the junior league and almost averaging 2 points per game, Söderberg was called up to the SEL and immediately showed off his strong skills. He became a regular and scored a goal and an assist in 24 games... Söderberg is a very explosive player...good skater...has a powerful stride. With his quick feet he very easily gets around the opponents. He has an accurate shot, has a fine scoring touch and is a good playmaker as well. His hockey sense is top-notch and the way he handles the puck in full flight is very impressive. A strong player with great size combined with good technical skills. Earlier his defense was somewhat questionable but he has become a much better player without the puck. While his increase in playing time has not materialized this season, next season Söderberg should be given ample opportunity to showcase his strong skills. He is still a long distance away from the NHL, but given time, he will show why he is considered one of the bright spots in St. Louis's future."

Soderberg is of course no longer with St. Louis - however - he was ranked fifth on the team's prospect list on, behind the super-talents of Erik Johnson, Marek Schwarz, T.J. Oshie and Patrik Berglund.

At 6'3, 200 pounds at age 21, Soderberg will undoubtably fill out even more and could eventually become the Bruins most physical prescence up front.

On paper, I like the trade. We didn't lost much in the trade (a goalie who might never have started in Boston again) and received a 49th overall, 2nd round pick with size and offensive talent. It may be three or four years before we can really evaluate this trade.

In other news, the Bs also re-signed Ryan Sullivan's man out of Omaha Nebraska, Jeff Hoggan. I was a big fan of Hoggan for most of last year but the ex-Blue couldn't sustain a roster spot and eventually was released. Apparently, somebody else in the Bs front office also likes the speed and tenacity that Hoggan offers on a nightly basis. He's a seven, eight minute per night kinda guy, and not one who scores much, but he'll bring some life to this team.

This could be the end of the Bruins pre-season moves. Don't expect anything too significant before the trade deadline.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Schedule released

The schedule for the 2007-08 season was released today. The Bs kick off the season October 5 at Dallas, the first of a five-game road trip to begin the new campaign. It's an interesting beginning to the season - five on the road, a trip with former Duck Shawn Thornton to Stanley Cup-winning Anaheim (hopefully Selanne decides not to retire) and a showdown with the Sharks and Jumbo Joe himself before returning to Boston for the home-opener against Tampa. The Oct. 20 game against the Rangers should also be a good one, considering New York's bolstered line-up. I'm already excited - not to mention a little nervous.

Oct. 5 at Dallas8:30
Oct. 6 at Phoenix9:00
Oct. 10 at Anaheim10
Oct. 12 at Los Angeles10:30
Oct. 13 at San Jose10:30
Oct. 18 Tampa Bay7
Oct. 20 N.Y. Rangers7
Oct. 22 at Montreal7:30
Oct. 25 Chicago7
Oct. 27 Philadelphia7
Nov. 1 Buffalo7
Nov. 3 at Ottawa7:30
Nov. 4 Ottawa7
Nov. 7 at Buffalo7
Nov. 8 Montreal7
Nov. 10 Buffalo7
Nov. 15 Toronto7
Nov. 17 at Montreal7
Nov. 20 at Toronto7
Nov. 23 N.Y. IslandersNoon
Nov. 24 at N.Y. Islanders7
Nov. 26 at Philadelphia7
Nov. 29 at Florida7:30
Dec. 1 at Tampa Bay7:30
Dec. 3 at N.Y. Islanders7
Dec. 5 at New Jersey7
Dec. 6 Montreal7
Dec. 8 at Toronto7
Dec. 10 at Buffalo7
Dec. 12 at Atlanta7
Dec. 13 New Jersey7
Dec. 15 Columbus7
Dec. 18 Ottawa7
Dec. 20 Pittsburgh7
Dec. 22 St. Louis1
Dec. 23 at Pittsburgh3
Dec. 28 at Carolina7
Dec. 29 at Atlanta7
Dec. 31 Atlanta1
Jan. 3 Washington7
Jan. 5 New Jersey7
Jan . 8 Carolina7
Jan. 10 Montreal7
Jan. 12 at Philadelphia1
Jan. 17 Toronto7
Jan. 19 N.Y. Rangers1
Jan. 20 at N.Y. Rangers1:30
Jan. 22 at Montreal7:30
Jan. 24 N.Y. Islanders7
Jan. 29 Nashville7
Jan. 31 at Ottawa7:30
Feb. 2 Detroit7
Feb. 5 Buffalo7
Feb. 8 at Buffalo7:30
Feb. 9 Florida7
Feb. 12 Carolina7
Feb. 13 at Pittsburgh7:30
Feb. 16 at Toronto7
Feb. 19 at Carolina7
Feb. 21 at Florida7:30
Feb. 23 at Tampa Bay7:30
Feb. 26 Ottawa7
Feb. 28 Pittsburgh7
March 1 Atlanta1
March 3 at Washington7
March 4 Florida7
March 6 Toronto7
March 8 Washington1
March 9 at N.Y. Rangers3
March 11 at Ottawa7:30
March 13 Tampa Bay7
March 15 Philadelphia1
March 16 at Washington3
March 20 Montreal7
March 22 at Montreal7
March 25 at Toronto7:30
March 27 Toronto7
March 29 Ottawa1
March 30 at Buffalo3
April 2 at New Jersey7
April 4 at Ottawa7:30
April 5 Buffalo7

Monday, July 09, 2007

Two July events worth checking out

Chances to meet Bruins faces new and old are abundant in July. In addition to the development camp, free to the public, being held throughout the week at Wilmington's Ristuccia Arena, fans also have the chance to meet the guys at the 3rd Annual Frozen Face Off on Wednesday, July 18th from 6-8:00 p.m. at the Water Club of Marina Bay in Quincy.

A view, as pictured on the Water Club website, looking out onto Boston Harbor from inside the club.

Drinks like the "Slap Shot Mudslide" and the "Pina Colada Power Play" will be served to calm the nerves of talking to long-time idols. There will also be food, raffles and a silent auction. And of course, autographs for those who bring along some memorabilia. The place reportedly is situated with views of the Boston skyline - not bad for $40 admission. I plan to check it out if I can get the night off from work. And if the $40 ticket is too steep, the harbor cruise on July 31st is somehow cheaper, only $25. One additional warning: I read a little up on it and usually, there is a cover. Of course for this particular night the cover is $40 for a reason. Also, the specialy drinks are $9 a piece and domestic beers are $5 a pop. Not cheap by any means but depending on the people on hand, it could be worth a look.

On the last day of the month, the Bs are hosting a Sunset Harbor Cruise from 6-9:00 p.m. Jim Plunkett is performing during the cruise and as with the Frozen Face Off, raffles, silent auctions will take place while Bruins players and alumni will be on board. Terry O'Reilly and Bob Sweeney are two confirmed names.

July 31st happens to be a Tuesday, the one day I only work until 4:30, so I'll probably attend.

Friday, July 06, 2007

As reported on the Bruins Blog, Dale Arnold will no longer be doing play-by-play for the Bruins. His contact was not renewed and now Jack Edwards will be assuming the full-time duty. Edwards and Andy Brickley ran the show on the road last year but will be doing so at home in 2007-08 was well. This was very dissapointing for me to here because Dale Arnold was a great play-by-play announcer.

When I see the name Jack Edwards, I can't relate a face. He is quite tall but otherwise transparent. Dale Arnold's voice would echo throughout my living room following each and every Bruins goal. He was ellated. Genuinly excited, pumped-up for each goal. I might go a little too far here to Zdeno Chara would wind up for a rip-roaring slapshot on the power-play, Arnold would similarly wind up, reaching into the depths of his vocal chords to deliver that sweet scoring sound. He would pick up steam as a Bruin player did the same. He announced the same way some great players, Mario Lemieux first comes to mind, effortlessly glide (so it seems) around the ice, only to explode into a sudden shot or make a mind boggling move toward the net. During a power-play, Arnold is steady, calm, but unable to hind that immenent excitement only moments away, in the air always.

I understand a lot of people aren't big fans of Arnold. I have no problem with that. Some people especially don't like hearing him on WEEI but for me, well his voice signals Bruins chatter and any Bruins dialogue stuck in between all that Sox, Celtics, Patriots clutter is welcomed with open ears.

Reflecting on my previous post regarding Manny Fernandez, the new Bruin stopper is the 11th highest paid keeper in the league. Six of those goalies had better GAAs. Again, he was a good sign.

Lastly I want to remind any local readers that the Bruins development camp begins at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington this week. The players will be skating once on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and twice Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. I've never seen a development camp and I am curious to see some of the news guys so I'll probably head up there once or twice. Tuukka Rask should be an especially interesting specimin - with all the goalie overload going on right now, it's not out of the realm of possibility that he could dethrown any of the season-opening starters by say midseason if all is not well in the Boston net. I guess I'd rather not see too much Tuukka in Boston this year. I'll gladly make the trip to Providence.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Bruins Future in Net: And How Manny Fernandez will fit in with Boston

Peter Chiarelli signed Manny Fernandez with the intention of making the Etobicoke, Ontario native the Bruins starting goaltender for the 2006-07 season. Fernandez will be making about four million and as such, he should perform as a starting keeper. I am confident he will - but the reaction hasn't been mutual throughout Boston.

Bruins fan have been skeptical because of Fernandez's age - 33 - and Kevin Paul Dupont recently wrote in a Boston Globe article titled Bruins have too many men in the crease that Fernandez "is not considered among the game's elite netminders."

I can't argue with that statement because it would be difficult to make a clear cut case for Fernandez as an elite number. But before I look at some stats to compare the elite goaltenders of the league over the past seven years (Fernandez's first year of significant time was in 1999-00), I will wager that he is among the league's...let's say seven best keepers.

Fernandez has played in 293 with a record of 125-113-24-1 and a 2.47 GAA, a .913 save pct and 13 shutouts.

First let's pit Fernandez against the current Black and Gold. Tim thomas is a career 45-43-0-4 with 3.00 GAA, .909 save pct and four shutouts.

Hannu Toivonen: 12-14-0-1, 3.33, .896, 1 SO. (on paper he's on the way out)

So I guess we can live with Fernandez starting over Thomas and Toivonen. But back to the point here. Let's look at some other goaltenders, all considered to be No. 1 starters and even elite keepers at times, who have played during the same time period, for a similar number of years.

31-year-old Marty Turco is undoubtably considered one the league's top five if not three keepers...during the regular season (although he actually had a good postseason this year). In 320 games, Turco is 175-82-26-5 with a 2.11 GAA, a .914 save % and 30 shutouts. A superior GAA, more wins and shutouts but Fernandez gets the edge, ever so slight, in save percentage.

Moving on to Stanley Cup winning 30-year-old J.S. Giguere. He's played 353 games and compiled a 156-134-25-8 record with a GAA of 2.48, a save percentage of .914 and 25 shutouts. Fernandez with a 2.47 GAA, a .913 save % takes both categories, barely.

Last season, Fernandez was ranked 15th in GAA (2.55), just behind Mikka Kiprusoff (2.46) and Stanley Cup finalist keeper Ray Emery (2.47).

Dupont, in the previously mentioned article, then writes Fernandez "...lost his job to Finnish backup Niklas Backstrom in January when he wrenched a knee. However, Fernandez played in a career-high 58 games two seasons ago, and he said in an afternoon conference call yesterday he felt he could handle that workload again."

Who wouldn't have lost their job to Niklas Backstrom last year? In 41 games, he posted 23 wins and lost only eight times (six more in overtime), while posting a league-best 1.97 GAA and also a league best .929 save percentage. He did stumble in one area however.

It may not be seem very important, if anything conditional, but Backstrom was ranked 36th in shootout percentage (53.1%) while Fernandez ranked 14th (71.9%). Furthermore Tim Thomas, who could easily be heading out of town soon, stopped 38 of 46 (82.6%) attempts. Only Martin Brodeur and Henrik Lundqvist faced more shots and only three other goalies (Denis, Holmqvist, CuJo) posted better save percentages in the shootout. It might not mean much but in the current NHL system, shootouts are vital. I don't even want to know how bad Boston would have been without its 9-4 record in the shootout. Tim Thomas, based on save percentage and workload in the shootout, was the league's best. And what was better than watching the emotions Thomas threw all over the rink throughout those shootouts?

And what about longtime teammate of Fernandez, Dwayne Roloson? His stat line over 356 career games: 124-157-42-6, 2.55 GAA, .910 save %. Fernandez has him beat in wins, GAA and save %. Roloson is the goalie, now at age 37, who almost won a cup for Edmonton.

Just for fun, how about one more comparison. Let's take Evgeni Nabokov, considered a franchise goaltender for the Sharks and a very legitimate No. 1 for any team. In 353 career games, the 31-year-old has gone 162-129-29-4 with a 2.43 GAA and a .911 save %. Almost identical numbers to Fernandez just slightly better. Here and now I will rest my case and I believe I was right in my assumption that since the year 2000, give or take a year, Manny Fernandez has been among the league's top six to eight goaltenders in the league.

There's Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo and probably Mikka Kiprusoff. These are the league's three elite goaltenders.

Looking again at the trade for Fernandez, Boston sent Petr Kalus and their fourth-round pick in 2009 for Fernandez. That goes into my book as an unproven, young forward and a late round draft pick for one of the NHL's top ten goaltenders, maybe even a top six keeper (top six is elite).

I say keep Tim Thomas, deal the younger and more desirable Hanny Toivonen. Thomas is one the last remaining personalities, recognizable faces on the Bruins. The fans love him. He plays with his heart and blames no one. He is a guy you want on your team. Maybe not to play 70 games but that problem has been solved. Fernandez is an upper-class keeper and Thomas is a very legitimate guy too.

Manny's career high is 58 games. He's coming off a year of 44 games. 50 games for Manny and 30 for Thomas. Two very capable goalies who will remain fresh throughout the year. Both will be in tune for the playoffs. Deal Toivonen and a draft pick for a defenseman or for more scoring up front.

When you break down the numbers, the Bruins are in good shape if they make the right decisions. And if not, there's always that guy named Tuukka Rask.

Free Agent Frenzy

The free agent frenzy came and went, in just a matter of days. Since Sunday at noon, all the big names on the market are now off the market and in new locales all over North America. I am only 21 (22 on Aug. 2), but in my 15 or so years of watching the NHL, I cannot recall so much movement of players in so little time. That being said, the salary cap hasn't jumped like it just did (from about 44 million to 50 million).

The Devils welcomed Zubrus from Buffalo and said goodbye to all-star Scott Gomez (Rangers, seven years, 51.5 million) and defenseman Brian Rafalski, who signed a five year with Detroit worth $30 million. Detroit of course had lost Mathieu Schneider to the Ducks at 2 years, 11.25 million, and needed to rebolster its defense. The Stanley Cup champs weren't done there. They brought in 6-3, 254 pound Todd Bertuzzi, who at age 32 still could wreak havoc but posted only three goals and eight assists in 15 games of the 2006-07 season with Florida and Detroit. I remember the devastation I felt at hearing Boston had traded Joe Thornton for those three guys (only Sturm we still own). I cannot fathom how Panthers fans feel at losing Roberto Luongo for one goal and six assists. I am confident that after Roberto Luongo wins a Stanley Cup or two, the Luongo for Bertuzzi trade will go down as one of the worst in history. For the Ducks, little risk is involved. At $4 million, Bertuzzi at the least will provide this already tough club with added grit up front.

The Ducks must have been heartbroken to lose Shawn Thornton, all two goals and seven assists of him. He averages about eight minutes of ice time but according to Peter Chiarelli is a great, up-tempo physical prescence, so great indeed that Chiarelli said no more free agent signings will be necessary. The Ducks win a championship, they bring in Schneider and Bertuzzi. The Bruins...did sign Manny Fernandez, but I'' save that discussion for my next entry.

The Flyers roster has quickly come together into what I believe will be a very competitive team this year. I didn't think the Flyers looked half bad in the second half of last season. With the additions of Daniel Briere from the Sabres, Joffrey Lupul and Jason Smith from the Oilers, Scottie Upshall, Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen from the Preds...they can now play a lineup that might look like this:




I didn't mean to place so much emphasis on the Flyers, but there is no way this team won't compete next year. This lineup is big and quick and should excel under the current NHL rules.

Another team that should bounce back this season is the Blues - although the Flyers are far ahead in the rebuilding phase. Tkachuk is returning on a two year deal for 4 million a year and Paul Kariya is the newest Blue, adding to a lineup that already includes Doug Weight, Lee Stempniak, Peter Cajanek and former Bruin Brad Boyes. The Blues are nowhere near competing in the Western Conference but should be able to put out a better starting lineup this year.

Back in the East, as mentioned previously, the Rangers added Scott Gomez from New Jersey and Chris Drury from Buffalo. The Sabres have lost Drury, Briere and Zubrus. That's a combined 93 goals and 131 assists for 224 points. However, not to be forgotten is Tim Connolly who averaged nearly a point per game in the 2005-06 season before missing all but one regular season game in 06-07.

The Caps acquired Tomi Poti and Viktor Kozlov from the Isles and Michael Nylander from the Rangers. Nylander came at 4 years, 19.5 million, not exactly a steal. I've was very dissapointed when the Bruins let Nylander go following their playoff breakdown a few years back, but I've always like Nylander as player. He is a very fluid skates who can control is strong the puck. He also posted a 26-57-83 line and was plus-12 with the Rangers last year. But at 34, Nylander could begin to slow down any year and I don't see the Caps as the best fit for an aging, yet skilled Nylander.

The Canadiens may have the Caps beat, however, on risking a lot of money on an aging player. The Habs signed the No. 1 overall pick in the 1992 draft, Roman Hamrlik, to a four-year deal worth 22 million. Hamrlik was +22 on the Flames blueline last year but he is 33. True, defensemen seem to wear down very slowly, but 5 million plus seems slightly excessive.

The Lightning lost defenseman Cory Sarich to the Flames (five years, 18 million) and forward Eric Perrin to the Thrashers. I don't understand why the Lightning would give up Perrin when he accepted a deal worth just 1.5 million a year. Perrin is probably worth the money - he scored 13 times and added 23 assists, not to mention that he is Martin St. Louis' long time friend from the University of Vermont.

The Avalanche, who down the stretch last season were the league's best team, added Scott Hannon from San Jose (four years, 18 million) and all-star leader Ryan Smyth from the Islanders (five years, 31.25 million). With Sakic and Smyth leading up front and a lot of young depth spread around, the Avs could potentially compete in the playoffs this season, possibly rekindling the Avs/Wings rivalry. The Wings, as always, are going nowhere, with Zetterberg and Datsyuk in the mix.

More bad news for the Bruins in the NorthEast. The Maple Leafs 33-year-old Jason Blake from Long Island (five years, 20 million). Blake has gotten better every year since entering the league and scored a career high 40 goals last season. I like his quick, agressive style of play. The Bruins certainly won't enjoy defending him.

On the other coast, L.A. landed a quartet of newcomers, signing forwards Kyle Calder, Ladislav Nagy, Michal Handzus and defensemen Tom Preissing and Brad Stuart. Not a bad foursome to land. The Kings can only get better and have plenty of youth in Alexander Frolov, Michael Cammalleri and Anze Kopitar.

The Blackhawks should also be better, but no better than the Kings, this upcoming season with faceoff mastermind Yanic Perreault and center Robert Lang...let's end this conversation on the West Coast before we head back east to discuss the impact Manny Fernandez will have in Boston.