Saturday, September 19, 2009

Is the "Thrill" truly gone or just beginning?

What had to happen finally happened, another poorly kept hockey secret was removed from the NHL landscape.

No, the Coyote’s are still in Phoenix for the moment, the other secret.

No, Dany Heatley actually showed up at the Sharks camp and hasn’t tried to cripple the team yet with demands for more ice time…the other, other secret.

No, Dan Kelly hasn’t come out with a tell-all story explaining why scheming and underhanded half-wits are secretly running the NHLPA…the other, other, other secret.

Phil Kessel, the guy who thought $4 million a year to play for a serious contender like the Bruins wasn’t nearly enough dough finally got his wish to play for someone else for 20% more money, 50% less chance at a cup and 100% less Claude Julien.

Phil the Thrill will be making $27 million over 5 years, at 21 tears old that’s not too shabby a paycheck.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of this deal as it works out for Phil though:


He is now THE scoring star for the offensively bereft Maple Leafs; he’s the show, the poster boy, the guy on the billboards and posters.

Word has it that he bristled under the strict accountability that coach Claude Julien demanded of every Bruins player to play defense and with some degree of physical presence.

He is playing for a GM who absolutely adores him as a player for Team USA.


For a guy who everyone says is shy and unassuming, if he couldn’t handle the attention and pressure in Boston he may end up deep fried and a feature menu item in hockey obsessive Toronto.

If he thinks Claude Julien might be difficult to get along with, wait till he gets a load of Ron Wilson, a man also not known for tact, civility or subtlety and may in fact be the first generation in his family to walk erect.

He is playing for a GM who wants to mold the Leafs into a physically imposing team.

Yikes. File this in the “careful what you wish for” category.

To Brian Burke’s credit he has brought in a player that will help the Leafs achieve some degree of legitimacy and has brought a decent amount of buzz to Toronto without impacting the immediate level of ‘talent’ currently on the roster for this year.

Hopefully, for Toronto’s sake, Burke can find a way to turn some of his vast surplus of NHL ready defenseman into a set-up man that can at least approach the effectiveness of a Marc Savard, because as of now he is lacking that one component to make the Kessel move effective.

I’ve seen probably very game Kessel has played as a Bruin, so allow me to share my observations as to why Toronto fans might have some cause for concern:

Phil is a very fast skater with a great shot release (wrist shot only) and a tremendous pair of hands that allow him to frequently baffle opposing goalies, but he does not take slap shots, does not work the corners to get the puck for himself, and occasionally baffles his own defensemen with his disappearing act after the momentum shifts in the other direction. He will react to a carefully placed boot in the rear section but only if it is a VERY carefully placed boot.

If all this makes me sound bitter as to losing the 36 goals that Mr. Kessel provided last year then I’ve given the wrong impression, I’m absolutely thrilled with this deal as it stands.

The Bruins didn’t have to take any salary back in return, didn’t end up having to adopt any of Toronto’s marginal young ‘talent’ (who would have ended up in Providence anyway) and will receive TWO first round draft picks (2010 and 2011) and a second round pick (2010) for an organization that already has one of the top scouting legions in the league.

Should the Bruins decide to take a run at the number one overall pick in the next draft, they have the package to possibly put it all together to make it happen, and I don’t mean by tanking the season (a la Pittsburgh or Ottawa).

The goals provided by Phil the Thrill will be ably filled in for by a year older and stroger Blake Wheeler, a now healthy Marco Sturm, an even more terrifying Milan Lucic, a still very savvy Mark Recchi and a player that has learned his role better (along with proving that he can, in fact play two-way hockey) in Michael Ryder.

So on Saturday, September 19, 2009 we have three party’s who all have come away happy, everyone getting what they wanted.

Me included.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Ode to Fred and Derek

As Bruins fans, much like our chosen team, we both tend to focus (historically) a bit more on the Battles than the overall War.

Many of us have gotten used to, at one time or another, a shortage of something for followers of the Spoked-B. Be it a second line, a substantial Left Wing, goaltending, coaching, defense past Bourque, there was always something that had us still rooting while mentally overcoming some pre-destined disadvantage.

Unfortunately for this fan, the broadcast crew since Fred Cusik and Derek Sanderson has been lacking in one form or another.

For those who didn’t remember these times, this isn’t really for you. Go back to Pokemon, texting, or watching “Saw” movies, this is for the more (ahem) experienced fans.

Fred and Derek, as they came to be known (convenient considering that was their actual names) breathed life into teams that couldn’t cut it and teams that came oh-so-close. Short explanation: They saw some shit.

Fred Cusik was the consummate broadcast professional…almost.

Fred was silky smooth, interjected enthusiasm at just the point in the action, and knew how to fan excitement.

But he had one element that elevated him from super-polished pro to a true Bruins Broadcaster.

He had just the right touch of sarcasm. Fred didn’t take many shots, but the ones he took were made with snipers accuracy, especially if the target was Derek Sanderson.

It was good to have a professional and balanced opponent for Derek to have as well, a lesser play by play man would be eaten alive by “the Turk”.

When the play described a good play-by-play description or the game just got boring, that’s when Derek could be counted on to ride to the rescue. His quips were frequently the stuff of legend.

Did the goalie give up 5 goals on 10 shot’s?

“He’s got sunburn on the back of the neck from the red-light”

Did the goalie get hit while out of the crease?

“If he leaves the crease he’s fair game…this isn’t tennis”

Did a Bruins player get beat so bad that he was removed from the ice with a spatula?

“I think he got a few good ones in there…”

Was a “soft” player trying to pick a fight and draw a penalty?

“I don’t know who he thinks he’s fooling…”

Fred was always there to real Derek in, and on the occasion the game wasn’t ‘popping’, set him lose.

It never took more than a “what do you think about that, Derek?” to introduce a hilarious monologue on just that event that was guaranteed to offend nearly everyone equally.

It was genius.

Fred and Derek had chemistry, when the game was great they knew when to step back (except for the well timed golden tones of Fred’s) and when the game was a dud, they made some of it fun (does anyone remember the famous ‘Derek’s dog ringing the doorbell sketch’?)

As Bruins fans we had great broadcasters for decades, we were comfortably, we were satisfied, we were happy.

We were about to pay for those sins.

You can’t really fault Dale Arnold and Gord Kluzak, sure they had less chemistry than a raided meth lab but they were following the wrong two guys.

You don’t follow Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin with Regis and Kathy Lee, it just doesn’t work…you have to ease into that transition. Like over several hundred years.

The Arnold and Kluzak cavalcade of droll was replaced by the easily excitable Jack Edwards and the somnambulistic Andy Brickley.

Now don’t get me wrong, Edwards does inject some life in to the game he calls, but he has a tendency to act like a hyperactive ten year old that got into the Mountain Dew a little heavy at somewhat inappropriate times, like…anytime the Bruins have a puck.

“Brick” also has his good points, like the fact that he can call plays that happened in a 1/10 of a second accurately, unfortunately he adds all the life to the broadcast that one would expect from a long time and well traveled journeyman player, which is unfortunately not much.

So there we are Bruins fans, if you think we have it rough just listen to a Florida Panthers game some time, where they actually refer to the players by numbers. Apparently someone injured themselves at one point on some tongue-twister name like ‘Vokoun’ or ‘McCabe’. I guess I’m saying we could have it a lot worse.

But it still doesn’t ease the pain that we will never hear the great tandem of Cusick and Sanderson again, except on the NESN ‘classic’ re-broadcast games.

That reminds me, I have to stock up on VHS tapes.

Fred, Rest in Peace my man, you’ve earned it.