Bruins sign Johnny Boychuk to 3 year extension

Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli got a head start on what is still likely to be a very busy off season in Beantown this summer, signing defenseman Johnny Boychuk to a 3-year contract extension that will carry a cap hit of $3.36 million. That still leaves Chiarelli with a sizable list of free agents, both unrestricted and restricted, to address before the 2012-2013 season, but it’s nice to see him being proactive and taking care of something that was clearly at the top of his to-do list early. After this season Chris Kelly, Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton, Daniel Paille, and Joe Corvo will all be unrestricted free agents while Benoit Pouliot and Tuukka Rask will become restricted free agents.

Clearly there is still some work to be done, with Tuukka Rask probably sticking out as the most important guy on that list, but for now let’s focus on the Boychuk deal.

At first blush, I’m sure a lot of the reaction to the amount of money Boychuk got in this deal will be that of shock considering he got a pretty decent raise from his current $1.85 million dollar a year contract. Also, when you look at his offensive numbers since he’s become a mainstay in the Boston lineup 2009, it certainly doesn’t help make his case for such a hefty pay raise, as he had 5 goals and 10 assists in his initial year here, followed by a season of 3 goals and 13 assists. To this point in the season he has only managed to tally 3 goals and 7 assists. Certainly not lofty numbers. However I think it’s important to look at the entire makeup of a player, and especially a defenseman, before making a final judgement on whether he is worth the money he makes.

In the case of Boychuk, there are a few things about his game and what he has done in Boston that warrant the kind of contract he received, which is a fairly standard contract for a top-4 defensemen in the NHL these days. First, he is a guy that really fits in well in a top-4 role and is someone who can really eat minutes on the back-end. For the B’s, Boychuk actually slots in on the first pairing playing alongside Zdeno Chara and so far this season has averaged just over 20 minutes a night. Granted he’s numb three on the depth chart as I’d say Dennis Seidenberg is probably the number 2, Boychuk is still an extremely important part of the Bruins d-corps.

On top of his ability to log important minutes, he has also proven that he is by no means a liability defensively, as he’s been a plus player in each of his three years with Boston, and as of right now is a +23 which is good for 5th best among all NHL defensemen. I’ve really been a fan of his game since he’s been in Boston. He’s been a very steady presence on the back-end. He’s  an above average shot blocker, which is you look at a team like the New York Rangers, has become a pretty invaluable part of the game lately. He’s also someone who loves to bring a physical edge to the ice and has shown an ability for throwing those big, game changing types of hits.

And to be honest, I really believe there is a lot more offensive potential in his game despite the modest numbers he’s put up in three years with the Bruins. This is a guy who, in 2008-2009, won the award for best defenseman in the AHL playing with the Providence Bruins after posting an incredible season of 20 goals and 45 assists for 65 points. I also think he turned a bit of  a corner with his play during last year’s playoff run as he scored 3 goals and 9 assists during the B’s run to the Cup. Despite his slow offensive season thus far, I feel he certainly has the ability to become the kind of defensemen who can give you a solid defensive game, play some big minutes and score somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 goals. He has an absolute cannon of a slap shot and likes to jump into the play offensively when the opportunity presents itself. He also gets time on the power play, mainly because of his shot. A guy like that though is valuable in today’s explosive and offense-heavy NHL.

I think the main reason for Boychuk’s raise though, lies in his formerly impending status as an unrestricted free agent. He’s a guy who, at 28 years of age, still sits firmly in his prime. It was likely that had Chiarelli waited and allowed Boychuk to hit the open market he could have garnered offers north of the $4 million range. A comparable guy is the Hurricanes Tim Gleason, who plays a similar physical, stay at home type of game and probably is more limited offensively then Boychuk while being a bit more solid defensively. Gleason is currently in the middle of a contract that pays him just over $4 million a year. Also, you can look at guys like Tomas Kaberle ($4.25 mill) and James Wisniewski ($5.5 mill) to know that with Johnny B at $3.3 million for the next three years, the Bruins locked up a known commodity, someone who has entrenched himself into the Bruins top-4 and who has developed some really good chemistry with big Z, for a pretty reasonable price.

I for one am glad that Boychuk will be sticking around. Hopefully we can see a lot more of this over the course of the next three years:

 

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Red Sox Bandwagon Has Plenty of Open Seats

If September of 2011 didn’t leave a bad taste in your mouth as a Red Sox fan, then you just weren’t paying attention.  I’m sure there were plenty of fair-weathers (the old school term I prefer instead of pink hat) turning on their flat screens on September 30th wondering what the hell channel the Red Sox game was on.  My bet is those are the same fans that jumped off the bandwagon and are currently trashing the team whenever prompted today.  Truth be told I don’t really care if those fans come back.  Sure they may have had something to do with the Red Sox payroll ballooning up over $150 million, but it has been proven time and time again that it doesn’t take that kind of money to have the honor of raising the Commisioner’s Trophy so I am good with the faux-fans disappearing.

As I read content from other blogs and sports websites, there seems to be a great deal of Red Sox bashing going on.  I am not going to sit here and defend what happened in September, but what I will say is this team is still stacked.  I will be doing plenty of roster posts during spring training, but for a quick pragmatic synopsis; the Sox had to replace their closer, number 7 and 8 hitters, and number 4 and 5 starters from opening day last year.  I wouldn’t say that is completely detrimental to what was being touted as possibly the greatest team ever assembled going into last season.

Sure the bandwagon had to stop for gas and everyone had to get out and stretch their legs, however when it came time to get rolling again it seems a large number of folks decided not to continue the voyage.  I’m okay with this, it gives all of us die-hards a little more leg room.

Even the greatest of Red Sox fanatics’ patience was tested  last fall.  Nobody liked what went down, but the fact of the matter is the team as constituted is still very talented.  There are questions with health, the bullpen, and the back end of the rotation, but find me a team in baseball that doesn’t have any of these issues…you can’t.

So sign me up for another 162 game grind.  The AL got stronger in the off-season, so it will be a battle for the Sox, but that doesn’t mean the season is lost.  Hell Vegas has them at 8-1 only behind the Phillies, Yankees, and Angels.

Maybe with the fair-weather Red Sox fan population decreasing I can actually buy a weekend game ticket for a June game without having to go to the secondary ticket market.  Unfortunately they will be crowding up The Cask N’ Flagon again by then if the Sox are in first place.

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Super Bowl XLVI: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly… from the Pats Perspective

I finally feel as though enough time has gone by where I can actually talk about the Super Bowl. Obviously, from a Pats fans perspective, the result is absolutely sickening. However, there were some bright spots.

The Good

There was a lot to like as a Pats fan in that game. First of all, the defense was awesome. That’s saying a lot for this year’s team. Among the brights spots was a healthy Pat Chung. It was good to see him flying around and sticking people all game long. His hit on Hakeem Nicks on the sideline was unreal. I didn’t think Nicks was getting back up. A healthy Chung would have meant a lot to the Pats throughout the year. Hopefully, he can keep himself healthy going into next year after two injury plagued years. His style of play is quite similar to that of Bob Sanders, a guy who when healthy can be a game changer. However, you have to wonder if his uber-physical style of play is going to have him dinged up and out of the lineup on a regular basis. Mark Anderson also looked pretty decent as he was able to get some consistent pressure on Manning. I don’t know what his contract status is, but I would like to see him back to play a situational 3rd down pass rushing roll next year. Shaun Ellis also made a guest appearance at the Super Bowl. I had forgotten that he was even on the team. He was the anchor that helped that D-Line control the run for a better part of the game. I thought that Sterling Moore played a good game as well. It will be interesting to see what role he will play next year with Arrington and McCourty healthy and the possibility of a Bodden return. The best part of the D for me was Brandon Spikes. He was an absolute animal. He was everywhere and he was laying the lumber. Much like Chung, I think a healthy Spikes in the line up on a regular basis makes this a whole different defense. It allows Belichick to do a lot more with Mayo and it helps our run D tremendously. Offensively, I thought the O-Line played really well. Brady had a great game too. The Giants had no answer whatsoever for the hurry up offense and I felt that we really should have kept our foot on the gas pedal and stayed aggressive rather than go conservative as a means to protect the lead.

The Bad

Gronkowski, where were you bud? I don’t want to hear anything about him not being 100%.  It just didn’t seem like Brady was looking for him. The ankle looked fine, especially on the backpedaling reach up catch he made. He also looked rather limber on the dance floor at the post game party He also was smart enough to get up field behind Blackburn in what turned in to the worst play of the game when Brady drastically underthrew him. Also in amongst the bad was the complete absence of Vince Wilfork after one of the best games of his career in the AFC Championship game against Baltimore. The only time I heard his name mentioned was when the commentators talked about how the Giants O-Line was completely handling him. Big Love was also a complete non-factor. When Gerard Warren is playing the best out of all your D-Line, you got issues. There were a couple of bad penalties as well. The 12 men call on the Sterling Moore force fumble was a killer and lost in all the Welker talk was the fact that Ninkovich’s offside penalty gave the Giants a second chance after the D stopped the Giants on third down. That was unfortunate because I thought that Ninkovich was finally getting it and the Vrabel comparisons were finally coming to fruition.

The Ugly

For me, now that the audio has been released is the fact that the Giants did exactly what Belichick wanted and it killed us. He was imploring his D to let Manning to Manningham, which Eli did to kill us. Coaching killed us in this game. Belichick’s decision to let Manningham beat us was a bad one. He made the unbelievable catch, but there were a few other occasions where he was wide open and Eli kept going to him and BB failed to adjust. Bill O’Brien, gone by choice, should have been fired if he was staying on. Why he went away from the no huddle when the Giants admittedly had no answer for it is beyond me. The two penalties mentioned before, the 12 man and the Ninkovich offsides were beyond ugly. The mental toughness and intelligence that are usually the hallmark of Belichick defenses, especially in big games, were replaced by serious mental lapses. Finally, on to the most ugly was the Welker drop. We can’t blame Welker for the game because there were a number of other things that just didn’t go our way. How do you force three fumbles and not recover one? How does Sterling Moore let Manningham behind him and how does Chung not get over fast enough to help out? It was tough to watch Eli Manning do his best Tom Brady impression at the end of the game. It pains me to say it, but Eli is a great quarterback. Not great in the sense that he is going to put up ridiculously gaudy numbers, but Derek Jeter great. Eli is the new Derek Jeter. He’s not elite, he’s not flashy, but he’s just so damn good and he does everything right. He does what he needs to beat you, again and again. Disagree if you want, but the throw to Manningham was absolutely perfect. Manningham made a great play, but you have to admire the throw. He floated it over two defenders, hit Manningham in stride, and basically dropped it right into his outstretched hands. I just puked in my mouth.

The Future

I think that the future is bright for the Pats. I think that the defense really matured in the playoffs. I think that if we can stay healthy our defense will make a meteoric rise. I think that it is imperative that the Pats use one of those 1st round picks on a stud D-End. Carter is old and coming off of injuries. Ellis was a complete non-factor all year long. Mark Anderson is best suited a pass rush specialist. We need a big guy that can not only hold the edge on running downs, but also a guy that can create a pass rush on his own. We have relied on our sole pash frush from our outside linebackers for too long. We need a Ty Warren type to come back in and give us an edge presence. I also think that we need to use the other pick on a stud receiver. Alshon Jeffrey out of South Carolina and Michael Floyed out of Notre Dame are to physical freaks that would wreak havoc on the outside. I have seen a few mock drafts that have the Pats taking one of the two on a few websites. I think we need that outside threat to help open the middle up and take the focus off of our tight ends. I think having an outside threat will also allow Welker to operate in the spaces underneath where he is most effective like when Moss was in town. I truly hope that BB won’t trade out and will use some of that cap space to A. Sign Welker and B. Bring in some elite, NFL ready talent with the two #1 picks. Our rookie free agent projects have worked out in the past, after a couple of years in our system,  but bringing in big program elite talents will help right away (see Chung, Spikes, Mayo, McCourty). All of the picks in the lower rounds can be used to add depth. While the loss was crushing, I think we’ll be back. I think Brady still has some good years left in him and we still have the best coach in the world. From what I understand, most of the team’s core will be back. The O-Line is still all under contract and Koppen will be back to anchor that unit. Adding a studdly outside receiver to our core and resigning Welker will give Brady even more fire power. Ridley looked good and Vereen will be healthy next year giving us a lot of matchup options out of the backfield. Defensively, health is the biggest issue. I think we need to use a majority of our picks on defensive depth especially in the linbacker corps in defensive backfield. We need help at safety big time. I can’t take another year of James Ihedigbo getting burnt and getting hurt every single game.  As bad as the Super Bowl loss felt, I can’t help but be optimistic about the good things to come in Foxboro. We have come to a level of expectation that we will be in it to win it every year. It didn’t happen in 2012, but next year is another year and it will be business as usual. For now, let’s go B’s and C’s and spring training is a couple of weeks away.     -Satch

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I feel like puking.

Yup. That’s about it.

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Bob Kraft Graces Sports Illustrated Cover

Bob Kraft is the man. He singlehandedly saved the NFL season and saved the Patriots from moving to St. Louis or Connecticut, which in turn saved me from killing myself on those two occasions. He also had the fore-site to hire Bill Belichick and let him hand the reigns over to Brady for the full season when franchise QB Drew Bledsoe got hurt. His mug graced the recent cover of sports illustrated. There really isn’t any person more deserving than Kraft to be on the Superbowl Cover of SI. I hope the Pats can win this one for him and his late wife Myra, whom they dedicated the 2011-2012 season. When you crack your first beers tonight(or this afternoon in some folks case), Make sure to toast the Kraft family for being the best ownership group in Boston history, and just genuine, good people.

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