You asked, we answered! Our inaugural mailbag begins with a lovely pickup from our comments section and twitter!
From The Comments:
Did the Bruins quietly retire "The Bear" after going to all the expense of having a new costume made? - Giesse
Sky: All signs point to yes after their animated series idea bombed. While it’s a great mascot and one of the better things the team can use to differentiate themselves I think someone up at Marketing thought The Bear was too “weird” to continue being an Original Six Mascot and he’s been quietly phased out. I think they went too far by going for actual roster players to fill The Bear’s “Universe” without thinking that these guys have almost no time. They should’ve used 7th forwards/defensemen to help making shorts easier.
Dan: The animated “Bear and the Gang” seems to have completely tanked. The original bear, in the big costume, should never have gone away. The Bruins’ marketing efforts were way more edgy (even though that’s a bit strong of a term) back before the team was consistently good: think back to the Bear escorting the Canadiens fans out of the Garden, the “victory dance” commercial...it seems like those things kind of fizzled out after the stink raised by Tampa due to the ads mocking them during the 2011 Conference Final. By then, the Bruins were flying high, so maybe they didn’t feel the need to continue it. It’s a shame.
Jake: It’s an unfortunate thing that “The Bear” is no more, but it’s true. The rules of being a Bruins fan commercial series was one of my favorites, but to echo what was said by Sky and Dan, there were a multitude of reasons to let that line of marketing go. Is Blades bad? No, not at all, he’s a decent mascot. However, the bear is quite irreplaceable.
Paul: Living across the Atlantic means you get somewhat detached from NHL team marketing, but the Bruins bear commercials were one of the things that made it over here and even made the British NHL fans take notice/share on FB/talk about the B’s, especially the “fan rules” commercials and “don’t date within the division”. Me, I’m of the opinion that hockey is a game that needs needle and rivalries, especially living in a fan culture where hockey’s marketed as a family sport and something to do with friends rather than..y’know, a sporting competition. I’d like to see him back, but the B’s clearly didn’t. Maybe it’s time for a return.
Which young wing do you expect to play LW with Krejci? - kalinis
Sky: Vatrano wasn’t, at least in my opinion, given a fair shot at the left wing position because of injury. He’s the kind of player that, by all accounts, is made for a pass-first, assist-getting offensive guy like Krejci and they do seem to like him, but they haven’t had enough of him to truly assess his value. I figure if he’s out for a period of time, a player like Anders Bjork or Peter Cehlarik that are gunning for spots in the NHL would be a fantastic addition as they’re both offensively great and Cehlarik has been continually praised for his two-way play.
Dan: I am not nearly as sold on Vatrano as some. I think he’s good, but isn’t a lock. Cehlarik would be my guy, but the dark horse would be Jake DeBrusk. He had a good season in Providence last year. A good camp/preseason could see him get a shot.
Colin: Bjork. I think he will be given every opportunity to make the roster as a selling point from going pro. His skill set should compliment David Krejci’s puck moving skills. Whether he can stay in the top 6 is anyone’s guess, however. The default answer for most is probably Vatrano, but like Dan, I am not particularly high on him. That being said, if Vatrano can improve his foot speed and play without the puck, it’s his spot to lose.
Jake: All three guys above me make valid points for each of their candidates. I’m going to have to agree with Colin, as far as a choice, if I had to make one. Having covered Hockey East for two years prior, I know exactly what Anders Bjork brings to the table, and it’s a type of play that will mesh really well with Krejci’s style of play. He needs a high-octane, bigger bodied guy who makes plays, as opposed to #46’s methodical, pass-first style of hockey. Bjork fits that bill to a T. Who knows, if Vatrano or DeBrusk play well enough to earn the spot, Bjork played both left and right wing under Jeff Jackson at Notre Dame. Who's to say he couldn't do it again?
Paul: I’m a outlier here. Krejci loves to pass, so all he needs is someone who can get open for him - like Colin says, if Vatrano learns to get open, giving Krejci a gunner to load the bullets for, he’d seem to fit perfectly. Bjork is a good pick, too, though. He can score for fun and brings more to the table than Vatrano does from the outset-he should be given a chance to do it at the NHL level.
Which Young gun who will have the best NHL season? Which non – NHL prospect will have the best season? -bruinlorr
Sky: I’d hope that, with a full season of NHL play, Frank Vatrano can finally show us what he’s made of. I’m also very interested in seeing if JFK is able to wrestle away a center spot and show us a little more of what he’s got.
As for non-NHL, I’m personally hoping for a big season from Providence as a whole. Senyshyn, Zboril, Austin Czarnik, Sean Kuraly, Jeremy Lauzon, Maybe Danton Heinen, Maybe Bjork, Maybe JFK, Maybe Paul Postma, Maybe Cehlarik...this is the look of a team that will be difficult to keep off of a scoresheet. I’m excited to see if they can go all the way to the Calder cup Finals on a roster that loaded.
Colin: McAvoy, without a doubt. Honorable mention to Carlo if he avoids the second year slump. I’m high on Bjork’s potential, but it’s a lot to ask for a brand new pro player to succeed immediately in the NHL. For non-NHL players, I would say Heinen and Lauzon, if he can stay healthy. Zach Senyshyn will have a lot eyes on him this year, and he is a strong candidate as well.
Dan: I think Charlie McAvoy will be the best young guy this season. We saw a flash during the playoffs, and I think he’s going to be as advertised. My pick for non-NHL is Malcolm Subban. He’s gotten a year between himself and that terrible injury, showed signs of putting it together late last year and should be an extended look in the preseason.
Jake: Charlie McAvoy is the man to beat. Again, as a Hockey East guy, more specifically a Terriers alum, I know Charlie all too well, and the glimpse he showed in the playoffs should carry through to the regular season. Paired with Zee on the top line (Carlo has proven himself enough to not need the pairing), Charlie can shine with his offensive, big-bodied style game. Certainly a better skater than Chara at the moment, it takes some pressure off the big man to be all over the ice, for sure.
Paul: McAvoy’s spot to lose at the NHL level. He’ll be given every possibly chance to succeed and if the Calder was given for actual play and not just which rookie scores the most goals, he’d have a very strong chance at winning it.
Non-NHL...Danton Heinen. He’s a player we’ve still not seen anywhere near the best of and on a loaded Providence team he’ll have the players around him to take the league by the scruff of the neck.
We all know that Big Z is 6 feet 9 inches tall...But how tall is Little Z? - Tbone Jones
Sky: 4 feet, 20 inches.
Dan: I will withhold my answer because Chara could throw me from the Garden to Slovakia with very little effort.
Jake: Answering this question is harder than taking a vintage Chara clapper to your own little man. Next question.
Paul: Put it this way...I bet he can lean on it and sleep standing up. I’m not sure of his stick length, but I’m willing to bet his shaft has at least a 130 flex on it. Possibly a slight left heel curve, too.
What 3 untouchable prospects do you feel bruins should not trade? - @mike77ca
Sky: Most of the Left wing prospects, really. The position after the NHL guys is getting kind of thin. If I’d had to come up with a list? Probably:
Colin: McAvoy, Donato & Carlo. Defensive depth will be a need after Chara retires and for all his strengths, Krug isn’t a number 1 dman. While Donato is at least a year away from pro hockey, he has really impressed me and his upside is higher than many gave him credit for initially. Bjork is an honorable mention if he can make the jump smoothly. His offensive skills really flashed at Development Camp.
Dan: I’d go with McAvoy, Bjork and Carlo. Yes, two defensemen — trying to prepare for the Chara departure.
Jake: McAvoy, Bjork, Ryan Donato. Each bring tremendous skill to their respective positions. Depth is great, for sure, but what’s depth without maintaining the absolute top level talent you can?
Paul: McAvoy, Zboril, Carlo. Anyone else has their price. It might be a very high one, but they all have one.
Another Mediocre Year? - @jth578
Sky: I’m optimistic and saying 3rd in the Atlantic. Of all the teams in the division, I think Tampa Bay and Toronto are the only real threats. Ottawa’s bubble has to burst eventually, Montreal is currently planning to play their entire season without a center, Buffalo is seriously overvaluing how good certain defensemen on their roster are, and Florida is...well...Florida. What will decide this for good however is if the goaltending issue of “having a competent backup” rears its ugly head again.
Colin: Hard to say, a lot rests on the youth movement and Name’s Bruce (TM) ’s first full year as Head Coach. I think they can be better than most think with a healthy Bergeron & a heavier Pastrnak. If I had to choose, I’d say 3rd/4th in Atlantic behind Tampa, Ottawa and one of Toronto/Florida.
Dan: They’ll be better than last year, I think. As Sky said, the Flortheast isn’t good. If the Bruins had been a little healthier last year, they could’ve made some serious noise in the weak East. Assuming the team gets a slightly better performance from its back-up goalie and can remain reasonably healthy, there’s no reason to believe they can’t do better than last year. A Cup? Nah. Some fun games in April (and maybe early May)? Why not?
Jake: I certainly will commend Don Sweeney for sticking to his plan and not fishing for every enforcer or grinder on the planet. That said, these guys still have a lot to prove. Can some of the young guys make the impact we hope? Who will actually be the backup? Can the backup succeed for the whole season and take some of the load off of Tuukka? If Rask can stay healthy, a backup can get 10 to 15 wins, and the young guns go off, they could be as high as 2nd in my predictions. If not, they don’t even make the playoffs. In actuality? 3rd is the right place for them to land.
Paul: If the young movement plays, then after some early growing pains it could be a good year. Mire themselves in the “we still need McQuaid/GRIT on the bottom lines” and it won’t be. It’s time for B’s to embrace the youth movement fully now and cut the deadwood. If there was a way to get Beleskey out the door, for example, so one of the youngsters could take his spot, do it now.
Is there a price too high for Pasta, and who ends up as backup goalie? -@emerson5watts
Colin: Hard question to answer, as the last thing Bruins fans want is another young, dynamic player leaving the Bruins for little to no return. That being said, keeping things practical, I think anything over $9m is too much. Even with a rising cap and his young age, it’s hard to justify paying Pasta millions more than Marchand, Bergeron etc. As for backup goalie, I think it will be Dobby to start the year but Zane will be the backup before the end of the season. He has progressed each year, and this may be the year he is ready for the NHL.
Sky: Pasta needs money? The team needs him otherwise their next highest scoring player had almost 20 goals less than he did? Helps keep a lucrative agreement with a chinese packing company? I don’t see why a contract comparable to Bergeron/Marchand is out of the question.
As for the backup, I’m assuming Khudobin until proven otherwise. McIntyre/Subban need to have an absolutely light’s out camp or they are not getting this job. They have impressed at the AHL level, their inadequacies have been exposed at the NHL level. They need to be better.
Paul: Yes. No-one is irreplaceable. But that price is not Bergeron/Marchand money-it’s above it. As an elite young star in this league there’s no reason whatsoever Pasta shouldn’t be paid like an elite player already. Right now he’s a B’s legend in the making. He’s also potentially the best Czech forward since Jagr, and that’s worth paying a whole lot of money for.
Backup is...sadly, some might say, going to be Khudobin. He’s the one who’s played the most at NHL level, and in an organisation renowned for taking the safe option when it comes to players he serves no other realistic role. It’s his job to lose.