Welcome to ESPNBoston.com's inaugural Bruins Mailbag, in which readers weigh in on losing Marc Savard for the season, wonder about GM Peter Chiarelli's next move (puck-moving defenseman, please), and comment on the Bruins' suddenly feisty ways. Check out what's on readers' minds:
Q. Hey guys, what's up with all the fighting lately? Love it. That said, I'm sure the Canadiens aren't too happy with some of the Bruins big boys going after non-fighters. You think Boston was just fed up with Montreal and didn't care who got the worst of it? -- Tim J. (Boston)
A. I really don't know where all the fighting came from, but I like it. I'm not advocating violence here, but I'd rather see things settled with a fight than with a possible career-threatening cheap-shot. The TD Garden has been rocking and the Bruins are big and bad again. I think the Bruins were definitely sending a message Wednesday night against the Habs, and it was heard! I'm told their general manager, Pierre Gauthier, was running a phone bill Wednesday night and Thursday to trade for some grit and toughness. They may face the Bruins in the playoffs, and if they want to win they need to get tougher.
Q. So I hate to be depressing and all that stuff, but do you think this is the last year we will see Marc Savard with a spoked B on his chest? Also, with that being said, do the Bruins try to keep the team as is moving into the playoffs? -- Jesse (Cape Cod)
A. It's OK to ask that and it is depressing, but it is reality. I believe there is a very good chance that Savard is done for good. From the sources I have spoken to, the plan seems to be for Savard to wait until at least the summer before he can even try light workouts. Then if things go well, he'll possibly come to training camp. If that goes well, he'll play in preseason for a final decision to be made. Savard will then have to decide if he can go on or if he will accept an insurance payout. If he does accept a payout, he cannot play in the NHL again unless he pays back the money in full -- as former Bruins defenseman Bryan Berard once did.
Q. Everyone says the Bruins need a puck-moving D-man. But in reality, everyone's looking for one. What/who could we realistically (which is a foreign term in Boston sports) expect for the B's to target and what would they be willing to give up? -- Jessee (Connecticut)
A. I think anyone and any type of deal is fair game now that Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli has gone on record as saying that he will deal Toronto's 2011 first-round pick if necessary. That creates a whole new group of players the Bruins can acquire. Not only can the Bruins get depth scoring or depth defense but a game-changer possibly at both positions. I think Chiarelli does that on the blue line in the form of a puck-mover like Tomas Kaberle or a similar player. Keep an eye on blueliners Brent Burns in Minnesota and Zach Bogosian in Atlanta.
As for what the Bruins will give up? I think they do their best to just use picks and prospects so as not to disrupt chemistry, but you have to think Mark Stuart is gone with this recent streak of healthy scratches, and I think Johnny Boychuk, Andrew Ference, Michael Ryder and Blake Wheeler are possibilities as well.
Q. Do you think the Bruins will be looking for somebody new now that Marc Savard is done for the season? If so, what do they really need? Puck-moving defenseman? Forwards?I really hope they don't throw away their early pick for some player that only plays for the remainder of the season. The Bruins are in a position where they can actually make a run at the cup AND have a great future, with their early pick and all. What do you think they will do? -- Enstrom (Sweden)
A. I recently discussed this in a blog post following Marc Savardï¿½s announcement that he is done for the season. I think the Bruins need to be in now mode and try to go for the Cup at any possible cost. If that means using the arsenal of picks and prospects that they have, then so be it. But if they were able to go out and acquire someone like Thrashers defenseman like Zach Bogosian, who is only 20, they'd essentially be getting a young roster prospect that already has experience. It's almost like drafting a young stud defenseman. So maybe that's the route they take to stay young but win now.
Q. I know this question might sound "insensitive" but I feel it merits consideration. Are the Bruins a better team without Savard? I know some analysts talked about how he "seemed to be rounding the corner" and developing back into the playmaker he's always been, but I've got to say I don't think he was remotely close to being the same player I've seen in recent years. -- C-Bone (Afghanistan)
A. First off, I take it if you're in Afghanistan you're serving our country, and for that I sincerely thank you. I was raised by a US Marine and have family and friends serving as I write this.
Now to your question, which is very legit. All I can tell you is what I know, and what I know is that as far as Savard the person goes, he has changed a lot since coming to Boston and even more so since the Cooke hit. He appreciates life and hockey and has been nothing but accessible to most media and myself. I commend him for that.
As for Savard the player, since the Cooke hit, the playmaking, game-changing Savard we all knew and loved to watch has been gone in my eyes. He himself admitted as much, saying that the game is too fast for him now and it was painfully evident on the ice during his 25 games this season. Therefore, he was a liability to not only himself but also his teammates. So with that being said, for now, yes, the Bruins are better with him not on the ice. They also got some much-needed cap space to play with from putting him on long-term injury reserve.
Q. You can see Tyler Seguin's potential (speed, good shot, etc.), but to me he looks over-matched right now. Do you think he'll end up contributing more as the season goes along? What do you see when he's out on the ice? -- GT (Connecticut)
A. I see the same as you. There are glimpses of brilliance and potential but it's not there enough right now and that's why Seguin recently found himself watching from the press box. Without getting into what I think they should have done with Seguin, I will say that he needs way more seasoning than maybe some in the organization expected, and since Peter Chiarelli has pretty much ruled out a two-week conditioning stint in Providence, the seasoning needs to happen at the NHL level. I appreciate a few scratches for anyone to get a different view, but the kid needs to play!
Q. What can the Bruins do to adjust when opposing teams target their penchant for the D-to-D pass? The Feb. 5 game against San Jose looked like the playoff loss to Carolina -- the B's were lost when the two-man forecheck attacked that D-to-D pass? Can't they look more north/south in their passing game? -- Mike Z. (Derry, N.H.)
A. Well I think there are two things that need to happen here and I completely agree with your observation. First off, the forwards need to do a much better job of helping the defense out to get that north-south game going. Both Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton have on more than one occasion pointed to themselves in this area, and they're right. When players like them help out more, that north-south game is going. The second approach, and I know it's everywhere right now, is to go get that puck-moving defenseman. He will help the situation tremendously. Steven Kampfer is solid but not ready to be the man yet.
Q. Do you expect the Bruins to give Tuukkaa Rask a little more time over the rest of the season? It's hard with how good Tim Thomas has been, but I worry a little about over-working him -- and it wouldn't hurt for Rask to be in better game shape in case they need him. -- Big H (New Haven)
A. I would hope they do give Rask more playing time because you need not look further than last season, when Rask -- at 22 then and much younger than the 36-year old Thomas now -- ran out of gas himself. Thomas has a history himself of wearing out, as would any human being put through the rigors of being an NHL goalie. So I think the Bruins are aware of this and you will see more of Rask. Let's not forget either that Thomas is coming off hip surgery, and while that doctor who did the surgery has probably seen business rise drastically, Thomas' performance could drop if the Bruins aren't careful. I'm guessing they will be, though.
Q. Has there been a bigger surprise this year than Adam McQuad? He's really solid all the way around. -- JT (Maine)
A. I agree McQuaid has been a very pleasant surprise (except for maybe Mark Stuart) and is starting to show a bit of an offensive side as well, but the pesky Brad Marchand now has 15 goals as I write this and if we're talking rookies, then he gets the nod for biggest surprise. But let's all be real here, if we're talking overall: Tim Thomas has to be the biggest surprise in the NHL. Everyone (myself included) had him traded or written off, and Thomas has proven the critics wrong. He's done it throughout his career and I don't know anyone except maybe my colleague Joe McDonald who thought he would do it again. But that being said, I'm pretty sure no one expected the historical run he is on.
Q. Is Greg Campbell signed past this season? He's been great this season. -- Rick (Natick)
A. Gregory Campbell has one more season left at $1.1 million. If the Bruins are smart, they'll talk extension with him over the summer. He really has been, to this point and ironically, the better part of the Horton trade. Horton is starting to come on strong again, but Campbell has been a very versatile and valuable player for the Bruins.
Q. So if the season ended today, the Bruins and Canadiens would play in round 1 of the playoffs. How great would that be? That said, I'm still not sure they're the best matchup for Boston. -- Walter (Natick)
A. Not sure you read my tweets but if you do, you know I am a huge fan of the city of Montreal and have plenty of friends there so selfishly I am all for a seven-game series with the Habs! But that being said, there really is nothing like Habs-Bruins, as Wednesday night's mayhem and 8-6 Bruins win proved. To see the smile on Cam Neely's face and then have him tell me after that crazy second period that "it feels like the late-'80s" was great. I grew up going to the Bruins games at the old Boston Garden with my late grandfather and somewhere in heaven he and all hockey fans were smiling down on that game! I think a Habs-Bruins series would be great for fans and great for the NHL.
As for your other point about it not being the best matchup, I agree and disagree. The Bruins proved Wednesday night that they can outmuscle and out-fight the Habs, but there isn't much fighting in the playoffs. There is a whole new level of physicality, though, so that benefits the Bruins. But the Canadiens' speed and Carey Price scare me if I am the Bruins. I know Price let in eight goals but that game was an exception. He is on his game this season, and after all he has been through in his short career, I see a guy that could use the playoffs to prove all the critics wrong. Of course, the Bruins have a guy doing that right now in Tim Thomas.
Q. Isn't it about time Brad Marchand starts to get mentioned in Calder talk? He might have been the Bruins' best player on the ice last night against Montreal. When the B's talk about Seguin being more involved, Marchand is exhibit A of that. -- Nick T. (Hartford)
A. Completely agree with you and I think the NHL is starting to take notice. This kid has been unreal in my eyes. He came in and established himself as the agitator the Bruins wanted him to be, but he has done so much more. Obviously the 15 goals is the biggest surprise, but Marchand has been the complete package and, yes, a perfect example to Seguin and other rookies of what hard work does.
James Murphy covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. Ask a question for his next Bruins mailbag here.