Category Archives: Boston Bruins Store

Chris Wagner Jersey

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BOSTON — The Boston Bruins re-signed two local players on Wednesday afternoon, inking forwards Charlie Coyle and Chris Wagner to multi-year extensions, according to an official release from the team.

BOSTON – Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney announced today, November 27, that the team has signed forwards Charlie Coyle and Chris Wagner to multi-year contract extensions.

Coyle, a Weymouth native, signed a 6-year deal with an average annual value (AAV) of $5.25 million per season. That extension will carry him through the end of the 2025-2026 season with the black and gold.

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Wagner, a product of Walpole, Mass., will be under contract with the Bruins through the end of the 2022-2023 season after signing a 3-year extension with the team. His deal is worth an AAV of $1.35 million.

The Bruins acquired Coyle, 27, at the 2019 trade deadline from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for fellow local Ryan Donato. Since his acquisition, Coyle has amassed 20 regular-season points — 14 of which have come in 24 games this season.

PREVIOUS: Bruins acquire Charlie Coyle for Ryan Donato in trade with Wild

His nine goals in last year’s Stanley Cup Final run were tied for the team lead. Coyle was set to become an unrestricted free agent at year’s end, but will now receive a significant pay bump from his $3.2 million in salary this season.

Boston Bruins

Wagner, 28, signed a two-year deal with the Bruins in July 2018 after spending four years with three different NHL teams. In his 99 games with Boston thus far, Wagner has 24 points (13-11–24) and led the team with 247 hits a season ago.

The forward’s current deal pays him $1.25 million this season, with his extension keeping him from hitting free agency at the end of the current 2019-2020 season.

Brett Ritchie Jersey

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The Boston Bruins lost five games in a row for the first time under Bruce Cassidy. The middle-six right-winger is a big question mark, but Brett Ritchie doesn’t seem like an answer.
It is what it is. The Bruins have hit five straight losses for the first time under Bruce Cassidy. There was one obvious change Cassidy could have made headed to the back-to-back situation against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but he refused to. Brett Ritchie did little to deserve staying in the lineup.

When a team loses four straight games, especially a demanding team like a Boston Bruins, they naturally look for a slight lineup shakeup. The onlu change Cassidy made was to replace Connor Clifton with John Moore.

St. Louis Blues Pros And Cons From Game 34 Vs.
Chicago

A few eyebrows were raised as Brett Ritchie stayed in the lineup and remained on the second line.

The Bruins have limited possibilities to address this problem. With Zach Senyshyn and Karson Kuhlman injured, the Bruins are short-handed. David Backes returned to the action, and he seemed to click in for a few games.

Backes scored a game-winner against the Canadiens and also looked lively during his next two games versus Carolina and Chicago. Since then, he has been a healthy scratch at the expense of Brett Ritchie. Is that a reason why the Bruins lost the four next games?

No, Backes is not as critical to the Bruins system. For them, it would the best option if the 35-year-old veteran forward was gone for good, and the B’s would clear the salary-cap space. But given the situation as it is, it’s mindblowing that Ritchie stayed in the lineup throughout all four regulation losses, including a back-to-back situation.

After scoring only seven goals in the last four regulation losses, the Bruins need offense, and Brett Ritchie is not bringing what they are looking for.

We also mentioned John Moore, whose place should be taken by Connor Clifton. Moore took two penalties on Thursday in Tampa, and the Bruins gave up goals on both occasions. However, Moore did bounce back with a goal of his own.

Moore managed to bring some offense even after significant shoulder-surgery recovery. On the other hand, Ritchie contributed exactly zero points.

The trade deadline nears. If the Bruins collect another similar five-game losing streak down the stretch, the pressure on acquiring a reliable second-line right-winger will only increase on Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney.

As for Ritchie, he scored in his first shift for the Bruins against his former teammate Ben Bishop. He only has one goal since then, so he doesn’t deserve a top-six spot.

Cassidy sees it too, as Ritchie played only 10:03 versus the Lightning, and averages only 10:36 of the ice-time per game, which is suitable for the fourth-line duties. The Bruins need to find a better and more consistent player to fill that second right wing spot.

Kevan Miller Jersey

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Slowly but surely, the Bruins are climbing their way out of the hospital wing.

And while Thursday is headlined by the return of John Moore, who has missed all 28 games to date this year because of offseason should surgery, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy provided updates on every other walking wounded Bruin.

Top-line center Patrice Bergeron, who will miss his sixth straight contest with a lower-body injury, skated at Warrior Ice Arena earlier this morning, and is inching towards a return to action. The Bruins are taking it as slowly as they can with their first-line pivot (for obvious reasons), but there seems to be a belief that Bergeron will travel with the team when they hit the road next week.

Brett Ritchie, absent for five straight games and 11 of the last 15 overall due to an infection and its lingering side effects, could play if the Bruins need him to, but patience seems to be the name of game with the 6-foot-4 winger, too.

“Part of it is allowing him more practice time,” Cassidy offered. “In terms of medical, he could go play if we needed him to, we’re just not sure his conditioning is at an NHL level right now. So that’s part of the process of getting back into the lineup.

“Some of it has to do with the previous injury; he returned, [then went] back on the injured list. We want to try to make sure we do it right this time by giving him that extra time to get the conditioning right and make sure that whatever’s going on inside of him — because of the exertion — is not going to act up again.”

The Bruins are also expected to see Zach Senyshyn skate at Warrior on Friday, too, according to Cassidy. The 2015 first-round pick has missed the last 10 games due to a lower-body injury, but looked capable in his NHL showings this year, with two assists in four games.

But the updates did come with two downers, as Cassidy noted that Karson Kuhlman (right tibia fracture) is not close to getting back on the ice, and did not have any update of any sort on defenseman Kevan Miller.

“I have nothing on Kevan,” Cassidy offered. “Nothing to report, unfortunately.”

While you’re hoping for the best given his rugged style and presence in the room, it may be time to wonder if Miller is going to come back at any point this year, really, as he’s been completely absent from any on-ice work after suffering a setback last month. This was not the 32-year-old Miller’s first setback in his attempt to return from a twice-broken kneecap, either, and though the Bruins have been more than cautious with Miller’s rehab, the clock is officially ticking when it comes to both his own recovery (this injury and first setback happened over eight months ago) and the timeline for the B’s to work him back into the mix.

The Bruins enter tonight’s game with the Blackhawks with 137 man-games lost to injury on the year.

Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries

Charlie McAvoy Jersey

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Charlie McAvoy is the only Boston Bruins player without a goal yet this season. Why can’t McAvoy find the back of the net?

Charlie McAvoy started this season with sky-high expectations for the Boston Bruins. He was clearly the team’s best all-around defenseman, and consequently some people pegged him as an early Norris Trophy favorite.

Now, 23 games into the regular season, we all still wait for McAvoy to reach his peak, at least when it comes to his offense.

McAvoy is the only Bruins player without a goal this season. Everybody else, including fourth liners and bottom-pair defenders, scored at least one goal.

That’s not to say McAvoy hasn’t had many chances. In fact, he’s had a number of good looks, but he can’t snag his first.

All these chances seemed to culminate Saturday night against the Minnesota Wild when the Bruins had the ultra-rare three-on-zero opportunity. That’s right, three Bruins players with only the goalie to beat.

Brad Marchand skated down the left wing and then dished a pass to McAvoy out front. It looked like McAvoy had an easy one-time goal, but Wild goalie Alex Stalock somehow made the save.

After this denial, McAvoy had a couple more chances that all came up short. He finished with two shots on goal and a few that missed the net.

The game against the Wild pretty much sums up McAvoy’s season so far on the offensive front. Even when he has an straightforward opportunity, he can’t seem to score.

As the old saying goes, McAvoy can’t buy a goal right now.

Why doesn’t McAvoy have a goal yet this year? Honestly, a lot of it is puck luck.

McAvoy now has 25 shots and over 50 attempts without a goal. Based on his shooting percentage over the past two years, we’d expect him to have two or three goals. Instead, he has zero.

We have to consider McAvoy’s place in the lineup as well. Alongside Zdeno Chara, McAvoy faces tough matchups at even strength every night. We can’t expect him to score a lot when he consistently goes against top forwards.

That’s why McAvoy, even without a goal, still makes a big difference for the Bruins. He can negate opposing attacks, as we saw when he matched up against Alex Ovechkin last weekend.

Also, one last thing: think about McAvoy’s role on the power play. Torey Krug‘s presence in the lineup means that McAvoy plays on the second unit. He therefore doesn’t see a ton of power play time, and when he does, it isn’t with Boston’s best forwards.

McAvoy isn’t exactly a premier scorer from the blueline. He only had seven goals each of the last two seasons. He’s more of an all-around, two-way defender who goes out there to stop opposing attacks.

That said, McAvoy clearly has the skills to put up more points. Expect him to turn things around soon. He’s too good not to.

Torey Krug Jersey

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All it took was one breathtaking rush up the ice in overtime last weekend for Torey Krug to show exactly what he means to the Boston Bruins.

Clearly it was more than that with Krug posting three points, six shots on net and a plus-2 in 20:26 of ice time in the 5-4 overtime win, his first game in nearly two weeks due to an upper body injury, but the 28-year-old defenseman showed exactly what kind of impact he’s capable of with the end-to-end rush and big offensive night while balancing that with his usual top-4 defenseman duties.

“Torey was good. He had to kill a lot of penalties, which coming off a five-game layoff isn’t ideal. Zee (Chara) got whistled a few times tonight so, we’re a little bit shorthanded in that regard in terms of how they try to generate on the power play. [The Wild have] got bigger bodies up front so, Griz (Grzelyck) and Kampfer and Krug had their hands full,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I think it was seven by the end of the night. I can’t remember the last time we had to kill seven [penalties], so that’s a lot or work for them.

“It’s good that he had a little left in the tank offensively at the end of the night and he played to his strength at the end and finished well. Had a nice spurt through the middle, obviously that took a little bit of conditioning to be able to do that at the end of the game. Clearly he looked after himself while he was out.”

But a funny thing happened for the five-game stretch when Krug was out with an upper body injury. Matt Grzelcyk stepped up in the absence of Krug, played in his spot as Brandon Carlo’s defensive partner and upped his offensive game in the void left by Krug. Grzelcyk posted two goals, four points and a plus-3 rating in the five games along with eight shots on net, and averaged well over 20 minutes of ice time during that stretch.

Where does Marchand rank among NHL’s top LW?
The 25-year-old Grzelcyk might not have been everything that Krug is for the Bruins, particularly on the power play, but his performance gives the Bruins something to think about with Krug in the last year of his contract with the B’s. Krug will easily be able to demand $7 million-plus per season based on the contracts handed out to Thomas Chabot (eight years, $64 million), Roman Josi (eight years, $72.4 million) and Jared Spurgeon (seven years, $53 million) over the last couple of months, and it remains to be seen if the Bruins will be able to afford that kind of contract.

But it was noticeable that Grzelcyk shot the puck with greater frequency in Krug’s stead and stepped up his offense to the point where he’s on a pace to post career highs on offense with seven goals and 25 points.

“I think he’s a little more comfortable where he knows the plays that are there that we’re trying to run. He hasn’t had a ton of practice time [on the top PP] either, so I just think from being here, just doing it in the game, he’ll watch [Torey] Krug. He’s been on that unit a little bit before. [Against Buffalo] he was able to get in all alone, make a few, didn’t hesitate to shoot, one of them led to a goal and on one he scored himself,” said Cassidy. “He kept the puck alive, so yeah, he’s taken on a little bit more [responsibility]. As long as he doesn’t overdo it — I think that’s a group that functions as a group of five for the most part.”

Both the Bruins and Torey Krug’s camp have engaged in discussions on a contract extension since prior to the season once things got done with McAvoy and Carlo on contracts, but there’s been no indication they are anywhere close on a new deal. Part of that is about the Bruins evaluating what else they hold organizationally on the back end, and forecasting how readily they can replace everything that Krug gives them at both ends of the ice.

Bruins unveil sharp new alternate jerseys
Is it conceivable that Grzelcyk can really take a leap forward and do everything that Krug is able to do in quarterbacking a power play, absorbing top-4 minutes and doing it with consistency year-in and year-out?

That’s not going to be easy given that Krug has been one of the most productive NHL defensemen over the last three seasons, right up there with other elite D-men like Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns and John Klingberg. It’s also in question whether Grzelcyk has the same kind of dangerous shot from the point that Krug has featured since coming into the league.

What it does do is give the Bruins a backup plan should they decide they are unable to afford Krug, or even allow Bruins management at some point this season to explore dealing the offensive defenseman for whatever serious value he could yield in return. The calculus for keeping Krug comes down to whether the Bruins believe they can replace his offense with the continued development of Grzelcyk, Charlie McAvoy and Urho Vaakanainen, or whether the 10 goals and 50 points per season and explosive playmaking is something that only Krug can provide.

So far McAvoy and Vaakanainen haven’t really lived up to their end of the bargain this season when it comes to giving the Bruins confidence they can thrive in a post-Krug world, but the recent performance of Grzelcyk at least gives them something to think about.

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Connor Clifton Jersey

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The Boston Bruins have a real dilemma on their hands when it comes to their blue-line, with Connor Clifton now requiring waivers to be shifted from the roster.
In playing his 60th game for the Boston Bruins, suddenly Connor Clifton becomes a lot harder to juggle between Providence and Boston, although that hasn’t exactly been a play of Bruins GM, Don Sweeney this year anyway.

There will however be a real asset management issue to deal with very shortly, with some juggling most definitely required if the Boston Bruins want to maintain the veteran defensive depth they have.

Should Kevan Miller and John Moore return to action soon, suddenly the Boston Bruins will have to find a way to fit Connor Clifton, Matt Grzelcyk, Steven Kampfer, Moore and Miller onto the roster. That’s five guys into two spots, as there’s next to zero chance that Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo or Torey Krug get cycled into any rotation.

My gut feeling is that the former captain of the Quinnipiac University team is retained by the Bruins at any cost. If that means that the 24 year-old Connor Clifton is retained in the line-up over the veteran presence of Kevan Miller, so be it.

Connor Clifton, in his time with the Boston Bruins, has more than proven that he belongs in the NHL. His head coach has faith in him as you can by the ice-time he receives; he tallied 16:56 against the Montreal Canadiens last night.

What’s more; he has shown growing maturity and development as a National Hockey League player. Of the penalty minutes he’s taken in his young NHL regular season career, only 6 of the 21 have come this season; a vested improvement on the 15 minutes he took in less games last year.

Having missed just two games for the Bruins all season, it’d be hugely disappointing if Connor Clifton doesn’t remain with the team. Realistically, I don’t see any way you can try to sneak him through waivers; by allowing him his 60th game, Don Sweeney has essentially told the player he’s sticking with the big club.

The far wiser decision, albeit the one that will certainly irk people who believe all veteran players deserve respect and to be treated with the utmost class would be to send Kevan Miller, John Moore or Steven Kampfer through waivers when everyone is back from injury.

For a player that was an NHL long shot just over a year or so ago, Connor Clifton has proven he is no flash in the pan. He has firmly laid claim to a spot on at least the third pairing and is very much a part of the Boston Bruins blue-line these days.

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Zdeno Chara and Brandon Carlo aren’t a usual pair for the Boston Bruins. Here why they should be against the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Boston Bruins play the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night for their first matchup of the season. After weekend wins against the Rangers and Canadiens, the Bruins look to make it three-for-three against Original Six opponents.

The Blackhawks come to town with a few familiar faces, but they are far from the juggernaut to which we grew accustomed. This is especially the case when it comes to their depleted offense.

Through 27 games this year, Chicago only scored 74 goals. That’s 25th in the league.

Patrick Kane leads the way with 33 points, but there’s a big drop after him. Alex DeBrincat is second with 19 points, and Dylan Strome is next with 17.

Kane, DeBrincat, and Strome usually play on the same line, so the offense is top-heavy. If you can shut that line down, you can shut the Blackhawks down.

This makes the gameplan pretty straightforward for the Bruins. They can counter Chicago’s top line with Zdeno Chara and either Charlie McAvoy or Brandon Carlo.

McAvoy usually is Chara’s partner, but given Chicago’s team structure, Carlo looks to be the better option. He and Chara have the potential to a true shutdown pair.

This season, McAvoy’s CF is only 49.7%, while Carlo’s CF is 52.8%. And that’s with Torey Krug instead of Chara as his most-frequent partner. Carlo’s combination of size and skating makes him a beast defensively, at even strength and on the penalty kill.

Carlo and Chara together can take up a ton of space on the ice, and they can matchup against virtually and line. So, when the Bruins face a team that relies so much on one line, Carlo and Chara can truly make the difference.

At the same time, if Carlo plays with Chara, McAvoy has the chance to lineup with either Krug or Matt Grzelcyk. We already described before why McAvoy and Grzelcyk make a great pair. The same holds true with McAvoy and Krug.

Right away, most assume that McAvoy and Krug will be a nightmare defensively. That’s not really the case. McAvoy’s more than capable on the defensive side of things, while Krug too is reliable. They may not be overly big or physical, but they won’t make a ton of mistakes.

Instead, they can use their speed and offensive skills to push the pace. Krug and McAvoy both can retrieve the puck in the defensive zone and lead a breakout. They can share responsibility in this role, something they cannot do now with Chara and Carlo.

With the last change on home ice, Cassidy can also make sure Krug and McAvoy (or Grzelcyk and McAvoy) get offensive zone starts. This can help them generate scoring opportunities off faceoffs.

Rolling with Chara and Carlo and then Krug and McAvoy gives the Bruins a better chance against a team like the Blackhawks. The Bruins are fortunate to have great versatility on the backend, so Cassidy must take advantage.

The Blackhawks won’t have this kind of luxury on Thursday night. Their defense group isn’t great to begin with, but now they’ll play without Duncan Keith. He leads the Blackhawks in ice time, and he always take the toughest matchups.

Keith’s absence means that Chicago will have to counter the Bruins with a weakened defense. That usually spells bad news.

We don’t need stats to tell us that the Bruins offense is good. Really good. Boston is second in the league with 101 goals scored. Three players average a point per game. Patrice Bergeron won’t be in the lineup against Chicago, but David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand will be there.

Another player, David Krejci, has 21 points in 22 games, and there are six more players with double-digit point totals.

While the Bruins look to have an answer for Chicago’s top forwards, the Blackhawks probably have no answers for Boston’s. All these will make a big difference Thursday night in Boston.

Milan Lucic Jersey

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Take a quick glance at the NHL standings and it is easy to conclude that the Edmonton Oilers have put themselves in a pretty good position.

They are just two points out of first place in the Pacific Division, and after a disastrous meltdown in 2018-19 it would seem first-year coach Dave Tippett and new general manager Ken Holland have made some significant strides this year. But the current standings are only a history of what has already happened. They tell us nothing about what will happen — or is likely to happen — in the future.

When you dig a little deeper than just the win-loss record it becomes really hard to be optimistic about the direction this season could take. And before you argue that the record is all that matters and the team is playing better, keep in mind they are only one point better after 34 games than they were a year ago (40 points this year vs. 39 points a year ago).

All of the same flaws that have plagued the Oilers still exist today, and without some sort of a major change they could be headed toward the same fate as last year’s team.

It’s Still McDavid and Draisaitl or bust offensively
Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are two of the best offensive players in the league, and when they are on the ice together they are the best duo the league has seen in decades. But the second the Oilers take them off the ice the team’s lack of depth is exposed and they are unable to compete. It’s been a problem for two years and is somehow even worse this season.

Just consider…

When one of McDavid or Draisaitl is on the ice during 5-on-5 play the Oilers have a plus-5 goal differential. Not great, but at least on the positive side. At this time a year ago it was plus-11.
When both of them are on the ice their goal differential is a plus-6. At this time a year ago it was plus-10.
When neither is on the ice their goal differential is minus-17. At this time a year ago it was only minus-7.
When neither player is on the ice the Oilers are averaging just 1.46 goals per 60 minutes. That is a drop from the same point a year ago when they were averaging 1.65 goals. Last year’s number was awful. This year’s is worse.
They attempted to address the scoring depth issue by adding James Neal from Calgary. While he has been better than Milan Lucic offensively, he has cooled off considerably after a white-hot start that seemed to be the beginning of a bounce-back year.

He has just six goals in his past 26 games, while almost all of his production this year has been power play dependent (when he is with McDavid and/or Draisaitl). During 5-on-5 play his overall play has become a hot mess. Once you get beyond McDavid, Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins there is not another forward on the roster that is capable of driving a line on their own.

They still can not stop anybody
When it comes to goals against the Oilers have shown marginal improvement this season. Probably not enough to matter (still 18th in goals against per game), and it’s not the type of improvement they should be relying on to continue because it is entirely dependent on goaltending.

Almost all of that improvement is the result of Mikko Koskinen playing better than expected over the first month of the season in net and masking the team’s many defensive flaws.

When it comes to shot attempts against, scoring chances against, and their ability to control the puck the Oilers remain one of the league’s worst teams. They are still lacking impact players on the blue line, and if their goaltending is not flawless (and it often isn’t) they do not have much of a chance to win.

Mike Smith is in the middle of his second straight sub-par season, while Koskinen has already started to show some signs of regression over his past few starts. If the goaltending doesn’t hold up things could quickly derail.

It’s all starting to catch up them already

The lack of forward depth. The lack of a true No. 1 (or even No. 2) NHL defenseman. The mediocre goaltending.

All of it.

Since starting the season by winning seven of their first eight games, the Oilers have gone 11-11-4 in the 26 games that have followed, including a 2-5-1 mark in their most recent seven-game stretch. While they remain in second place in the Pacific, they are still only four points ahead of the first non-playoff team (a Vancouver team that has two games in hand). On top of that, their upcoming schedule doesn’t get any easier as the next seven games are against Toronto, Dallas, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Montreal, Vancouver, and Calgary. If they can not successfully navigate through that stretch it is going to leave them in a tough spot where they might be in danger of wasting another fast start to the season.

What that change might be is hard to determine. It’s still a matter of talent and not having enough of it. There is only so much a coach can do with no forward depth and no top defenders. And there is only so much a GM can do to make changes when there are so few assets to trade.

In the end, it all goes back to the mess the previous front office left behind and is a reminder as to how much work Ken Holland still has to do in fixing it.

Fernie Flaman Jersey

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The Boston Bruins and the hockey world lost one of the all time greats on June 22, 2012. Fernie Flaman has never been a household name with the likes of Eddie Shore, Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito or even Dit Clapper. However he was one of the toughest defencemen to skate against, which has been confirmed by legends such as Gordie Howe and Jean Beliveau. He never lifted the cup over his head with the Bruins; however, when the Bruins traded him to the Maple Leafs during the 1951 season, he finally got his name etched on the Cup. Flaman never put up large numbers during his career, but his hard nosed play and shear intimidation earned him the honors of being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1990.

Flaman ended his 17 year career with 34 goals, 176 assists and 1,370 penalty minutes in 910 games. It wasn’t Flaman’s job to score goals. He was on the ice to stop his opponents from scoring by delivering one of the hardest body checks in the league and blocking shot after shot. After Flaman was done tenderizing his opponents they didn’t even want to pass through his blue line knowing he was right there waiting for them. During the 1954-55 season he led the league in penalty minutes with 150 proving time after time how gritty he was.

After his NHL career came to an end, Flaman played for the AHL’s Providence Reds where he was still the best defenceman on the team as a player/coach/general manager. He played three more years with the Reds until he decided to retire and take his knowledge to coaching only. He didn’t have a lot of success as a coach until he took the head coaching position at Northeastern University. During his time with the Huskies he had a sub .500 record of 255-301–23, however he won the Hockey East Championship in 1988-89.

Fernie Flaman continued to live a life of hockey into his earlier eighties where he occasionally did scouting for the New Jersey Devils. He was a player, coach, general manager and scout, but most importantly an ambassador for the game of hockey.

Career Achievements:

5 time NHL all star (second team 1955, 1957, 1958)

Stanley Cup Champion (1951)

Bruins captain (1955-1961)

Hall of Fame inductee (1990)

4 Time Beanpot Champion as a coach for the Northeastern Huskies (1979, 1983, 1984, 1987)

Hockey East Champion as a coach for the Northeastern Huskies (1989)

***

Ferdinand Charles Flaman (1927-2012)

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Welcome to “My Favorite Goal,” a regular feature from NBC Sports where our writers and personalities remember the goals that have meant the most to them. These goals have left a lasting impression and there’s a story behind each one.

Today, RotoWorld’s Ryan Dadoun remembers Tomas Hertl‘s four-goal night against the Rangers, which he capped off with a between-the-legs beauty.

When I’m watching a sporting event, any sporting event, I want to see creativity and emotion. As someone in his mid-30s who has spent his whole life in Toronto, one of the most memorable sporting moments I have is Jose Bautista’s bat flip. It perfectly embodied the jubilation and release of frustration that the city was feeling at that time. It also drew ire from some who viewed it as disrespectful. That argument has always rubbed me the wrong way, which leads me to my favorite goal, Tomas Hertl’s fourth against the New York Rangers on Oct. 8th, 2013.

It was a between-the-legs, top shelf goal on Martin Biron and while Hertl didn’t do anything as dramatic as flip his stick after the goal, he was clearly thrilled and the goal itself, some would argue, was needlessly fancy. Plus, Hertl’s San Jose Sharks had a 7-2 lead in the third period even before that goal. If there were people who took issue with Bautista showing that level of emotion after nailing a critical home run in a playoff game, you can imagine that there were people who took issue with Hertl’s actions for a needless goal in an early October contest.

Hall of Famer Adam Oates, who was the head coach of the Washington Capitals at that time, was one of the most famous ones to object to Hertl’s goal.

“I’m upset. I was just talking to George [McPhee] and he said all the kids do that nowadays, which I understand. But would he have done it on his first goal?” Oates said in 2013 via the Washington Post. “He hasn’t scored yet tonight and he gets a breakaway, is he going to do that on his breakaway? We’ll see.

“I think it was a little bit of a mood thing, which I’m sure they talked about, because they didn’t play him after that. I’m glad the coach did that because this league, it will bite you if you’re not sharp. Don’t disrespect the league. I’m sure it was a rookie mistake.”

Don Cherry was the other huge voice against Hertl’s celebration.

“There’s been a lot said about a lot of things, but let me say something: If the score [had] been 1-1, I would have said ‘Hey, what a goal!’ But I want you people out there to think about this: I want you think if Martin Biron was your son or your brother in an 8-2 [game], and everybody’s laughing at him,” Cherry said of Hertl, per Yahoo Sports.

He added, “I’m going to say something about the kid. He didn’t think he did anything wrong. He played in the Czech Republic last year. This is what they do. You can see him laughing at it. He didn’t understand. And kids, you don’t do that.”

With Cherry’s far more recent comments in the back of our minds, let’s awkwardly side step his assertion that Hertl didn’t know any better because he had been playing in the Czech Republic and instead look at the other argument: What if Biron was your brother? The Sharks had already won that game, so what purpose did Hertl’s goal serve other than to humiliate your theoretical brother?

Well, first off, your brother is a professional player getting well compensated to compete, not just for the sake of competing, but for the entertainment of others. The entire economy of the sport that allows these players to make the big bucks is based around the idea that they’re fun to watch. That people are willing to pay good money to watch them play. So entertainment value has meaning in and of itself and while you’re naturally rooting for your brother’s success every time he’s involved in a play, you have to be prepared to take some bad with the good, given how much the good outweighs the bad in this situation.

Obviously these are human beings we’re talking about, not just vehicles for entertainment. They deserve to be treated with respect. That’s why things like prioritizing player safety and weeding out abusive coaches is so important. The emotions of the moment can only excuse so much. Even so, there is still room for players to express joy and creativity even at the risk of some other players having their feelings hurt in the moment.

Secondly, the goal wasn’t completely meaningless. While it didn’t impact the outcome of the game, it does have historical and more immediate context that’s fun to get into. It was a four-goal game scored in just Hertl’s third career contest. It came immediately after he scored two goals on Oct. 5th, giving him at the time six goals in three career games. It was fun to think about what the future might hold for him and the fact that he scored on a fancy move highlighted an extra level of skill that made him all the more worth tuning in to going forward, again tying back into the entertainment value that’s leading to the big bucks being made.

The move itself also makes the moment memorable. It turned what would have been a relatively meaningless blowout win in early October into a game we remember. It was something a little different, something a little fresh. Maybe that’s because older players have learned to show more restraint, but maybe rather than that being a knock on Hertl’s youth, it’s a knock on the conformity in the league. The idea that you shouldn’t give your all to score because you already have a big lead or the idea that you shouldn’t be celebratory when you score your fourth goal because it didn’t meaningfully impact the score itself just feels a little lifeless to me. You’re losing a little something special in the process.

Four goals is special. It’s worth trying for, for its own sake. Fancy goals are interesting and could throw off goaltenders. It’s worth attempting them from time-to-time. And I’d argue that celebrations are worth having when something big, like scoring fourth goal in a single game at the age of 19, happens. Rather than demean players, it humanizes the sport and shows that these are real people with real feelings playing the game, even if in the process some feelings might unfortunately get a little hurt. Though to that point, hurt feelings can also lead to fierce rivalries, which help make sports as worth watching as they are.

It’s worth adding that while there were some big names who were against Hertl’s celebration, he did have one big defense. Joe Thornton made a NSFW comment that arguably ended up being more famous than the goal itself. Those comments also ended up sparking another separate controversy about when a reporter should regard what’s being said in a locker room as off the record.

Another person whose take is interesting is the person on the receiving end of the goal, Biron. He enjoyed a 508-game NHL career and Hertl’s goal was scored in his 507th contest. Rather than be upset with the goal specifically, Biron was more upset with his play and the situation he was in with the Rangers at the twilight of his career.

“Our bench were going to gun for him, obviously, because it’s 8-2, he scored four goals, and he’s celebrating like he just won the Stanley Cup,” Biron told The Athletic in 2018. “I didn’t really realize (Hertl) celebrating too much, but I know that our players after the game said some of the veterans like Couture and Joe (Thornton) got up over the bench and said don’t worry, we’ll talk to him. … The (Sharks) veterans were like, we know he overdid it.

“But the kid was young, his family was in the stands, it’s exciting. I get that. There’s a bit of old school/new school (debate) that goes into that. So I wasn’t mad because of the goal itself. It was more the situation. It was kind of the beginning of the end. I played in St. Louis a few days later and it didn’t go well, and I was like, it’s time to move on.”

As for Hertl, that four-goal game offered a window into his potential. In the years that followed, there would be growing pains, until he really began to click late in 2017-18 and then broke out in 2018-19 with 35 goals and 74 points in 77 games. He’s carried that success into this season as well and is now one of the cornerstones of the Sharks’ offense. He even added two more hat tricks back in January, but for me that fourth goal back in 2013 remains the most memorable moment of his career, both for what it was and for the discuss it sparked.