NOTE: The following was a response to a Joe Haggerty article written prior to the start of the 2013 NHL season, and is reposted today after none of his confident predictions came true.
Some might know Joe Haggerty as Comcast SportNet New England's Bruins beat writer. Others might know him from his appearances on 98.5 The Sports Hub, a Boston radio station. Frankly, until today, I hadn't heard of Joe Haggerty at all. But when you write a column anointing the Bruins as 2013 Stanley Cup Champions, with no ‘ifs' or ‘buts', you're sure to get backlash, specifically from across the border. To be fair, the B's winning it all isn't too far-fetched - they are clearly a good team - it's not like saying it'll be the Wild or anything. But it's still bold. This is a man whose twitter bio reads simply: "I want people to see me walk down the street and say ‘there goes Joe Haggerty, the best sportswriter there ever was.'" That's quite something. Taking only one piece of writing as evidence - unfair as that may be - let's see how Mr. Haggerty is doing.
"The Boston Bruins are going to be the team raising the Stanley Cup when this 48-game shortened season comes to an end in June."
The same bold conviction that emanates from his bio is evident here as well. Okay, Hacks, let's see if you can back this up.
"It will be the second Cup championship in three years for the Black and Gold, and it will cement Boston's status as an elite franchise worthy of being mentioned in the same lofty air of respect as organizations in Detroit and Pittsburgh."
I don't know what Haggerty's definition of an "elite franchise" is, but the Wings haven't missed the playoffs since 1990, winning four cups along the way. The Penguins bottomed out four years in a row and then almost relocated, before their current spell of success - which includes only one Cup, by the way. The Bruins are on the verge of what, now?
"There will be small valleys along the way and pockets of adversity through the four-month regular season for Boston, of course."
They won't go undefeated. Good to know.
"The Buffalo Sabres and Montreal Canadiens have armed themselves for classic Adams Division bloodbaths. Stocking up on 6-foot-8 fighting beasts like John Scott, and sandpaper irritants like Colby Armstrong. Brandon Prust, will make the Habs more combative. Steve Ott will turn the Sabres into even more of annoying gnat than Patrick Kaleta could have ever dreamed about."
For eight minutes a game, there will be some fighting. How about the players that matter?
"So it will be a battle to win the division for the fourth time in the last five seasons, but it's the kind of brass knuckles brawl that the Bruins prefer."
Okay, apparently the other players aren't worth mentioning. The Northeast division is host to snipers like Phil Kessel, playmakers like Jason Spezza, and goalies like Carey Price and Ryan Miller. But of course, it's John Scott and his 6:42 TOI per game that will make this a battle.
"The willingness of the Bruins' divisional opponents to play their style and engage them on the level they prefer will just help them capture the division in the end."
The Canadiens are the shortest team in the NHL, and the third lightest. I don't think they're about to take after the Bruins' "style" anytime soon.
"Teams like the Sabres and Canadiens weren't built to play that kind of game, while ‘team toughness' is the mantra that guided the Bruins to their Stanley Cup championship."
Team toughness sounds nice and all, but what won the Bruins their Stanley Cup was having a ridiculous 5v5 plus minus per 60 minutes (1.5) in the playoffs, a goalie playing out of his mind, and an insane amount of injury luck. But toughness though.
"Like rolling through the division, the Bruins will also capture the top honors in the Eastern Conference and threaten for their first President's Trophy since the 1989-90 edition that made the Cup Finals before falling to the Gretzky-less Edmonton Oilers."
"The advantages for the Bruins in this shortened campaign are many: They have the continuity of virtually the same roster, with the same coach, and the same offensive and defensive systems with little change from the way they've done business over the last five years."
So do Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Los Angeles, and Vancouver. You know, those teams that all have a shot at the Cup. I'm still not seeing this. Oh, and the Rangers got better.
"You're going to see a good team," said Peter Chiarelli of the Bruins team he built. "You're going to see a highly motivated team."
Should we give ‘em Cup rings now or later?
"Both goaltenders also return after appearing in games for the Bruins last season."
Try "The Bruins also return two goaltenders who appeared in games last season." Cause I'm pretty sure Tim Thomas should be a part of "both".
"Sure, Tim Thomas is gone away to his underground bunker while waiting for the global economy to collapse so he can post about it on Facebook. But the Bruins have moved on, and will gladly take the 2.05 goals-against average and .929 save percentage that Tuukka Rask posted last season."
They'll take it, but two stud even-strength goalies are certainly better than one, and if Rask falters this time, he doesn't have much of a safety blanket. What happened to "virtually the same roster," Joe? On to some other teams.
"The Pens did nothing to shore up a defensive corps that allowed 30 goals in six unforgettable playoff games against the Flyers last year, and will instead allow on a group of raw, young blueliners that will get buried by on-the-job training."
Yes, they allowed 30 goals, but they also scored 26. That's 11 more than the Bruins in their 7-game first round series. The Pens also allowed fewer goals in the regular season than the Caps, that team the Bruins couldn't score against. Point is, your one out of context statistic taken from a short series isn't making me pencil the Pens in for a lottery pick just yet.
"The Rangers are the choice of many to capture the Eastern Conference's top spot, but they gambled depth, grittiness and good team chemistry on Rick Nash. On paper he looks like the final piece to the Blueshirts' puzzle, but rarely do things that work on paper actually translate in the final hockey product."
"Hockey is unpredictable," says the author of "B's to win Stanley Cup."
"Kaberle certainly looked like the exact right move on paper when the Bruins brought him in from the Maple Leafs two years ago, didn't he? Sure they won the Cup that year, but the presence of Kaberle only made things more difficult rather than easier for the Black and Gold."
Exact right move? Well, the Bruins' powerplay was in the bottom half of the league prior to the trade, so a complement to Chara on the point there I suppose could be seen as a fit. But Kaberle was largely exposed with the B's because he was counted on to play harder minutes than he had been in TO.
"The Washington Capitals showed they had enough to take down an empty husk of a Bruins team wiped out from the previous year's 27-game Stanley Cup run, but revenge will be on the minds of the Boston players this time around."
#RevengeFactor. Stay tuned for the follow-up column, "Why Columbus will win the West: Getting revenge for their 53 losses because of all the wanting it more."
Unlike last season the Bruins once again feel like they've got something to prove on the ice. The chip has been placed back on their shoulder and nobody should fool themselves into thinking that Jack Adams-winning coach Claude Julien won't remind them of that over and over during this sprint through the month of April.
Chara: "Coach, they're out-chancing us 14-4, think we should adjust the forecheck?"
Julien: "We'll be fine as long as we keep that chip on our shoulder."
"That's when the Bruins are at their best and that high motivation will be augmented by the NHL-best 12 players that Boston had playing over in Europe during the 119-day lockout that has finally ended."
Through three games of NHL action, only six of 15 goal-scorers played overseas this year. But I can't wait for this narrative to be further abused when the B's start with consecutive wins. [written before the evening games]
"[Fans] know this Bruins team has what it takes to win another Stanley Cup this season with a nucleus of players in Lucic, Rask, Hamilton, Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Nathan Horton and Adam McQuaid, who range in their hockey primes from ages 19-27 years old."
Yeah they really missed Lucic, Seguin, Marchand, Krejci, Bergeron, Horton and McQuaid in the playoffs last year. Having those guys as their core would have made all the difference.
"That's not even counting the snarling dominance of Zdeno Chara, still at the top of his Norris Trophy-worthy defensive game at 35 years old coming off one of his best NHL seasons."
"They're going to win because they're young. They're going to win even though they're old."
"Hockey history is on their side as well: the last two times the Bruins organization won the Cup in 1939 and 1970, they won it all over again two years later."
Citing historical anomalies? Okay now I'm convinced.
"The Bruins will do it again this year. Don't ever forget where you heard it first."
Oh we won't, Joe. Enjoy your young-old core, your unpredictable prediction, and that chip on your shoulder.