It’s with great pleasure that I give CLNS supporters an opportunity to be a part of something that doesn’t happen too often. I had the opportunity to interview an expert of hockey, Mr. Shawn Hutcheon, and get his opinion on many different topics. Mr. Hutcheon has been a sportswriter since 2009, covering for numerous websites and publications, and is a credentialed member of the Boston Bruins media program. In 2012, he began covering junior hockey for the New England Hockey Journal. While Mr. Hutcheon is a tremendous writer, his hockey background is impressive as well. He played youth hockey in Billerica, Massachusetts, while also playing in the New England Junior Hockey League. After this, he would take his talents to Fitchburg State College. Mr. Hutcheon has coached hockey at many different levels, and is a Level 4 USA Hockey certified coach. I speak for everyone here at CLNS by stating, we are very blessed to receive such great insight from an outstanding person like Mr. Hutcheon.
1. With the shortened season this past year, how well did you think the Bruins performed overall?
- With the shortened season, I thought the Bruins began the season very well. They won 20 of their first 26 games then the schedule became very heavy where they played almost every other day in March and because of the weather and the Marathon tragedy they ended the season by playing six games in nine nights. As a result, they finished 3-7 in their last 10 games. The schedule took its toll on the team, for sure. To answer your question, the season began as expected but ended on a disappointing note and forced the Bruins to finish second in the Northeast Division in the standings.
2. The Bruins went into the playoffs limping, and many didn't think they would go as far as they did. Was it surprise to you at all that the Bruins could rally the troops together, and make a push for the Cup like they did?
- Was I surprised at how the team rallied to make it to the Stanley Cup Final? No, not at all, even though the regular season ended on a sour note, I saw positive things from the team. Things such as, all of the losses they sustained in April, except for one in Philadelphia, were by two or fewer goals against. Tuukka was playing very well and defensively, the team was playing well. I felt that the offense would come from strong defensive play. I also felt that when this team was playing its game to the best of its abilities, there wasn't a team in the league that could beat them. I was almost right.
3. Coming into the season, most fans only remembered one thing about Tuukka Rask, his collapse against the Philadelphia Flyers during the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs. Do you believe that he has fixed his image in Boston with his play in the post-season, or do you believe that he will have to win a Cup in order to do that? Also, do you believe Rask has earned the right to be offered a long-term deal, with more money?
- Tuukka Rask, in my opinion, should have been at least a finalist for the Vezina Trophy. He had an outstanding season. His 19-10-5 record was among the best in the NHL while his 2.00 goals against average was fifth and his save percentage of .929 was third best in the league. I watched him day in and day out at practices and games and I had nothing but total confidence in him when the postseason rolled around. After the playoff run he had, if anyone still thinks Tuukka needs to win a Cup to prove he's an elite goaltender, then they don't know much about the game of hockey and I know people inside thatdressing room would agree with me. He's worthy of a long term contract which should pay him up there with the top five goalies in the NHL.
4. With so many players performing at a high-level in the post-season for the Bruins, who would you say was the "top performer?" Of course if I ask that, I have to ask this; who was the one player that just didn't perform at a high-level for the Bruins?
- At the risk of sounding repetitive, Rask was the top performer for the Bruins in the playoffs. He finished first in the NHL in goals against, shots against, saves, save percentage and shut outs. The teams with the best performing goaltenders go to the Final and we saw that this season. I would add that Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci were a very close second and third. The player who underperformed, and I think most would agree, was Tyler Seguin. He prides himself on being an producing points and with one goal and seven assists in 22 playoff games, he just didn't get it done. He made good plays and played pretty well as a defensive player but the team relies on his abilities and he was a disappointment in that department.
5. Jarmir Jagr was welcomed to Boston with open arms, and instantly became a fan favorite. Concerning his play though, do you think Jagr did what we expected him to do, or did he underachieve? Do you feel any teams will take a chance on Jagr this off-season?
- I think the fans expected more scoring from Jaromir Jagr. The team knew what they were getting when they traded for him. Fans and most media were expecting to see the 21-year-old Jagr, the one who would score almost at will. The 41-year-old Jagr is a player who uses his experience, positioning, strength and hockey sense to protect the puck from opposing defenders and set up scoring chances for this linemates with extremely deft passing skills. As he told me during the playoffs, "I love to play hockey and I will play as long as I love it." I would be very surprised if he does not sign with another Cup contender this summer.
6. Torey Krug was thrown into the fire during the post-season, and really overachieved most of the time while on the ice. With how well he played, do you feel that he will become an important piece for the Bruins in the future?
- Torey Krug, along with the reduction of the salary cap, helped make Andrew Ference expendable. I'm not blaming Krug for that but he's younger, faster and handles the puck better than Ference and we may see another defenseman moved due to Krug's play before training camp begins. Krug is a highly skilled player and, barring injury, we will see him in a Bruins uniform for many years to come.
7. There have been reports that Nathan Horton might not be back in Boston, how true do you think that is? Do you feel Vincent Lecavalier could be a good player to replace him? Why or why not?
- Nathan Horton is a player who isn't flashy and never will be but at the end of the night, he's on the scoresheet. He finished the regular season sixth in team scoring and was second in league scoring (behind Krejci) for the playoffs. He also led the NHL in plus/minus in the postseason. Peter Chiarelli and Cam Neely have each stated that they want to see Horton return next season and I'm confident they'll work out a new deal that will keep the winger in Boston for at least three more years. Concerning Vincent Lecavalier, like Jagr, there is no doubt he'll be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame after he retires. He's played 14 seasons and has 874 points in 1,037 career games. He has scored 20 or more goals in 12 consecutive seasons and of course, he led Tampa Bay to the 2004 Stanley Cup championship. I think the former captain of the Lightning will play for four or five more seasons and would be a nice fit with either Krejci and Lucic or Bergeron and Marchand should Horton not re-sign with Boston.
8. Andrew Ference will not be suiting up for the Bruins this upcoming season, how big of a loss will this end up being for the Bruins?
- As mentioned, Krug and to a lesser extent Hamilton and Bartkowski made it impossible for Ference to remain with the Bruins. Losing him will be a big loss for the team on the ice because he's a steadying influence and does not let the pressure of the big games get to him, in fact, it's just the opposite, the bigger the game, the better he plays. Off the ice, Ference is highly respected in the dressing room and was a true leader. He was the one who found and came up with the ideas of handing out the 1980s style jacket after each game in 2011 to a teammate that played above and beyond the call of duty. He also did the same this season with the rooster t-shirt and the Army Ranger jacket. Of course, his service to the community is almost legendary. He spent many, many hours visiting people in hospitals and finally, he along with Shawn Thornton, played huge rolls in helping the city pull together after the tragic Boston Marathon bombings. Andrew Ference will be missed immensely by the Bruins.
9. The way the Bruins lost game six was devastating. Where does that rank for you in the "biggest breakdown in sports history" category that you have witnessed?
- Where does the Game 6 loss rate for me among shocking endings in Boston sports history. Well, I go back a long way. My first season as a Bruins fan was 1970 which was a very good year for Bruins fans but as for disappointments, I'd say it rates right up there with the ball getting through Bill Buckner's legs in New York during the 1986 World Series. The Red Sox were two strikes away from being World Champions but it wasn't to be. This Bruins loss in the last 1:16 to Chicago is right there for me.
10. Do you expect that Bruins will be in the same position next year at this time, or should fans expect a decline in performance?
- Very good question. My heart says we should expect the Bruins to return to the Final next season. They will be the defending Eastern Conference champions and as Jeremy Jacobs said yesterday, he wants Peter Chiarelli to keep as much of this team together, as he can. That will be a very good thing because nothing beats experience. For the most part, next year's team will have the experience of playing in two Stanley Cup Finals in three years but having said that, as we saw after the 2011 Cup victory, the off season is very short for teams that make it that deep into the playoffs. The players will need to take advantage of every opportunity they get to rest between games and practices or fatigue could set in like it did in the 2012 playoffs versus Washington and it will be a short playoff season in 2014. I know this is a very proud organization and the players and coaches will do everything in their power to win the Stanley Cup next season. They will have the experience and talent to do so but fatigue could be the deciding factor as to whether they will or not.
In closing, I would like to thank Mr. Hutcheon for taking the time to answer each question that was asked. We appreciate all the support that you give to our network, and we feel lucky to have someone with so much knowledge of the sport. Everyone can find Mr. Hutcheon on twitter at “ShawnHutcheon”, and you can also find his work on hockeyjournal.com.