NHL Mailbag: World Cup Hockey, Boston Bruins, Calder Trophy

world cup hockey

World Cup Hockey: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks at a press conference before game one of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks at Consol Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

NHL Mailbag: World Cup Hockey, Bruins Questions, Calder Trophy Candidates

Welcome to NHL mailbag, an article in which questions are taken from fans on social media on the NHL. For future reference, questions can be submitted in the comment section below or by tweeting @tannic95 on Twitter.

Question #1: Why did NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman award the World Cup of Hockey tournament to ESPN, instead of NBC?

Sep 9, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Team USA and Team Canada scrum in the second period during a World Cup of Hockey pre-tournament game at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

World Cup Hockey was awarded to ESPN simply because the league believes it will increase the sports exposure. Is it that simple? The thing that bugs a lot of hockey fans is that ESPN has never shown the sport the time of day. If you have ever watched an ESPN program there is little to no hockey coverage on a daily basis.

But ESPN does deserve some slack when it comes to their lack of coverage, the worldwide leader hasn’t displayed the sport because before they didn’t have broadcasting rights. Which means they had no financial incentive to help build the brand of hockey. Over the last several years they seem to be on the right path with owning the rights to NCAA men’s hockey tournament and most recently the rights to the World Cup of Hockey.

ESPN Burying Hockey Online

Sep 13, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Members of Team USA line up on the ice prior to their game against Team Finland in a World Cup of Hockey pre-tournament game at Verizon Center. Team USA won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

One thing that most likely has the league office a little mad is the fact that ESPN is burying most of the World Cup Hockey games on ESPN3 – which is only available through their online streaming portal.

Only a handful of games are on ESPN with the vast majority of the TV broadcasted games falling on ESPN2. These facts will definitely impact the success of World Cup Hockey and inevitably slow down the growth that could have happened. Because let’s face it, the average sports fan is not going out of their way in order to stream hockey using the ESPN3 portal.

Question #2: If the Boston Bruins miss the playoffs, what changes would you expect to see to the team and what changes do you think realistically happens?

Mar 26, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask (40) celebrates their victory with left wing Brad Marchand (63) and center Patrice Bergeron (37) against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. The Bruins beat the Maple Leafs 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Bruins are an interesting case. They went from being an annual Cup contender on the fringe of a dynasty to a team that has missed the playoffs in two straight seasons. If they miss the playoffs for the third straight year there will be hell to pay from the fans and ownership.

Missing the playoffs will result in the firing of head coach Claude Julien, and likely the departure of Team President Cam Neely. If both of those two go, it is also likely that GM Don Sweeney will be kicked out the door after two seasons at the helm and the management will start fresh. 

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In my opinion though, the talent on their roster is good enough to be a borderline playoff team.  Boston Bruins failure will be because the management failed to bring in another defenseman.

If the black and gold do overhaul their front office, it will likely be several years out from contending in the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Question #3: Who will win the Calder Memorial Trophy (Rookie of the Year) ?

My choice to win the Calder this season is the number one pick in this past years draft, Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Not a random pick whatsoever and Matthews is the likely favorite of many writers going into this season. 

The 18-year-old center impressed me during his play in last year’s IIHF World Hockey Championship where he recorded 9 points in 10 games with 6 goals. He showed a lot of poise in that tournament and lit the hockey world on fire with his exceptional play.

Auston also had seven goals and 11 points in nine games with Team USA at the World Juniors back in January. Matthews has been called a once in a generation kind of player and could be the next Crosby or Stamkos.

Everywhere he has played he has impressed his teammates and coaches. Watch out for Matthews as he will take the Maple Leafs to the next level under head coach Mike Babcock’s leadership. You can watch Matthews in World Cup Hockey action as he plays for the exciting Team North America.

Mar 26, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara (33) shoots against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. The Bruins beat the Maple Leafs 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Question #4: How important is it for the Boston Bruins to get a top 4 defenseman to have a shot at the playoffs this season?

One of the areas that Team President Cam Neely stressed on when the offseason started was bringing in a top four defenseman.

When the team bought out Dennis Seidenberg‘s contract, a move to improve the defense felt imminent. But with less than a month to the new season, the team has failed to bring in any new defenders. Despite this, Cam Neely expects the defense and goaltender Tuukka Rask to have a better season.

Neely’s expectations feel a little too high with their best defenseman still being Zdeno Chara. The group around Chara is made up of Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid, Colin Miller, Joe Morrow, Kevan Miller, and John-Michael Liles. Not exactly the strongest defensive group in the league. In fact, it was this group that ranked in the bottom half of the league in defense last season.

The importance of the Bruins acquiring a top 4 defenseman to make the playoffs though is actually low. Krug, Morrow, and both of the Miller’s have the potential to improve as players. Plus Rask in net should have a bounce back season. The team barely missed the playoffs the last two seasons with a sub-par defense. With their offense, they should be able to be a low-end playoff team this season.

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