Memorial Day repost- What Saving Private Ryan can teach us about Sacrifice

Editor’s note- Published this back in November for Veteran’s Day 2016, and bringing it back for Memorial Day.- KL

I had a chance to watch Saving Private Ryan again over the weekend for the first time since it came out in 1998, which might be surprising to some. The reality is- after doing multiple combat tours in Iraq (with the 3rd and 1st Infantry Divisions and 1st Cavalry Division) and another in Afghanistan (again with the 1st Cavalry Division) from 2004-2014, the movie wasn’t high on my list of things to see again because I didn’t know how I would react to some of the visceral images and a host of emotions the film was sure to evoke.

I’m happy to report that getting through it wasn’t that bad. In fact, if anything- I enjoyed it more than I did 18 years ago when I was a young captain who had not experienced combat (9/11 was still three years away), and could not relate to the real power behind the film. That power is found in depicting, to the best of director Steven Spielberg’s ability, the horrors of war and the enormous physical and psychological stress that combat puts on those who experience it.

Saving Private Ryan is a triumph of cinema- it is gritty and realistic. It is a mostly fictional accounting of a mission to retrieve one soldier from the front in France shortly after the invasion of Normandy after all of his brothers had died in battle in the preceding days leading up to and during Operation Overlord or D-Day- the allied invasion of Europe at Normandy. The story is loosely based on other events during the Second World War, and some of the first scenes of the movie- the amphibious landing at Dog Sector/Omaha Beach by the 1st Infantry Division, 29th Infantry Division’s 116th Infantry Regiment and Army Rangers under Lt. Col. James Earl Rudder, are based on one of the bloodiest engagements of the war. But even as realistic as SPR is, it cannot accurately capture the sudden violence and sheer terror you feel when a bullet cracks over your head or pings off of an armored Humvee you’re riding in.

As a combat veteran, I found myself focusing less on the action. Was it realistic? It sure was, but even as realistic as the filmmakers tried to make it, it still did not compare to the sounds, concussion and chaos you experience when someone really is shooting at you…or a roadside bomb goes off near your vehicle. SPR came close, and my wartime experiences pale in comparison to what veterans of the Second World War and Korean and Vietnam conflicts saw in terms of sustained kinetic engagements (read: firefights). However, as a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, my war consisted of long periods of time with very little happening- living on a forward operating base and doing staff work, going out on various patrols, missions or meetings out in our area with not much out of the ordinary. Until we’d get hit and in a very small but violent space, everything changed.

That was my war- SPR was not. But, as I re-watched it, I realized that my focus was less on the myriad battle scenes (I was admittedly uncomfortable at times, but save for the final bridge battle, it did not quite bring me back to Baghdad the way this year’s 13 Hours did- to me, the Michael Bay film was far more realistic in terms of recreating what my wartime experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan were like for obvious reasons given the setting, and is worth watching if you haven’t seen it).

No- while the action is an essential part of the tapestry Spielberg weaves, the film’s power is derived from the Soldier interactions and the dialogue between the Rangers who went out to find Private Ryan of the 101st Airborne Division and bring him home. The movie got a lot of that right, and so I wanted to share a few scenes with you to provide my perspective on what truly resonated for me the second time around.

Scene 1:

Pvt. Jackson: Sir… I have an opinion on this matter.

Capt. Miller: Well, by all means, share it with the squad.

Pvt. Jackson: Well, from my way of thinking, sir, this entire mission is a serious misallocation of valuable military resources.

Capt. Miller: Yeah. Go on.

Pvt. Jackson: Well, it seems to me, sir, that God gave me a special gift, made me a fine instrument of warfare.

Capt. Miller: Reiben, pay attention. Now, this is the way to gripe. Continue, Jackson.

Pvt. Jackson: Well, what I mean by that, sir, is… if you was to put me and this here sniper rifle anywhere up to and including one mile of Adolf Hitler with a clear line of sight, sir… pack your bags, fellas, war’s over. Amen.

Pvt. Reiben: Oh, that’s brilliant, bumpkin. Hey, so, Captain, what about you? I mean, you don’t gripe at all?

Capt. Miller: I don’t gripe to *you*, Reiben. I’m a captain. There’s a chain of command. Gripes go up, not down. Always up. You gripe to me, I gripe to my superior officer, so on, so on, and so on. I don’t gripe to you. I don’t gripe in front of you. You should know that as a Ranger.

Pvt. Reiben: I’m sorry, sir, but uh… let’s say you weren’t a captain, or maybe I was a major. What would you say then?

Capt. Miller: Well, in that case… I’d say, “This is an excellent mission, sir, with an extremely valuable objective, sir, worthy of my best efforts, sir. Moreover… I feel heartfelt sorrow for the mother of Private James Ryan and am willing to lay down my life and the lives of my men – especially you, Reiben – to ease her suffering.”

So, why is this realistic? For one, it provides a pretty good look at how “Joe” in this case- Private Jackson (Barry Pepper) and Private Reiben (brilliantly played by Ed Burns, btw) question their orders and the mission. Capt. Miller addresses their “gripes” when Reiben addresses him, and Miller provides a textbook example of how a leader should respond when subordinates complain, even if they raise good points. As the good captain says- gripes go up, not down. Reiben speaks candidly to Miller, and we by now know that Reiben is irreverent but gets away with it because when the bullets are flying, he’s good in a fight. Pro tip- this is how a lot of the best troops are. The key thing is that when confronted with the subordinate’s unhappiness with orders, the leader doesn’t feed into the negativity by agreeing or airing his own reservations about the mission even if he has them. That’s how leadership works, but unfortunately- it’s easier sometimes to take the more self-indulgent approach and start bitching along with the rest of the troops, but that can impact unit cohesion and job performance. Here, Miller shows Reiben what right looks like and injects humor into his response when further pressed by his subordinate, essentially shutting the griping Browning Automatic Rifleman down.

Scene 2: 

Capt. Hamill: We sure as hell could use you around here, but I understand what you’re doing.

Capt. Miller: You do?

Capt. Hamill: Yeah. I’ve got a couple of brothers myself.

Capt. Miller: Oh.

Capt. Hamill: Good luck.

Capt. Miller: Thank you.

Capt. Hamill: I mean it. Find him. Get him home.

This is a small scene but it is an impactful one, because it illustrates the basic teamwork and camaraderie that exists by military members in combat. Captains Miller (Hanks) and Hamill (Ted Danson) don’t know each other, and one is in the Rangers while the other is a 101st Airborne Division Pathfinder, and after the mixup with Private Ryans (check out the Pvt Ryan from Minnesota- he’s played by Nathan Fillion of “Firefly” and “Castle” fame. Decorated character actor Paul Giamatti also makes a cameo as one of Danson’s sergeants in this segment of the film, but hardcore fans probably know about both) Danson’s company commander could have been angry at now having to deal with a distraught soldier and turned his frustrations on Hanks. He doesn’t- instead, he demonstrates the kind of leadership that so many in his position did and displays empathy.

Not all people are equal in abilities and talents, and the military is no different. Some commanders are brilliant, others aren’t- martinets or without the requisite people skills and intellect to handle the complexities of combat and stress. Here, you see two of the best examples of small unit commanders coming together. When Hanks informs Danson that he can’t stay and help out, the latter understands and wishes him well, then shows him a church where Hanks and his squad can bed down for the night. This is why the American military has been so good for so long- the values of loyalty and selfless service shine through in this scene.

Danson’s Capt. Hamill gets it- and on the surface he tells you it’s because he has a couple of brothers himself, but the bigger picture symbolism is about the brotherhood (and sisterhood) of the profession of arms- everyone who has been a part of our military sees it firsthand, and there is a larger point Danson is making here. It’s not just about believing in the mission to find (the Iowa version of) Private Ryan because he can relate to the feelings he has for his own siblings- it’s about finding Ryan because he is also a brother of that Army fraternity that is fighting and dying in droves on the European continent in June, 1944.

This clip is just a soundbite when compared to the others in this post, but it delivers an important message: Find him. Get him home.– it’s really code for- Ryan is family- our Army family, and if we can spare his parents the complete and total sacrifice of the Ryan male line in this war, we must do it. Not should, but must. Why? Because we are all his brothers, and as leaders we have an obligation to something much bigger than any one person or even unit.  That doesn’t resonate with Hanks as Miller here- it will take Ryan himself when he confronts the Rangers on the bridge and refuses to leave with them in the scene below to bring it full circle to Miller, and in his final moments, you realize that he gets it. But more on that later…

Scene 3: 

(if you don’t want to see the Vecchio discussion, the sequence starts at 1:44)

Capt. Miller: You see, when… when you end up killing one of your men, you see, you tell yourself it happened so you could save the lives of two or three or ten others. Maybe a hundred others. Do you know how many men I’ve lost under my command?

Sgt. Horvath: How many?

Capt. Miller: Ninety-four. But that means I’ve saved the lives of ten times that many, doesn’t it? Maybe even twenty, right? Twenty times as many? And that’s how simple it is. That’s how you… that’s how you rationalize making the choice between the mission and the man.

Sgt. Horvath: Except this time, the mission is a man.

Capt. Miller: This Ryan better be worth it. He better go home and cure some disease or invent a longer-lasting light bulb, or something. Because the truth is, I wouldn’t trade ten Ryans for one Vecchio or one Caparzo.

(Unfortunately, the original upload of this clip was removed from YouTube and I was unable to find a suitable replacement. -KL)

Why this scene? It illustrates the terrible burden of command in combat and what leaders must do when dealing with the loss of their subordinates. Capt Miller and Sgt. 1st Class Horvath reminisce about Pvt. Vecchio, who died earlier in the war, reminding us all of the true difference between leaders in civilian life and those who lead troops in war.

This scene, and the next one below, provide an important perspective on what is driving Miller: even though he agrees with his men, who don’t see the fairness in risking themselves for one person, he doesn’t have the luxury of voicing his misgivings, so he has to find every possible silver lining if he can continue to be the effective commander his men require of him.

He’s lost virtually his entire command…that’s critical in all of this. Captains typically lead units of 100 men or more with four lieutenants in charge of three platoons (and an executive officer or second in command to help lead the company). Miller’s company is down to less than 10 men- all of his officers dead or evacuated. Sergeant First Class Horvath (Tom Sizemore) a platoon sergeant now elevated to First Sergeant as Miller’s senior noncommissioned officer and most trusted subordinate. The weight of command is crushing Miller and for the first time, we see the impact the war has had on him after displaying unflappable calm in some of the most visceral of combat settings.

This gets to the heart of many moral and ethical challenges leaders wrestle with: the mission or the men (and women)? The answer is- unless you have been given an illegal order, you have to find the right balance and get the job done. Miller understands that, even if he’s conflicted about what he’s been tasked to do. He loves his men- those he’s lost, and certainly those still alive and in his charge. Adrian Caparzo (Vin Diesel), felled by a sniper’s bullet just a few hours before is now dead and it’s one more reminder that he’s failed in his personal mission to bring all of his men home. His moral dilemma is that where the other missions had clear objectives that Miller understood and agreed with, this one does not.

Scene 4: 

(sequence starts at 2:55)

Capt. Miller: Sometimes I wonder if I’ve changed so much, my wife is even gonna recognize me whenever it is I get back to her, and how I’ll ever be able to, tell about days like today. Ahh, Ryan. I don’t know anything about Ryan, I don’t care. The man means nothing to me; he’s just a name. But if, you know, if going to Ramelle, and finding him so he can go home, if that earns me the right to get back to my wife, well then, then that’s my mission.

This one is tough.

Pvt. Reiben is in open revolt after Capt. Miller’s assault on a German machine-gun emplacement results in the death of the squad’s medic and friend, Arlen Wade (Giovanni Ribisi was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor if I remember correctly). The bonds that had brought the men so far are now breaking apart and as Reiben and Horvath exchange threats, Miller steps forward and we get the first reveal into his life before the Army, a big deal as the unit had a pool on their commander for whoever could succeed in getting him to open up. Here, he does so in order to diffuse a dangerous situation and in so doing, we learn so much about the captain’s humanity.

Our military is so diverse and populated by people who all have a unique story and their own reasons for volunteering- whether enlisting or being commissioned. Here, Capt. Miller is reconciling the things he’s done in battle- having killed enemy combatants (we saw it in the assault on Dog Sector Red, Omaha Beach sequence) and having seen so many of his men and others die- not only on the beach and bluffs overlooking the engagement area, but in the hedgerows in the days immediately after June 6, 1944, and now with the beloved Wade bleeding out and dying as his brothers could only huddle around him and watch their “Doc’s” life ebb away.

We have an idea of the horrors he’s experienced and the demons he’s wrestling with and now, he provides an important glimpse into the window of his soul, and he does it because he knows the mission is not yet accomplished, and it cannot be completed without everyone rowing in the same direction, to include the fed-up Reiben. This serves as a reminder that everyone in the military is human. Not all live up to the values and ideals of our service and our job is to weed those bad apples out. But everyone is motivated by different things. Miller finally breaks his silence to tell his men he’s a teacher, a baseball coach…but he also reminds them that he’s fighting for something bigger than himself. In this raw moment, they are allowed to come to terms with their own reasons for being there, and able to see the bigger picture so that they can continue on towards their rendezvous with Ryan despite suffering the setback of losing the one who was the symbol of their collective conscience- Doc Wade.

Scene 5: 

Pvt. Ryan: It doesn’t make sense, sir. I mean, why me? Why not any of us? Hell, these guys deserve to go home as much as I do. They’ve  all fought just as hard.

Capt. Miller: Is that what they’re supposed to tell your mother when they send her another folded American flag?

Pvt. Ryan: Tell her that when you found me, I was here, and I was with the only brothers I have left. And that there was no way I was going to desert them. I think she’d understand that. There’s no way I’m leaving this bridge.

When I commanded a basic training company at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri in the early 2000s, this was the scene I showed the new recruits during my first introduction to them after their arrival and “reception” by my drill sergeants (ha ha- veterans who experienced the joys of basic training will understand what I am talking about there). I would talk to them about the definition of a mercenary and then ask how many joined the Army to fund college- then waited for the majority of some 250-300 sets of hands to go up. The purpose of this was not to make them feel bad but to remind them that the Army as an organization was not necessarily a means to an end, and that the warrior ethos extended far beyond the payoff of a financial mechanism to afford a higher education when the enlistment was up.

I used this scene to try and illustrate for the new soldier/trainees that in some 2 hours of the movie, what it really all boiled down to was this exchange between Capt Miller and Pvt Ryan (Matt Damon). How should Ryan have acted when the Ranger captain showed up and told him that his brothers were all dead and to pack his shit because he was going home? Some out there might say, “hell yeah!” but that misses the entire point of what the movie was trying to show you. Even with the griping, Miller’s Rangers were as close as ever when the bullets started flying. They didn’t quit or desert, even though the death of Doc Wade stretched them to the breaking point of their willingness to continue the mission to find Ryan and their loyalty to Miller.

Ryan has his own loyalties- to the squad-sized element of 101st soldiers charged with defending Ramelle, a French village with one of the only intact bridges over the Merderet River and one that they know counterattacking German Panzer forces want to seize. Even though he understands what the Rangers are doing, he cannot reconcile a decision made by General George C. Marshall, Army Chief of Staff (and a man about as far removed in the chain of command from a private as it gets), to pull him out of the fighting when he knows his brothers in arms are in for the fight of their lives. That’s what it all comes down to.

And, when Reiben shouts out, “Hey asshole- two of our guys already died trying to find you,” Ryan solemnly asks their names, and shows the deference of a man who knows all too well what it means to lose not only blood family to the war, but his comrades- “Army brothers” as well.

If you’ve served, you don’t need this scene explained to you. And, I’d like to think that for those trainees who saw that and listened to what I was telling them in a time of severe change and stress in their lives, it might have helped them to soldier through and not quit. I’ve run into a few of those Soldiers in the some 17 years since I commanded that training company. They remember me before I do them, and a few of them have had kind words for the leadership style I had and for taking the time to try and show them the history and traditions of the Army that early in their training. I wanted those new soldiers to develop a pride in self and service, so when I do on occasion cross paths with one of my former Alpha Gators, it means a great deal that they remember me and give me feedback about the experience they had in my company, both good and bad.

Scene 6: 

Sgt. Horvath: What are your orders?

Capt. Miller: We have crossed some strange boundary here. The world has taken a turn for the surreal. 

Sgt. Horvath: Clearly, but the question still stands.

Capt. Miller: I don’t know…what do you think?

Sgt. Horvath: You don’t want to know what I think.

Capt. Miller: Yeah, Mike, I do.

Sgt. Horvath: I don’t know. Part of me thinks the kid’s right. What’s he done to deserve this? He wants to stay here, fine. Let’s leave him and go home. But another part of me thinks, what if we stay, and by some miracle we stay and  actually make it out of here? Someday we might look back on this and decide that saving Private Ryan was the one decent thing we were able to pull out of this whole godawful, shitty mess. That’s what I was thinking, sir. Like you said, Captain, we do that, we all earn the right to go home.

Capt. Miller: Oh, brother.

Amen, Sergeant.

This is a classic illustration of the ethical challenges of command in combat. Miller by authority of his position could have ordered Ryan to leave and have his men forcibly remove him from the bridge, but he knows that dog won’t hunt. Why? Because in his heart he knows Ryan is right and he (Miller) has no right to come between him and the skeleton crew of weary paratroopers who are not only undermanned, but don’t have the firepower to take on German Panzers and Tiger tanks. Miller’s Rangers don’t have the weapons to do it either, but in staying and putting their heads together, they know they can give the bridge’s defense a fighting chance. And that’s precisely what they do.

The bridge battle affected me more watching it after my experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan than the opening D-Day sequence did. I think it has to do with the urban nature of the setting as opposed to the beach landing, but my heart rate went way up and I got the anxiety and fear at the pit of my stomach that I remember experiencing in places like Dora, Jihad (yes, that’s a neighborhood in Baghdad) Mekaniks and Kandahar. As Vietnam War veteran, Silver Star recipient and good friend Colonel (retired) Sam W. Floca Jr. once said- “Anyone who says he isn’t afraid in combat is either a liar or a fool.”

He’s so right! When confronted with people trying to kill me, I was afraid, and those taut, tense combat sequences at the end of Saving Private Ryan seemed to go on for an eternity as I watched as an Iraq and Afghan war veteran vs. when I first saw it in 1998. It wasn’t easy to sit through even though I knew what was coming and who was and wasn’t going to make it. The battle brought memories flooding back of the friends and men I knew and loved who didn’t come home from Iraq and Afghanistan. When Capt. Miller tells Ryan to “earn this” with his dying breath, the movie’s coda plays out the way it began- with one final lesson about sacrifice.

If you absorbed everything else along the way, then you didn’t have to wear the uniform to get it. It’s something we can all identify with.

And respect.

As you celebrate Memorial Day, I hope you can at least find the time to think about those who gave absolutely everything to help preserve a way of life many take for granted. In America, you have a voice and you can work to change outcomes you don’t want, but it takes people like the ones you see in these scenes to “earn this” for you (if you don’t make the decision to do it yourself). Liberty wasn’t just given, and it could be taken from us if we aren’t willing to stand by our convictions and fight for what we believe in.

On May 29- think about And if you can’t do that or bring yourself to, then at least ponder what service and sacrifice truly mean.

What’s Next for the Bruins (Pt. 14): Rounding out the Young D

Editor’s note- In our (soon to be finished) series breaking down an immediate and longer-term future for the Boston Bruins, the 3 Amigos consisting of TSP founder Kirk Luedeke, hockey scout/analyst Dominic Tiano and Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL) PBP man Reed Duthie have tried to cover all the bases. In this penultimate post on the subject, KL briefly looks at a trio of unsigned young defensemen on the eve of the start of the Stanley Cup final series.- KL

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Cameron Clarke, RD, Ferris State (WCHA)- The NAHL’s top defenseman for the 2015-16 season was Boston’s second of two picks in the fifth round last June in his final window of draft eligibility. The Michigan native just turned 21 this month and is coming off a solid, if unspectacular freshman year with the Bulldogs in which he found the back of the net just once, and finished with 11 points in 35 NCAA games. He’s got good size at about 6-1, but is still light and continuing to work on adding mass. He’ll play one more season, perhaps two in college, continuing to develop his body and overall defensive game. We should see him emerge as more of an offensive threat, as with his skating, vision and hockey IQ, he has the potential to put up good numbers at this level. In a nice side story, Clarke’s father was a Bruins fan growing up (his favorite player was Rick Middleton), so although the prospect was born and raised in Detroit Red Wings country, it was not hard for the family to switch their allegiance to the B’s after the 2016 draft.

Ryan Lindgren, LD, University of Minnesota- The U.S. NTDP U18 team captain in 2016 was drafted with the second of two picks acquired when the B’s traded Johnny Boychuk to the NY Islanders on the eve of the 2014-15 season. Although not considered “big” for the position, Lindgren plays with fire and has some real nasty to his game. He didn’t produce much in the way of offense as a true freshman with the Golden Gophers, but saw a good amount of ice time and is expected to be one of the team’s “bell cow” blue liners going forward. He’s a good skater with a fine stick and brings the kind of physicality and tenacity every team wants. With his excellent skating and agility, he has the potential to chip in offensively at the pro hockey level, but we’re not sure he projects as someone who will be a true point-getter, but will bring more value with his mobility and hard-nosed defense. Lindgren is strong in puck retrieval. He suffered a nasty lower body injury late in the season that cost him the remaining schedule and B1G 10 & NCAA tournaments- the Gophers sure could have used him against Notre Dame, giving up a third period lead to get bounced right away as the top seed. It will be interesting to see how Lindgren performs going forward, but he’s expected to rise up the B’s organizational depth chart as one of the team’s better prospects after helping USA win gold at the 2017 WJC- he could wear the ‘C’ for the 2018 squad.

Wiley Sherman, LD, Harvard- This 6-7, 220-pounder was drafted in 2013 (fifth round) out of the Hotchkiss (prep) Bearcats and played another year at that level before arriving to Cambridge for the 2014-15 season, As a rising senior with the Crimson, he’s effectively used his size and long reach in three collegiate seasons. He’s not going to be a two-way D at the next level, but he did post a career-best 13 helpers (no goals) as a junior. With fluid footwork and skating for such a big man, Sherman is a capable puck-mover who doesn’t play all that physical a style, but keeps opponents to the outside with strong gaps and the huge wingspan he possesses. The Connecticut native is expected to finish out his NCAA eligibility at Harvard and earn that degree- he could possibly sign with the B’s next spring, whenever his team’s season ends, as former Yale standout Rob O’Gara did in 2016.

 

 

What’s Next for the Bruins (Pt. 13): The Young D

Editor’s Note- No, not Dominic Tiano this time. I’ll do a quick-hitter between packing up the moving truck (that’s dedication for you) and driving away to provide a snapshot of the younger defensemen coming up through the ranks in the Boston system. Because Charlie McAvoy proved himself ready for primetime against Ottawa in six games, he’s not a part of this post- you all saw him and what he’s capable of.- KL

Rob O'GaraBruins

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The B’s young defense is shaping up, but even with the immediate splash provided by McAvoy in the 2017 NHL playoffs, there is no surefire way to predict that the team will continue to enjoy the fruits of their system to the degree we saw with their 2016 top pick. However, there are several (left-shot heavy) young blue liners who are signed (we’re not including the college kids like Ryan Lindgren, Wiley Sherman and Cameron Clarke in this particular post but will address them later) and if not playing in Boston regularly next season, will probably make cameos at some point.

Continue reading

Dominic Tiano: What’s Next For the Bruins (Pt. 12)- Front Office & Coaching

We all know Boston Bruins President Cam Neely and General Manager Don Sweeney have decisions to make, some of them tough ones, when it comes to players. But what decisions are there to be made in the front office or behind the bench, if any?

Let’s begin with the position of Director of Amateur Scouting, a position that has been vacant since Keith Gretzky departed to join former Bruins’ General Manager Peter Chiarelli with the Edmonton Oilers as an Assistant General Manager. Assistant General Manager Scott Bradley has been filling the role and will run the 2017 NHL Draft for the Bruins.

A decision must be made whether to keep Bradly in the duo role or focus more on one position or the other. If the Bruins brass decides to keep the two positions separate, they could look outside the organization to fill the role, much like Chiarelli did when he brought Gretzky to Boston.

They could also promote someone from within, and there are a couple of very good possibilities currently scouting for the Bruins.

Dean Malkoc has been through ten drafts with the Bruins and has scouted Western Canada, but has done more cross-over scouting recently. Ryan Nadeau is about to enter his 15th season with the Bruins. He has served as Director of Hockey Operations/Analytics for the past three seasons while also scouring the NCAA as a scout. The Bruins have done well drafting from the NCAA the past few seasons and Nadeau deserves some credit.

With the interim tag being removed from coach Bruce “Butch” Cassidy, the head coaching job is filled. As an assistant under Claude Julien when he was dismissed by Sweeney during the season, could/should the Bruins be looking for another assistant now to serve under Cassidy?

Joe Sacco and Jay Pandolfo serve as assistants. Bob Essensa is the goaltending coach, but spent a lot of time watching from upstairs once the coaching change was made. It’s not known yet who may become available that has a professional resume under his belt, or if one will even become available.

The Bruins could also look at the minor-league level, juniors or the NCAA for coaching talent.

Allow me to throw a name into the circle if I may, he’s a long shot, but a very capable coach. Rocky Thompson, head coach of the Windsor Spitfires, who are currently competing for the Memorial Cup.

Thompson began his coaching career with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League. He would become an assistant coach with the Oklahoma City Barons of the American Hockey League and in 2014, spend a season as an assistant coach with the Edmonton Oilers. Last season, he returned to junior hockey and was named head coach of the Spitfires.

If you know me, then you know one area of concern I’ve had for the Bruins for some time now is the professional scouting department. The group is made up of Matt Lindblad, Adam Creighton, Tom McVie and Dennis Bonvie.

Creighton and McVie are the elders of the group, having been with the Bruins for 16 and 23 years respectively. There really isn’t enough of a sample size to judge Lindblad, added a year ago, and Bonvie, added two years ago. But this is one area I feel Neely and Sweeney must address this off season.

 

Dominic Tiano: What’s Next for the Bruins (Pt. 11)- Ryan Spooner

Spooner3

Ryan Spooner during his Providence Bruins days (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

Editor’s Note- Once more unto the breach…Dominic Tiano is back to provide his analysis on options pertaining to RFA Ryan Spooner. Drafted in 2010, Spooner has spent his entire career with the Bruins to date, and whenever it has appeared that he was on the way out, he’s managed to turn things around. We’ll always respect Spooner for his willingness to see things through and be accountable when the play & production hasn’t been there. He’s not taken an easier path by trying to quit or demand a trade, but perhaps a change of scenery would work out for both parties involved. And now- 1/3 of the 3 Amigos- Dom- will give you his take.- KL

Like the one he’d use while dining at a fine restaurant, the fork Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney is holding when it comes to Ryan Spooner has four tines. Each of those tines represent an option Sweeney has with the restricted free agent. They are:

  • Expose him to the Las Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft.
  • Negotiate and sign him to a contract extension.
  • Use salary arbitration to come to an agreement on a contract.
  • Trade his rights to another team.

Let’s take a closer look at these scenarios:

The Bruins could make Spooner available to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft. With no-movement-clauses, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and David Backes will be protected. You can bet Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak will occupy two more of the seven forward spots.

That leaves the Bruins with two additional spots to protect at the forward position. Despite what side of the fence you sit on with Spooner, unless you believe there are two players worthier of protection, then Spooner absolutely should be protected. Barring those two players, and unless your hands are tied, do you allow a player such as Spooner to go for no return?

I acknowledge the fact that the Bruins could acquire a player worthy of protection in a trade or in free agency. But, as of today, no such player is coming via trade and one won’t be coming via free agency – the latter not mattering since it comes after the expansion draft.

If such a trade does materialize, then Sweeney and company will make their decision. National Hockey League general managers can’t be dealing in ifs-ands-or buts. It’s just not that simple.

The Bruins could, and in my opinion should, give Spooner his qualifying offer of $1.1 million, if only to retain his rights, and begin negotiations on a contract. Spooner under contract will have a greater value than simply dealing his rights or exposing him to the Golden Knights.

Which brings me to the next point, salary arbitration. I am of the belief that Spooner conceivably could get more in salary arbitration than he could negotiating a new contract. Hence, I’d be surprised if the Bruins filed for salary arbitration. Which raises the question: If Spooner and agent Murray Kuntz believe the same, could they file for player-elected salary arbitration? It would leave Sweeney in a precarious position if the award is more than what he’d be comfortable paying.

That is just one of the reasons trading his rights won’t bring the value as a signed Spooner will. There have been reports already that Sweeney has shopped Spooner but no one wanted to pay the asking price.

Also, devaluing Spooner when it comes to trading his rights is the fact that this is no regular offseason. The expansion draft has thrown its best curve ball into the situation. The number of teams that would be willing to part with an asset for his rights is reduced by the number of teams that don’t have a spot to protect him in the draft.

What complicates matters even more for Sweeney is that, if a team without a vacant protection spot wishes to acquire him, that team may be forced to trade another asset to the Golden Knights to pass over him.

Contrary to what some believe, Spooner has value to the Bruins. If trading him is in the cards and before the expansion draft, that value may come more in a package deal. Otherwise, they can expect the return to be low.

He also has value to other NHL teams. But as I’ve said, a signed Spooner to a team that can protect him, or to any team after the expansion draft, should bring more back to the Bruins.

It’s all about the timing.

Dominic Tiano: Las Vegas Golden Knights Mock Expansion Draft

Editor’s note- Dominic Tiano is graciously keeping the blog afloat this week with content while the founder moves his household. Here’s an intriguing look at a possible future for the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights, who will take one player from each of the NHL’s existing 30 clubs about a month from now.  Regardless of what happens, Dom has done a fine job of thinking through this and giving his best swag. Enjoy. -KL

The National Hockey League’s expansion draft to fill the roster of the Las Vegas Golden Knights is just a month away.

There are bound to be trades involving some of these players so that teams don’t lose an asset “for nothing”. There will probably be some back room bargaining between Golden Knights’ General Manager George McPhee and his counterparts to attain more assets for the Golden Knights in the form of draft picks or prospects to ignore some of these players and select a different player. Heck, a rival GM may ask McPhee to draft a certain player from a team and in turn, trade that player to him in a prearranged trade.

We don’t know which of those deals will be consummated so we’re just looking at who is available and who I think McPhee might select as of today.

If you believe in building from the net out, then this is a pretty decent group in goal and on defence – the latter at least making things difficult for the opposition. The forwards need some work. I also took into consideration expiring contracts in which McPhee can use at trade deadline to acquire assets.

The goaltending is young with an average age of just 25.3 years. Two of the goaltenders I’ve selected are restricted free agents. But the teams exposing them must make them a qualifying offer to meet their exposure rules, therefore the Golden Knights will retain their rights. The defence (27.8 years) and forwards (27.6 years) are a good mix with expiring contracts that can be used at trade deadline to gain extra prospects/picks.

The picks listed meet the Golden Knights draft obligations; 1) one player from each team; 2) 21 players under contract for 2017-2018 (must select 20); 3) Draft picks have an aggregate salary of $59,145,834 – must select players with an aggregate cap hit of $43,800,000.

Here are my picks for the Golden Knights along with contract status and age:

Goaltenders (3)

Joonas Korpisalo – Columbus Blue Jackets (RFA) (23)

Antti Raanta – New York Rangers (one year @ $1,000,000) (28)

Philipp Grubauer – Washington Capitals (RFA) (25)

Defencemen (10)

Adam McQuaid – Boston Bruins (two years @ $2,750,000) (30)

Josh Gorges – Buffalo Sabres (one year @ $3,900,000) (32)

Trevor van Riemsdyk – Chicago Blackhawks (one year @ $825,000) (25)

Stephen Johns – Dallas Stars (one year @ $725,000) (25)

Alex Petrovic – Florida Panthers (RFA) (25)

Brayden McNabb – Los Angeles Kings (one year @ $1,700,000) (26)

Jonas Brodin – Minnesota Wild (four years @ $4,166,667) (23)

Ben Lovejoy – New Jersey Devils (two years @ $2,666,667) (33)

Thomas Hickey – New York Islanders (one year @ $2,200,000) (28)

Marc Methot – Ottawa Senators (two years @ $4,900,000) (31)

Forwards (17)

Jakob Silfverberg – Anaheim Ducks (two years @ $3,750,000) (26)

Teemu Pulkkinen – Arizona Coyotes (RFA) (25)

Michael Ferland – Calgary Flames (RFA) (25)

Lee Stempniak – Carolina Hurricanes (one year @ $2,500,000) (34)

Sven Andrighetto – Colorado Avalanche (RFA) (24)

Riley Sheahan – Detroit Red Wings (one year @ $2,075,000) (25)

Mark Letestu – Edmonton Oilers (one year @ $1,800,000) (32)

Tomas Plekanec – Montreal Canadiens (one year @ $6,000,000) (34)

Austin Watson – Nashville Predators (RFA) (25)

Michael Raffl – Philadelphia Flyers (two years @ $2,350,000) (28)

Carl Hagelin – Pittsburgh Penguins (two years @ $4,000,000) (28)

Joel Ward – San Jose Sharks (one year @ $3,275,000) (36)

Nail Yakupov – St Louis Blues (RFA) (23)

Vladislav Namestnikov – Tampa Bay Lightning (one year @ $1,937,500) (24)

Matt Martin – Toronto Maple Leafs (three years @ $2,500,000) (28)

Reid Boucher – Vancouver Canucks (RFA)

Matthew Perreault – Winnipeg Jets (four years @ $4,125,000) (29)

Dominic Tiano: What’s Next for Bruins (Pt. 10) Key offseason dates to watch

(Editor’s note- Dominic Tiano gets full credit for writing this in-depth piece on key dates linked to the 2017 NHL offseason. It’s a reminder of how plugged in he is to the business and operations side of hockey. If you ever have a question about the CBA or free agency rules or pretty much anything that deals with the nuts and bolts of the NHL’s infrastructure, then he’s the guy to follow and engage with on Twitter. @dominictiano  – KL)

Of course, some of you may think it’s early, but decision time is fast approaching. In less than two weeks, Don Sweeney, Scott Bradley and company will be busy at the week-long NHL Draft Combine in Buffalo N.Y. where they make key decisions on the future of your Boston Bruins. Plenty of time will be spent watching players do some off-ice testing and they will also be conducting plenty of player interviews. It’s when a scout sees his year long work (sometimes longer) come to the forefront.

It’s also less than two weeks away that NHL teams will have to make decisions on prior year’s draft picks if they have not already signed an NHL contract. You will see the term bona fide offer used a lot, so let me explain a bona fide offer if I may.

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What’s next for the Bruins (Pt. 9): Rounding out the forwards

Ryan Donato

(Ryan Donato, Boston’s 2nd-round selection in 2014 NHL Entry Draft )

We’re going to close out the forwards portion of our “What’s Next” for the Boston Bruins series with this entry on the prospects we didn’t cover in the two previous posts on the subject. These are players who are either unsigned (NCAA) or out of Europe. Some are closer to making a possible impact (Anders Bjork) than others (Ryan Donato), but this more proof that the B’s have a lot of options within their organization, and that doesn’t include the next talent boost, with the 2017 NHL Entry Draft about five weeks away.

So, in the spirit of the previous post- here’s a list of the players we think are going to not only challenge for NHL jobs sooner than later, but will also make an impact:

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Dominic Tiano: What’s Next (Pt. 8)- Young Gun Senyshyn Charging Ahead

Zachary Senyshyn of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.(Photo credit: Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

If you’ve been following along here at The Scouting Post, then you know we’ve been covering some of the decisions Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney is facing at the NHL level this offseason. There’s no shortage of forward prospects knocking at the door to make the jump to the NHL. Some appear to be ready, and some do not. Today, we’ll look at Zachary Senyshyn.

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What’s Next For the Bruins (Pt. 7): Young Guns (Forwards)

We hope you’re enjoying the offseason series on the Boston Bruins. There’s more in the works, but this post will quickly break down several of the forward prospects who could be ready for a bigger impact/contribution with the B’s in 2017-18. Now granted- we still need to see who comes and goes when the roster shaping period begins in earnest on and after 1 July, but for now- here are just a few players we think are going to push the coaching staff to either get them into the lineup sooner rather than later, or will make the decision to send them down a tough one.

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