Reflections on Memorial Day 2020

“Boldness is the beginning of action. But fortune controls how it ends.”- Democritus

Because of everything going on in the country and world, have had more time to think and contemplate. Multiple tours overseas to Iraq and Afghanistan resulted in countless friendships and experiences, but also as is the nature of war and the profession of arms, the loss of some of those friends.

No matter how you choose to observe the Memorial Day weekend, which commemorates the fallen in our nation’s wars,  the purpose is to remember and honor those no longer with us. I captured these images a year ago when the National Memorial commemorating all military lives lost in operations conducted after 9/11 brought its mobile display to Ralston Arena, home of the Omaha Lancers. They are forever the ages depicted in the images below. They shall not grow old…

One individual in particular, Captain Joel Cahill, grew up right down the road in La Vista and graduated from La Vista High in 1989 before he embarked on a successful Army career that ultimately led him from the enlisted ranks to commissioned officer via University of Nebraska to Iraq for a second tour in 2005 with the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division. He was one of my brothers on a close-knit brigade staff until duty called and he took command of Baker Company, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment- the “Audie Murphy Company.” While leading his company from the front as he always did, Joel’s life was taken by a roadside bomb on November 6. Of all I knew who did not return home to their families, Joel’s loss makes the least sense- he seemed destined to wear general’s stars and was the best Soldier of all of us.

Some of the fallen here, I knew more than others. But all of them personally touched me in some way, shape or form.

Whether it was the driver who made sure there was a cold Red Bull waiting for me on every mission we went on as his vehicle commander and who we nicknamed “McLovin” after the Superbad character, which was a popular movie during the Surge deployment.

Or the fellow Citadel graduate who was a year ahead of me in 1st Battalion. Or the good friend who I bar-hopped with in Aggieville- Manhattan, Kansas- and deployed with to Bosnia as young lieutenants/peace keepers in 1997, only for him to return to active service a decade-plus later because he felt a calling to do his part- then lost his life in that volunteer service.

Or the former ROTC Advanced Camp platoon mate who I lost touch with after Fort Bragg in 1993, only to reconnect with him…when I saw his name announced as one of the deaths in a grim fight in Fallujah in November, 2004.

Or the young Civil Affairs soldier who was killed a short time into her deployment, but whose smiling photo on the wall of honor in our brigade headquarters haunted me well after we redeployed, a life taken far too soon. A scholarship in her honor provides young people from her home state of Wisconsin with opportunities to serve others as she did.

Or the seasoned NCO who could have saved himself from his burning Bradley, but instead doomed himself to certain death to free trapped men inside. A true hero in every sense of the word. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”- John 15:13

Or the fellow Pentagon staffer who handed off a project he had been working on to me as he headed off to Afghanistan for a tour, and then likely bigger things. And because of a fluke accident on that deployment, he is forever a major.

While not all of them died under enemy direct fire or from improvised explosive devices, their loss is no less devastating to their families and those who loved and knew them best. The fallen are all sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, uncles and aunts. They are all of us.

We may not all agree about the nature of their sacrifice, but none of us should ever forget what they gave up so that we could all have the freedom and choice continue our own pursuits.

– Kirk Luedeke, Omaha, NE; May 24, 2020

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All The President’s Men: The 1990 Boston Bruins (Part 3)

Today, we wrap up the tribute to the 1990 Boston Bruins, the franchise’s first President’s Trophy-winning team, with the run through the playoffs. This was written 20 years ago and has been updated in certain sections, but apologies for some of the wooden writing- we’ve come a long way since 2000. Hope you have enjoyed this look back at that team and season.- KL

Andymoog

As the 1990 playoffs began, the Boston Bruins were riding high with a regular season title, but knew they faced a tough opponent in the Hartford Whalers, who had an impressive and ever-improving young core. The B’s and their fans knew that all of the goodwill of a President’s Trophy would be for naught if they were knocked out in an upset, and the Whalers had the talent to do it.

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All The President’s Men: the 1990 Boston Bruins (Part 2)

(The 1989-90 President’s Trophy Boston Bruins retrospective continues with the second half of the regular season. Part 3 looks at the 1990 playoffs and will be posted soon- KL)

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         In the first couple of days in 1990, Sinden pulled off a key trade, acquiring veteran two-way center and former Frank Selke Trophy winner Dave Poulin, the Philadelphia Flyers’ captain in exchange for Linseman.  When the deal was announced, Poulin was less than enthusiastic about joining Boston, having been a Flyer his entire career and visibly stunned that he had been traded.

            “I’m going to go home, sit down with my wife, and go over our options,” he remarked when initially interviewed.  “I’ve tried to keep my options open.”  These words were hardly a ringing endorsement from Poulin, who had just been dealt from the only team he had ever known.

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Friday Flashback: All the President’s Men: the 1990 Boston Bruins Pt. 1

Wrote this about 20 years ago for the 10-year anniversary of the 1989-90 President’s Trophy Boston Bruins team that came up short in their quest to bring the first Stanley Cup back to the Hub in 18 years. It would take the B’s another 21 years, but at the time, it was just another promising group that did everything but win the championship. I originally wrote the piece in 2000 to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the team’s only (at the time) regular season championship, but have updated it in the years since with a new intro today and thanks to later access to players who were a part of the club to insert quotes and memories of that team.  Given that it is a complete season recap including playoffs, the word count comes in at around 9,000 words, so we’ll break this up into 3 parts over the next few days.- KL

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The Boston Bruins are one of the National Hockey League’s more storied franchises, yet they’ve also been somewhat star-crossed in their near century of existence, coming up short in numerous opportunities to capture more than the six Stanley Cup championships in team history. Most recently, the B’s and their fans saw heartbreak in 2019, losing a decisive game 7 at home to the St. Louis Blues.

30 years ago, another Boston hockey club took their fans on a dizzying ride and tantalized the region with an unforgettable run that had more than its share of peaks and valleys after a terrific regular season. It almost ended before it began with a near-upset at the hands of a younger, upstart Hartford Whalers team, followed by another memorable matchup against an archrival and an extended run through the Stanley Cup playoffs.

This is their story.

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3 Amigos + 1 Podcast: The Beat Goes on With Bruins Network

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We got the 3 Amigos together again, but full credit to Anthony Kwetkowski of Bruins Network who suggested a joint venture, so we’re proud to unveil our first edition of the 3 Amigos + 1 podcast…4 Amigos…whatever you feel comfortable calling it.

As for us, we’re calling it a good solid near 3 hours’ worth of talk about various subjects from what the NHL playoff format might look like, to Jack Studnicka, everyone’s most interesting B’s prospect and then we answered reader-submitted questions on a host of topics from more expansion draft stuff to Tuukka Rask extension to Torey Krug’s chances of re-signing to Ondrej Kase and what the lines might look like, plus more. It runs long, but it sure felt like about 40 minutes to us.

But don’t take our word for it- give it a listen here:

As always- thanks for listening and thanks to those who provided questions!

-KL, RD, DT & AK

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Studnicka named to 2020 AHL All-Rookie Team

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Jack Studnicka (Kirk Luedeke photo)

The AHL released its 2019-20 All-Rookie team this afternoon and to the surprise of no one, Providence Bruins center Jack Studnicka was the first Bruins prospect named to a top-rookie squad since Austin Czarnik and Frank Vatrano both made the 2016 version.

Studnicka’s numbers were solid- 23 goals, 49 points in 60 games to lead the Baby B’s, but his league-leading 7 shorthanded goals is eye-opening because it speaks to his potential to create offense in any situation.

The 53rd overall pick in 2017 has performed like a first-round selection since the B’s tabbed the former Oshawa Generals captain who finished his OHL career with the Niagara Ice Dogs.

For more on Studnicka, Eric Russo published a detailed article on Providence head coach Jay Leach, sharing the B’s bench boss’s observations on some of Boston’s top prospects playing on the farm. It’s worth a read if you haven’t seen it, and check it out here. Leach had this to say about Studnicka:

“Studdy, for all intents and purposes, had a terrific year. Twenty-year-old kid jumps right in, plays every real scenario. Down the stretch, I was really leaning on him and Cameron Hughes as the guys to seal some games out for us. His competitiveness, his speed, his hockey sense really shone through and was able to be very productive on both sides of the puck. I think he had a terrific year.”

While we’re not sure about the ‘Studdy’ thing (Studs has a much better ring to it), there is no denying that he’s been nails in his first full pro season and that the Bruins were aces in their scouting of him.  Full credit for them recognizing that he was trending up after a strong playoff and U18 performance and was undervalued after struggling to meet expectations early in the season. Sometimes, scouts will move on from a player if he disappoints early on, and if they don’t catch him at the right time when he peaks, could end up missing the boat.

Russo followed up with another piece on Studnicka’s season, interviewing the man of the hour here.

A few highlights:

“There’s not older and younger guys, it’s just more team atmosphere and everyone loved coming to the rink and loved playing together. I think I can speak for the whole team when I say that I really think we had something special down there, the way it was a team-first mentality. Everybody was happy with each other’s success. At the end of the day, we just wanted to win the hockey game.”- Studnicka

“I’m not as strong as a lot of the players in pro hockey,” said Studnicka, who named Patrice Bergeron, Charlie Coyle, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Kane as players he has tried to learn from. “We kind of keyed on ways to get around that in the offensive zone, whether that’s protecting the puck or holding onto the puck or taking space that you have to separate from your guy in the offensive zone.

“[The organization] just wanted to make sure that I was always approaching the game to play a 200-foot game and not cheating on offense, just making sure that I’m playing the right way and taking care of the defensive zone and the offense will come.”

It is our firm position that Studnicka is ready for the NHL full-time in 20-21 and in a few years, is going to end up being one of Boston’s more respected and productive players. That’s the prediction and we’re sticking to it.

We’ll have more on Studnicka and his selection in the next 3 Amigos + 1 podcast coming soon.

3 Amigos + BN Podcast coming soon

The 3 Amigos will ride again- it’s been nearly 2 months since our last podcast, so we figured we would get together and talk some hockey.

This time, we will be joined by Bruins Network’s Anthony Kwetkowski, so you will all get 4 for the price 1!

As we did before, we are interested in answering your questions, so if you have any for us, please submit those questions in the comments section of this post, or feel free to contact us via Twitter.

We plan to record in the next couple of days, so if you have a question you want us to answer, we’ll need those by Wednesday morning.

 

Off the top of the head: Roman Bychkov

The march through the Bruins prospects stable continues with Boston’s 5th-rounder last June, a flyer pick out of Russia who has the skills to translate to the modern NHL…if he ever comes over.- KL

Roman Bychkov, D Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)

Boston’s 3rd choice (5th round), 154th overall in 2019 NHL Entry Draft

Strengths: Left-shot D is an excellent skater who moves with fluid agility and has some real jump in his first couple of steps. Closes on pucks quickly in retrievals and effortlessly manages his gaps as he backs up against speed. Able to escape an aggressive forecheck with a nifty wiggle/shift and crisp edging to maintain balance and momentum. Superb puckhandler and passer- makes outlets and breakouts look easy. Intelligent and poised with the puck. Activates smartly and brings a confident, playmaking mindset in the offensive zone to step and pinch to boost the possession game. Plays with some jam and F-U…borderline dirty at times, but you have to like the competitiveness- he’s not going to be intimidated.

Weaknesses: Average size- (as is case with most his age) lacking in functional strength. Needs to improve his defensive reads and show more assertiveness when defending the rush. Stick is just OK- will get caught in passivity at times, allowing puck carriers to get around him and generate shots on net.

Overall analysis: When you’re picking second-to-last in every round and didn’t have 2nd and 4th selections, a player like Bychkov is an interesting swing of the draft bat. Playing in Russia’s top junior league, he’s a productive 2-way defenseman and power play weapon who is a breakout machine and uses his superb mobility and skills to get pucks north and in transition. If he were a little bigger and more effective in his own end, you would’ve heard a lot more about him in pre-draft circles, but he was solid at the 2018 World Jr. A Challenge and while not a star player on a loaded Russian team that lost the gold medal game to Team USA in Bonnyville, we like Boston’s thinking here.

Projection: Bychkov is a project player who has an intriguing ceiling if he can mature and better develop his defensive play, because he’s aces in terms of having the wheels and with the puck on his stick is a difference-maker at this level. He’s going to need time to play pro hockey in Russia and then likely break in slowly with Providence in a couple of years. When you’re talking about a pick that happened closer to the 6th round than the 5th, this is a player you can get behind to track going forward.

While we’re not seeing top-3 D potential at the NHL level right now, the tools are there for him to evolve into something closer if he addresses the shortcomings in his raw, but projectable game. Think of him as a similar kind of player to a poor man’s Vince Dunn– offensively capable, but the defense is a work in progress and not going to play a lot of minutes early on. Let’s face it- if teams felt he had that kind of potential (Dunn was a second-round pick), he would not have been on the board at 154, but he’s not one of those safe/high-floor players either- we get the sense that Bychkov will play his way into the mix with Boston, or we won’t ever even see him get close. But that payoff could be worth the wait.

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Not much video out there on Bychkov that I am allowed to post, but here’s a YouTube clip from his 16-YO season- he’s No. 8 and on PP watch his lateral mobility and quick release to get the puck to the net from the point for the tip-goal. Smooth. (At about 2:25 of the video)

Again- on first Russian goal vs Finland (second assist), you can see how poised he is in the offensive zone- aggressively pinches down and works the puck to the net; after a rebound, the play is finished off. Easy to talk about, harder to execute.

May 15, 1967: Schmidt, Bruins pull off the “most lopsided trade in NHL history”

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As the 1966-67 season concluded, significant change was about to happen in the National Hockey League, as it prepared to double in size from six teams to twelve. Expansion meant the end of the NHL’s Original Six era, but at the same time, something special was brewing in Boston.

After years of waiting in eager anticipation, the sad-sack Bruins and the club’s fans were rewarded with the 18-year-old hockey prodigy Robert Gordon “Bobby” Orr. The precocious blueliner arrived to remarkable fanfare in an age well before the proliferation of the internet and social media, more than living up to the hype that followed him down from Canada. Having been touted as a player who could help reverse Boston’s fortunes on ice, the rookie Orr took no time to establish himself in the NHL, going on to win the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s best first-year player. However, superb as Orr’s performance was, hockey is a team game, and he was just one man. His presence alone was not enough to secure a finish better than fifth for the first time since 1959.

The Bruins had been moribund for the entire decade of the 1960’s, finishing sixth, or last in the field five of seven years before Orr suited up for his first professional game. Prior to that, the B’s had not won a Stanley Cup championship since 1941, the season before the league’s Original Six era began in 1942-43. Long gone were the championships authored by stalwarts like Eddie Shore, Aubrey ‘Dit’ Clapper, Cecil ‘Tiny’ Thompson, Lionel Hitchman, Milt Schmidt and Frank ‘Mr. Zero’ Brimsek. An entire generation had grown up in Boston without a championship in hockey, and the pressure was on to make the team competitive again. Or, at the very least, get out of the shadow of a powerhouse they shared the Boston Garden with.

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2006: Turning Point

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Brad Marchand is the team’s top LW period. End of story. (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

(This is a re-worked and updated story done for the New England Hockey Journal in 2011- KL)

If ever there was a year that altered an NHL franchise’s destiny, 2006 was the pivotal one for the Boston Bruins as we look back nearly a decade-and-a-half later.

As the calendar flipped over to January 2006, the post-lockout campaign was a disaster.

Already, the team traded its captain and 1997 first overall pick Joe Thornton. Soon, it would fire GM Mike O’Connell and head coach Mike Sullivan. The B’s finished out of the playoffs with the fifth-worst record. Free agent signings supposed to help put the B’s in contention like Alexei Zhamnov and Dave Scatchard were complete busts, with a grand total of 40 games and five goals in Boston between them.

The franchise had stumbled badly in a decade since the bottoming-out of 1997 that had netted Thornton and Sergei Samsonov. That new era that began with so much promise when the latter took NHL Rookie of the Year honors and the late Pat Burns helped lead the B’s back to the postseason in 1998 was about to be officially done when Samsonov was dealt to Edmonton at the trade deadline in a few weeks. Although few realized it in 2006, a series of critical trades, hires, signings and events paved the way for Boston to become a championship city once again.

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