In the dressing room before games, Marc Savard would scan that night’s opposing roster and give a scouting report. When he landed on an unfamiliar name, he’d toss out, “Nice guy, tries hard, loves the game.”
It became a running gag among the Bruins during his five seasons (2006-11). Phil Kessel appreciated it enough to adopt it for his Twitter bio.
Savard needed no such throwaway line this past week, as he was breaking down a player his new team will soon face.
“He’s a big boy,” Savard said. “He’s got good skills. He’s about 6-3 now, almost. Left winger with a lot of good vision and he can score. If he needs to rough it up, he can.”
The player is Tyler Savard, Marc’s 18-year-old son and an Ontario Hockey League rookie with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Savard, this past week named coach of the Windsor Spitfires, will see them eight times this season, beginning Nov. 13.
The popular ex-Bruins center, after accepting his first big-boy head coaching gig, is looking forward to those nights. Tyler Savard signed with his OHL club last year, but the league was the only one of the three Canadian major junior leagues to opt out.
“It’ll be interesting to see how he adapts,” Marc Savard said. “They have a decent team up there too, so hopefully he gets to play with some good players. It’ll be a good little battle when we play each other.”
Being back in the battle, albeit behind the bench, feels wonderful for Savard, whose career was cut short in 2011. The quick read on Savard, if you need it: elite playmaker, silky hands, special vision, opportunistic finisher. Point-a-game guy, until concussions piled up. Done at 33. The NHL rewrote its anti-headshot rule (No. 48.1) because it couldn’t properly punish Matt Cooke’s targeted elbow to Savard’s head.
Savard, 44, feels the dark chapter that followed — a post-concussion hell detailed in a 2016 story by the Globe’s Stan Grossfeld — is all but over. In the last seven years, he rediscovered his passion for golf (he is a scratch player who has competed on amateur tours in Ontario) and coached his kids’ minor teams in Peterborough, Ontario, did a stint with Sportsnet radio in Toronto, and returned to the NHL as a Blues assistant in 2019-20.
When reached by telephone Thursday, Savard and his wife, Valerie, were enjoying their last few days of summer in cottage country. He was packing to head to Windsor, where he planned to stay with a longtime pal before settling into an apartment for the season. His family will make the four-plus-hour drive southwest, along Lakes Ontario and Erie, to visit.
“I’m feeling great,” Savard said. “I’ve been good for a long time now. Life’s good. My kids [Zach, 21; Isabella, 19; Tyler; and Elle, 7] are good. My wife’s great. I’m happy as can be.”
That means the OHL could get a dose of Savard’s lively personality. Savard was king of chirps in the Boston dressing room. He plans to be serious on game days, but he did tell Windsor general manager Bill Bowler in their initial talks that if he was looking for an all-business coach, he might look elsewhere.
“He has no problem getting along with his teammates, coaches, his peers,” said Bowler, entering his third season as GM. “The one thing that stood out to me was how humble he is. It’s all about the players and what he can do for them. If I didn’t ask him about it, I don’t know if I’d know he ever played. It’s refreshing to hear.”
Savard, who scored 305 points in 304 games as a Bruin (401 in 503 before that, with the Rangers, Flames, and Thrashers), said he will take defensive cues from his former coaches — Claude Julien, in particular — but a freewheeling attack and a puck-moving power play will be his pillars.
“I’m going to let the kids breathe on offense,” he said. “I’m not going to draw up offensive plays for them five on five. I’m going to let them do their thing. I’m going to be a players’ coach. My door’s always open.”
He may have to be patient to see results.
With Ontario’s COVID situation forcing a mass shutdown, the OHL was kneecapped last year. Every team reportedly lost millions of dollars. For many players, October will be their first action at that level in 18 months. Some of the league’s brightest talents spent last season in Europe, such as third overall pick Mason McTavish (Anaheim), who hooked on with EHC Olten in Switzerland with Peterborough going dark. Former Windsor center Wyatt Johnston was taken 23rd overall by Dallas despite not playing regular games; his only notable competition was the World Junior Championship. Others did not play at all.
Savard, whose No. 27 is retired by the OHL’s Oshawa Generals, has long wanted to coach in his old junior league. He would one day like to own a team. When his kids are grown, he might dive back into golf. He’s not thinking about an NHL job, but perhaps one day he’ll get a call that makes him reconsider.
The dates March 7, 2010 (the Cooke hit) and Jan. 22, 2011 (the clean Matt Hunwick hit that ended his career) are no longer on Savard’s mind. It’s all about Oct. 7. That’s Windsor vs. Sarnia, the season opener. A new season, a new opportunity, for someone who loves the game.
Bruins’ Carlo excited for camp
The Bruins were all but toast in the playoffs last season when Brandon Carlo was clobbered by Islanders winger Cal Clutterbuck in Game 3 of that second-round series. Absent Carlo’s long stick and reach on the back end, the Bruins couldn’t corral the Islanders’ hard-driving forecheck and break out the puck. They lost in six games.
Carlo is ready for camp, feeling refreshed after a summer of training at the University of Denver with a few old friends (Anaheim’s Troy Terry and San Jose’s Dylan Gambrell) and fellow pros Tyson Barrie and Scott Mayfield.
“Summer’s been great,” the affable defenseman said, chatting at the Ray Bourque Family Foundation Golf Tournament on Thursday in Stratham, N.H. “I’ve felt so good. Coming back from altitude has been kind of nice, heh. It’s been awesome. I’ve had a really good summer.”
Carlo, entering his sixth season, has had four documented concussions (Alex Ovechkin hit, 2017; Evgenii Dadonov elbow, 2020; Tom Wilson headshot last March; Clutterbuck check in May). The latter two incidents limited him to 27 games, not including eight in the playoffs.
Both Carlo and his employer believe he can stay healthy. The Bruins expressed that support by signing him to a six-year, $24.6 million deal last month.
For Carlo, 24, it came at the right time. He and his fiancée, Mayson Corbett, are expecting their first child, a girl, any day now.
“It’s amazing,” said Carlo, who lives in Charlestown. “As you go through your career, there are these pinpoints that you want to hit. You keep growing up and your goals get bigger and bigger. The contract was huge, especially with starting a family and being able to provide.
“When they came to me with that six-year offer, I was really happy with the term … the term was very important to me. I was delighted about the whole thing and I’m still excited. From this point on I can keep taking my confidence to the next level and keep growing my game. They displayed such confidence in me, so I’ve just got to keep rewarding them on the ice.”
Checking on Krejci and Rask
Sure doesn’t sound like David Krejci will be back with the Bruins this season. Meanwhile, Tuukka Rask doesn’t want to be anywhere else.
Krejci, in his introductory news conference with HC Olomouc in the Czech Extraliga, all but closed the door on Boston, at least for this season.
“I will stay in Olomouc all season,” Krejci said, according to a Google translation of a news conference recap on the club’s website. “I signed a one-year contract. I’m not dealing with what’s next at all at the moment, but returning to Boston in the spring is definitely not in the game.”
Robert Hooper, Krejci’s Ontario-based agent, did not return a message seeking clarification on that, or whether his client could return in 2022-23. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney and coach Bruce Cassidy previously said they would welcome back the 35-year-old playmaker any time. They hoped he would rejoin the Black and Gold after the conclusion of the Czech season in April.
Marc Savard, the No. 1 pivot here when Krejci broke into the league in 2007, was happy to see his old buddy reconnect his two Boston-raised children with their Czech family. “I think it was always in his heart to do that,” Savard said. “He’s done a lot for the Bruins organization and he’s been a great player. Something he wanted to do and I’m glad he’s doing it.”
Charlie Coyle, a leading candidate to replace Krejci as the No. 2 center, said he began skating Wednesday. He is on track to have a healthy training camp.
“I’ll be firing on all cylinders now,” Coyle said, during the WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon, noting his ailing knee got worse over the last two to three years. He went under the knife in mid-June to fix an avulsion fracture in his left kneecap and a small tear of the patellar tendon.
Rask, the longtime franchise netminder recovering from hip surgery, joked this past week that he would play for $250,000 “and free Bud Lights” when he’s healthy. (The NHL minimum salary is $750,000.) Rask, his eight-year, $56 million deal expired, acknowledged his days of being a $7 million goalie are over.
The 34-year-old said he could be ready to play by January and hoped to start skating in about six weeks. “I haven’t done anything yet,” he said during the Jimmy Fund event. “Still two to three weeks away from actually working out.”
Rask reiterated his desire to play in Boston or nowhere. He didn’t sound ready to hang ‘em up.
“I played with one team when I was in Finland [Ilves Tampere], I have been so lucky to be part of only one team in the NHL,” Rask said. “For me, it’s about that pride of playing for one team and one team only.
“I feel it would be a shame to go somewhere and try and chase something dollar-wise or trophy-wise when you have a chance to finish your career with the same group you started with. Then you look at the additions the Bruins signed and it looks like a really capable team again. I’m looking forward to it.
“The Bruins are my home, Boston is my home. I’ve always wanted to play here, wanted to stay here. So the money won’t be an issue. We had a conversation with Sweens and I will be a cheap goalie for them, I think.”
Good thing, since the Bruins, after signing ex-Buffalo goaltender Linus Ullmark to a $5 million-a-year deal among six free agent additions (Erik Haula, Nick Foligno, Tomas Nosek, Derek Forbort, returning UFA Mike Reilly), are about $1 million under the salary cap.
Gorton paid the price with his job
Jeff Gorton didn’t think the Tom Wilson incident would cost him and team president John Davidson their jobs.
Appearing on the Cam and Strick podcast, the former Rangers GM said the chaos of May 3, when the Capitals wildman threw around Pavel Buchnevich and Artemi Panarin, was not originally thought to be a turning point for the organization.
Since firing Gorton and Davidson, the Rangers, under new GM Chris Drury, have added one of the league’s few remaining enforcers (Ryan Reaves), as well as irritants Barclay Goodrow, Sammy Blais, and Jarred Tinordi, the latter of whom fought Wilson last season during his brief stint as a Bruin.
“I mean, obviously, I lost my job,” Gorton said, when asked if that was a turning point. “It probably has to be more than that … but you can’t tell me [Davidson], who loves toughness, didn’t know we weren’t tough.”
Wilson earned a $5,000 fine for roughing Buchnevich, since traded to St. Louis for Blais and a second-round pick, and nothing for rag-dolling Panarin (an act that ended the superstar’s season). The Rangers released an unprecedented statement in response, calling it a “horrifying act of violence” and demanding the resignation of NHL Department of Player Safety head George Parros.
Gorton didn’t see the note before it was released, did he?
“I think that’s fair to say,” said Gorton, a Melrose product who got his start in the Bruins’ media relations department in the early 1990s. “You might have seen it the first time I did.”
The NHL fined the Blueshirts a cool $250,000 for their criticism. Two days after Wilson’s outburst, the Capitals and Rangers combined for six fights and 141 penalty minutes.
“It’s probably not the way the league wanted it,” Gorton said of the Rangers’ “fight night” response. “But it was handled the way they needed to handle it.”
The latest in the Jack Eichel situation: On Friday he replaced Boston-based agent Peter Fish with Pat Brisson, the Los Angeles player rep with a long list of clients including Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon, Patrick Kane, John Tavares, Elias Pettersson, and the Hughes brothers. Fish and partner Peter Donatelli were unable to help the Sabres negotiate a deal for Eichel, who still needs surgery for a herniated disk in his neck. On July 31, the agents said in a statement that the “process is not working” and the inaction of the Sabres was preventing Eichel from being ready for the start of the season. Buffalo management has not signed off on Eichel’s preferred neck surgery, an artificial disk replacement, because it has not been done on an NHL player … Two major deals came down this past week: Carolina re-upping restricted free agent Andrei Svechnikov, and Philadelphia keeping pending UFA Sean Couturier. Both players got eight years and $62 million ($7.75 million AAV). The Hurricanes paid a premium to get Svechnikov, buying one RFA year, three RFA years with arbitration, and four UFA years. Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher said not having a Couturier extension to start the season would be a distraction. Interestingly, he didn’t say the same about captain Claude Giroux: “At this point our plan is to play the season out and we’ll talk at the end of the season” … At the women’s Worlds, the United States entered the weekend licking its wounds after a 5-1 drubbing by rival Canada. The Americans could face a rematch in the gold medal game on Tuesday. It would make 19 straight world championship finals between the North American sides … Czech forward Tereza Vanisova, taking a sabbatical from the Boston Pride, was tied for third on her team in assists (four). Let it be known that all elite Czech playmakers are welcome back at Warrior Ice Arena in 2022.