Boston Bruins forwards David Krejci, Jimmy Hayes and Frank Vatrano made an on-air appearance on Boston sports radio station WEEI on Monday afternoon during the 15th annual Jimmy Fund Radio Telethon, which helps to raise money for cancer research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. Adam McQuaid, former-Bruin and annual contributor Shawn Thornton, and many other athletes and celebrities also joined in throughout the day and will continue to take part over the next two days. Both of Hayes’ parents have battled cancer and he thus has a soft spot for the cause, and said that “raising all of that money is great to see.” All three players were excited to be there to contribute to a good cause.
The topic then turned to hockey:
- Hayes denied rumors that he told Jimmy Vesey not to come to Boston. The idea had been floated around, given the harsh criticism that the local kid received in his first season playing with the Bruins. “I love playing here, it’s my hometown,” Hayes said, not the words of someone who would insist on other locals turning away from the city. Hayes said that he pushed hard for Vesey and talked to him all summer, but wasn’t surprised to see him join his brother Kevin with the Rangers, as the two are good friends.
- Hayes also denied that he had any complaints about unfair media pressure in 2015-16, and went as far as to acknowledge that he underperformed last season. Hayes had just 13 goals and 16 assists after scoring 19 goals as a member of the Florida Panthers the year before. The Bruins acquired the hulking winger, hoping that he would be a perennial 20-goal scorer. He realizes that there will always be a tighter focus on Boston-born Bruins players and that it can be tough sometimes, but does not believe that the criticism of his play was undue. “I’ve been hard on myself sometimes”, he added. Hayes has his sights set on a stronger 2016-17 season, and more than anything has been working on his quickness and net-front presence this summer. Hayes said that he can “score some more goals and contribute in the way that I know I can do.”
- Hayes, speaking for the team, said that head coach Claude Julien still has a hold on the locker room, that the team tries to “win games for him”, and that he personally has a great relationship with the coach. Julien has been on the hot seat for a long time now, but Hayes said that the late-season collapse of the Bruins in 2016 that forced them out of a playoff spot for a second straight season was on the players, not the coach. Hayes sounded optimistic about the coming season, believing that his production and consistency will be better and that the addition of David Backes will make the team even tougher to play against. Julien may just be able to survive another season if the Bruins can reverse their fortunes and have a strong, complete season in 2016-17.
- Vatrano should be a big piece of the playoff-contention puzzle for the Bruins this season. The reigning AHL goals-leader acknowledged that he had a very different role once called up to Boston from Providence last year, going from top-line sniper to bottom six energy player. With an open spot to left of either Krejci or Ryan Spooner up for grabs in 2016-17, Vatrano could have that scoring position in Boston that produced a torrid goal-per-game pace in the AHL. “Especially in Boston, you have to play hard-nosed hockey and be good in both zones of the ice, and I think being consistent is the most important thing”, Vatrano said about earning a bigger role in his second season.
- Krejci is excited about this season, and as a veteran Bruin knows that a third straight season of missing the playoff would be unacceptable. “(The playoffs are) what the city of Boston deserves and where we should be playing,” Krejci said. The Czech star hopes to be healthy for the start of the season after undergoing off-season hip surgery. He played through the injury last year, but admitted that the last twenty games or so were difficult for him. He also said that, as a team, the Bruins have lacked that next gear at the end of the season, and that he feels it is unacceptable that they have dropped out of the playoff picture with so few games remaining in each of the past two seasons.
- WEEI’s DJ Bean also spoke with Krejci recently and found that he was not that upset about the Vesey decision. “I’m not really disappointed with that guy,” Krejci said, “I heard he’s a good player, but he has to prove himself on the NHL level.” What Krejci is upset about is the loss of Loui Eriksson. Although Backes was brought in to fill the void left by Eriksson’s move to the Vancouver Canucks, this is the fourth year in a row that Krejci has lost a trusted line mate, Bean recalls. Nathan Horton, Jarome Iginla, Milan Lucic and now Eriksson have left Boston. Luckily for Krejci, potential 2016-17 line mates Vatrano, Hayes, David Pastrnak, and Matt Beleskey will be around for a while.