While Blauds has been ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL, two articles today on Tommy Cross
Tommy Cross’ time has come
Bruins’ 2007 pick ready to embark on pro career
By Steve Conroy
Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - Updated 1 hour ago
WILMINGTON — In one sense, Tommy Cross seems much older than his 22 years.
The roster from his first Bruins [team stats] development camp, in 2007, includes several players whose names are engraved on the Stanley Cup: Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, Tuukka Rask, Adam McQuaid, David Krejci.
It feels like a long time ago.
“I was 17 years old and you look at the roster of that camp and a majority of guys have played games in the NHL and a lot of them are regulars in the NHL in the Bruins organization,” Cross said. “So to be around those guys when I was young definitely made an impression, and I still remember a lot of things from that camp.”
But now, after a four-year career at Boston College and three right knee surgeries that threatened to derail him, Cross is ready to start his professional career. And he’s beginning to once again resemble the prospect he was in ’07, when the B’s traded up a few spots to select him with the 35th overall pick.
During camp, he used his 6-foot-3, 215-pound frame to his advantage and, in yesterday’s scrimmage, he even sneaked a point shot past his old BC teammate Parker Milner for a goal.
“It’s just great to see him healthy,” said assistant general manager Don Sweeney, adding that Cross is learning to do the maintenance work to keep the knee healthy. “That’s something that he’s going to fight forever, but he understands it better now and it’s translated onto the ice in his game. You saw the physical presence that he has and he has that patience on the blue line, to wait that extra second so his shot gets through.
“Tommy is looking forward to moving up in the pro game now. He’s a guy that likes to complete what he started. He did it in prep school and he certainly did it as a captain at BC, and now I think he’s really excited about getting into the pro game and seeing where he stacks up.”
Cross was healthy his senior season, in which the Eagles won the national championship. He played in all 44 games, notching 5-19-24 totals.
“My team had a good year and I felt I had a really good year for myself. But ultimately what I cared about was winning, and we did that,” Cross said. “I think I’m in a good spot to have a good summer heading into camp. I need to keep working on a lot of things and keep learning.”
At the end of the season, he also got in a couple of AHL games for Providence.
“I picked up a lot,” Cross said, adding that he needs to work on puck retrieval, defensive-zone coverage and one-on-ones. “It was good to get a taste of pro hockey, learn the system, watch video on the system, and then play in it, figure out what my role is and what my responsibilities are on the ice.”
The games were on back-to-back nights at the end of the season, and Providence coach Bruce Cassidy liked the way he took to coaching.
“His first game, he was a little tentative,” Cassidy said. “We talked about what he needed to do to be more of an impact player. The second game, he was crisp with the puck, snapping passes, physical when he needed to be in terms of one-on-one confrontations . . . so (it was) night and day between the two games.
“But (with) such a small sample size that it’s hard to say which one you’re going to see more of, but we need more of the second game and I think Tommy will bring that. He’s a very mature guy. He’s a winner and he’ll figure it out. Now whether he’s good enough, who knows down the road with any of them? But that’s the game Tommy should bring to us, or Boston — however it shakes out for him.
“Because he’s a big-bodied guy. I don’t think he’s a fighter, but he can be like a (Dennis) Seidenberg-type player where he can outmuscle guys and move the puck, make a good first pass. That’s the kind of comparison I would use for Tommy if he ends up in Providence.”
And if Cross can turn into another Seidenberg, then the Bruins [team stats] will really have something.
Cross is a seasoned rookie
By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / July 3, 2012
WILMINGTON — When the Bruins’ development camp kicked off last Thursday, Tommy Cross had barely strapped on his gear when the jokes began to fly.
The camp, which concluded at Ristuccia Arena on Monday, was the sixth such gathering since 2007. Cross has been present for all of them. The most popular dig is that the camp should be renamed in the 22-year-old Cross’s honor.
“He wins the award for longevity here,” cracked assistant general manager Don Sweeney.
The camp’s honorary graybeard – 23-year-old invitee Justin Courtnall was officially the elder statesman — is finally entering the next phase of his career.
During each previous camp, Cross had to practice caution to retain his NCAA eligibility. That meant, compared to the CHL players, paying his own way at the team hotel to even forking over his own cash for lunch. After each camp, Cross was either preparing to return to the classroom at either the Westminster School or Boston College.
Now, hockey is a job instead of an amateur pursuit. This September, for the first time in his career, Cross will attend training camp in his chase for a spot on the varsity roster.
“Just doing the best I can to get ready for training camp in the fall,” said Cross.
Cross ended his NCAA career as an oxymoron: a four-year collegian. Cross wrung the most out of his college experience. As a sophomore, Cross became a national champion. As a senior, Cross (five goals, 19 assists in 44 games) captained the team that won its second title in three years. Cross majored in communications, minored in international studies, and is proud to consider himself a college graduate. Cross’s Chestnut Hill buddies (classmates include Barry Almeida, Paul Carey, Edwin Shea, and Chris Venti) are friends he’ll have for life.
“One, I wanted to win a national championship,” said Cross when explaining his decision to stay for four years. “We didn’t accomplish that my junior year. That’s something I wanted to do. Two, I didn’t feel like I had maxed out at that level. I felt I had some new levels to reach in the college ranks. Three, I made a commitment to them for four years. I honored that commitment.”
Cross’s four-year stay at BC, however, was partly out of necessity.
Even before the Bruins drafted Cross in June of 2007, the defenseman was struck with knee injuries. On June 23, 2007, when the Bruins traded second- and third-round picks to Chicago to draft Cross at No. 35, he approached their draft table on crutches.
Cross was limited to 24 games as a BC freshman in 2008-09. During his junior season, Cross dressed for 28 games.
In hindsight, Cross needed all four college seasons to overcome his injuries and fulfill his amateur development.
“I thought about it, absolutely,” Cross said of turning pro early. “But in the end, I thought it was best for me, as a hockey player, to be there to learn, continue to play, get my degree, then take the next step.”
Those injuries have changed Cross from the player the Bruins traded up for into the player he is now. Before Cross’s knee troubles, the Bruins believed they were drafting a dynamic-skating, hard-hitting, high-character two-way defenseman. Five years later, the Bruins acknowledge that as a pro, Cross probably won’t have the explosive mobility he once expected to have.
“It’s really hard to track him in that context because of the injuries,” Sweeney said when asked about Cross’s development at BC. “When we drafted him, you sort of see the athleticism and the dynamic skating aspect of his game. That’s changed a little bit. That’s just the facts he’s been faced with to change his game along those lines. He makes better reads in terms of his transitional passing. Whereas before, he might have been able to skate himself out of those situations. He’s done a good job. I think I’ve tracked that a little bit tighter the last two years, because that’s certainly going to have to be upheld at the next level as the game picks up more and more speed, and how he’s going to react to that.”
By his senior season, Cross matured into a safer, more reliable defenseman. Cross should be the same as a pro. Cross, who should start 2012-13 in Providence, projects to be a bottom-pairing, stay-at-home NHL defenseman. His coaches will expect Cross to play a conservative and physical game.
In that nature, Cross could become a defensive defenseman in the mold of ex-Bruin Mark Stuart. The 6-foot-2-inch, 210-pound Cross likes to lean on forwards and plays with some bite. Cross will have to hone that edge as a pro. He will be expected to fight when necessary.
“The physical component of his game, I think, will continue to get better and better in the pro environment,” said Sweeney. “In the college environment, as a forward, I think you’re involved a little more physically. As a defenseman, it’s probably a little harder, except down low and in front of the net. Tommy seems to understand when to step up in the neutral zone and pick his spots. Physically, I think he’s looking forward to the challenge of what bigger and stronger guys at the pro level represent.”