B Stands For….
B stands for Bruins, as in the Boston Bruins. A team rich in history and tradition. A team full of many greats and many legends. But also a team without a Stanley Cup in 34 years.
B stands for Brutal as in the Bruins 2005-06 season. The team missed the playoffs and finished a miserable 13th in the conference. It was a year full of high hopes as the team appeared to have a very good balance of youth and veteran leadership surrounding a top notch franchise player who was just entering his prime. It obviously did not turn out that way hence their terrible place in the standings.
B stands for Bust as in their free agent signings. The Bruins were in the best financial shape post lockout. The team had very little money tied to few players and had tremendous flexibility even with several key restricted free agents to re-sign. Though the team lost key players such as Brian Rolston and Sergei Gonchar, they managed to keep Glen Murray, while adding skilled players such as Brian Leetch and Alexei Zhamnov as well as grit with the addition of Dave Scatchard. Zhamnov was injured most of the year and managed 1 goal. Scatchard was dumped 20 games in after getting a whopping 4 year 8 million dollar deal. The team quickly realized they overpaid for a 4th line centre. Leetch was only on a 1 year deal but at 4 million , was vastly overpaid for a 37 year old. These were financial mistakes that cost the team dearly.
B stands for Bonehead as in Bonehead trade. If you thought the free agent signings were bad, nothing compares to one of the worst trades in Bruins history. The team traded it’s franchise player and star Joe Thornton to the Sharks for Brad Stuart, Wayne Primeau and Marco Sturm. Those 3 are solid NHLers, but Thornton is in a class of his own. He is a rare blend of power, speed and skill. He can be near unstoppable. Him winning the Art Ross as leading scorer was the ultimate insult. This move may set the Bruins back for years. It totally ripped the team of any identity.
B stands for Bye Bye as in Bye Bye Mike O’Connell. Being the architect of these horrible moves listed above, there was no surprise O’Connell took the fall for the Bruins horrible standing. With the kind of influence owner Jeremy Jacobs has along with his right hand man Harry Sinden, perhaps it was not all of O’Connell’s doing, but he was the point man in all the moves and pretty much every one backfired. Someone had to pay the price and this time it was O’Connell.
B stands for Plan B, as in what they need to do next year. Well first things first, they need a new GM. In all likelihood that will result in a new coach as well. The leading candidate is Jeff Gorton who is currently the assistant GM and for now handling the GM duties on an interm basis. The Bruins really need a proven top guy to righten this ship. They really cannot afford to go with more inexperience and one that wont install alot of confidence in anyone. Whomever gets the job will have the good fortune of a top pick in this years draft. They sure could use another offensive stud to build with to help ease the loss of Thornton. Easier said than done.
B stands for Bergeron as in Patrice Bergeron. Right now, he is the team’s best player. He is only 21 years old and it appears he will only get better. He is skilled, creative and is willing to play in traffic. what more could you ask of him. He cant replace Thornton but he certainly has the capabilities to put up big offensive numbers.
B stands for Boyes, as in Brad Boyes. In any other year, Boyes would be a shoo-in for Rookie of the Year. That is how great he was. Boyes was 3rd on the team in goals scored and 1st in Assists and Plus/Minus. He may not be the best skater but he has improved immensly in that area. To make up for his deficiencies, he uses tremendous hockey sense and smarts and he has been excellent playing along side Bergeron.
B stands for Burn as in Speed to Burn which best describes Marco Sturm. Sturm came over in the Thornton trade rounded out the top line. He brings great speed and skill to the table. The problem has been that he has not very consistent. He received more responsibility in Boston and he responded with very good numbers putting up career bests. However he’ll be forever tagged with the guy they got for Thornton and the better he players the better chance he’ll make fans forget Joe.
B stands for Bland as in the rest of the Bruins forwards. Glen Murray is an excellent power player who uses his size to stake out his position on the ice. He also has a great shot, good hands and decent skating ability. The problem was he looked rather ordinary without a guy like Thornton feeding him all over the ice. He often looked like someone who wanted to leave. He may get his wish but as long as he is a Bruin, he better put forth the effort cause the team needs him to provide 2nd line scoring support.
A player who could help him is Alex Zhamnov. Unfortunately if he cannot stay healthy, ZHamnov is very useless. In fact even when he was in the Bruins lineup, Zhamnov was useless with 1 goal in 24 games. His fat contract was one of the worst signed last summer. He’ll either get bought out or be given one more shot to earn his keep. He has great skills but has been injury prone that last few years.
After dumping Sergei Samsonov, the team really needs to add some scoring depth. The Bruins have some decent checkers like Wayne Primeau, PJ Axelsson, Travis Green, Yan Statsny, Pat Leahy who add some grit and good blue collar work ethic to the team. However the Bruins require more skill, more speed and a bit more size and hard nosed play.
There are some decent talents coming through the pipeline however who may in time fill some of those needs. Petr Kalus is a speedy skilled winger who is not afraid to mix it up. A pretty rare combination for a young Czech player however he proved his worth in his first season in the Western Hockey League, which is known to be pretty tough. Martins Karsums has had 3 very decent seasons in the Q and should turn pro next season. He is a good two way player who plays a real smart game. David Krejci also plays in the Q and was in fact pick 1 spot ahead of Karsums in the 04 draft. He is a smart offensive player with good hands and lots of skill. His only problem is his size or lack thereof. The question is can he withstand the rigors of North American Pro hockey? For sure Ben Walter wont have that problem. For one thing, he has good size that helps him withstand the physical play. But he is also has good skill and smarts much like his father, former NHLer Ryan Walter. He could definitely challenge for a 3rd/4th line role next year in Boston.
B stands for Blueline which is the Bruins deepest position. The Bs have a decision to make on Brian Leetch and Hal Gill who are both UFAs this summer. They could re-sign them or at least find a replacement or two for their services. The D is led by Brad Stuart. He was the centrepiece in the Thornton trade. Stuart is a very good NHL defenceman and brings alot to the table. He has good size, is a terrific skater and has a heavy point shot. It has helped him have his best goal output to date. In Boston he will need to lead and play a much bigger role than in San Jose where he was part of a deep top 4. Joining him is Nick Boynton. The former first round pick had a horrible year missing time due to a holdout, suspension and several injuries. He is suppose to be a leader, but his undisciplined play was a setback. He will need to regain his form for the Bs to have any chance to improve. David Tanabe is another veteran who adds great skating ability and skill which has become a necessity in the new NHL.
B stands for Bright Prospects as in Bs solid foundation of youth on the blueline. The Bruins have a deep group of young defenceman who have or will soon be at the NHL level. Andrew Alberts surprised a few people with his steady defence first play. He has great size and is willing to use it. Being a plus player on a bad team is a credit to him and perhaps may make Gill expendable. Milan Jurcina showed a bit of offence in his stint with the Bs this season. He had 6 goals and was a plus 3 in 51 games as a rookie. He too is a very large player though not as physical as Alberts. I think Boston would like him to use his size more.
Knocking on the door are 3 more blueliners about ready to challenge for full time work. Mark Stuart is perhaps the best in the organization. He may not be an offensive stud, but he is a warrior, a leader and a hard nosed defensive player. IT appears he will be a top notch shut down blueliner for years to come. They would like to see him add a bit of offence to make him less one dimensional. Lars Jonsson has been a prospect in the Bruins organization for a long time. Perhaps sooner rather than later he will make the jump to North America. His skating ability and skills make him a good fit in the new NHL. He could be someone who can add to the powerplay and on the rush. Matt Lashoff may be a couple of years away but the Bs are very high on their most recent first round pick. Lashoff is more of an offensive blueliner but has good size that will allow him to take care of his own end. He simply needs to stay healthy to expediate his development. Missed time due to injuries may be a cause for concern.
B stands for Blue Paint as in who is going to be manning the crease next year as the number 1 goalie. All eyes are on Hannu Toivonen the Bs top notch rookie netminder. He had a great first season in Boston showing off his agility and quickness which can surprise some for a goalie his size. He has all the makings of a number 1 goalie. His lost half year due to injury certainly was a big blow to the Bs chances to make the playoffs. But he is young and the guy I think the Bs will build around as the franchise player. His backup, Tim Thomas carried the team as much as a 31 year old journeyman could. Terrific doesnt begin to describe Thomas and his play. He held the Bs in every game and made some dandy saves. He will be a great backup. This leaves us with Andrew Raycroft. He will be the Bruins biggest trade bait this summer. However his stock has fallen after a terrible sophmore season. He will need to work hard this summer to rebound and get his game back if he wishes to be a number 1 guy again. Many teams will take a chance at this guy.
B stands for Battle as in it will be a Battle for the Bs to make the playoffs. The Bruins need to find an identity and re-establish themselves to at least being a competitive team. too often they were pushovers. Certainly adding a fresh mind and a different approach made help things as what they have been doing has not worked. If the youngsters continue improvement things in Boston get that much better. They will need help however along the way. They got rid of the face of the team and now will have to live with that mistake. If the situation in Boston gets any worse, it may be time again for even more people to blow out of beantown.