Boston Bruins 2005-2006

TEAM NAME: Boston Bruins

TEAM PAYROLL: $35,079,004

GENERAL MANAGER: Mike O’Connell. Entering his 4th year as general manager of the Boston Bruins.

HEAD COACH: Mike Sullivan. Entering his 3rd year as head coach of the Boston Bruins

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FORGOTTEN MOVES: The Boston Bruins made some significant choices in the lockout season, and they were to plan for a total clean up by allowing most of their players to walk away, such as Knuble and Nylander, who was their best forward in the playoffs. They paved the way to clear up the player budget to make a splash in the 2005 off-season, predicting a salary cap would force teams to leave players as unrestricted free agents.

TEAM MODE: This year’s Boston Bruins stand no different than previous seasons. They are a playoff team. This year, however, they are aiming at the Stanley Cup. They kept their main core in Joe Thornton, Sergei Samsonov, Glen Murray, Hal Gill, and Calder Trophy winner Andrew Raycroft. Added to the mix is Russian forward Alex Zhamnov, who should be able to be a significant factor on the power play, and who may center Sergei Samsonov and create Russian magic. After losing Sergei Gonchar to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Bruins went back to Beantown’s history and signed former Boston College player Brian Leetch. Though entering his last years of his career, the outstanding US born defenseman may regain his game’s strengths with the new rule changes. Moving to the lower profile players, the Bruins took advantage to take some size and grit by adding Dave Scatchard and Brad Isbister, who once again receives a chance to show his potential. Also on the wings, some veteran leadership in Shawn McEachern and Tom Fitzgerald were added. This leaves the Bruins as a threatening playoff contender if they can show their talent on paper when hitting the ice on October 5th.

TO TAKE CHARGE!: After taking some heat in 2004 for his playoff performance, Joe Thornton is expected, as his GM publicly stated his expectations too, to take the Bruins to the next level as their leader. He has assistance from Leetch, McEarchen, and Fitzgerald who would be the back up vocals in the locker room and on the ice. Thornton did not have such a good year last season played after hitting almost a thirty point decline from his previous 101 point campaign. And in the playoffs? He has been extremely unimpressive in his post-season career thus far. Yes, he was injured in the last playoffs, but going scoreless in seven games brings questions; the year prior, three points in five games. This has got to be Joe’s year to take charge, prove his captaincy, and lead the Boston Bruins beyond the first round of the playoffs.

ON THE RUSH (OFFENSE): It is quite obvious that the Bruins have an offensive punch to their game by adding the likes of Zhamnov, Leetch, and Scatchard. Keeping Glen Murray was the best move for the Bruins as they keep a familiar face on the team who already knows his game with Big Joe Thornton. The only question that remains is chemistry. The Bruins have solid offensive weapons in most areas, but mostly on paper. Can Zhamnov fit in? Will Scatchard give his 40+ point season? Can Leetch QB the power-play? Will Isbister be a no-show? The good thing is that the Bruins have their own core to depend on, such as Samsonov, Thornton, Murray, and the surprising youngster Patrice Bergeron. But, the rest of the team, aside from a couple of other youngsters from the minors, is made up of free agents. Can they put it together? That will remain to be seen. The skill is on paper, it just has to be on the ice as well.

COVERING THE D-ZONE: The only defenseman on this team that knows the d-zone best and has experience in it is stalwart Hal Gill, who may be traded to then bring in Nick Boynton. The Bruins made improvements on the offense, but where is the defense? Leetch will definitely be used as an offensive defenseman, Boynton (yet to be re-signed) is still young and needs to polish his two way game. After Gill comes Jiri Slegr who is a solid depth defenseman, but as your 4th d-man? Quite questionable. Jonathan Girard is also back on D looking forward to a healthy season. Other than that, the Bruins do not have any defense left. This is where they may find troubles throughout the season, specifically in the playoffs. And if GM Mike O’Connell decides to trade their best defensive defenseman? That will bring some wary concerns.

GUARDING THE NET: The Calder Trophy winner is back in the crease looking to bring Bruins hockey back in the post-season, and past the first round. Can he make it? He proved his worth as a starting goalie, but he is still young and has to keep proving it again this season with a weaker defense in front of him, plus the new rule changes and goalie equipment restrictions. The Bruins find themselves already questionable on defense, and there is no reason to ignore their goaltending situation. Finn youngster Hannu Toivonen showed a lot of promise in Providence, but he too is an inexperienced goalie at the NHL level. Should the Bruins look for Felix “The Cat” Potvin to rejoin the team? It could be likely. Behind the Toivonen is a goalie who has a little NHL experience, but is a veteran US born goalie who played very well in Finland during the lockout; you may expect Tim Thomas to make the squad behind Raycroft unless Hannu Toivonen really shines.

TALKING ABOUT MY GENERATION!: Still waiting to sign their two youngsters in Andy Hilbert and Ivan Huml, the Bruins have an intriguing Russian player in Sergei Zinovjev. At age 25, this smallish forward can prove to be a significant player in the New NHL. Having career highs in the Russian Super League, Zinovjev may be ready to take on the North American ice and be an NHL regular with offensive upside. Though still a restricted free agent, keep him in mind in the Bruins’ future. Still struggling to make it to the “bigs” is former highly touted prospect Brad Boyes, acquired from a three-way deal involving the Buffalo Sabres and the San Jose Sharks. Now 23 years of age, Boyes has proved himself well enough in the AHL and should be able to frequent the NHL on a regular basis. He has the tools to be a core player for the Bruins, but it really comes down to make or break. As mentioned earlier, Hannu Toivonen is the young Finn goalie who raised a lot of eyebrows, yes… even the unibrows, last season in the minors. Only 21 years old, Toivonen did not take long to adapt to North American style hockey. He may become Raycroft’s back up, or may have the slight opportunity to even take over the starting role if Raycroft takes a while to rid his rust. The Bruins do not have anything that is “so flashy” so to speak, but they have a solid young core of prospects where some are, or are very close to being, NHL ready.

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PROJECTED LINES: This is really Mike Sullivan’s choice as Samsonov may end up seeing Joe Thornton or Alex Zhamnov as his linemate. The depth is as follows:

Forwards:

Samsonov-Thornton-Murray

Axelsson-Zhamnov-Bergeron

Isbister-Scatchard-McEachern

Boyes-Green-Fitzgerald

Hilbert- Samuelsson-Zinovjev

Defesemen:

Leetch-Gill

Boynton-Girard

Slegr-Moran

Stuart-Jurcina

Goalies:

Raycrotf-Toivonen-Thomas

EXPECTATIONS: Middle of the pack. It may take some time for the Black and Gold to come together offensively and work the power play well. That could mean a slow first half should be expected. The defense is weak and carries a lot of questions as to how it will defend its goalkeeper; that is another area to give close attention to. Aside from the “iffies”, the Bruins are a team of experience, ambitions, good mix of young and old, and skill. For the Eastern Conference standings, the Bruins are expected to finish 4th overall.

PROJECTED: While the team is one of the most talented in the East right now, I see a lot of question marks on the team. I believe that their defense will lack, but force the offense to explode. This is were coach Sullivan has to take care of the offensive system and make sure that the power-play is tops in the league. The Bruins also need to re-sign young forwards Andy Hilbert, Martin Samuelsson, Ivan Huml, Nick Boynton, and Sergei Zinovjev. They have some holes to fill up. My favorite addition, aside from Leetch, is Shawn McEarchen. This guy is so versatile and brings experience and leadership to the table. He is speedy and still has some more offensive spark to his game. Expect McEachern to be one of the most important players in Boston, and he is the reason, along with Leetch, Fitzgerald, and Green, to carry this team into the playoffs from 6th seed in the regular season standings of the EC, to the semi-finals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.


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