Bruins: settling for mediocrity?

I think one of the most dissapointing happenings of this off-season is the gradual crumbling of one of the league’s strongest teams, the Boston Bruins. The Bruins finished the 2001-2002 regular season in 1st place overall in the Eastern Conference, they looked like they had finnally overcome the loss of Ray Bourque and were ready to emerge as a new force in the East having not been a real playoff contender since the early 90’s. Well, so much for that.. The Bruins will have a very different roster come 2002-2003, Bill Guerin the teams leading scorer last year is gone. Byron Dafoe, the teams starting goaltender who had an impressive season last year, has not been re-signed and most believe he will not return to the Bruins next season as indicated by their trading for Mighty Duck’s Goaltender Steve Sheilds who is by no means even in the same ballpark as Dafoe is. This is obviously not good for Bruin’s fans! If this wasn’t bad enough, early July, arguably the team’s best defenseman, Kyle McLaren requested to be shipped elsewhere before training camp. So I, along with alot angry Bostonians wanna know whats up? Why can’t Boston hang on to its key players?

The Bruin’s of the 90’s have clearly been swept under the table as the new decade continues with the trades of Ray Bourque, Jason Allison and so on.. But it seems that the Bruin’s of the new millenium are already starting to fall apart. Bill Guerin was a lightning rod to the rear-end of that club last season and I think anyway you slice it, they are going to be seriously hurting in the scoring department next year due to his absence. However this is not to say that the Bruin’s can’t somewhat make up for his loss, they have Martin Lapointe, Joe Thornton, Glen Murray, Jozef Stumpel, Sergei Samsonov, Marty McInnis, Brian Rolston and Rob Zamuner to do that, but they are going to have to work harder than they did last year and even as good as some of them may be they won’t get the same results unless Joe Thornton really stays healthy and scores on a regular basis, and based on his consistency in the past its just not safe enough to say that he definitely will do that.

So if the fact that maybe Boston has faith in it’s other forwards can explain Guerin’s departure, even though it probably was more of a money issue for the B’s, how do you explain them not re-signing Byron Dafoe after Guerin’s departure? Unless they really “see” something in Steve Sheilds or John Grahame, it looks like suicide to me. John Grahame isn’t the most solid backup in the league and Steve Sheild’s former team, the Ducks didn’t really benefit from his being there. So I think this will be the team’s biggest issue next year.

And then..there is the blueline, which is in pretty poor shape as well. There is Sean O’Donnell and Nick Boynton, who were the most solid defensemen last year, and it goes downhill from there. Don Sweeney is a decent defenseman but he is simply getting old and he’s gonna be gone soon. Hal Gill is a big guy but he is an awkward skater and isn’t very effective other than just getting in the way. Jonathan Girard , Jarno Kultanen, and Jamie Rivers aren’t consistent or ever healthy enough to be that good. They have alot of young players on deck that might help them in the future, but they need more imediate help than that. The strongest guy they have, Kyle McLaren wants to go somewhere else.

So what are the Bruin’s going to do to keep from falling out of contention? Well the first thing they have to do is get some defense, since it seem’s they aren’t going to act on their goaltending situation which is simply beyond help at this point. There was talk earlier in the month about them signing Rangers D Bryan Berard to a contract. This is the kind of thing the Bruin’s need to do, and keep doing. Take the Atlanta Thrashers for example, a team who really went and got themselves some good defenseman when they had nothing. They need to get on the phone with every defenseman they can possibly get and try to ink them because they have nothing to lose and w/o Dafoe and Guerin I would think there is some extra change in the Beantown piggy bank.

Second, they have to establish some kind of leadership that’s more solid than what they had last year. You can’t finish first place in the East and not have a captain, it shows lack of depth and inabilty to determine who play’s what role on the team. Either that or its just embarrassing. There are several candidates for Captain on this club. There is the obvious choice, Joe Thornton, your all-American kid who is starting to score but like I said earlier, I don’t trust him yet. There is Don Sweeney who has been on the team for the longest and is one of their only real veterans. There is Martin Lapointe who they grabbed from Detroit 2 years ago who is a very solid forward who got the A last year. There are also newcomers(who actually both had played for Boston previously) Glen Murray who was second on the team in scoring last year and Jozef Stumpel who is a very good set-up center but is not a great goal-scorer. There is also the possibility of any free-agents they might sign or who they receive for Kyle McLaren having leadership qualities. Whoever it is I hope they find him soon.