Saturday, April 5, 2008

A Bandwagon Jumper's Guide to the Boston Bruins (Part 1)

"I gave up on the Bruins when they traded Joe Thornton."

"I gave up on the Bruins because Jacobs was too damned cheap."

"I gave up on the Bruins because the one time they made the playoffs they let Montreal make asses out of them."

"I gave up on the Bruins because they sucked after the lockout."

"I gave up on the Bruins because they were a bunch of over-paid pussies."

If you have ever said something like this then I have very good news for you. Those of us who stuck around after the lockout to see what would happen (all three) have this to report: the Bruins are back!

This guide is for those who gave up on the Bruins but are considering taking another look. I'll be bringing you up to date so you can impress your friends with your encyclopedic knowledge of the new team.

But first, some historical reality. Jacobs really was cheap and it really was a bad thing for the team. You weren't imagining it. But then something crazy happened: Jacobs drove the league into imposing a salary cap. Now with the salary cap in place he can no longer complain about his rich friends driving player prices up with their own money to boost their egos. The Bruins currently spend at or near the cap so the cheapness of Jacobs is no longer a factor. I know you wanted a new owner, but I'm here to say that it no longer matters.

In retrospect it's obvious: Mike O'Connell was a poor manager. That combined with Jacobs' unwillingness to spend the big bucks doomed the Bruins to mediocrity. His teams tended to have one good scoring line and little grit. They could put up big numbers in the regular season but come playoff time they didn't have what it took. Sure, they'd have one guy on the team whose only job was to have a fight. But that is no substitute for playing with the toughness that Bruins fans have come to expect. It was fake and ultimately unsatisfying. O'Connell's greatest achievement was for the Bruins to be humiliated in the first round of the playoffs by the Habs...

This one may be more difficult to swallow: Joe Thornton never really fit in. What he brought to the team was a lot of regular season goals and external validation; there was a buzz around Thornton from all around the continent. We could all bask in his glory. Yet even with all his potential Boston expected too much of him. Joe Thornton should never have been made Captain based on his promise alone. And he should never have been expected to be Neely or take his game to the next level in the playoffs. That's just not the player he is. Losing Joe was a sign of how poorly O'Connell managed the team. It was O'Connell who set Joe up for failure long before he traded him away.

But in case you hadn't noticed, Mike O'Connell is gone too. And Jacobs no longer has the need to be cheap. And despite being one of the biggest stars in the NHL, Thornton still has yet to be a leader or a force in the playoffs.

The Boston Bruins were begun again. And in the last two years they have built a new team that plays hard, physically, and with enormous heart. Peter Chiarelli has played it smart and patiently, making small moves that have incrementally made the team better. And the team in Providence is chocked full of talented, well coached future stars.

This year in particular it has all started to come together. The team is full of leaders, young and old. They stick up for one-another, dropping the gloves when necessary. Even PJ Axelsson dropped his gloves this season! They play with confidence and pride. They have a coaching staff who keeps them on an even keel and gives them a framework for team success. You get the feeling watching the Bruins these days that it doesn't matter who is in the lineup. The coaches could take the Baby B's and get them to the NHL playoffs through sheer grit and teamwork. I'm here to tell you that finally, this is Bruins.

And this time you can believe it.

Next time: we'll meet the team.


neb said...


officers will soon arrive from DOTL- the department of thought larceny and incarcerate you for stealing my private musings!

let "them" have it about pj, thomas, murray and wideman in part two!

jimbuff said...

neb, buff and #4 - we r the 3 fans who stayed. The Bruins did it for us. 16 playoff wins this year would be nice.