Monday, April 02, 2007

Picking up the pieces

With only a pocketful of games remaining, the Bruins are about six days removed from officially calling it a wrap for the season...although there's a good argument they starting doing that at the end of February (only five wins in nineteen games since 2/24).

So how will this season be remembered? Going into the season, there was a strong sense of optimism. The miserly ways of Harry Sinden and John O'Connell were brushed to the curb and Peter Chiarelli was brought in. Management actually loosened the purse strings (gasp!) and signed talent like Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard. With the #5 overall pick the Bruins took Phil Kessel, a prospect who was often mentioned in the same breath as Sidney Crosby.

But for the occasional highs the team experienced (19-13-3 on 12/19), the team experienced far more lows. Despite the addition of Chara, the defensive play of the team continued to be their downfall, with Tim Thomas often wishing for a third arm or leg to bail him out. They disappeared for long stretches at a time, most notably in March when the fight for the last playoff spot was the most crucial. Players acquired in recent trades failed to impress. Paul Mara played his way out of town. After scoring 43 points in 51 games with the Bruins last year, Marco Sturm has thus far put up the same amount in 73 games all while seeing his +/- go from +14 to -22. Brad Stuart, the main piece of the Joe Thornton deal, decided he didn't want to re-sign with the B's in the offseason which forced the Bruins to trade him. The anticipated battle for the #1 goalie job ended early with Tim Thomas standing and Hannu Toivonen wondering about his future with the team.

So what was the (near) final result? With three games remaining, the Bruins have a 35-38-6 record and 76 points in the standings. They've scored a total of 214 goals but have given up a staggering 277, which might explain why the ONLY two people on this roster with a positive +/- are Brandon Bochenski (+6) and Mark Stuart (+7). Remember all that playoff talk? There are only seven teams in the NHL with worse records. And since five of them are in the Western Conference, that means the Bruins are the third worst team in the Eastern Conference. Last year the Bruins were the fifth worst team, this year they're the eighth.

That all being said, I'm optimistic for next year. Kessel is only going to get better, as is Bochenski. Bergeron also has plenty of room to build. An eighth overall draft pick assures them of a quality player being available when their turn comes around. And, perhaps most importantly, there's a management structure in place to make this team better...not just put a product on the ice that's just decent enough to fill seats. Hopefully that'll mean an even more offseason activity in the free agent market which may lead to a playoff berth in 2008.


Blogger jimbuff said...

Good season summary.
I, unlike yourself, have doubts about Kessel but I will touch on this further in a seperate blog entry once I finish moving - maybe by the weekend.
I still am hopeful for next season - talent is there but intangables are not. Have to mature as a team and take pride in their individual play as it affects their team mates. Need to gel and get back some of that Bruins' pride!

12:56 p.m., April 02, 2007  
Blogger Doobie said...

Well, that brings up another good question about the future of Dave Lewis. Some people have been calling for his ouster for a while now, possibly for good reason. Granted, there were injuries and new faces, but the bottom line is that this team has regressed over the last quarter of the season, not improved. Do you give Lewis more time to work it out, or will he be a casualty in the offseason?

1:03 p.m., April 02, 2007  
Blogger number4bobbyorr said...

The question about Lewis is a difficult one for me. I went into the season expecting him to have a difficult time and decided I'd not hold him accountable for his first season.

The fans who complained early on didn't seem to really know what they were talking about; the things they complained about didn't really stand up to scutiny. But perhaps these fans were picking up on something too subtle for them to easily finger.

The rational side of my brain says to give Lewis his full chance. We might just end up with a great team for it. But I must confess that the emotional side would likely do little jig if he were replaced this summer.

Regardless, PC just guaranteed Lewis' job for next year. If he fired him now then he'd be a jerk. We don't need more of that from management!

1:36 p.m., April 02, 2007  
Blogger jimbuff said...

If they did fire Lewis they would probaly go after some other bum like newly unemployed Claude Julien.

4:01 p.m., April 02, 2007  
Blogger Doobie said...

There must be something we don't know about because I just don't see the logic of firing your coach when your team is in 1st place. Of course, Lou Lamoriello did this a few years ago with Robbie Ftorek and they won the cup, so what the hell do I know?

5:09 p.m., April 02, 2007  
Blogger Katie O'D said...

I'm hoping that, since they're keeping Lewis on apparently, they give him a short leash at the beginning of the season. If nothing changes and they're still awful, he has to go.
Not to blame Lewis for everything, but I think Kessel could have done better under another coach. All the players complained that he held them back offensively and creatively, and that's Phil's strong point. He worked hard and showed flashes of being a real talent. I'd like to see what he can do when he's let loose.

10:28 p.m., April 02, 2007  
Blogger TreeBob said...

Was there really open complaining about that from the players?

10:39 p.m., April 02, 2007  
Blogger number4bobbyorr said...

"All the players complained that he held them back offensively and creatively.."

The players who I'm aware of who made those complaints are now all playing for other teams: Mara, Stuart and Boyes. I thought the most damning statment was this one by Boyes, "I have so much confidence back. I’m able to make a play. I’m allowed to make a play, to carry the puck in. Back to being creative. That’s something that got away from me in Boston. Before, it was get rid of it and hope you don’t screw up."

This may mean something, or then again, it might not. These were all players who struggled under Lewis's system, that much is clear. But it might be a jump to infer that current players have felt the same way. It would be difficult to make the case that Savard, for instance, has suffered offensively, given his standing in the points. It is natural for players who were cut loose after struggling to feel a sense of relief on their new team.

My opinion about Kessel is perhaps colored by the fact that I thought he was too inexperienced to play in the NHL this year from the start. He's improved so much--particularly in his confidence--that I'm astounded. So from that perspective I think Kessel goes into the Lewis success column.

Maybe this will be the story for the whole team next year: finding their confidence as they get used to the system. We can hope...

I think this is the article we are talking about:

1:03 a.m., April 03, 2007  
Blogger neb said...

one quick point-

brad so happy in st louis - five hundred team 4-4-2 in its last 10. not in playoffs.

jucina - so happy playing all the time in wa. this team is even worse than the bruins and jurcinas team leading minutes gets them.....2-6-2 in last 10.

mara and brad stuart are other stories, of course but they have gone to teams that were already seeing a certain degree of sucess. sometimes a change of scenery does a player good (jumbo). but i think in the case of jurcina and boyes it says something that is clearly negative that they are happy to be on teams that are just as bad or worse than the one they left and they are taking pot shots at thier former team.

in the case of mara and stuart the pot shots are excuses for their failures here and also a good example of the type of characters you probably do not want. they could end up playing with these guys or coaches again. its just not smart to take these parting shots.

7:51 a.m., April 03, 2007  
Blogger neb said...

just to finish my thought above. your comments when leaving a new team and joining a new should always be...
"it was an honor to play with those guys and wear that jersey. i will remember those days well, but now im am with a so and so and really could not be more excited to play with these guys ect ect blah blah..."

anything other than that shows a level of poor sportmanship that is a little classless

8:03 a.m., April 03, 2007  

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