On Sunday, March 21st, the Boston Bruins defeated the New York Rangers 2-1, and for the first time in ten years, I could care less. Recently, in a manner of dissapointing precedence, the Bruins managed to draw negative attention to themselves throughout the world of hockey for their lack of physical play and for their lack of heart. I have been a sympathetic advocate towards their “inabilities” and short comings throughout the years, however I need to take a step back, after the Matt Cooke incident on March 7th, where a notoriously dirty player on a notoriously clean team elbowed Bruins’ star Marc Savard, a notorious “embelisher”, a diver of sorts, in the head inflicting upon him a second grade concussion, and putting him out for the season. Tom Cruise himself can’t fake a medically certified second grade concussion, and Marc Savard is no Oscar winner. That being said, what we witnessed on the 7th, was a legitimate breaking of the rules, an unjust and unwarranted display of physicality, with an obvious intent to injure. We witnessed a penalty gone un-penalized; a suspendable offense gone without suspension; an act of violence on a teammate, gone without retaliation or justification. We witnessed the collapse of a franchise, the death of a history, and to add even another level of completely justifiable drama, an inexcusable embarrassment, in which a team cannot possibly come back from, within this season, or in my tarnished opinion, ever, with this current lineup. That being said, player by player, who do we keep, and who can we dispose of. The argument is no longer, “is this a team that can win”. That argument became meaningless when they proved not to be a team at all.
There is something to the argument, which I agree whole heartedly with, that Ovechkin beats out Crosby as the best in the game. I believe it is 50% of the game’s objective to play physical, issue a level of physicality, and not have to play protected. I do believe Crosby would fight if his team gave him the opportunity, but somewhere along the lines, lost within the annuls of hockey history, the art of intimidation and violence lost its cool. Teams learned newer, trendier ways of proving themselves to each other, and asserting their camaraderie. Winning was one way, and the Bruins had that last year, quickly losing it in the wake of injuries, spoiled youth, and a blatant disbelief in their Vezina winning goaltender. Winning is not an option. The other is bringing in a coach that could preach the ways of camaraderie to the team, spoon feed them chemistry. They had this last year as well, and lost it due to the exact same reasons as previously stated. Claude Julien also completely lost control, and apparently lost focus on what team history he is upholding, and what his objectives are game by game. On March 8th it was not Captain Zdeno Chara who had the responsibility of picking his team up, and it was not Shawn “I only have one fight in me a game” Thornton. It was their Coach, their glue, their voice, Claude Julien, and he failed, not just himself, but his players, the franchise, the progress made last season, the 1970 squad sitting in their luxury boxes disappointed and betrayed, and the history of the Boston Bruins. Claude, if I wanted Dave Lewis to come back, I would have shoved a cactus up my ass to prepare for this season.
(Side Note: In 1979, current Bruins analyst, than player, Mike Milbury climbed into the stands at the Madison Square Garden and beat a fan with his own shoe. The times are no longer changing; they have officially changed.)
The Bruins did not spend this season without a goal scorer. They did not play this season without a strong defensive core. They did not play this season without a number one goaltender. They played this season without heart. I have avoided calling it for the past ten years, and though I despise when Ray Bourque brought his Colorado Avalanche Cup to Boston and paraded it around the Hub and will never forgive him for this, the heart left with him and with Neely and has not been able to ever again reemmerge. I have watched teams nearly succeed in this time, and always fail. I have watched hits go unfinished, this season more so than any other, and the March 18th game more than any game this season. To avoid finishing a check in a game that meant nothing more than vengeance and justice, is avoidance to come to terms with a complete lack of chemistry, and this is not built by one or two players, this is built over time. The Bruins built their team to last season, and it did not add up. The equation must start over again, and this means a revamping of the lineup and its personnel.
Side Note: I can’t deny the heart of some of my favorites to ever play for the Bruins, but Donato, Heinz, Dafoe, Murray, Guerin, Lapointe, Sweeney and P.J. Axellson are long gone, and there are only a few shimmers of light left to spark even the remote amount of interest I have left, in this team; and this remote amount will never fade away, and that it is said to confirm that this post is not the death of my fandom, only the suggestions necessary to keep its fire lit.
The post now moves to this so-called endgame. The endgame of the downfall everyone around me saw coming, except me. “They do not play physical…”, I heard and denied. “They do not have a goal scorer…” I heard and witnessed, and still denied. I denied not the fact, but the necessity. This was a mistake. If a team does not and can not possess physicality and goal scoring in hockey, or match any level of play delivered by the elite teams throughout the league, the consistent teams, the guarantees, than a team can not win. That being said, who do we keep, who can we build a TEAM around, who still possesses this drive and the heart necessary to win in the NHL. Out of the woodwork, and the “tactful” decisions made over this past decade, there are a few that can remain, and a few that can still lead; call them the “last hopes” the Bruins have towards their future as a team, and their future in holding any relevance in regards to New England sports. At this time, I do not blame anyone for turning their heads away, once again, from the Boston Bruins. One March 21st, I did the same.
Players to save; the only ones remaining with the ability to save, what the B’s managed to lose in 60 minutes:
Patrice Bergeron: There is no question who the hidden talent is, and his gold medal as a Canadian Olympian is no charity case, but a testament to this talent. Bergeron, however, has been asked, since his call up in ’03, to play over this talent, play a forechecking, defensive minded role. In an equally as brutal fashion to the recent Matt Cooke incident, Randy Jones from the league assholes, the Philadelphia Flyers, served Patrice up a concussion of his own. Bergeron responded by coming back last year, and putting on an absolute clinic in the first round of the playoffs, as the B’s stepped it up and beat their Canadian rivals. He also stepped it up again this season, amidst the injuries and lack of compete level surrounding him. Patrice Bergeron IS and has been for some time now, the most reliable workhorse the B’s have, and any team in the NHL could build a team around this kid. Steady numbers, a great power-play point man and penalty killer, and finesse and finishing skills which can match any player in the NHL, skate for skate and pound for pound. He will not go anywhere.
David Kreijci: Patience, and European finesse launch this Bruin ahead of any other future candidate the B’s had over the past two years. There is an eerie feel of experience possessed by this sophomore, and a veteran quality, even before during and after his all-star caliber Olympic performance. The center core the B’s have to build on is impressive.
Marc Savard: The third Center position installment, a tenacious and crafty playmaker, he was an offensive steel, and once he fully recovers, he is an important stand out and reliable asset.
Zdeno Chara: The epitome of a captain. When he is healthy, he is a monster.
Tuukka Rask: Young, inexperienced, and an incredible talent. He has some big skates to fill, but a team around Rask can win games.
Tim Thomas: Let him have his contract, let him have his ‘B’, and while wearing his silver medal, holding up his Vezina, and at the age of 39, let him skate off into the sunset. His compete level has yet to be matched by any Bruin, and if there was enough of his heart to go around, this team would be viewed in an entirely different light.
I can’t in my right mind go without mentioning “The Next Cam Neely”, Milan Lucic, or the fiery goal scorer Marco Sturm, right? Well let’s just say I stop at Thomas on my list of player’s to keep, and hold Lucic and Sturm directly over the fence of loyalty and devotion. Lucic needs to either play physical or score goals. When he does neither, he is a liability. When he does both he is a necessity. If he chooses incorrectly, he will become a one “hit” wonder, and fade into the annuls of Bruins fandom along side P.J. Stock. P.J. would win. Marco Sturm on the other hand, can’t seem to match himself, and at any given time, becomes, just another player. If he can turn it up for game 6 of the first round of the 07′/08′ playoffs, and for the Winter Classic in 2010, then he should be able to turn it up every minute of every game. This however, is a Bruins virus, spreading throughout talent, and once it hits, it produces the exact results we are now criticizing, we are now turning our heads away from and the exact results we need to change.
Everyone else can go, and if Wideman isn’t one of them, then the whole world is a joke, and I am the epic punchline.
Looking back on this post, it reads more like the diary of a Bruins Fan scorned. I have heard the recent mantra around me, cries of “heart failure” and ”I’m done with them…”, but I am not done. I am, however, inclined to set my standards higher, declare who I believe should be kept, and who I could see disposed of. I feel it my responsibility to finally face reality. I also, however, find the responsibility as a fan, not just to criticize, but ride this criticism directly alongside my hope and my love for this team. I will begin watching them again, avidly and without a wavering outlook on their abilities to be successful. I will watch however, with a relentless “toothbrush in the toilet” tainted taste in my mouth, until the moves I want happen, and until the restructuring of this season’s failures occur.
To end this year, I believe the Bruins will sneak into the playoffs, and get destroyed by an absolutely unconscious Washington Capitals team. I believe Rask will be the number one, and Thomas will be shopped around in the offseason. If he stays, he will humbly accept the back up role. When Savard returns, the three star centers named above will need a goal scorer a piece to match the lines. I believe Sturm, Wheeler and Lucic can stay if they want, and fit, but they are not these necessary goal scorers. Recchi, Ryder and Satan will be gone, and Paille and Begin have already overstayed their welcomes. (Side Note: I do not and will never trust division rivals. They are spies.) Their defense, aside from Mark Stuart, possibly this Seidenberg character, who has yet to do anything more than Derek Morris delivered, Johnny Boychuk, who given the right amount of time and training has greatness potential, and of course Chara, can be completely unloaded. Claude Julien? I think he will stay. I think the philosophies will remain. I think they will again be successful. But to forget history, to forget the “black and blue” ways of the black and gold, is to forget what team you are coaching. Julien, you are no longer coaching for Lou in New Jersey, you are coaching for a player, Neely, and the teams’ biggest fan, Chiarelli. You are coaching for that 1970′s team. You are coaching for Boston. You are coaching to keep hockey relevant in the Hub.
Somewhere along the line, this Bruins team lost it. Whatever “it” is, I believe they have the tools to build yet again, to achieve it. I can only hope it will happen next year, but in the wake of such embarrassment, and my current indifference, all I have left is hope, and that is the true endgame of fandom, towards any sports team’s collapse.
Filed under: Bruins, NHL | Tagged: Boston Bruins Collapse, Claude Julien, Marc Savard, Matt Cooke Incident, Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron, The Boston Bruins, Zdeno Chara | 5 Comments »