Bruins may be turning corner

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:04 AM ET

They've upgraded the coaching. They've upgraded the front office. They've upgraded the players.

They may even be upgrading the ownership soon because reports are flying that bidders are lining up for the Boston Bruins and if that's so, any new owner this side of Charles Wang would have to be an upgrade.

But then again, when you finish 13th in a 15-team conference, it's not terribly hard to improve.

Unfortunately for the National Hockey League, which badly needs successful teams in the major American sports venues, the Boston ownership has had Jeremy Jacobs at the helm.

For some interesting reading, check him out on Google some day. But that's a book, not a column.

On the hockey front, the Bruins have done everything wrong over the years, an excellent example being the way they squandered their two superb 1999 draft picks, Joe Thornton and Sergei Samsonov.

NEW COACH

But having said all that, it now appears the Bruins have finally done some things right.

The highly respected former Detroit Red Wings coach Dave Lewis is behind the bench and Peter Chiarelli, late of the Ottawa Senators is the general manager.

His hiring was a typical Bruins fiasco, but they ended up with the right guy, and while he was sitting around like a butterfly in its pupal phase waiting to spread his wings, interim GM Jeff Gorton made his job easier by acquiring free-agent defenceman Zdeno Chara.

"Our D, if you look our top three," said Chiarelli on Saturday, "is pretty darn good."

That would be Chara, Brad Stuart and Paul Mara. After that, the Bruins are hoping that a couple of youngsters, especially Andrew Albert and Milan Jurcina, continue to improve.

The goaltending should be decent, but Chiarelli is enough of a realist to know that in the NHL, goaltenders need more that a brief appearance to prove their worth.

"There may be a little more uncertainty to goal because there's not much combined experience," he said.

To be specific, there are 32-year-old Tim Thomas coming off his rookie year, and 22-year-old Hannu Toivonen. "Hannu projects really well as a goalie," Chiarelli said. "He has got a little of that Gumby-type style where he does the splits and covers post to post well. Tim is a character guy.

"But just from the fact that they haven't really done a heck of a lot, there's uncertainty."

In a couple of years -- and for many thereafter -- the Bruins should be able to count on Tuukka Rask, the best young goalie in the world, kindly donated to their cause by the Maple Leafs. But for the time being, they'll have to lean a bit more towards offensive prowess, and there too, they've got a former Leaf to help out.

In this case, it's Brad Boyes, who probably will play on the top line with Patrice Bergeron and Marco Sturm.

"We signed him for two years," Chiarelli said. "He's a character kid and he has a lot of chemistry with Bergeron. He's a smart player.

"In the past, those two have had Sturm on their line and he has got great speed. That speed gives the other guys space. Boyes is a smart guy in small spaces. He has great hands and great vision. He has better-than-average speed and he uses it well."

The Bruins also grabbed the best pure scorer available in last June's draft, Phil Kessel.

"He has still got to make the team," Chiarelli said. "That was one of the things when I went down to Lake Placid to talk to him before we signed him. I said, 'Phil, you know that just because you sign doesn't mean you're going to have a spot on the roster.'

"He was good. He said, "I fully understand,' and he has been really good in camp."

As a result, in conjunction with the other improvements, the Bruins may be able to regain some long-lost respect.


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