What's the deal, Mike?

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:24 AM ET

BOSTON -- Bruins 3, Senators 0

Bruins GM Mike O'Connell woke up yesterday morning, walked into his kitchen and said to his family, "I had a dream last night I traded Joe Thornton."

Some people - including several Bruins veterans -- wish it was all a dream.

Sources told the Sun yesterday that O'Connell was summoned to the dressing room by upset Bruins veterans, who were demanding an explanation as to why their captain was shipped to San Jose.

The meeting, according to sources, was somewhat "fiery."

"I told the players that improving this team is my job," said O'Connell. "I have to make moves that will make this team better. If I don't do what it takes to make the Boston Bruins better, then I'm not doing my job."

The decision to trade the face of the franchise for Brad Stuart, Wayne Primeau and Marco Sturm didn't make a lot of sense to people here.

In fact, when fans in a downtown bar heard the news out of Canada that Thornton was on his way out, they thought some Ottawa reporters may have had a little too much to drink.

Said one announcer yesterday on the 850 WEEI radio station: "We're not going to sit here and say this is a great trade, but we don't know if it was a bad trade either because we really have no idea who these players from the Sharks are."

SENT JOLT THROUGH ROOM

If O'Connell wanted to send a jolt through the Boston room without firing coach Mike Sullivan, then he certainly succeeded.

Were the Bruins players shocked?

"That's an understatement," said stunned Boston winger Glen Murray, who re-signed with the Bruins as an unrestricted free agent to play on Thornton's right side.

"We're losing a great guy, a great team player and our captain. I don't think you get many bigger (trades) than that. It's tough to see a guy like (Thornton) go. I spoke to him and he was shocked. He didn't see it coming. Nobody saw it coming. This is pretty tough for us to take."

O'Connell felt he had to make a change. With the Bruins off to a 9-13-3-2 start and sitting in last place in the Northeast Division, things weren't working with Thornton in their lineup.

Sullivan, for his part, was quick to note all of the Bruins' problems weren't because of Thornton.

"I know everybody here is looking for somebody to blame. To think we're putting the blame on one guy by trading Joe Thornton is absurd," said Sullivan.

"It couldn't be any further from the truth. We're all to blame for this situation."

STUART FOR SAMSONOV

O'Connell claimed he was talking to five teams about Thornton, but sources say the original deal was supposed to be Stuart for Sergei Samsonov.

Everything changed on Wednesday when the 26-year-old Thornton's name entered the mix. The Sharks, shocked they had a shot at one of the top players in the league, jumped on the opportunity to land the first-overall pick in the 1997 entry draft.

O'Connell believes Stuart will help the blue line, while Sturm is a solid winger and Primeau is going to contribute down the middle.

"You don't get a chance to get a player like Joe Thornton very often," said Senators coach Bryan Murray. "Obviously, this is a very significant move."

But if getting rid of their best player backfires on O'Connell, it's a good bet he and Sullivan will be the next ones out the door.

"Absolutely. That's the job. If it doesn't work out, then it could be my last move," said O'Connell.

"That's why you have to put a lot of thought into a move like this."

SOME THINGS WORTH NOTING...

GOOD STOP: Senators centre Bryan Smolinski had a breakaway midway through the first period, but Boston goaltender Hannu Toivonen was able to get the glove out to make the stop and keep Ottawa off the scoreboard.

WHERE'S THORNTON?: Senators coach Bryan Murray noted the only guy to miss Boston C Joe Thornton might be defenceman Zdeno Chara. "He's usually got the assignment to shut Thornton down," said Murray.

ALL MIKED UP: The officials at the TD Banknorth Gardens announce penalties with a microphone they have attached to their belt. That feature hasn't been used at the Corel Centre this season.

bruce.garrioch@ott.sunpub.com


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