Bruins gave up on a good thing

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:19 AM ET

As he prepares for his highly publicized return to Beantown, goaltender Andrew Raycroft insists the Boston Bruins gave up on him far too early.

"Yeah, absolutely," he said. "And I'm not exactly sure why."

He's not the only one who feels that way.

During a pair of phone interviews yesterday, both Joe Thornton and Glen Murray, former teammates of Raycroft in Boston, agreed that the Bruins may have prematurely cut bait this past summer when they dealt Raycroft to Toronto for highly regarded goaltending prospect Tuukka Rask, the 21st overall pick in the 2005 entry draft.

True, Raycroft's injury plagued 2005-06 season was a miserable one, a campaign that featured an 8-19-1 record and 3.71 goals against average. Yet once that nightmare had ended, Raycroft firmly believed that he would regain the form that allowed him to win the 2004 Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year.

"I knew at the end of last year there was no way it was going to happen again," he said. "I knew things would be different."

Indeed they are. Raycroft already has equalled his 2005-06 win total with a record of 8-3-2 and 2.73 goals against average.

"I think (the Bruins) kind of gave up on a lot of guys. We all had that feeling. It kind of felt like the rug was pulled out from under us with (captain Thornton being traded to San Jose). Once he was gone, we didn't have the players anymore. Joe was the guy everyone looked to. Once he was gone, everyone kind of looked at each other like, 'Nah, they've given up on us already.' Everyone was waiting for everyone else to get dealt at that point."

Thornton, whose trade from Boston to the Sharks 11 months ago stunned the hockey world, is not surprised at the way Raycroft has rebounded with the Leafs this season.

"I never had any doubts he'd come back like this," Thornton said from San Jose. "I always thought he was one of the top 10 goalies in the league. He was CHL goalie of the year, he was NHL rookie of the year, so last season was a mere hiccup. Just look at his track record.

"I think the new start has been great for him. Not only is he good positionally but he always keeps his cool out there. And it's amazing how guys respond after being traded."

It worked for Thornton, who won both the scoring title and the Hart Trophy as league MVP last season.

Murray is looking forward to facing Raycroft, who tomorrow night is slated to make his first start in Boston since the deal.

"It's only my personal opinion, but I do think (the Bruins) gave up on him a bit early," Murray said from Boston. "Having said that, a change of scenery might be the best thing for him. That might sound weird for a guy with only two NHL seasons behind him, but look how he has responded with Toronto.

"His start doesn't surprise me. He's a really good goalie."

While Raycroft looks forward to reconnecting with some old friends in Boston, there are not many familiar faces left on the Bruins.

"(In 2003-04) we finished second in the Eastern Conference with 110 points," he said. "And there is almost nobody from that team left. There is (Patrice Bergeron), (Glen) Murray, P.J. Axelsson and that's it. To go from being that close to that far away so fast, it's disappointing.

"Without a doubt, coming to Toronto was the best thing that happened to me so far. I love it. I'm excited just to go to the rink every day, which wasn't always the case."


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