Wake up Bruins, it's a new season

Hockey fan Kevin Stocco (standing) meets Zdeno Chara and the rest of the Boston Bruins at the...

Hockey fan Kevin Stocco (standing) meets Zdeno Chara and the rest of the Boston Bruins at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto on Friday. (DAVE ABEL/QMI Agency)

Mike Zeisberger, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:06 PM ET

As they patiently scribbled hundreds of autographs in the Hockey Hall of Fame on Friday, the Boston Bruins didn’t care that former teammate Phil Kessel recently was named NHL player of the month for October.

Or that ex-Bruins prospect Joe Colborne had also copped player of the month honours, this time for the AHL.

For this particular moment, like so many glorious others in recent months, all that mattered was that their names were chiselled into the shiny trophy perched majestically on a pedestal behind them.

The trophy known as the Stanley Cup.

At the same time, they understood that, while it’s cool to soak in past glories, the present has been far more dismal.

When the defending Cup champs step onto the ice at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday, they’ll find themselves 11 points behind the high-flying Maple Leafs in the standings.

An Eastern Conference matchup between the first-place Maple Leafs and the last-place Bruins? Shouldn’t that be juxtaposed?

Believe it or not, no.

While the Bruins attempt to leave behind an off-season of attempting to discover how many different, ah, beverages could be swilled from the Cup, Kessel and the Leafs have been on fire.

During their sizzling 9-3-1 start to the season, Kessel finds himself, at least as of Friday, the NHL leader in goals (10), points (21) and plus/minus (plus-10).

Kessel’s hot start comes as no surprise to Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli, who dealt Kessel to Toronto back in 2009 for two first-round picks and a second-rounder. In fact, he informed Leafs GM Brian Burke at the time to expect big things from the talented, albeit enigmatic, winger.

“I don’t need to be politically correct when I talk about Phil,” Chiarelli said. “There’s never been a question of his talent.

“When we made the move, I told Brian: “You are getting a 40-goal scorer.”

Burke and Chiarelli subsequently would pull the trigger on a second significant deal, this one coming this past February. This time it was long-time Leaf defenceman Tomas Kaberle changing addresses, landing in Boston for Colborne, a first-round pick in 2011, and a conditional second-round pick that would kick in if the Bruins reached the final or re-signed Kaberle.

While some critics continue to argue that Burke (“I’d do the deal all over again”) overpaid for Kessel, the general consensus is that the Leafs won the Kaberle trade, getting two high picks and a well-regarded prospect for Kaberle who, after just four months in a Bruins jersey, is now in Carolina.

There’s only one problem with that logic.

No matter how little you might feel Kaberle contributed, the Bruins captured the championship with the veteran blue liner in their lineup.

“We know we paid a hefty price for Kaberle,” Chiarelli said. “We know (Colborne) is a bright talent who will be beneficial for them.

“But in my mind, we don’t win the Stanley Cup without Tomas Kaberle. Period.”

There’s the bottom line. Doing whatever it takes to win the Stanley Cup. Accomplish that feat, and every immediate trade leading up to that moment must be deemed a success.

Even Burke admitted as much during the Leafs’ Oct. 20 date in Boston. Asked by a Toronto reporter about the Kessel deal, Burke replied that there was no argument concerning who won because Chiarelli has a Stanley Cup ring.

Only time will tell if Kessel and Colborne can one day bring Burke a Leaf bauble of his own.

That Oct. 20 game arguably was the Leafs’ worst and Bruins best performance of the season. By the time the carnage settled, Boston had thumped the Leafs, 6-2, spawning chants of “Thank You Kessel” from the capacity crowd.

That scoreline would prove to be an aberration of both teams’ seasons to date.

While the 4-7 Bruins have been battling the cursed “Cup hangover,” the Leafs have played the far better hockey, something Boston captain Zdeno Chara acknowledges.

“We already could see last year what a fast team they are,” Chara said as he prepared to leave the Hall of Fame. “They skate very fast and they move the puck very quickly. Now I think they are doing it even better.

“I think they are surprising teams with their speed.”

Not to mention their lofty perch atop the NHL standings.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/zeisberger

 


Videos

Photos