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Sunday, October 01, 2006

SI Bruins Preview


Boston Bruins

LAST SEASON: 29-37-16, 13th in East
KEY ADDITIONS: G.M. Peter Chiarelli, Coach Dave Lewis, D Zdeno Chara, D Paul Mara, Marc Savard
KEY LOSSES: Coach Mike Sullivan, D Hal Gill, D Brian Leetch, C Alexei Zhamnov

The biggest changes for the Bruins occurred in the front office, not on the ice. Gone are longtime club president Harry Sinden (who'd had a hand in running the team since 1966), general manager Mike O'Connell and coach Mike Sullivan. In are first-year G.M. Peter Chiarelli, who was an assistant G.M. with the Senators, and coach Dave Lewis, who led the Red Wings to the NHL's best record in 2003-04. In addition to improving on the Bruins' meek 74-point performance of last season, the new regime will be looking to instill team chemistry and focus on defense.

To help them achieve their goal of an improved blue line, the Bruins signed free-agent All-Star defenseman Zdeno Chara to a five-year, $37.5 million contract; a fitness fanatic, he could play 30 minutes a game. Boston also acquired sharpshooting defenseman Paul Mara, who scored 15 goals last year.

If only the Bruins could have similarly increased their firepower at the forward positions. The pressure will be on young center Patrice Bergeron, a second-round pick in the 2003 draft, to build on his team-leading totals of 31 goals and 73 points in '05-06 -- especially after getting a five-year, $23.75 million contract over the summer. "The changes in Boston were more radical than most teams'," says Lewis. "Everything is a real plus-plus for us right now. The competitive balance has changed."


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