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Monday, April 09, 2007

Bruins Report Card

Stephen Harris of the Herald has his grades for this season. Here are some notables.

Jeremy Reich B (plus)

One of the pleasant surprises of a dreary season. Led the B’s with nine fights in just 32 games and had 36 hits. Never quit or stopped playing with toughness and courage - even as many around him did.

Marco Sturm C (plus)

Like so many Bruins [team stats], faded badly toward the end, with 3-0-3 in last 12 games. But overcame slow start (5-6-11 in his first 25) to post decent 27-17-44 totals. Is that production and his minus-24 worthy of the four-year, $14 million extension he got? No. But he is a valuable piece of the puzzle.

P.J. Axelsson C

Was used in a role (first-line left winger) for which he was not well-suited. Managed 11-16-27 and a minus-10. Not as effective defensively as usual, nor as good a penalty-killer.

Shean Donovan C (minus)

Fans hoped for a high-speed grinder with skill and Terry O’Reilly-like tendencies; we saw plenty of speed, little skill and nary a glimpse of O’Reilly’s toughness and grit. Donovan was credited with only 42 hits in 76 games and had just two fights. In 14:09 average ice time, produced only 6-11-17.

Zdeno Chara C (plus)

We remember Chara, the biggest NHLer ever, playing with a mean streak and simply intimidating the hell out of opponents. But we saw little of that this season, as Chara had zero fights and just 203 hits in 80 games, ranking 13th in the NHL. In fairness, he played an NHL-leading 27:57 per game and likely tried to save energy by playing less physically. Did a decent job at the top of the B’s power play (9-17-26 production) and matched his career-best with 43 points (11-32). Shirked one responsibility of captaincy by avoiding talking to the press more often than not.

Dennis Wideman D

A big disappointment after the Bruins [team stats] dealt away Brad Boyes to get him. Billed as a talented, puck-moving blueliner, had just 1-2-3 in 20 B’s games and did not impress as a particularly adept passer or shooter. Struggled defensively.

Coach Dave Lewis C

It may be that Lewis was the perfect assistant to the intimidating Scotty Bowman in Detroit, but is simply too nice a guy to be a head coach himself. The job almost demands a bit of a psycho streak, and Lewis nearly always seemed calm and good-natured. Not until March 26 in Ottawa, with the playoffs all but lost, did he run the team through a good old-fashioned bag skate.

There were problems with his use of personnel, notably playing Axelsson on the top line and refusing to give Milan Jurcina minutes. Lewis also wasted Paul Mara’s main skill by giving him little power-play time. Lewis’ umbrella power-play set-up, used all year with almost no variation, led to a NHL-high 18 shorthanded goals against.
There were problems with bench management: A failure to use timeouts as leads slipped away, a dozen too-many-men minors and other sloppy and costly changes on the fly.

Worst of all, the team lacked the focus or discipline to close games, getting outscored an unbelievable 108-59 in the third period.

GM Peter Chiarelli C (minus)

Chiarelli got dealt a tough hand and was under constant pressure from Jeremy and/or Charlie Jacobs. But he did make mistakes. The biggest one? Letting Lewis essentially force the ill-advised trades of Jurcina and, some insiders believe, Boyes - two deals that will haunt the B’s. A more experienced GM might have told his coach, “These guys are part of your team. Play them.”

While assistant Jeff Gorton did a good job signing free agents Chara and Savard last summer, Chiarelli gets mostly so-so reviews for his deal-making during the season. Some NHL scouts say the B’s could have gotten more for Brad Stuart than Kobasew and Ference - and Chiarelli certainly could have gotten more for Boyes than Wideman.

Chistov for a third-rounder didn’t work out, but it was worth a shot; Ward for Mara helped a little; Bochenski for Kris Versteeg was an OK move, as was MacDonald on waivers. He overpaid for Sturm, but at least he is a proven commodity. The B’s better hope the mishandled Toivonen can bounce back.

In the final analysis, it sure seems more could have been squeezed out of this team - by the coach, the GM and the players. Could the Bruins [team stats] have gone for the Stanley Cup? No. But there was no excuse for them to look, at times, like minor leaguers.


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