Most go hungry when coming back for seconds
If you are convinced that the Bruins are set up for a string of Stanley Cup championships, then you probably haven’t spent much time dwelling on the harsh reality of recent history. It’s hard to get there. It’s much harder to do it a second time.
In the last 20 years, only the Penguins (1991-92) and the Red Wings (1997-98) have pulled off repeats.
Last year’s Cup champs, the Blackhawks, were dinged in Round 1 this year by the Canucks, who initially appeared to have what it takes, until their netminder, Roberto Luongo, blew out like a threadbare Bridgestone radial. No amount of tire pumping could have saved Bobby Lou.
Twice in the last 15-plus years, in fact, the defending Cup champion has failed to so much as qualify for the playoffs the following year. The Devils played their trap to perfection in 1995, then fell into a DNQ black hole in ’96. The Cam Ward-backed Hurricanes won in 2006, the first year out of the lockout, then posted back-to-back DNQs.
Of the last 26 Cup winners, dating back to the Oilers’ first championship in 1984, 15 were eliminated by the end of the second round the following season.
Now, what does that tell us of the Bruins’ chance to be back here same time, same place, same rolling parade next year? We’ll get our first hints when the 2011-12 season begins Oct. 6 with the retooled Flyers (Jeff Carter and Mike Richards offloaded last week) at the Garden for the banner-lifting opener.
But here at worrisome central, a few thoughts to keep in mind while basking in the warmth you’re feeling after that 39-year hibernation:
■This win was mostly about goalie Tim Thomas, which is what the entire regular season was most about as well. Without Thomas, this is a team that easily could have missed the playoffs. Yes, solid goaltending is a necessity all year. But Thomas provided goaltending that was even better than the Dominik Hasek “Dominator’’ variety, which, Sabres fans will remember, fell just short in the ’99 Final.
If it takes that kind of performance to win the Cup again in 2012, no doubt the ever-battling Thomas is up for it, but those kind of out-of-body experiences pass this way with the frequency of comets.
“Just something about Timmy,’’ mused his old Vermont pal, Martin St. Louis, whose Tampa Bay team was rubbed out by the Bruins in the conference final. “It’s like he knows how good he has to be and plays up to that level. We got more by him in our series than Vancouver did, but he beat us. Then he held Vancouver to, what, eight goals? Unbelievable.’’
That’s money goaltending. And it’s a safe bet that even Thomas can’t bank on it a second time. The Cup win was decidedly goalie-centric, which isn’t to diminish the work of others, but is to say it would be a mistake to think other areas don’t need upgrading.
■ Big-time goal scoring. In the end, the Bruins got the goals when they needed them, specifically two each from Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron in the Game 7 clincher. Overall, though, they lacked that mainstay scorer (notice we did not say “sniper’’), who was capable of saying, “Follow me, boys, I’ll get you there’’ on a nightly basis.
Is it Milan Lucic? Is it Nathan Horton? Perhaps one day, but not yet. Both remain too inconsistent to be considered elite scorers. And with Mark Recchi retired, one-sixth of that top-six equation has been lost. Find a bona fide perennial 40-goal guy out there, someone who can lift the tide, and the chance of a repeat increases exponentially.
■ The power play. It was supposed to get better with the addition of Tomas Kaberle, but instead it went from frustrating to futile to fahgettaboutit. Truth is, the man-advantage has been a struggle for years, though respectable when Marc Savard was operating at peak performance.
The fix? Answer that here, in the sports section? No clue. That’s not just me, but also those who are paid to figure it out, including players, coaches, and management. Often during the playoffs, both PP1 and PP2 were barely able to hold the zone. It was not uncommon to see the opposition clear the puck four, five, even six times in the first minute of the advantage.
Can they win again with a clueless, powerless power play? There is probably a better chance of that than of winning again with Thomas being less than Thomas. But there has to be a better way, be it with better players or better coaching.
The end result was 10 for 88 in the playoffs, only an 11.4 percent success rate. The only clubs to be worse were the Rangers (5 percent) and Penguins (2.9 percent), both of whom didn’t make it out of Round 1.
So maybe some of you will consider that a buzzkill even before the post-parade hangover has faded. But again, the “repeat’’ statistics are sobering and the shortcomings don’t disappear no matter how bright the Cup’s glimmer. Like that household “to do’’ list, there is always something that needs attention.
To mitigate the sting of adding $35.5 million in salary, Tallon shipped out Czech center Rostislav Olesz, 25, who to date has been another underperforming forward to get lost in Sunrise (see: Nathan Horton).
Even with the addition of Campbell, Tallon still has gobs of money to spend and is expected to be very active in the free agent market when it opens Friday. He could be one of the GMs knee-deep in the Brad Richards bidding, especially with the sun having set on Olesz. Richards is no stranger to Florida. He won a Cup with the Bolts in 2004, one of his six-plus seasons in Tampa.
Meanwhile, a year after winning their first Cup since 1961, the Hawks have gutted two more players — Campbell and Troy Brouwer — who were part of that championship run. Other key brothers departed include Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg, Brent Sopel, Adam Burish, John Madden, Andrew Ladd, Ben Eager, and goalie Antti Niemi.
All in all, roughly a 50 percent turnover. Not totally unexpected, given how tight the Hawks were against the cap, especially after new big contracts for Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
In Burns, the Sharks land another right-shot, two-way defenseman to complement Dan Boyle. Even more important, a healthy Burns (17-29—46 in 80 games, 25:02 ice time) should make Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau, Ryan Clowe, Joe Pavelski, and Logan Couture even better.
Burns excels at retrieving pucks and getting them up to his forwards with speed. During the Western Conference finals, the Canucks gave the Sharks headaches because of the speed and ferocity of their forecheck.
With Burns, 26, in the lineup, there should be better cohesion between San Jose’s defensemen and forwards.
“Right in our wheelhouse in our window with our team,’’ said Sharks GM Doug Wilson. “A guy at his age and his type of game complements our team.’’
Capital punishment ahead? Before the start of the draft Friday, Washington acquired Troy Brouwer from Chicago for the No. 26 pick. In Brouwer, the Capitals bring in an abrasive forward who can play both wings and shift from a scoring position to a grinding role. “That’s the beauty of his versatility,’’ said Capitals GM George McPhee. “He can also play the left side. With the way the game’s going now, we can play him up and down the lineup.’’ Bruins fans will remember Brouwer as one of the Blackhawks under suspicion of chirping at Shawn Thornton on March 29. Thornton suffered a cut above his right eye when he fell forward into one of Fernando Pisani’s skate blades. As Thornton skated off, one or more Blackhawks gave him the business. Thornton’s teammates pointed fingers at Brouwer and Patrick Kane. “There was some stuff said that I’m not very happy about,’’ Thornton said after the game. “If I ever find out who it was, I’ll deal with it in my own way.’’ The Bruins play the Capitals four times next season. First showdown is Jan. 24, 2012.
If they build it . . . On Aug. 1, Nassau County voters will have the future of the Islanders in their hands. That day, they will vote, via public referendum, on a $400 million bond that will go toward the funding of a new rink. Nassau Coliseum, decaying by the hour, is not a viable home for the Islanders. The franchise is banking on a new arena to be in place when some of their up-and-comers — John Tavares, Michael Grabner, Kyle Okposo, Calvin de Haan — hit the sweet spots of their careers. All you have to do is look at the later seasons of recent five-year extensions signed by Grabner and Okposo. Grabner carries a $3 million annual hit. Okposo is at $2.8 million. According to www.capgeek.com, Grabner will earn a $5 million salary in 2015-16, while Okposo will pocket $4.5 million. The Islanders are hoping to be in their new building by then.
Cup will be getting around The Bruins will have the Stanley Cup for 100 days. It was present at the team dinner Friday in Minneapolis. It also was on display during the draft at the
Loose pucks Had the Bruins lost to the Canadiens in the first round, Zdeno Chara would have bolted for Slovakia to participate in the World Championships. It would have been Chara’s first time to play in the tournament in his home country. Naturally, Chara was pleased he didn’t have that opportunity . . . Jonathan Huberdeau, selected third overall by the Panthers Friday, was one of the first players to pull on Florida’s new red sweater. Nice-looking piece. Flashback to ex-Panthers like John Vanbiesbrouck rocking the red in the 1990s . . . Great stat from Brant Berglund, former video coordinator for the Bruins. During the Final, when the Bruins were up by one goal, tied, or trailing by one, David Krejci and Dennis Seidenberg led the team in shots on goal. Small sample size, but shows who was successful, in clutch situations, in getting pucks through traffic and on net . . . No idea what the Bruins’ rings will look like. Zero doubt, however, that they will be pricey. No big deal for the millionaire players. But staffers earning real-world salaries will be required to pay taxes on their jewelry. Perhaps the players can take care of their guys appropriately . . . People in both pro and college hockey are hoping Boston College assistant Mike Cavanaugh lands the Northeastern job vacated by Cronin. Cavanaugh has served as Jerry York’s right-hand man since 1995. He deserves to run his own show . . . Leave it to an ex-Terrier to be one of the first on the scene in Santa Monica once Whitey Bulger was finally pinched. Jack Baker, captain of the 2002 BU squad and proud South Boston native, hustled to 3d Street when the news broke.