Lost in all the chaos of free agent season is the fact some teams didn’t really need to do much in order to fill in their lineup.
And don’t laugh, but the Boston Bruins are one of those teams. Sure, the B’s helped out every pundit’s punchline bank by signing Michael Ryder to a three-year, $12-million contract, but based on previous history, even that may not be the albatross folks have gleefully teed off on.
Ryder is being re-united with coach Claude Julien, who has overseen the best seasons of the right winger’s career, whether in junior, the American League or NHL.
Now, it goes without saying Ryder had a dreadful, almost useless, conclusion to his career in Montreal, but he’s still only 28 years old. Clearly, Julien knows how to get the most out of Ryder, which at the NHL level, translates into about 60 points – not the 31 he stumbled to this season.
The Bruins also got a ‘new’ addition by subtracting Patrice Bergeron from the injured reserve. The dynamic young center is hoping to bounce back next season after missing most of this campaign with a concussion. With Bergeron and Ryder in the fold, a team that also features Marc Savard and maturing youngsters Phil Kessel and David Krejci all of a sudden looks a lot more dangerous offensively.
And if the offense is less than stellar, the Bruins have their ace in the hole: a system. Yeah, it’s boring defensive hockey during the regular season, but that seven-game battle against the Habs in the playoffs wasn’t too shabby. It also assures the players that if they stick to the game plan, good things (2-1 victories for all!) happen. The B’s bought into it this season and a somewhat surprising playoff berth was the result.
Mark this down, good citizens: Boston will finish second in the Northeast Division next year, barring a relapse from Bergeron or significant time missed by defender Zdeno Chara.
The offense is better, the defensive system is in place and even the goaltending has a Plan B; should Tim Thomas falter for some reason, there is Manny Fernandez (also coming off injury woes), or failing him, starter of the future Tuukka Rask, who proved he could play at the NHL level if need be.
All that and Bruins fans get to once again cheer on their new adopted son, Milan Lucic. It’s looking better and better in Beantown these days, even if the team isn’t making a lot of headlines.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his features, The Hot List and Year of the Ram, appear Tuesday and Thursday, respectively.
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