23 BOSTON BRUINS THE STREAK IS HISTORY, BUT THE FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT

October 05, 1997

Last season the Bruins missed the playoffs for the first time in
30 years, ending the longest streak of postseason appearances in
North American pro sports and triggering a series of strange
developments on Causeway Street. Boston's streak had become a
monument to mediocrity, a ruse designed to tempt season-ticket
holders into renewing their subscriptions while the team forsook
a real rebuilding effort. Eventually, however, Bostonians caught
on. In the last few years attendance dropped and frustration
rose. The fans wanted the Bruins to get younger, hipper and more
explosive. Then, in 1996-97, Boston finished at the bottom of
the Northeast Division (26-47-9), bringing an end to Steve
Kasper's dismal two-year stint as coach and securing the top
pick in the draft.

You watch, said cynical Bruins fans, frugal team president Harry
Sinden will hire some former Bruins retread as coach and, in his
never-ending quest to save a nickel, trade the No. 1 choice for
two toothless goons who couldn't find the net with computerized
directions. But Sinden wiped the cobwebs off owner Jeremy
Jacobs's checkbook and brought in Pat Burns, the former
Canadiens and Maple Leafs coach who immediately injected new
energy and attitude into the moribund franchise. In Burns's
eight seasons as an NHL coach, his teams always have made the
playoffs, but he has never had a club as green as this one.

Then on draft day the Bruins used the top pick to select
18-year-old center Joe Thornton, whose size (6'4", 200 pounds)
and scoring touch have led some observers to compare him with
Eric Lindros. When Thornton struggled in training camp and then
broke his wrist in an exhibition game--he'll miss the first few
weeks of the season--suddenly he was being compared with another
former top pick, defenseman Gord Kluzak. The Bruins drafted
Kluzak in 1982, and he had an injury-plagued eight-year career.

Boston fans are still excited about another 18-year-old, left
wing Sergei Samsonov. Samsonov, the Bruins' second pick in the
first round (No. 8), brings speed and scoring ability, if not
size (5'8", 184 pounds). Goaltender Jim Carey, who arrived in a
deal last March, will spend his first full season in the nets
for the Bruins, and as always, the defense will be anchored by
15-time All-Star Ray Bourque. Some things never change.

--GERRY CALLAHAN

NHL'S BEST

PENALTY KILLER

1. Mike Peca, Sabres
2. Peter Forsberg, Avalanche
3. Mike Keane, Rangers

COACH

1. Scotty Bowman, Red Wings
2. Marc Crawford, Avalanche
3. Jacques Lemaire, Devils

COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER [Mike Peca] COLOR PHOTO: DAVID E. KLUTHO [Scotty Bowman]

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)