Friday, August 22, 2008

Big Bad Bruins... reborn?'s front-page article on Bruins prospect Brad Marchand features the tagline "Getting His Act Together". The gist of the article is that Marchand has plenty of talent but also has a history of disciplinary issues (including being benched by Ted Nolan in juniors). The juicy question: does this guy have enough character to succeed in the NHL?

This has become a familiar refrain in the Bruins front office under Pete Chiarelli's reign. For pretty much every acquisition of the past 2 years you can add the general comment: "He's got character issues but loads of talent -- let's hope he's worth the risk!". In addition to Marchand, the Bruins have rolled the dice on:

Phil Kessel - Allan Muir recently wrote an S.I. article calling him the "NHL version of T.O.". Nuff said.
Blake Wheeler - Gave the stiff-arm to the 'Yotes after underwhelming as a college player.
Carl Soderberg - See previous thread. Arrrrr.

In a best-case scenario these players could be the forward core of a dynasty. In a worst-case scenario it's a lineup of suspects in the murder of a franchise.

But let's not forget that in the Bruins' glory days of the mid-'70s they carried a little swagger to go along with their talent. Phil Esposito, Brad Park, Derek Sanderson, Wayne Cashman... these guys weren't exactly of the Sakic/Yzerman/Bourque school of quiet excellence. All of them brought character risks to the table, and the combination turned out to be one of the most effective in league history. They were the "Bad Boys" of pro sports when Isiah Thomas and Dennis Rodman were shooting on an 8-foot basket.

Whether the Bruins develop a dynastic chip-on-the-shoulder mentality, or implode like so many other ill-conceived adventures in team-building, is going to fall largely in the lap of coach Claude Julien. At the same time that he's managing the team's veteran players (tag-team goalies, mind-melding Ryder and Savard, coaxing a rebound season out of Axelsson), Julien must channel the youthful energy of the prospects into a vision for long-term success.

Of course, Phil Esposito once said the Big Bad Bruins could've won 5 Cups in a row if they'd been a little more focused.

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