Work in Sports
NORTHEAST DIVISION |
4 Boston Bruins
Team Page | 2000-2001 Schedule | Roster
Sports Illustrated Ranking: 19
By Kostya Kennedy
A few days before the start of training camp, Bruins defenseman Don Sweeney and his old friend Raymond Bourque went for a casual skate at a neighborhood rink north of Boston. "Afterward we shook hands, said good luck and that was it," says Sweeney. "It's strange not having him around. When I broke in 12 years ago, he was a fixture, and then every year he was the guy we all looked to."
For the first September since 1979 (to put the date in perspective, consider that Gerry Cheevers manned the Bruins' net and Jimmy Carter the White House), Bourque did not break camp with Boston. The Bruins honored his trade request by sending him to the Cup-contending Avalanche last March, and ever since they've been frantically trying to remake the defense that Bourque anchored for so long. The off-season signings of offensive-minded veteran Paul Coffey, 39, and defensive- minded journeyman Peter Popovic, 32, and the drafting of 27-year-old Finn Jarno Kultanen leave Boston with a lot of back-end blueliners but without a true No. 1 defenseman; no one in the group appears ready to log the nearly 30 minutes a game that Bourque provided. "We'll miss the way Ray played and also the example he set," says assistant general manager Mike O'Connell. "You hope that some part of him is still here. Guys who played with Ray saw the effort he gave and demanded each day."
Even with big, young body bumpers Kyle McLaren (he's 23 and 6'4", 230 pounds) and Hal Gill (25, 6'7", 235), the Boston blue line doesn't intimidate. That means the club desperately needs goaltender Byron Dafoe, who had a lousy .889 save percentage last season while battling ligament damage in his knee, to return to the form that made him a Vezina Trophy finalist two seasons ago. To reach the playoffs, the team also needs consistent production from its trio of talented but unpolished forwards -- centers Jason Allison, 25, and Joe Thornton, 21, and left wing Sergei Samsonov, 21. "Consistency comes from taking pride in what you're doing," says Sweeney, the longest-tenured Bruin. "As veterans, we have to help instill that pride. We need to make sure the young guys remember the kind of players who wore the Bruins' jersey before them.
Issue date: October 16, 2000
Click here to look back at CNNSI.com's training-camp previews.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.