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Sports Illustrated Ranking: 4
By Kostya Kennedy
The Bruins sent shock waves through the NHL this off-season when
they made the unprecedented move of refusing to accept a salary
arbitrator's decision. General manager Harry Sinden and his
bosses took a look at the $2.8 million awarded to skillful but
soft right wing Dmitri Khristich for 1999-2000 and balked at
paying the sum, thus making Khristich a free agent. Some NHL team
executives see this as a harbinger of leaguewide fiscal
restraint. Some members of the players' union, noting that other
clubs did not immediately try to sign Khristich, privately allege
that teams are in collusion.
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As potentially significant as their stand is, the Bruins let
Khristich walk for a simple reason: They don't need him. Yes,
Khristich led Boston with 29 goals last year, but even without
him the Bruins should have a more exciting and well-rounded
offense than they've had in years. That's because they have a
cluster of young forwards who are ready to blossom en masse and
lead Boston to the Stanley Cup finals.
Joe Thornton, the blond, 6'4", 215-pound center, has outgrown
much of the gawkiness that earned him the nickname Big Bird when
he came to Boston in 1997 as the league's No. 1 draft pick.
Thornton, 20, is coming off a strong postseason in which he had
nine points in 11 games. His development into a franchise player
will be aided by his playing behind 6'3", 205-pound Jason
Allison, 24, a sweet passer who's good for a point a game.
Complementing that up-the-middle strength will be emerging right
wing Anson Carter (page 70) and spark plug left wing Sergei
Samsonov, who, though not yet 21, has averaged 24 goals in his
first two seasons.
Coach Pat Burns will, as always, whip his team into top
condition, and you can expect to see the Bruins win a lot of
games in the third period. If that prospect isn't enough to
entice fans, how's this? Ray Bourque will be back. Last year, in
his 20th season, the 38-year-old defenseman played close to 30
minutes a game and was a finalist for the Norris Trophy. But his
outstanding play may go for naught if the team doesn't come to
terms with holdout goaltender Byron Dafoe.
Whether fans go to see Boston to get what could be a last look at
Bourque or to enjoy forwards who maintain high intensity for 60
minutes, you can bet they won't be thinking about the team's
off-the-ice power play against Khristich. On the ice the Bruins
won't be missing a thing.
Issue date: October 4, 1999
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As always, Raymond Bourque. Entering his 21st season with Boston, only Gordie Howe (25) and Alex Delvecchio (24) played more consecutive games with their original team. Bourque is 6th on the all-time games list with 1,453, trailing Larry Murphy (active) by 24 and Wayne Gretzky by 34.
D Kyle McLaren is looking for a breakthrough year after missing 29 games last year to a holdout and shoulder injury.
C Joe Thornton improved from seven points as rookie to 41 as soph.
LW Anson Carter posted a career-high 24 goals in just 55 games last year.
Holdouts of LW P.J. Axelsson and Byron Dafoe, who went 32-23-11 with a 1.99 GAA and .926 save percentage last season. His 10 shutouts led the league.|
C Jason Allison may have led the team in scoring for the second consecutive year, but his goals dropped from 33 in '97-98 to 23.
Beancounters may laud decision to not pay RW Dimitri Khristich, but Beantown wants those goals replaced.
Departure of Tim Taylor leaves need for hard-nosed third center. Contenders: Sean Pronger, Joel Prpic, Shawn Bates, Andre Savage and Mikko Eloranta.
Dave Andreychuk, signed partly to help replace the loss of Khristich, has scored only 29 goals in his last two seasons.
People, Places and Things
GM: Harry Sinden
Coach: Pat Burns; 3rd year (78-60-26); 11th overall (385-271-109)
Assistants: Jacques Laperriere; Ken Baumgartner
Captain: Ray Bourque
Last year: 39-30-13 (8th overall)
Playoffs: Def. Carolina 4-2; lost to Buffalo 4-2 in 2nd round
PP: 8th (17.7%)
PK: 1st (89.2%)
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Sat., Oct. 2: Opening night vs. Carolina
2.21: Boston's team GAA last season, down from 3.66 in Pat Burns' first year as coach.
''I don't take it in stride because he's one of our two or three best players. So we're going to lose one of our best. It'd be like losing [Drew] Bledsoe. How would you like that? You can't take that in stride, either. As I said earlier, we're not going to be shaken down on this thing.'' -- GM Harry Sinden on Byron Dafoe's holdout