We’re down to the final three weeks of the season and finally starting to see a playoff picture emerging. Over the past week we’ve seen teams going in opposite directions (
The New York Rangers continue to battle neck and neck with the Philadelphia Flyers for first place (and a top-three playoff seed) in the Atlantic Division – a big home-ice comeback shootout win against Buffalo on Monday night, coming down from two goals in the third period, was spearheaded by the amazingly resurgent Jaromir Jagr and his team-record 52nd goal (tying Adam Graves). With all due respect to the Senators’ Daniel Alfredsson and the amazing rookie season of Alexander Ovechkin (47 goals for a team full of third-liners in
The Florida Panthers are currently scorching, having won nine of their last ten games and have closed to within six points of the final playoff spot. This is a team that should do everything in their power to re-sign goaltender Roberto Luongo as with the commitment to captain Oli Jokinen (Panthers fans can thank good ol’ Mike Milbury for those two – the outgoing Islanders’ GM was fleeced years ago as he dealt both of them together in one deal back in 2000 for Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha – ouch!) this is a team that – with a few smart moves – could become a contender very soon.
Meanwhile two old Adams Division rivals are struggling – one a surprise, one continuing a season-long malaise - the Buffalo Sabres and Boston Bruins. What in the name of Tom Draper has happened to the Buffalo Sabres? They are currently in the midst of an out-of-nowhere six game losing skid, this immediately on the heels of an eight game winning streak. Before a week and a half ago, they had only lost two straight games in regulation once since early November, and from mid-November until mid-March they were the best team in hockey – easily a long enough period to no longer be called a fluke success.
So what could explain the bizarre losing streak? On the surface you could point to the quality of their opponents: two games against
However….said starting goaltender Ryan Miller has not been making the big saves that define top-flight goalies; he has been beaten much more often than he should be on unscreened and undeflected shots. His positioning has looked off as he’s been guilty of committing terribly early on shots, looking much like the rookie he is rather than the Olympian he was in the court of public opinion two months ago. Considering a few of
Finally, although it’s impossible for the loss of one player to cause such a streak, Jochen Hecht –
And then there are the Boston Bruins. General Manager Mike O’Connell was not unexpectedly given the axe on Saturday evening. Many pundits missed badly on evaluating the Bruins before this year – some even picked them to win the conference. However, the team never caught a break, never gelled, and aside from a decent little run before the Olympics where they won six of eight games, they never put any sort of winning streak together – only twice all year have they won three straight.
An idea that picked up steam in the early 90s and became an unstoppable was the penurious ways of owner Jeremy Jacobs and former-GM and current president Harry Sinden were preventing the Bruins from having any chance at the Cup. Is this accurate? Now reported in the newspapers and on the web as a matter of fact, it has gotten to the point where it is beyond thinking - perception has become fact, and as a result the once-proud pro hockey town of
The Adam Oates deal –
The Ray Bourque fiasco - sure for the sake of the career he had put in for the Bruins it was hard to let him go, but let's be honest - he wasn't a great defenceman anymore and he himself wanted the trade. Even remotely criticizing anything regarding Ray Bourque in Boston is and would be considered on par with driving with your hazards on through the Big Dig with a “Big Papi Sucks” sticker on your bumper; but in my opinion he left management high and dry and yet managed to turn public opinion absolutely 100% in his favour to where all you heard was “Ray deserves a Cup.” The situation was comparable to Hasek demanding out of
The Bill Guerin loss - wow, was there an outcry when they didn't re-sign him – and I always thought…why?? It was obvious at the time that the market was ridiculous (Guerin signed with
This finally leads us to this season’s dealing of Joe Thornton to
My point is this – too often (as in all aspects of life) fans look at their teams in black and white terms. The Bruins have without question been conservative over their recent history in terms of finances. Yet throwing money at a sports problem almost never solves said problem – the reason for the lack of success in Boston over the past decade has naught to do with “being cheap” but it’s an easy answer for fans and lazy media to fall back on. Mike O’Connell and Harry Sinden have failed to deliver a winner – not because of money – but simply, the Bruins have done a lousy job in virtually every other area, mostly in the draft and development of players. They’ve used a patchwork approach to building their team, and when they actually have gone out and spent money they’ve done it in a manner that shows surprisingly little understanding of the team they had and what areas needed addressing.
Thanks for reading – we’ll be back in seven days and report on the playoff race as well as other stories from our old Wales Conference. See you then!