|Monday, October 21
Eye on future, B's miss precious present
By John Buccigross
Special to ESPN.com
They had the greatest defenseman of all-time on their team and the region in their hands. They butterfly kissed New England with their butterfly collars and endless roster of charming characters. The Big, Bad Bruins launched an era of skating rink construction, and players' images appeared on everything from oversized buttons to ashtrays. I can still see my Uncle Kenny flicking the ashes of his Winstons into a Dallas Smith ashtray, as he sipped his Narragansett in his triple-decker in South Boston, Mass. I grew up in Pennsylvania and Ohio, but spent two weeks every summer in Good Will Hunting South Boston. In the early '70s, it was all Bruins from my pre-teen observations. They appeared in the Cup final five times in nine years from 1970-1978. Women wanted to date the players and the men wanted to be like them.
Then the WHA came, Orr's knees went, the ghosts of the Montreal Canadiens took over and the B's became ordinary.
The Bruins got lucky when they acquired the Kings' 1979 first-round pick and seven teams passed on Raymond Bourque. They got lucky again when they got Cam Neely and a first-round pick from the Canucks for Barry Pederson. The pick turned into Glen Wesley, who turned into Kyle McLaren and Sergei Samsonov when the Bruins traded him to Hartford for three first-round picks. The Neely trade has more legs than Alexander Daigle's little black book.
As salaries began to rise, the Bruins became more and more of a non-player in the NHL. Their owner lives in Buffalo and they are run like a Spencer's novelty shop between a Nordstrom's and a Saks Fifth Avenue. They've missed the playoffs three times out of the last six years, and just as they were on the verge of securing a team that could be a Cup contender for another 3-5 years, they let their starting goalie and perhaps the best power forward in the game, walk.
In the summer of 2001, Bill Guerin was seeking six million dollars in arbitration. At that point the Bruins should have walked in and said, "We'll give you your $6 million this year if you give us three more at $21 million. Four years, $27 million. And here's a million to sign. Go win us a Stanley Cup."
I get more e-mail from Bruins fans expressing their frustration and distaste for how the team is run than I do from any other team's. They are why Bill Guerin is this week's Great 8.
Bruins ownership seems to be putting the team in neutral and banking on a new labor agreement in two years that will make it difficult and/or costly, or impossible for teams to sign numerous big salaried players like the Avalanche, Red Wings, Stars, Rangers, Capitals and Flyers. Imagine that. Imagining what the rules MIGHT BE two years from now.
Their Ray Bourque salary cap seems to have turned into the Martin Lapointe salary cap. It was once cool to be a Bruins fan. The players were cool: Esposito, Orr, Sanderson, Cheevers, Cashman, Bourque, and Neely. The Boston Garden was cool, like a triple-decker in South Boston: loud, profane, Dallas Smith, cigarette ashes and a whole bunch of heart and soul.
Today, the coolest thing about the Bruins is Steve Shields' mask. They still have good players, but it's the same old song on Causeway and the eight-track tape mentality is wearing thin. Fewer fans are staying up late to watch the team on the West Coast. The Bruins have no sellout streak at their arena that has the personality of a Kenny G CD. They are old thinkers in a new NHL. I think the owner's family is into equestrian horses. Equestrianism and hockey DON"T MIX.
The Boston Red Sox haven't won a title since 1918, but they still sellout just about every game and their popularity and interest is still bubbling. They have popular young players, a classic park, aggressive ownership and they haven't changed their uniforms.
The Bruins actually have fans who were ALIVE for their last championship, but hardly sell out any games and their popularity and interest is waning. They DO HAVE popular young players, however, their old rink is now ashes in a Dallas Smith ashtray and their new rink is staid and drab. They have passive ownership and changing uniforms that don't seem to hold the same soul they once did.
It's not so cool to be a Bruins fan anymore. Hockey's hotbeds are towns like Detroit, Dallas and Denver. Denver has sellouts every night, a good-looking arena, a fan base that spreads across every demographic, an ownership which seizes championship opportunities and doesn't milk every ounce of sweat and will out of Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg, and instead supports them with more stars. Yes, it's a smart move to be part of a franchise like the Avalanche. A good investment in emotion and a $250 team sweater. A good move to make if you want to be part of a championship family and feeling.
Just ask Raymond Bourque.
Guerin: "Dave Tippett had a few words about it after the game and that was it. We came in the next day and he met with a group of five or six of us. You know, basically, it was the veteran guys who lost the discipline and you can't have that. It starts at the top and trickles down, and certain guys have to be the leaders and take control of situations like that.
Bill Guerin was born November 19, 1970, in Worcester, Mass. He grew up in Wilbraham, Mass.
Guerin: "Coach Tippett wants a well-rounded team. He wants us to be able to play great defense and, when we have the puck, to be creative. We have a lot of firepower here in Dallas. I don't want my goal production to go down, but if its better for the team, so be it."
Billy played junior hockey in Springfield, Mass., before attending Boston College. He played two years at B.C., scoring 40 goals in 77 games. He was picked fifth overall in the 1989 draft by New Jersey. He's 6-2, 210 pounds.
No. 3: Why didn't the Bruins offer you a contract over the summer?
Guerin scored 69 goals in 142 regular-season games as a Bruin.
No. 4: Power plays are important so far this season. Talk about yours.
Many folks (except Devils fans) forget Guerin has already won a Stanley Cup as a member of the 1994-95 Devils. He scored 12 goals in 48 regular-season games, and scored three goals in 20 playoff games.
No. 5: Why do you wear No. 13?
Billy likes golf and motorcycles.
No. 6: Do you eat the same thing before every game?
Billy wears CCM skates. He won the Fastest Skater competition at the 2001 All-Star Game in Denver. He won the All-Star game MVP the next day with three goals and two assists.
No. 7: Why hasn't Byron Dafoe gotten a contract yet?
The Devils traded Guerin and Valeri Zelepukin to Edmonton for Jason Arnott and Bryan Muir. Guerin and Arnott are now teammates in Dallas.
No. 8: Considering the Olympics are in Italy in 2006, do you think NHL players should take part in the Games?
Guerin has played in two Olympics. In 1998, he had three assists in four games. In 2002, he had four goals in six games.
Remember me? The Canuck in Oz (Sydney, Australia). What a life I've got now, eh? Hot bikini beach weather and awesome NHL Hockey on ESPN!
Your biggest fan in Australia,
Very good. He is a big (6-4, 225), young (28) center who doesn't make an obscene amount of money ($3.6 million). Pierre Turgeon looks strong, committed and comfortable so far, which makes Arnott less relevant in Dallas. The Stars could use a left winger and could put Alexei Kovalev on a line with Turgeon and Scott Young, or go Kovalev-Mike Modano-Guerin. The Penguins could ask for Arnott and, say, goaltender prospect Jason Bacashihua. The Pens get a big center, save a million bucks a year in salary, and get a goaltending prospect. They could even get another prospect like Steve Ott or a draft pick out of Dallas. In my mind, this move would put the Stars past the Avalanche even with the Wings.
I don't know Scott Weiland. My labeling him "cool" was for his ability as a singer and front man for the Stone Temple Pilots, not for his addiction to heroin. (Heroin is processed from morphine, a natural substance that is extracted from the seedpod of the Asian poppy plant. Heroin usually appears as a white or brown powder.) I can't think of anything less cool than heroin except maybe people on heroin. Weiland has produced beautiful art that has moved millions. I'm surprised that's not his heroin. It would be real cool if he pokechecked drugs from his life as you did, Doc.
I would like to say it came from a James Joyce novel or a Shakespearean sonnet, but, you know, Caitlin, when you were a kid and you said, "diarrhea, cha-cha-cha, diarrhea, cha-cha-cha." $65,000 at Heidelberg College and that's what you get, eh?
What a fascinating question. So, we need a player who has talent, style, and flair, wears No. 5, weighs 190 pounds, has "Red" in his team's nickname, and who fans are drawn to him because his smile says "I'm a polite and decent guy. The kind of guy you want your daughter to meet one day." Hmmmmm. Of course. Nicklas Lidstrom is Nomar.
Yes. And yes. Everything is set up for Mario to have a monster season. He is on pace for 200 points. He won't get 200, but he certainly will get a 100. If he plays 70-75 games, I would say Mario's over/under for points is 130.
Golf and hockey are man's two greatest sports, without question. Hockey is the most exhilarating to play and golf is the most mentally and spiritually captivating. I've never been in a bad mood skating and I've never felt more anticipation and hope sticking that first tee in the ground on hole No. 1. Golf is the best social game there is. Play a round of golf with someone and you get a real good idea what they are all about. I take my 3-year-old son Jackson golfing. When I'm 80, I'll still be golfing with him. And that's the coolest thing in the world. That's my deal with golf.
Let's move Parm to center and put me at left wing. At left defense, I want Red Wing Owner Mike Ilitch's hair. Not Mike Ilitch. Just his hair. And on right wing, let's go with Sarah Shahi of "Alias" or one of the girls of Maxim Magazine, who WILL NOT STOP CALLING ME!!!
Let us take this sentence by sentence. 1) I think all my columns are ludicrous. When I submit them, I have the same anxiety of being on the ice naked in Calgary wearing red socks in front of 15,000 people. I acted out that anxiety last Thursday, perhaps you saw me. Still got a bump on my head. 2) I wish I were from Canada. I like Canada. I like the people and the fact that hockey is such a fabric of society. But, I'm glad I don't live there 'cause I hear it cost like $47 for a piece of cheese. 3) You're right, Steve, 10 guys between the blue lines doing an international square dance was wonderful hockey. Clogging defenses isn't a problem? LADIES AND GENTLEMEN OF THE ACADEMY, NAME ONE INSTANCE WHEN THE WORD CLOG IS USED IN A POSITIVE SENSE??!! 4) You know what my problem is? That otter in my car. He won't leave. Been there since March. His name is Ken. 5) Actually, as I wrote, I don't care about shorter games. When I was a kid, I wanted games to last forever. My only incentive for shorter games these days is to get home quicker so I can get my nightly massage from my girlfriend, Sarah Shahi. You'd like her, Steve. She's not ludicrous, isn't from Canada, wears clogs, is not a problem, and our games always last longer than 2:30.
John Buccigross is the host of NHL 2Night, which airs Wednesday-Sunday on ESPN2. His e-mail address -- for questions, comments or cross-checks -- is firstname.lastname@example.org.