Pre-season Update on the Boston Bruins

By pbadmin

Sep 24/97

Joe Thornton is out for 6-8 weeks after getting slashed by Pittsburgh
forward Stu Barnes last night. At least Boston won the game.

Sep 23/97

After having seen Thornton and Samsonov in person on Sunday, I can now
assure everybody that Thornton looks like he could cut it after all. Before
the game against Montreal, however, Thornton was said to be disappointing
and lost on the ice — not NHL material. At least we now know he can cut
it. He made several “almost nice” passes — he was making the right passes,
he just couldn’t put it on the tape all the time. In fairness to Joe, the
Bruin forwards he was working with have hands of stone, but if you want to
compare him to Gretzky (who is his idol), Wayne feathers it right onto your
blade so all you have to do is hold your stick out. In the warmups, Joe
looked kinda out of place, being tentative while everyone else was firing
away on the goalie. It seemed like he never got the puck (when the Bruins
were taking turns firing shots on the goalie), and when he finally did, the
whole team would start skating around doing warmup laps, and the goalie
left the net. While skating in the 2 on 1 and 3 on 1 drills, Samsonov
showed lightining quick hands, stickhandling beautifully. In the game,
however, he had trouble handling a nice pass from Thornton. Sergei made up
for it on a 2 on 1 play later. He held the puck while the other Bruin
forward drove to the net. He used the defenseman as a screen and fired it
past Moog, who had no chance on the shot.

Samsonov will definitely stay with the Bruins and could be a Calder
candidate if he plays with Khristich. He was playing with Allison that
game. Allison might be too slow a skater to stay with the Bruins this year.
Thornton was playing between Donato and Heinze for a while against
Montreal. He looks like he could fit in there if he stays in Boston. Right
now it looks 50-50 that he could stay or go back to juniors. Unfortunately,
guys like Rob DiMaio and Jeff Odgers are here to stay. This shows you how
little depth the Bruins have. They don’t even have good prospects coming up
to fill the void. Cameron Mann got sent to Providence, presumably because
he has no heart. I saw it when he was with the World Juniors — pure
finesse, no grit. It’s strange how he could be an outstanding playoff
scorer in juniors playing the way that he does. Maybe his excellent speed
gets him all the chances he needs in juniors; in the NHL he’s no longer
twice as fast as everyone else — and he much weaker than everyone else.
Maybe he’s like Claude Lemieux — he only gets fired up in the playoffs.
Randy Robitaille got injured last week again (he seems injury prone having
played only 1 regular season game and I think 2 pre-season games and
getting injured twice!). Too bad, ’cause he is showing to be effective
offensively for the Bruins. Jean-Yves Roy should be a full-time Bruin this
year, showing excellent speed and good offensive touch. Per-Johan Axelsson
has been good but hasn’t played too much. His experience from Sweden could
help him land a roster spot. Landon Wilson might stick because the Bruins
need a big power winger like him.

Sep 15/97

So far, the only thing I hear about from Boston’s training camp is how
well Sergei Samsonov is doing, and how unimpressive (by comparison, mind
you) Joe Thornton is. Burns and company commented that Sergei would be
expected to be ahead of Thornton because he’s been playing and competing
professionally with men in the IHL all last year, whereas Thornton was
playing with kids. He said that Thornton has yet to find the right level of
intensity and keep it there. It’s not that Thornton was playing poorly,
it’s just that because he was such a highly touted “saviour”, that people
expected him to walk into camp and dominate straight out of junior. It’s
gonna take some time.

Take Cameron Mann, for example. This is his third training camp, and he’s
finally showing the Bruins that he’s got what it takes to play in the NHL.
Each time he got sent back to junior, he says, he’s learned something and
has gotten better. Could Joe actually return to the Soo for juniors this
year? Would he? That’s not out of the question, but Boston isn’t exactly
loaded with top flite centers that Joe couldn’t stick on the fourth line.
Then it becomes a question of what’s best for Joe’s development. He’s gotta
get playing time to improve, so if it’s a fourth line job in Boston, he’d
be better off going back to junior (he’s still eligible) or to Providence
(AHL). I don’t think there’s much more for Joe to learn in junior, so going
to Providence is probably better, but that’s not for sure either.

How have the Bruins been doing in the pre-season? They played against
Florida Sunday night and beat them 4-2. Samsonov got a goal and two
assists, Randy Robitaille got two goals, and Khristich got a goal and two
assists. For now, it seems that Samsonov and Khristich are playing
together. Thornton went pointless, but he was involved physically — on the
receiving end, that is. Jovanovski welcomed him to the NHL a couple of
times, actually, but I don’t think Joe was very impressed with the
introduction.

The only thing I have to add right now is that while Samsonov is looking
like he’s on pace to break Selanne’s rookie points record, wait until he
plays against solid defensemen like Stevens, Chelios, Samuelsson,
Kasparitis, Marchment, and company. Right now it’s been training camp and
pre-season games when the defense isn’t that good. Will he be able to
victimize the veterans during the season? Probably not as much. I do think
he will take a good run at the Calder this year, though. More on the Bruins
next week.

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