Only A Memory: Bourque Traded For Rolston, Prospects

By pbadmin
March 6, 2000. A day that will live in infamy. Well, not really, but for those who follow the Boston Bruins, there has been one constant over the past 21 seasons. That constant’s name? Raymond Jean Bourque. With Boston all but dead in its playoff quest, the
Bruins traded Bourque and veteran winger Dave Andreychuk to the Colorado Avalanche
for C/W Brian Rolston, C/W Samuel Pahlsson, D Martin Grenier and a first round pick in
either 2000 or 2001.

While many Bruins fans are still in shock over the deal that sent one of
Boston’s true sports icons away in the twilight of his career, all that is left to be done is to sift
through the ashes and figure out whether Boston’s risk taken on youth might pay dividends
in the future.

At face value, there is little to compensate for a player who maintained a consistent
level of excellence for so many years like Bourque did in Boston. Critics of the trade need
merely point to the Avalanche players received and compare their statistics to those of
Bourque and Andreychuk. Taking this approach, clearly, Colorado is the winner. Place
your bets, folks, because the odds of the Avalanche winning the Stanley Cup are now
higher than they were a few days ago. But, wait! Let’s look a little deeper than the surface
and see how Boston’s newest prospects could potentially end up a few years down the
road. To do this, let’s first go back three years to March of 1997…

When the Bruins announced the trade of Adam Oates, Rick Tocchet and Bill
Ranford for Jim Carey, Jason Allison, Anson Carter and a draft pick (Lee Goren) a lot of
Boston fans were upset. Some ranted and compared Allison to a bag of pucks. Three years
later, Boston has clearly gotten the better of the trade. Allison is a top-flight NHL center.
Carter has emerged as a legitimate scoring threat on the wing, on pace to score 30-plus
goals in each of the past two seasons had injuries and a holdout not caused him to miss over
50 games. As for Goren, he is the University of North Dakota’s leading goal scorer two
years running and has become one of the top forwards in all of college hockey. Why bring
this up, you say? In case the answer isn’t obvious, the Bruins have done well making trades
for unproven players before. Could they have done it again?

Brian Rolston is an established player who has great speed and will bring some
versatility to the lineup. The real prize the Bruins feel, is Swedish Center Samuel Pahlsson.
Pahlsson, chosen late in the 1996 draft by Colorado, is a hard-working and quick skating
sparkplug who is reasonably skilled, but possesses a tremendous amount of heart and
desire. Pahlsson has already been described by the Boston Globe’s Kevin Paul Dupont as
“a Bruins-type of player.” In other words, a guy who doesn’t quit. A guy who you would
want to go to war with. A guy who is a good all-around player period. Pahlsson may not
have the skill level of some of the higher-profile NHL Prospects such as his teammates on
MoDo, the Sedin twins. However, Samuel makes up for that with his grit and ability to play
a strong 2-way game. Pahlsson also is under contract, having signed a multiyear deal with
Colorado last summer. The young Swede could very well be on Boston’s opening night
roster for the 2000-2001 season.

Martin Grenier, Colorado’s second choice (45th) in the 1999 Draft is the second
intriguing prospect acquired by Boston in the trade. At 6’5 240 pounds, Grenier is as fierce
a specimen and competitor that you will find anywhere. Grenier, a veteran with the Quebec
Remparts of the QMJHL is a solid defenseman who loves to hit and has a great shot. While
Grenier is not the best skater in the league, but he is able to play effectively nonetheless.
Like many other defensemen his age, he must improve on his on-ice decision skills. He is a
project who will probably spend some time honing his game on the farm with the
Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League at the conclusion of his junior career.

In acquiring a Colorado top draft choice, the Bruins can either use it this year or in
2001, but the New Jersey Devils own the right to swap 1st rounders with Colorado in
2000. With the Devils on track to perhaps finish first overall, Boston will no doubt roll the
dice and take Colorado’s first choice next year, which may be a little higher than 29th or
30th overall.

The Ray Bourque era is over. Bruins fans are understandably irate. Playing devil’s
advocate, you can, however make a strong case that Boston wisely peddled a player in
Bourque who was probably 16 games away from retirement and a player in Andreychuk
who was soon to be an unrestricted free agent, for four relatively untested but very
promising youngsters. Should Pahlsson help bring stability to the organization; should
Rolston enjoy a scoring renaissance as a Bruin; should Grenier become a tower of power
on the blue line, then some of the pain associated with losing Bourque may go away. The
pick may or may not pan out for the Bruins, but it is a roll of the dice they will gladly make.

In the meantime, each one of Rolston, Pahlsson and Grenier will have to live with the
pressure that goes with being the guys traded for a larger-than-life sports hero. The Bruins
got much on paper in return for their icon, but how will we all feel in a few years? It will be
up to the youngsters to carry the torch…