SOG: 146 | +/-: -6
Rolston previously played for the Bruins from 2000-04 after he was acquired from Colorado in the Ray Bourque trade. He was reacquired by the franchise at this season's trade deadline along with defenseman Mike Mottau from the New York Islanders for two minor leaguers.
While having enough talent to win the division a couple times, the Bruins teams Rolston played with early last decade failed to get out of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Now he's joined a team that's been at least two rounds deep three years straight and, of course, is defending its first Stanley Cup championship in nearly 40 years. The Bruins will continue their defense of that title Sunday night when they meet the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN).
The transformation of the organization from Rolston's first stint through now was a long process that's still ongoing. There have been many major changes, including a change in the general manager, coach and all but a couple of the players. Most of Boston's big names have been with the team for several seasons, but almost every year it seems general manager Peter Chiarelli supplements his core with deadline-day deals that fit perfectly in Boston's scheme of things.
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"Definitely, once I found out what the team was, it was like, 'Oh, this is going to be, in my mind, it was going to be a pretty easy transition just the way I play,'" Zanon said. "And coming from a system where we were kind of held down on what I like to do, stepping up and playing that style, and coming here where they encourage that, it was a great fit. I couldn't ask to come to a better team."
Boston's Cup run wouldn't have been possible without Chiarelli's moves to acquire center Chris Kelly from Ottawa, forward Rich Peverley and defenseman Tomas Kaberle within a couple weeks of the trade deadline in February 2011. The prior winter, Chiarelli picked up Dennis Seidenberg in a multi-asset deal with Florida. An injury to Seidenberg before the end of the regular season was a major reason the Bruins failed to advance beyond the second round.
Go back one year earlier, and Chiarelli's run of deadline-day success started with the trades that brought Mark Recchi from Tampa Bay and Steve Montador from Anaheim. Montador proved to be a perfect depth defenseman for a Bruins team that advanced beyond the first round for the first time in 10 years. Recchi, famously, re-signed with Boston twice to pursue one last Cup championship and became an inspiration to his team and the city before going out on top in June.
Recent pickups such as Rolston, Zanon and Kelly all commended the incumbent Bruins' players for embracing them as soon as they arrived in Boston. Whether they need help adjusting to the system on the ice or a ride to the rink, the newcomers can rely on their new teammates, who are a tight-knit group willing to incorporate players with new skill sets and personalities for the betterment of the whole.
"We just treat them like they've been here for a while," said defenseman Andrew Ference, who's been with the Bruins since 2007. "It's not some secret initiation or anything. They come in, here's how we do things, and I guess it's just like a group of friends at school. You go out and play with them in the playground, and you fit in or you don't."
Both Chiarelli and coach Claude Julien direct a lot of credit to Boston's scouting staff for scouring the League and suggesting players who will be able to seamlessly transition into the Bruins' game plan. It also helps to have personal connections. Chiarelli was with Ottawa when it drafted Zanon, and assistant GM Don Sweeney was a teammate of Rolston during the forward's first stay with the Bruins.
"I think it's about doing your homework in advance to see where you think the market's going to be, you see who's going to be available, and then you look for players you feel are motivated," Chiarelli said. "They obviously have to have certain skill sets. Like last year, I think that [Peverley] and [Kelly] were motivated for various reasons. This year, Brian [Rolston], I think he still wants to play and he'd had a tough year out on the Island. I know Greg [Zanon], he's a competitor. So they've got to have some character. And we've got good pro scouts … but a lot of it is doing advance work to know who's available and setting up deals."
It might've been difficult to gauge Rolston's level of preparedness to contribute to a championship-driven team by what he was producing with the Islanders. His ice time, already down from previous seasons, was fluctuating toward the end of his stint with the Isles. In 49 games, he produced just four goals and nine points.
Sweeney's history with Rolston, combined with scout Adam Creighton's presence at a game in which Rolston fired eight shots on net against Buffalo, convinced the Bruins to bring Rolston back to The Hub.
After recording a single point in his first eight games with Boston, Rolston went on a seven-game points streak with three goals and 12 points in that span. His hot hand while forming a solid third line with Kelly and Benoit Pouliot helped the Bruins pull out of a late-season swoon that featured their first four-game losing streak in two years.
"I don't think he's 39. Maybe 29," Kelly joked about Rolston. "We're extremely fortunate to have him. He brings a lot to the table. Not only are the goals going in, the points are coming, but he plays the game on a consistent basis regardless of points or not points. He shows up to play every game, he plays all three zones. Guys like him know what it takes to play a long time and to win in this League."
Kelly knows something about being a key in-season addition to Boston's roster. The Kelly trade helped the Bruins achieve their ultimate goal, and maybe Rolston will turn out to be a key piece in the repeat of that feat.