BOSTON -- The time between the end of training camps and the start of the regular season is when all 30 NHL teams really begin to get a feel for whether they can turn their rhetoric about wanting to win the Stanley Cup into an actual championship-caliber run.
Although the Boston Bruins have often stated that the Stanley Cup, and only the Stanley Cup, would suffice for a seasonal ending in owner Jeremy Jacobs' previous 38 seasons of stewardship, nowadays that goal is a more legitimate expectation every fall.
Even Jacobs admits his faith that there could be a championship parade in Boston come summer has grown the last several years.
"I think the way the organization is established now, we're always looking obviously to win, and we always go in with that idea. I'm more comfortable than I have been historically about the players and the organization that we have," Jacobs said during a press conference at the team's annual media day at TD Garden. "That's more a product of the last decade so to speak of team building and having the right organization put together. I think they've come together very well this year. I think we have every reason to be encouraged."
In addition to Jacobs' 39th season as owner, the Bruins are entering their 90th season of existence. Jacobs explained how the Bruins' lengthy presence in the community and their status as the first U.S.-based NHL team has made them an integral part of the city. And that brings with it lofty hopes that he thinks his organization can reward with another championship.
"When it comes to expectations, I think this community has high expectations of this hockey team and I think it has every reason to be confident that this hockey team is in good hands moving forward," Jacobs said.
The Bruins won't lack for championship experience when they open their regular season Thursday night at home against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Much of the roster was part of the team that won the Cup in seven games against the Vancouver Canucks in 2011 and lost in Game 6 to the Chicago Blackhawks last June.
Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Milan Lucic are just a few of the cornerstones of the team that returns for the 2013-14 campaign. Bergeron has witnessed the rise, fall and rise again of the Bruins.
In Bergeron's rookie year, the Bruins won their division but fell in the first round of the 2004 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Then they missed the postseason in 2005-06 and 2006-07, and their fan base dissipated. General manager Peter Chiarelli began to hit his stride on his second year on the job when he brought in Claude Julien as coach. Boston hasn't missed the postseason since and has won at least one round every season but two.
Three times Bergeron has re-signed with Boston for multiple years, including an eight-year extension this summer when he was one year away from free agency. He made a bet that things would turn around after those two dismal seasons early in his career, and he won.
"Well it's great, but I'm not necessarily surprised," Bergeron said. "When I signed my five-year extension the first time, I knew that I wanted to stay in Boston because we had some good things coming up and I could feel it, and I could feel that I guess the management that was coming in that they wanted things to change. So I'm really happy, obviously, I was part of it. We've come a long way since those years, but you have to go through some years like that before you go up. I'm just happy that things are the way they are now."
Although the majority of the Bruins' roster has stayed the same since they left the ice and the Blackhawks celebrated, there are some new faces. Jarome Iginla joined the team as a free agent and Loui Eriksson was acquired as the centerpiece of a package dealt from the Dallas Stars for Tyler Seguin. The Bruins' defense corps will also be younger than it was at the start of last season with playoff prodigies Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski ready to begin the year in the NHL. There have also been other minor changes in the makeup of the Bruins' personnel.
Boston didn't show any growing pains in the preseason with a 6-1-0 record. Chiarelli said he still has questions that have to be answered about his team. But Julien is confident a strong start is in the offing.
"I think we're in a good place right now," Julien said. "I liked what I saw the last few days. Practice [Wednesday] guys were sharp, they were excited. I think we're ready to go there. Even though we had some new faces, what I saw in the preseason I really liked. Those guys have adjusted well quickly. And if anything, they're only going to get better. So I'm pretty happy with where we are right now, knowing that it'll only get better."
The Bruins were only a fourth seed entering the playoffs last season. Then they came up two wins shy when the prize was on the line. There's certainly plenty of room to be better in order to achieve their ultimate goal.
"I think everything has to happen to get to the Finals. You got to get the right breaks, guys got to stay healthy and you've got to get those lucky bounces," forward Brad Marchand said. "And at the same time you got to have everybody playing their best. It's definitely very tough to do, but I think the fans in Boston all expect it, and our management and coaching staff expect the same thing, so that's what we expect as well and we won't be happy unless we reach those goals."