The Sabres' Dainius Zubrus (15) is checked by Bruin Aaron Ward (44). (AP Photo/David Duprey)
As a veteran NHLer and three-time Stanley Cup champion, no one would not be surprised this season if Aaron Ward spoke up in the Bruins locker room should some advice or criticism need be levied.
Ward himself doesn't necessarily see that scenario on the horizon. Instead, the experienced blue liner will take more of a brotherly approach when the locker room gets heated.
"You have guys who have C's and A's and they have their defined roles," said Ward. "I think that sometimes you have to have the good cop, bad cop, kind of idea working.
"That means when one guy takes a verbal whipping, you go and talk to him and help get him (back to an even keel).
"For me, as an older guy, maybe I need to be more of a talkative presence," he said.
As a storyteller and hockey-talker, there is no better person to bear that burden in the Bruins den, and with three rings on his dresser, his words have great weight. His ability to be softhearted disciplinarian, especially with the number of young, talented D-men in the organization, bodes well for Boston.
"If you have too many chefs (in the kitchen) and too many orders being barked out, then guys start to withdraw a little bit," continued Ward. "I think trying to maintain an even keel in this locker room is my role."
Ward believes that there are simple steps the Bruins can take toward success.
"The key is for guys to come into camp in shape, and they have," said Ward as he gestured around the room. "(Another) key is for guys to prepare themselves now and not wait until October 1st when you are playing games, and I think that has already happened.
"It's a simple recipe for success, and that's players doing their jobs."
With the difference between making the playoffs and going home so slight (see the 2006-07 Leafs and Habs for examples), fundamentals and hard work may rule the day over just talent alone.
"I don't think it's always about talent," explained Ward. "General managers are in the business of acquiring talent, but it's the intangibles that players possess that really influence where you go."
Intangibles seem to be what the many pre-preseason practices have been about.
"Three or four months of the summer have given us an opportunity to get in condition and get away from hockey," said the veteran defenseman. "Now guys are really just getting reacquainted with each other and with hockey -- the game itself."
And looking forward, besides a strong preseason, Ward believes that the first few weeks of the campaign -- a.k.a. a strong start -- are key to a Bruins turnaround and playoff round. Furthermore, count Ward amongst the few who believe that the Bruins long road trip to start the 2007-08 campaign will actually help the club.
"It's a great opportunity," said an enthusiastic Ward. "Even though some are looking at the situation where we go out west for the first five games as a possible detriment to our start, for us it is good time to team bond…and spend some time together."
That being said, the Bruins are already a pretty tight group, and now with all of the veteran NHL players in Wilmington early, there is no reason to believe that it will take the team a long time to gel, especially since all of the players in the now full B's locker room share Aaron's final sentiments.
"It's great to be back playing hockey again," said Ward. "I am glad I am back in Boston and I am ready for the season."