Over the past several weeks, Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli has worked to mold his Boston team into a playoff contender. By acquiring blue liners Aaron Ward and Dennis Wideman at the trade deadline on February 27th, he put his signature on the work.
On Tradin' Tuesday, however, Peter was spelled...
"Aaron is a player who has been a part of three [Stanley] Cup winning teams -- two in Detroit, and one in Carolina," said Chiarelli. "He's a big physical defenseman, who blocks shots and moves the puck well in first pass situations.
"Dave (Lewis) has had experience with him and we felt that he improved our back end from the defensive perspective. His record speaks for itself. He's won cups, and that's very significant. He's experienced. He's physical and guys do respect that.
"He'll be an important factor," he said.
Along with the veteran experience, some youthful exuberance was thrown into the mix.
"Dennis is a younger player," said Chiarelli, "and had been part of the St. Louis top four.
"He moves the puck…with energy and can skate."
Chiarelli believes that the two moves solidify the back line, significantly.
"These moves were to shore up our defense," said the GM. "We've given up a lot of goals and we felt (the acquisition of Ward and Wideman) were moves in the right direction. Aaron is...physical. He'll help the other players with veteran experience (and) will bring leadership."
Ward, a 34-year old from Ottawa, Ontario was in his first season with the Rangers after spending the previous four NHL seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes. While with New York, Ward played 60 games, scoring three goals and registering ten assists. He was a first round selection (fifth overall) by the Winnipeg Jets in the 1991 NHL Player Entry Draft, and has played 612 career NHL games, and has scored 34 goals and tallied 78 assists.
"Dennis is younger and that will help more in the future," said Chiarelli. "But...as you've seen (recently) in the league, a lot of these young players contribute from the back end, distributing pucks.
"That's what Dennis is going to bring."
Wideman, just 23-years old from Kitchener, Ontario, was in his second season with the Blues after making his debut with St. Louis last season. He has played in 55 games during the current campaign, recording five goals and 17 assists. The D-man was originally drafted by Buffalo in the eighth round (#241st overall) of the 2002 NHL Player Entry Draft and has played in a total of 122 NHL games, tallying 13 goals and 33 assists.
Chiarelli stressed that the Bruins were playing from a position of strength at forward and he needed to address the shortcomings of the defensive corps.
"This was something that was available, was something that we've looked at for awhile, and something that we had to act on," he said.
"We're generally satisfied with the offense the way it is," explained Chiarelli. "We've got some scorers, including a new one in Chuck Kobasew. So we expect the scoring to be more evenly distributed."
"(These moves) give us depth at defense, long term."
And if 'Defense' was Mr. Chiarelli's first name, then his last name was spelled…
Ward's winning three Stanley Cups aside, both of the Bruins new players bring locker room presence to the table and both seemed at ease in their new environment when the Bruins practiced in Wilmington on Wednesday.
"I am thrilled to be here," stated Ward this morning. "I am familiar with some people here -- Dave Lewis (and) Mr. Chiarelli, and I played with Marco Sturm over in Germany during the lockout."
"It's a great locker room and I am looking forward to integrating myself into it."
"I grew up watching them play the Leafs quite a bit," said the former Blues player. "It's exciting for me to know that Boston made the call and wanted me.
"I am excited to get things going here."
Both players are certain that the B's can make a run at the playoffs.
"I think we have a good chance if we put a string together," said Wideman.
"Hopefully I can help out offensively and create some (scoring) chances with the puck," he said. "I'll be jumping up in the play quite a bit and obviously take care of my own zone, first.
"I'll (also) help out on the power play if I get a chance to get on there."
Aaron Ward thought that B's could make it really interesting.
"I think you can ask the Edmonton Oilers (this time) last year, where they were standing," said Ward. "It's the same."
For his part, the new Bruins defenseman knows what he needs to do and how his skills fit in.
"My concept is just to help the team along," said the veteran of his game. "I like to play the body. I like to step in front of the puck. And hopefully I'll pick up a few apples along the way."
"We're looking to position ourselves well and see where we can go."
The bottom line is that the Boston Bruins feel as if they have improved as a team.
"I'm confident that we can make a really good run at it," said Chiarelli about his recently tweaked team. "We've got teams to jump over, which is difficult -- especially with the three point games.
"I'd like to think that our defense will be a better puck-moving unit, now. And that's only going to help our chances," he said.
A determined sounding GM said, in conclusion, "We've got a long road ahead of us, but we're still alive."