By Joeseph R. Beare, Student Correspondent, BostonBruins.com
Through seven games in Black & Gold, Dennis Wideman has already made an immediate impact on the Hub of Hockey -- and that's besides his being Olympic figure skater Sasha Cohen's guide in her recent trip to Boston.
The native of Kitchener, Ontario (just like Bruins legend Milt Schmidt), posted an assist in his very first contest as a Bruin versus Philadelphia on March 1st. And Wideman, a potent offensive threat from the blue line, has already earned a goal and two assists since his acquisition at the trade deadline.
Wideman is "potential," specifically offensive potential, personified.
The Buffalo Sabres drafted Wideman, who turns 24 on March 20th, in 2002 after a stellar career in major juniors, where he was a prolific scorer. He put up an astounding 251 points from the blueline, including 96 goals, in 292 games with London and Sudbury of the OHL.
Wideman also boasted a plus-39 rating over that span and potted over 20 goals during three of his four campaigns. Perhaps his most impressive season was his last junior season, when he really began to develop a strong game on both sides of the puck, posting 24 goals, 65 points, and earned an astronomical +52 rating.
After signing with the St. Louis Blues as a free agent in June of 2004, Wideman spent a year in central Massachusetts, skating for the now defunct Worcester Ice Cats of the American Hockey League during the 2004-05 season.
In that, his first professional season, Wideman brought his offensive style to the AHL and racked up an impressive 43 points in 79 games on the strength of 13 goals and 30 assists. And though it was important to achieve early success at the professional level, from a Bruins point of view, it would be his time spent so close to Boston that would eventually help him most.
“I came in to Boston a few times, and really liked the city," said Wideman with a chuckle. "Though I don’t think I made it past Newbury Street.”
After spending the entire lockout year in the AHL, Wideman began the 2005-06 season with the Blues affiliate in Peoria, but his time there was short lived, as he was called up to the big club after just 12 games.
The agile defenseman quickly became a fixture on the St. Louis power play, where he posted five of his eight rookie goals. Dennis also added 18 assists that year for a strong, 24-point freshman campaign. As with any true Bruin in training, his feistiness was also on display, and he racked up 83 penalty minutes in 67 games for the Blues.
Through 55 games this season with the Blues prior to his trade, Wideman was on pace to set career highs in goals and points and had already eclipsed his rookie mark for assists.
Sure, the deadline day deal that sent Wideman to Boston came as a bit of a surprise, but any anxiety was quickly replaced by anticipation.
"At first I was shocked," said Wideman. "Then I was a little nervous…and now I am just excited."
Before departing the Blues, Wideman's 22 points led all St. Louis defensemen in scoring, and he already had four power play goals to his credit.
As such, the Bruins hope he’ll continue his upward trend on the offense and bring that element of excitement to the game each night.
“(Offense) is what I’ve done so far and that’s what they’re looking for from me,” said Wideman. “I’m just going to go out, play my game, and help this team make the playoffs.”
At 6’0, 200 pounds, Wideman also brings a decent amount of size and strength to an already boisterous Boston defense. He has a tremendous shot from the point and a good deal of power play savvy, which makes him a constant threat with the man advantage.
Bruins head coach Dave Lewis, traditionally a defensive minded hockey guy, is excited about the prospect of Wideman’s offensive upside coming to bear for the B's
“Dennis is a young guy, he’s a puck mover with a good shot,” said the Black & Gold bench boss. “He can quarterback a power play, and he has room for growth."
Wideman has posted four multi-point games this season, including a career high 3-point outing against Los Angeles, and looks to continue setting personal highs and achieving team goals as a member of the Bruins.
“There are a couple of things different here, and we play some teams I haven’t played at all, but I'll get used to it,” said Wideman, just a few days after being acquired. “I’m looking forward…to being a Boston Bruin." --- Joe Beare is a student at Northeastern University and works at The Sports Museum.