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The State of the Bruins

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
BOSTON -- For 90-minutes Tuesday night, around 400 passionate season ticket holders joined former Bruins forward and NESN color analyst turned moderator, Andy Brickley, Hall of Fame Bruins alum Cam Neely, B's Executive Vice President Charlie Jacobs, General Manager Peter Chiarelli, as well as Boston captain Zdeno Chara and forward Marc Savard as they spoke about the Boston Bruins and their prospects for this year and the future.

Following opening words from all and a statement of status from Chiarelli, the faithful fandom of the team were able to ask questions of the panel and speak to their concern about the direction of the club.

The questions ranged from the easy ("Cam, when did you start playing hockey?") to the very difficult ("Is Bruins management committed to winning?"), but all queries were given their due attention and most followed a common theme: Did ownership, management and the players all realize that last year's results were unacceptable to their fans? And are all three parts of the team committed to winning?

For the people involved, most especially the fans seated in the bowl of the TD Banknorth Garden, this was very important business and those earnest feelings were apparent on the visage of the crowd.

"When I first sat down, I looked around and I thought to myself 'These guys are serious,'" said Savard after the session. "You could see it in their faces.

"But I think that's all they want to see from us, too."

Chiarelli, who has taken some heat, both for the performance of the club last season, as well as the team's perceived lack of movement during the free agency period, thought that the meeting, held in a town hall format, was an excellent way for the club to present its face to the people of the Hub.

He explained to the crowd that while his moves throughout the summer were not "sexy" they did make the team better.

"I think it was important that we got our message out to the fan base," said the GM. "Especially after the season we had last year, I think it was important that they knew what we tried to do last year and that it's consistent with what we are trying to do this year.

"They appeared to appreciate it, and there were some pretty pointed questions there.

"They are very knowledgeable fans," he said.

The evening started with a highlight package of exciting moments from the last campaign, including several amazing shots from Savard and a few big hits from Chara. It was clear, however, that nobody believes that the results during 2006-07 were good enough.

The players were honest about their own disappointment.

"Last year was tough," admitted Savard to the crowd. "As far as this year, as a team…we are excited to get going. Peter has made some great changes and any time you make changes I think it excites the guys.

"And I know that we are going to have a tougher team."

That grit, consistently referred to during the Q & A session as "being tougher to play against," was a running theme throughout the evening and one that Chara echoed from his seat on the stage.

"We realize that we have to be better," said the captain. "Speaking for myself, it's the same thing -- I have to be better.

"Last year was very disappointing.

"But it was also a year we can learn from," Chara said.

Neely's presence on the dais lent credibility to the proceedings, and Jacobs' mention of reports that had the former power forward joining the team in some capacity sent a buzz through the crowd.

"I've heard a lot about Peter, his mindset and how he approaches the game of hockey," said Neely. "And having Donny Sweeney involved with the hockey operations side of the club is very exciting to me."

On top of his personal rapport with members of management and ownership, Neely thinks there has been a sea change in the Garden.

"One of the things that excites me, and has excited me over the last few months is the direction from ownership and from management," said Neely. He explained that over the years he has observed the town and has learned some things about the New England sports fan.

"It's clear to me what people expect from their sports teams here in Boston," said the Hall of Famer. "Obviously wins are great. That's what everybody wants, to win a championship, but ultimately…they really expect for the team to go out and work hard and give an honest effort."

It was clear from Cam on down, that the Bruins organization, as presently constituted, has committed itself to bringing a hard working, winning hockey team back to New England and they attempted to clearly communicate that goal to the fans in attendance.

"When you put on that uniform, you need to be proud to be a Boston Bruin," said Neely. "Quite frankly I think that was gone for a lot of years.

"I think what Peter and the management team are trying to get back has been sorely missed and I think if that does take place, the wins will come.

"We all know that it's not going to change overnight, but I think the direction it's going in certainly excites me," he said.

The Bruins begin training camp on September 13.
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