Bruins: Crease crisis ends
After a season of uncertainty in goal, the Bruins have settled on one man.
The Jekyll-and-Hyde team of 2002-03, the Bruins got off to a great start (19-4-3-1), impressing many around the league. Then, they stumbled along into mid-March until general manager Mike O'Connell dismissed coach Robbie Ftorek with nine games remaining in the regular season. Not much changed, though. They finished the year with a mediocre run of 3-4-2 and then were ushered out of the playoffs in the first round by the New Jersey Devils. Their goaltending, when it was healthy, was inconsistent. Their forwards were the club's strength and the defense -- by and large -- was only so-so.
Joe Thornton, but with Jozef Stumpel being dealt back to the Kings, they're looking for a No. 2 pivot. First-year coach Mike Sullivan has some raw talent and a decent roster to work with. Will it be enough to lure back the increasingly skeptical fan base?
Because of the changes, coach Mike Sullivan will be charged with the task of trying to find different defense pairings from a year ago. O'Donnell, Hal Gill, Dan McGillis and Ian Moran are back and youngsters Jeff Jillson, Shaone Morrisonn and Milan Jurcina appear most likely to challenge for jobs. McGillis, who was the club's leading scorer in their short playoff appearance despite only arriving in March, can only benefit from starting the year with his new team. Sullivan will be looking for his defensemen to play within a system. No risky business.
Mike Knuble, used in a variety of roles, potted a career-best 30 goals and center Brian Rolston chipped in 27. Second-line center is up for grabs and Andy Hilbert is hoping to put in a claim. Newcomers Kris Vernarsky, Robert Liscak, Sergei Zinovjev and Martin Samuelsson will be hoping to make their presence felt.
This is the one area where the Bruins are solid. In terms of leadership, Thornton can be a more effective captain as he matures and he has veterans such as O'Donnell and Martin Lapointe to help him out. If he's smart, he'll lean on them.
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell of the Boston Globe is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.