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  Wednesday, December 7, 2005
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xtra xtra!
Blockbuster
By Paul Noonan

     Let’s hope Paul Pierce or Tom Brady isn’t next. First Nomar, once the face of the Red Sox, was shipped off; now Joe Thornton, the prized first pick of 1997, is making his home on a new coast in a new conference. The move stunned not only Bruins’ fan, but the hockey world in general. Even in the troubling times, the B’s have been having as of late, it seemed like Thornton (who the B’s also gave a big deal to over the summer) would always be there. And of course now that’s not so. Before you give up on the Bruins and make more trips to Providence, give this trade a chance because it may just pan out.

     It’s a fact that hasn’t eluded many Bruins’ fans, f and that is that the guys in suits don’t seem to have much desire to bring a Cup back to Boston. For years, B’s fans just grimaced or held their tongues, as the Bruins let Bourque go, and then Allison, Guerin, and McLaren.  The list goes on. Since the B’s still remained playoff threats, and still had a fair share of success even without those names many fans let it slide.

     Going into the CBA and lockout, B’s fans had hopes that if the owners won at the bargaining table, Jacobs and company would open their wallets and make Boston a contender. When the owners did come out on top in the CBA struggle many fans were finally optimistic that the front office would finally spend some cash knowing they could no longer use the “we’re waiting out the CBA” excuse. July came around and many names are on the block: Forsberg, Pronger, Foote, Kariya, Selanne, Amonte, Hatcher, the list goes on. With defense being their biggest weakness, making a strong pitch for a Pronger or Foote would have been a very wise move on the B’s part.   They had plenty of roster space why not try to land another solid scorer such as Amonte or Kariya or Forsberg? Instead, the B’s decided to go the ‘depth’ route. Well, let’s see, would you rather your second line center be Peter Forsberg or Alexei Zhamanov? Would you rather your second line winger be Temmu Selanne or Brad Isbister? Nothing against Isbister or Zhamanov or any other of the B’s newest additions, because they each are pretty good players who can help a team and they’re certainly guys who have been around and can get the job done. But with the big promises the B’s made to us fans, other names should be donning the black, white and yellow every night.

     So the Bruins finally realized they couldn’t talk their way out of problems anymore, so finally they took action. Granted that action ticked off pretty much any fan they have (and probably isn’t going to be putting fans back in the seats), but after you break some items, maybe even cancel your season tickets or even try to hunt down one of the Bruins’ brass, have some hope, because this trade may work out better than you think. One of the many reasons the B’s have been finding themselves golfing by the second round of the playoffs is because they have lacked one of the essential elements in a strong playoff team, a #1 defenseman. Question that if you like (because yes, the Lightning just one a Cup without one), but most championship teams over the last decade have had that element. The Devils with Scott Stevens, the Red Wings with Niklas Lidstrom, the Avalanche with Rob Blake or Adam Foote, etc.. Most Cup teams need a good #1 defenseman, and likewise a strong defensive corps.

     The addition of Brad Stuart gives the Bruins just that. A physical defenseman who also has a good offensive upside, Stuart is just what the Bruins need on the blue line. Since they also coughed up some dough for Boynton, the Bruins D is looking stronger.

     But how can you replace Thornton’s offense you ask? Well, you probably can’t. However, Marco Sturm should be good for around 70-80 points. And while many love Thornton, few came to his defense (whether justified or not) when he took a lot of heat for not showing up  in two first round flops to the Canadiens.

     So now the Bruins front office is on the plank, where they should have been for years. The Thornton trade is about as close as they’ll ever come to acknowledging the many mistakes they’ve made over the last decade. If the deal works out the guys upstairs will look like geniuses (although I’m sure many will still remain skeptical).  Of course, if it makes things worse those same guys will be pushed closer to the ocean by the gradually angrier fans. It hurts to lose a guy like Thornton. He’ll probably put up about 100 points again, or at least in that vicinity, and Glen Murray may not be the same without Joe feeding him the puck. However, the B’s should still be able to generate goals, especially in this ‘new’ NHL.

     What will be more important is keeping the puck out of their net. In this post CBA league, you still have to keep the puck out of your net to win. Brad Stuart should be a key component to the latter. It hurts to lose your number one forward/franchise player, but getting a number one defenseman in return is a pretty good trade off.

     Some thought the Red Sox would be doomed and be forced to rebuild when Nomar was traded, however they came together as a team to win it all. Maybe just maybe, this trade will do the same for the Bruins.



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