Sunday, January 07, 2007

New England Hockey Journal Radio Show: More Mojo and a Plea for Patience

Photo courtesy of Savinca at flickr.com
Yesterday, as the Bruins prepared to ground the Flyers, New England Hockey Journal Radio Show hosts Mick Colageo, Kevin Paul Dupont, and Matt Kalman discussed the 10–2 drubbing the Bruins had suffered Thursday night against the Buds, after which B’s Head Coach Dave Lewis said his team had lost its "mojo."

Colageo said there was “more fight in the crowd than on the ice.” He added that goalie Tim Thomas showed signs of “wilting.” He suggested it might be time for the Bruins to search for a “formidable sidekick” to help the Tominator.

Formidable sidekicks are overrated and unpredictable. Take Scrappy Doo, for example. When Hanna-Barbera wanted to improve a show that didn’t require any tinkering, the creators signed Scooby’s nephew, a free agent (or was it a player to be named later?). How could you go wrong with a name like Scrappy? Tough, durable, the kind of dog that would win all the battles in the corners and the one you’d want taking a critical face-off in your own zone. As most Scooby Doo fans will testify, Scrappy wrecked the chemistry of the team, and his arrival signaled the demised a loyal-to-the-bone (get it, bone?) fan base.

"C’mon Jimmy," you may protest, "you’re comparing cartoons to hockey clubs?"

Yes. I say a product is a product.

"Okay, but Jimmy, you can’t return to the old days."

Sure, times change, no getting around that. Everything seems like it’s “On Demand.” Comcast’s movie selection at our fingertips, MSN instant messaging…we don’t want to wait for anything. Don’t get me wrong, I have a touch tone phone and e-mail, but let’s look at what the Sabres and Predators are doing.

In the last few years, manangement in Buffalo and Nashville has decided to risk short term gains in favor of enjoying a more profitable and enduring long term. Management for both clubs focused on developing players in their own systems rather than looking for the next great trades.

Again, don’t get me wrong. Free agent signings and trades are inevitable, so you can’t ignore that part of the business. Yet the Sabres signed only one new player in the off-season and are the NHL’s best team this season. Pretty much the same story in Nashville.

Charlie Jacobs, in his fifth season as executive vice president of the Bruins, joined the show in the second hour. Prompted by Kalman’s question on the subject I just discussed, Jacobs echoed my sentiments, saying that you don’t want to press the panic button because that leads to poor decisions.

I called to applaud that philosophy. I also levied some criticism because I was at the game last Thursday night. My wife and I left the game early—not because of the debacle on the ice but rather for the ugliness in the stands. Student night, alcohol, and a six-goal deficit: a recipe for rudeness and rowdiness. Two or three rows behind us, Bruins fans turned on each other, flinging beer and fists. Time to go.

To the Bruins’ credit, though, the police arrived quickly and then escorted the rabble-rousers from the building. Still, that scene—coupled with promotions efforts, like the “Movin’ on Up” seat upgrade that force fans to stand up while the game is in progress, will make me think twice about going to another game on Thursday night.

I beg of Bruins fans to behave themselves—no matter how much money you spend on tickets or how bad the Bruins play, you don’t have the right to toss your beer at each other or onto the ice. Otherwise, I advise patience. Patience with the players and management. Come February, when the Patriots’ season is over, when the Bruins have their mojo back and are making another run for the playoffs (under the Jacobs for thirty years now, the Bruins have failed to make the playoffs only four times, which is five times fewer than the Leafs during the same time frame).

Maybe we won’t win the Cup this season, but if we stick with the players we have in the system, the Bruins will raise the Cup sooner than you might expect.
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