By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOLTON Bruins president Cam Neely opened Monday nights State of the Bruins event with season-ticket holders by proclaiming that the state of the Bruins has never been as good as it is today on or off the ice.
Nobody is going to argue with Sea Bass while the Bruins are still trotting Stanleys chalice all around the globe, holding victory parades in the city of Boston that draw upwards of a million crazed fans, and posting some pretty impressive TV ratings for their games.
Those are the signs of a thriving franchise with a thirsty fan base, and the players, fans and media all still seem pretty tipsy from the summers Bacchanalian celebration with the Cup. But the State of the Bruins and the teams annual golf tournament are sure signs that the regular season is just around the corner, and the blueprint for Bostons Cup repeat attempt is becoming clear.
Weve got to start all over again. You cant sit on what youve done, and you instead need to see if you can build on it, said coach Claude Julien. My season here in Boston is going to start the same way it has every year Ive been here. You need to make the playoffs before you can even think about winning another Stanley Cup.
That 82-game schedule is going to be our biggest challenge this year, and how we handle that. Every team is going to be gunning for us and if were not ready for it then were going to be in trouble.
First and most importantly, the team is willing to admit there will be some level of letdown during the season a stance thats similar to the way they didnt hide from the collapse against the Flyers a year earlier.
Julien, general manager Peter Chiarelli, assistant captain Patrice Bergeron and even Neely himself have all canvassed the NHL world this summer for thoughts about the season after the Cup. Theres a reason no Cup champion has repeated in the last 14 years, and there are pitfalls that need to be sidestepped.
The first one was accomplished this summer with the Bruins front office able to retain 17 players from last seasons tea, a near impossibility during the salary cap era in the National Hockey League.
So the Bruins are already markedly different from the 2010 champ Chicago Blackhawks, who lost the majority of their roster to free agency and cap-related trades. But the Bruins would be wise to heed the difficulty the Hawks experienced throughout the regular season.
That's the next hurdle facing the Bs, and it will be a little more challenging with everybody already waiting for the inevitable hangover and the Bruins openly talking about it.
You heard some of the themes tonight of what were going to talk about in camp: About turning the page, continuing to grow and facing the Stanley Cup hangover, said Chiarelli. Those are things that were talking about and incorporating into the team-building. Everyone Ive talked to of players, managers and coaches that have won the Cup, they all said that there is a letdown thats unavoidable no matter which way that you approach it.
So make sure that you approach it properly to minimize the letdown. Whatever you do, you cant get beyond it. You just have to face it and part of that is that you cant stop these guys from celebrating their accomplishments. These guys just climbed Everest for us. You just manage it every day and continue to get the pulse of the players. They know what the message is going to be.
Bergeron did his own reconnaissance work this summer, and he spoke with Jonathan Toews and Sidney Crosby in New York during the NHLs media tour last week about their attempts to repeat as Cup champs.
Weve got to take it a day at a time," Bergeron said. "We cant think about the playoffs now. Its about getting back on track. Were all excited to be coming back and its a good challenge for us. Nobody has done it since 1997-98 and thats a long time. The challenge last year was to bring the Cup back to Boston, and the challenge was to be up there in Boston with the other sports teams like the Patriots.
The Bruins captured the imaginations of just about everyone in Boston by climbing to the NHL mountaintop last spring, and now theyll get to know firsthand just how difficult it is to remain there.