New Faces; Same Identity, High Expectations
BostonBruins.com - When Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli and Head Coach Claude Julien addressed the Bruins at the start of training camp, before the 2013-14 season, there was a clear message.
"We're a hell of a team and we're going to continue to be a hell of a team," Chiarelli said, as the all-access 'Behind the B' cameras caught the speech included in Episode 2. "We're going to keep trying to win every year…expectations are getting higher and higher here. I's a tough town to play in but it's a great town to play in."
The focus demanded from Julien was the same.
"Guys that are new coming in, you're going to realize that we push hard here in order to maintain that standard," Julien said to the players.
"Making it to the Finals two out of three years for some, can be something that's taken in the context that we'll be there again. I would warn you right now, guys, that if we go in with that attitude, we're going to be extremely disappointed.
"We have to earn it every year."
"Having success is one thing - sitting still and thinking that thats going to be good enough to follow every year is the wrong approach. So this is what we've got here as a standard and this a standard we should all want to keep, and be proud of being a part of."
No matter who wears the spoked-B, whether it's veterans, or a new-look team with the likes of Loui Eriksson, Jarome Iginla, Reilly Smith and Chad Johnson on the opening night roster, the demands remain the same.
"We’re really not going to play for second place. We’re here to win and I think that the organization is in a good place to do that," Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs said during the press conference prior to the season opener. "I think we’ve got the right combination. I think it’s an extremely strong team, should compete, should be able to win."
There's one goal every team has at the outset; but the Bruins expectations from the outside, and from within, are extremely high.
So high that, for President Cam Neely, catching any of the Chicago Blackhawks' banner raising was out of the question.
"I would prefer to watch our own," he said, with his signature Neely smile. "You have a hard time watching someone else lift the Cup and raise a banner so I didn’t watch it, hopefully we’ll be watching one in the near future here."
"I love the buzz that our fans have created for us," Neely added, on the B's entering their 90th season in the league. "They do push us as a management group, they push us as players to play better and to do a better job."
The expectations have grown higher through the years; that's what happens to a Cup contender.
"That’s a good thing; I’ve been here for seven years and it wasn’t like that my first couple so high expectations are a good thing," veteran Shawn Thornton said, prior to the home opener.
"Trying not to put too much pressure on yourself I think is important but definitely trying to live up to the expectations, that’s what we play for; we enjoy that part of it."
Despite those demands on the Black & Gold, the nerves have never been too overwhelming for Coach - and his team - alike.
It stems from a comfort, not complacency, in knowing the identity of the team, and what they are able to bring each and every night.
When new faces come in, they blend into the team's personality - almost seamlessly.
"It’s just a continuation. I think our management team does a pretty good job of identifying guys that can come in and help us play within our identity and that’s what they’ve done," said Julien. "So I don’t see a big change in our team as far as its identity, its philosophy or anything else."
"They feel the same way we do, that we’re a team that’s going to hopefully compete at the end when it’s all said and done and give ourselves an opportunity," added Julien. "So they’re excited to come in and it just adds some new life to our team." At the same time, to be able to do that you have to add some quality."
Bruins, like Thornton, who have been in the league and with the team for a number of years, see the seamless fit - and alternate captain Chris Kelly's rundown sums up how they each individually complement the group.
"Obviously when you get a future Hall of Famer in Jarome Iginla that’s always a bonus; everyone knows what he brings to the table," said Kelly. "And I think Loui Eriksson, before he got here, I think everyone was saying he’s one of the most underrated players. And I see why, he does everything extremely well. He’s a smart player out there and I think he’ll complement Bergy and Marchy extremely well. And Reilly, it’s been fun playing with him. He’s young and full of energy and that’s always good."
"And Chad, Chad’s fit in quite nice with Tuukka…There’s so many new faces, but all the guys, this is an easy locker room to come into. And everyone feels welcome, I know when I was a new guy it didn’t take me much time to adjust. So we’re looking forward to it."
Those "new faces" - well, they're no longer "new" to these Bruins, but as the regular season progresses, they'll become even more acclimated to this team and fan base.
"There's definitely still going to be a lot of pressure; I'm just really excited to put the uniform on and have a sold out crowd to play in front of," said Smith, Chris Kelly's new right winger.
Whether it's the town, the fans, the coaches, the players on and off the ice, the Bruins' identity is reflected throughout all facets.
"The guys work hard and are very focused when it comes to practice and game time but they have a lot of fun in the room and they enjoy playing together and they’ve definitely made it a nice transition as far as feeling comfortable," said Iginla. "And it’s been nice to be able to be here with with them and get comfortable."
That comfort heading into 2013-14 doesn't leave many nerves in Julien's system.
"I’ve got a pretty good idea of what we’ve got. I think right now, 'not nervous' is just about, my focus is on our team going out and playing its game," said the bench boss.
"To me, I feel confident in the guys that we have," he added.
"Now it’s up to us to get off to a good start."