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Peter Schaefer: Boston's Blue-Collar Man

Thursday, 11.01.2007 / 9:22 AM / Features
By Nate Crossman
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Peter Schaefer: Boston\'s Blue-Collar Man
When Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli traded Shean Donovan to the Ottawa Senators in July for Peter Schaefer, Chiarelli knew the Bruins were acquiring a multi-dimensional winger whose reputation in the league is that of a grinder who's not afraid to venture into the corner to set up a teammate, but who's also an underrated offensive threat.

Chiarelli also knew the Bruins were acquiring a fashion plate.

With his long sideburns and soul-patch facial hair, the 30-year-old Schaefer stands out in a crowd. And that's before he puts on one of his tell-tale suits. In a locker room where Armani and Ralph Lauren reign supreme, Schaefer likes to bring it back to the old school with 1960's- and 70's-inspired suits. They often feature lapels wider than Olympic ice surfaces and colors ranging from pastel to plaid and everything in between.

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin (39), of Russia, stops a shot by Boston Bruins' Peter Schaefer (72) in the third period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2007, in Boston. Boston won 3-1. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
"He's a gritty guy, but he's also pretty colorful," Chiarelli says. "He wears funky suits and the guys are always giving him the business about them. He's a snappy dresser…maybe from a different era, but he's a snappy dresser."

Schaefer says the suits are a reflection of his personality, which is hard-working but with a fanciful side.

"I try to be in between," Schaefer said. "I like to have fun, and I'll throw on a crazy suit here and there to get the guys going. But I work hard and I think I bring a little bit of experience to the locker room, which I hope will help the leaders here in Boston."

Being offensive

One of Chiarelli's main priorities in the off-season was acquiring a winger who could be more of a scoring threat. That he decided upon Schaefer doesn't appear to make much sense since Schaefer's reputation isn't that of a goal-scorer but rather a shot maker. He scored a career-high 20 goals two years ago, but that number dropped to 12 last year. In fact, one of the biggest knocks on Schaefer throughout his eight-year NHL career has been that he doesn't shoot the puck enough.

Chiarelli was well aware of this criticism, since he was one of the Senators front-office people urging Schaefer to shoot more. But Chiarelli believes Schaefer has the scoring mentality inside him, he just needs to allow it to blossom.

"I know he can score more and he knows he can score more," Chiarelli said. "He just needs to get in a groove. It depends on who he plays with and the level of confidence he has. But he has a good shot and I'm happy with the rest of his game."

Although some might want to point to a psychological deficiency as to why Schaefer doesn't display more of the scoring touch that he did in Major Junior hockey in Canada, where he posted back-to-back 40-goal years, Schaefer says that he's shot less recently for a more practical reasons: the players around him have been better scorers.

"I've played with guys like (Martin) Havlat, (Daniel) Alfredsson and (Marian) Hossa, so I've looked to pass first and get the puck to them," Schaefer said. "I probably overpass and I should be looking to shoot first more. But if there's an easy, simple pass I can make, I've played with good goal scorers so I'm going to try to get them the puck."

It might rankle coaches from time to time, but that attitude sits just fine with Bruins center Marc Savard, who can expect to be the beneficiary of Schaefer's unselfishness.

"He's a smart player," Savard said. "He knows how to find holes (in the defense). Anytime you have someone who can get you that puck that's along the wall or in the corner, he's a good guy to have on the wing."

Lead by doing

Another aspect of Schaefer that attracted Chiarelli to him is the fact that in Schaefer's careers he's experienced the gamut of team success and failure.

Boston Bruins right wing Chuck Kobasew (12) celebrates his goal with left wing Peter Schaefer and center Glen Metropolit (13) as Anaheim Ducks goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, of Russia, looks down in the first period of a hockey game in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2007. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
As a rookie with the Vancouver Canucks in 1998-99, he was part of a team that lost 47 games and failed to qualify for the playoffs. Two years later, however, the Canucks went 36-28 and made it to the quarterfinals of the Western Conference playoffs before being swept by the Colorado Avalanche.

In Schaefer's first year with the Senators in 2002-03 after being traded, Ottawa was forced to file for bankruptcy after operating in debt for several years. The turmoil, however, didn't appear to effect the Senators' play, as they advanced to the Eastern Conference finals before losing to New Jersey.

The Senators won only 43 games the next year, but reached the 52-win plateau once again two years later, and last year advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals before losing to the Anaheim Ducks in a five-game series.

Schaefer doesn't see much of a difference between Ottawa's leadership structure and that of the Bruins.

"We had Alfredsson in Ottawa, and you have Zdeno (Chara) in Boston," Schaefer said. "They both are similar leaders; they are in great shape and they lead by their work ethic.

(In every locker room) you have comics and tough guys. The make-up seems to be like that on most teams."

But he believes the Bruins compare more favorably with the Canucks of the early 2000s, when they were going through management upheaval and player turnover. The fact that the Bruins haven't had much player turnover is a plus, but they must take that next step mentally, which sometimes can be harder than the physical one.

"We have to get that winning feeling," Schaefer said.

Fitting in

Schaefer was well aware that he'd be traded in the off-season, but he didn't know to where. When he received a call from Boston, he was excited.

Not only was he excited about playing for such a storied franchise in front of passionate fans, but he was excited to experience the city, especially its restaurants.

Montreal Canadiens goalie Cristobal Huet, of France, and Boston Bruins' Peter Schaefer, center, watch the rebound as Montreal's Francis Bouilon moves in during third period preseason NHL hockey in Montreal on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2007. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ian Barrett)
While he's settled into his new home for the most part, there are still a few boxes to be unpacked. They, however, don't bother him because he knows that he needs to be completely settled on the ice before he worries about what goes on off it.

"I think it's going to take a while for us to put a game plan together," Schaefer said. "Things like that just take time; getting used to different players. There's a bit of a learning curve, but we don't have much time."

Head coach Claude Julien has experimented with playing Schaefer on a number of different lines. Despite the constant shuffling by Schaefer, he's displayed a consistency of play that Julien likes.

"I think Peter is slowly finding his niche," Julien said. "He's getting used to playing with new teammates. To me he's a guy who wants to be involved with the leadership group. And he went to the finals last year, so that's a good thing. I see this guy getting better and better as he gets to know his teammates."
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This feature, much more about the Black & Gold, is available in the most recent edition of the Bruins game program.

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