Things are golden after black cloud
What’s going on here? Really. Longtime Bruins fans aren’t accustomed to this kind of good fortune run amok. A little more than a week after winning their first Stanley Cup in 39 years, last night they watched Dougie Hamilton, a promising 6-foot-4-inch mountain of a defenseman, drop out of the sky and land in their Black-and-Gold basket as the No. 9 pick in the draft.
Draftniks had Hamilton, a scholar and potential franchise blue liner, pegged 2-5 picks higher. If they were going to stick to their wish to take a defenseman, the wisdom went, the Bruins were going to have to look at players such as Jonas Brodin, Duncan Siemens, or offensive dynamo Ryan Murphy.
Nope. Not the our-life-is-one-big-ol’-rabbit’s-foot Boston Bruins. Not the everything’s-going-our-way-now-baby Black and Gold. Hamilton was still hanging around at No. 9 and general manager Peter Chiarelli grabbed him faster than the feds put the collar Wednesday night on Whitey Bulger.
Brodin went 10th to Minnesota, Siemens 11th to Colorado, and Murphy 12th to Carolina — the club that last year chose Jeff Skinner at No. 7 and saw him become Rookie of the Year. Maybe the same happens for Murphy, who thinks goal scoring is a virtue and goal stopping is an occupational hazard.
From the Bruins’ perspective, all three are nothing but also-rans now and they can fix their attention on soon adding Hamilton into their blue-line mix. A bit less than 200 pounds, Hamilton needs to beef up a little. He also has to add some edge to his game. Hey, the kid turned 18 just last week. He may not get any taller (then again . . . ), so he still has to fill out that bone rack and get to his first NHL training camp.
But as first-round picks go, Hamilton stands out as the club’s most intriguing choice among defensemen since 1995, when they selected 6-4 Kyle McLaren at No. 9. Nick Boynton, selected No. 21 in 1999, also was considered a blue-chipper, but Boynton was smaller (6-1), had diabetes, and was somewhat of a special case, given that he had been drafted No. 9 overall in ’97, only to reenter the draft when he couldn’t come to contract terms with the Capitals.
Bruins fans just don’t know this kind of embarrassment of riches. What they’ve known, all too often, is bitter disappointment, twists of fate that came with the force of knockdown cross-checks. To recap some of the parade of horribles:
■First-round pick Normand Leveille, in only his second year as a Bruin, had his career end and nearly died in October 1982 when a congenital malformation in his brain burst during a game in Vancouver. The budding star was three months shy of his 20th birthday.
■Gord Kluzak (also a 6-4 defenseman), the No. 1 overall pick in 1982, logged two solid, promising seasons with the Bruins and then had a knee destroyed by Devils defenseman Dave Lewis in an exhibition game. The hit all but ended Kluzak’s career. He played 149 games over the next six-plus seasons before finally packing it in after two games in 1990-91.
■First-round pick Cam Neely, who invented the power forward position after his arrival in a trade from Vancouver, was only 25 when Penguins defenseman Ulf Samuelsson knocked his career off track with a devastating hit that left Neely with a large, ossified mass in his leg.
■Jonathan Girard, selected 48th overall in ’98, nearly died in a car crash while home in Quebec in the summer of 2003. He was 23 and never played in the NHL again, after playing 150 games in his four seasons.
■Hard-shooting Al “The Planet’’ Iafrate, among the most dynamic defensemen the game has ever seen, arrived in Boston with a ton of promise in the March 1994 swap for Joe Juneau. What a horse. The No. 4 overall pick in the ’84 draft. Too bad he was a horse with a bad knee. He played 25 games (including playoffs) with the spoked-B, then shut it down for two years before returning — with San Jose.
■And, of course, a bevy of high-end duds, including the likes of Johnathan Aitken, Evgeni Ryabchikov, Lars Jonsson, Hannu Toivonen, Matt Lashoff. Not really so much bad luck as just bad picks.
Why did a million folks line Boston’s streets a week ago today to celebrate the Cup win? Well, everyone loves a winner, of course. But for those who have lived and died through a good portion of the above, the day of celebration was more like a day of liberation. All franchises go through some bad luck, but the star-crossed Bruins have had more than their share. Did we mention Bobby Orr’s knee was all but shot well ahead of his 27th birthday?
But that’s not happening anymore. Not for the Blue Sky Bruins. Not for the everything-is-coming-up-Rosie Ruzicka B’s.
They just won their sixth Stanley Cup and they did it without a power play. They were in an 0-2 deficit in the Final when the closest thing they have to a power forward, Nathan Horton, had his head nearly knocked off by a cheap hit from Vancouver’s Aaron Rome. They were dead meat and they ended up filet mignon (the best dead meat of all). They made a bold move to add Tomas Kaberle at the trade deadline, only to find out that “Tomas Kaberle’’ is Czech for “Tomato Can.’’
But they won. In Game 7. In the end, it felt like they ran away with it. And with the confetti still blowing around Copley Square, and some of the celebrants still nursing a championship hangover, last night they used the No. 9 pick to add a strapping, broad-shouldered man-child who has the potential to be a top-pairing blue liner.
There’s something happening here. It ain’t exactly clear. Weird stuff. Fun times. Good fortune. Are these really your Boston Bruins? Maybe it’s best not to ask. Maybe the black clouds are all gone and all that’s left is gold.