The Boston Bruins, who seem to be the National Hockey League’s perennial cellar-dwellers, enter the 1965-66 season with renewed hope and a new attitude. While this fresh outlook may add a couple of more wins and provide slightly better entertainment for long-suffering Boston fans, the reality is there isn’t enough talent on this club to make a run at a playoff spot.
New General Manager
The new attitude arrived about the same time as the club made a change in its management suite. Gone is Lynn Patrick, who had been the general manager since the end of the 1953-54 season. Patrick was allegedly moved up the executive ladder, but he quickly left the organization to take over the Los Angeles Blades of the Western Hockey League. It’s widely believed that if the Blades’ ownership is awarded the NHL expansion franchise for Los Angeles, Patrick will run the show there.
Replacing Patrick is the long-time owner/manager/coach of the Niagara Falls Flyers Junior A farm team of the Bruins, Hap Emms. Emms managed the Flyers to the Memorial Cup last season and the Bruins hope he can bring that same magic to the NHL. He comes with a reputation as a strict disciplinarian who insists on maximum effort and dedication from his players. How his program will wash with the pros is a question to which many eagerly await an answer.
On the ice, a few pieces have changed, but the overall product doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence.
This has been a sore spot for a long time in Boston. While a solution has not been firmly identified, two youngsters give the Bruins reason for optimism in the not so distant future.
Gerry Cheevers was left unprotected by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the June Intra-League Draft. Toronto general manager Punch Imlach decided to stick with veterans Johnny Bower and Terry Sawchuk, and exposed the 24-year-old, who was the American Hockey League’s best netminder last season with Rochester. He had a couple of games in late 1961 with Toronto when Bower was injured.
Bernie Parent, 20, spent the past two seasons with the Niagara Falls Flyers, back stopping them to the 1965 Memorial Cup. He won the Dave Pinkney Trophy as the OHA’s leading goaltender each of the past two seasons and was the first-team all-star last year. He has played well at training camp, but it would seem he will need a little more seasoning, likely with Oklahoma City of the Central Professional Hockey League.
Ed Johnston, 29, is the incumbent. He has been the Bruins’ regular goalkeeper the past three seasons, but really has not distinguished himself with his play. Emms has made no secret of the fact he wants an upgrade between the pipes, and if neither of the kids can turn the trick, it’s likely he’ll look to trade for a veteran rather than go with Johnston again. Emms was ready to draft either Bower or Sawchuk from Toronto had Cheevers not been made available.
A couple of other possibilities are Doug Favell and Jack Norris. Favell was Parent’s backup with Niagara Falls and graduates to the pros this season. Norris was brought in last year by the Bruins when Johnston broke his finger and played 23 games. He’s only 23 and is expected to be back with the WHL Blades this season.
The Bruins are woefully thin on experienced defensemen, with captain Leo Boivin the senior member of the group. Ted Green, who is only 25, has already played four NHL seasons and is beginning to show signs of stardom. He is a rough-and-tumble sort with a wide mean streak and has become the go-to guy on the back end. Beyond those two, things get a bit iffy on the Boston blue line.
Twenty-four-year-old Bob Woytowich was up with the Bruins for 21 games last season and looks like he has won a spot out of training camp this time around. He’s short on experience but long on hustle and desire, a mobile defender with a good point shot.
A couple of youngsters who have been given a long look in camp are Gilles Marotte, 20, and Dallas Smith, 23. Marotte was a mainstay with Niagara Falls last year and this will be his first pro season. Smith, who played a full season with the Bruins as a 19-year-old in 1960-61, has bounced around the minors the past few seasons. After a solid season with San Francisco of the WHL least year, he looks like he may be ready for another NHL bid.
Albert Langlois is also around and is likely to make the squad. The former Canadien, Ranger and Red Wing was picked up in an offseason trade with Detroit. After three seasons with Montreal as a swing man on their blue line, he has hung on with the New York and Detroit. Boston is likely his last chance at regular NHL employment, unless expansion provides him a shot.
The Bruins added a couple of veterans up front who will provide experience, if little else, to a rather mediocre forward corps.
Ron Stewart, a right-winger, came from Toronto, where he has been used sparingly over the past couple of seasons. Left wing Parker MacDonald was picked up from Detroit. He was the Red Wings’ fourth-highest point-getter in 64-65.
The forward lines shape up this way. Murray Oliver centres the number one unit, with John Bucyk on the left side and American Tommy Williams patrolling the right. Rookie Terry Crisp, only 22 with just two pro seasons under his belt may have won the second line pivot spot, between Dean Prentice and Stewart. The third line will see Ron Schock between Reggie Fleming and Eddie Westfall. Schock had a fine rookie season last year before injury cut his year short. Fleming had a breakout season with 18 goals last year and looks to equal or better that performance this time around. Westfall is an all-purpose type of guy, who can take double-duty on defense. Given the Bruins lack of depth on the back end, don’t be surprised to see him line up on the blue line from time to time.
MacDonald hasn’t found himself a slot on a regular line, and will likely see spot duty, at least at the outset.
Another youngster with a good chance to stick is Bob Dillabough, who came over with MacDonald from Detroit. He played well for the Red Wings in the playoffs last spring and was a key cog in the deal with Detroit. If Crisp can’t cut it on the second line, expect to see Dillabough, who is only 24, line up there.
Milt Schmidt is back for another go-round behind the Boston bench. It was thought that with Emms taking over the GM duties, he might bring in his own coach. However, Schmidt survives and will guide the Bruins once again. He’s optimistic about the team’s chances and says that they will surprise many clubs with their improved work ethic.
New attitude, new work ethic, but the same old problem – the talent just isn’t there to compete with the big dogs. It looks like another year outside the playoffs for the Bruins, but with the Rangers in a complete rebuild, they might just escape the cellar and rise to the dizzying heights of fifth place.
- Both Paul Rimstead and Red Burnett are reporting that Toronto D Carl Brewer is seriously considering retirement from hockey.
- Boston Bruins have released D Tom Johnson. Johnson was badly injured late last season and has not recovered well enough to play at the NHL level. He has accepted a front-office position with the team.
- Chicago Black Hawks lost C Stan Mikita with a groin injury in their last exhibition game. It’s not known how long he will be sidelined.
- Dave Balon’s fine play throughout training camp has likely saved his job with Montreal.
- Camille Henry of the Black Hawks, is still recovering from last season’s back injury. He is expected to sign his 1965-66 contract this week, but won’t be ready for NHL duty until December at the earliest.
- Dave Hainsworth, nephew of Toronto and Montreal goaltending legend George Hainsworth, is off to a good start for the Kitchener Rangers of the OHA Junior A Series.
- Orland Kurtenbach has solidified his claim on the third line job with Toronto. He scored a pair of goals in Toronto’s final exhibition game, a 3-3 tie with Detroit last night.
- Hershey Bears defeated Pittsburgh Hornets 5-3 in their AHL opener Saturday night. Three goals by Myron Stankiewicz in the second period did the damage for Hershey.
- Sunday evening, Willie Marshall scored the winner in overtime as Providence Reds edged the Bears 3-2.
- Ken Schinkel scored a pair of goals to lead Baltimore over Buffalo 6-3 in their AHL opener.