EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 14, 2011

Devils president: Yes, the Bruins can!

Bill Burt

Lou Lamoriello, the New Jersey Devils president of 24 years, laughed at a few facts tossed his way yesterday.

The records show that for nearly two decades there is basically a rule when about 20 woefully unshaven guys are skating around the ice holding the Stanley Cup.

That is, beyond the other prerequisites — a hot goalie, hard-nosed play and a defense-first mentality — the last team standing almost always has that one go-to, goal-a-game, make-something-out-of-nothing guy.

Patrick Kane, Sidney Crosby, Joe Sakic, Martin St. Louis, Teemu Selanne, Eric Staal and Mark Messier are a few of those guys.

One team, though, bucked that trend and actually won three Stanley Cups (1995, 2000 and 2003) without the "quintessential" Hart Trophy (MVP) candidate.

Lamoriello's Devils.

Why does all of this matter? Because your Boston Bruins have something in common with those Devils teams. They don't have a go-to goal-a-game guy.

And one of the most respected people in hockey likes what he sees wearing black and gold.

"I know people look at those kinds of numbers, but I never have," said Lamoriello in a phone interview yesterday. "The playoffs aren't about what your players did during the year. The question is: Do you have people with the ability to raise their game? We had that. We had a lot of players who raised their games in the playoffs.

"When I look at this Bruins team. I believe they do, too."

When they won the Cup in 2003, the Devils didn't have any semblance of a goal-a-game player. In fact, their top three scorers were Patrick Elias with 57 points (67th overall in the NHL) followed by Jamie Langenbrunner and Scott Gomez (tied at 74th overall with 55 measly points).

Guess who is eerily similar? Your current Bruins.

Milan Lucic and David Krejci both have 62 points, tied for 39th overall, and Patrice Bergeron finished with 54 points, tied for 57th.

Not impressive to most. More than enough according to Lamoriello.

"That's good enough," claimed Lamoriello.

Goaltending is a given and Lamoriello's Devils have pretty much had that position sewn up with one of the best to ever play the game in Martin Brodeur.

Lamoriello drafted Brodeur, whose regular season career goals against average is 2.22 compared to 2.01 over 181 playoff games, three years after he took the job.

While Tim Thomas could never match Brodeur's body of work, Lamoriello says the 2010-11 version of Thomas has similarities to his future Hall of Fame goalie.

"The goalie is on top of his game. I'm a big fan," said Lamoriello. "He is very competitive. He's got character. He can compete at the highest level. That's where you start."

Lamoriello, a native of Rhode Island and the head coach at Providence College from 1968 to 1983, said the Bruins will need everybody contributing.

"It's a matter of trust," said Lamoriello. "The players have to respect and trust each other. Players in that locker room have to take responsibility for their own game. Respect what your role is. And don't let the guy next to you down. It's really that simple."

Lamoriello said if the Bruins do make it to the Stanley Cup Finals, chances are somebody will have gone above and beyond.

"We always had one of those guys who nobody expected a lot from," said Lamoriello. "It always happens."

Lamoriello has the utmost respect for the Bruins organization, including coach Claude Julien, whom he fired a few games before the 2007 playoffs, and general manager Peter Chiarelli.

"They have an outstanding coach, whom I know and respect very well," said Lamoriello. "I think Peter Chiarelli has done a nice job putting this team together. And I think bringing Cam Neely into the organization has meant a lot. He has brought a mentality, a toughness that he had as a player."

Other than missing that go-to 100-point scorer, the Bruins have methodically improved over the last four seasons and this might actually be their season.

"I like this team," said Lamoriello. "They are a team and as long as they play that way, they have as good a chance as anyone."

Lamoriello and Belichick: Separated at birth?

Has anyone ever seen Bill Belichick and Lou Lamoriello in the same room?

We ask this because it would be very easy to compare the work of those two builders of organizations. Both took over franchises — the New England Patriots and New Jersey Devils — in trouble and thanks to some shifty work in player acquisition (drafts and free agency), led their organizations to three world championships.

What is more strikingly similar is their emphasis on "team."

"If I had to pick another a coach or a general manager in an another sport, that I respect the most, Bill Belichick would probably be that person.

"I have tremendous respect for what he does and his ability to motivate players. It's not easy (when they make so much money). I admired Vince Lombardi, a lot, for his work, but I like Bill's unassuming way. I am a big fan. I have never met him, but I wouldn't mind picking his brain some time."

Bill Burt