Are the Bruins villains? If so, should they embrace it?

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Interesting piece today from CSN New England’s Joe Haggerty about Boston Bruins’ reputation. In it, Haggerty suggests that rather than fight the “media hysteria and Colin Campbell-based conspiracy theories,” the Bruins should accept it.

Well, not just accept it. Haggs thinks the B’s should embrace it.

The Bruins continue to play the role that best suits them: biggest, baddest hockey team on the block that nobody else wants to face once things get a little rough. The Sabres will get their chance to answer the call on Nov. 23 in their own backyard, and the Bruins won’t be backing down from the challenge.

It’s not going to win Lucic and Co. any popularity contests outside New England, but it’s a damned good formula for hockey success.

That’s all that should matter to a Bruins team unconcerned with the growing angry mobs in Montreal, Vancouver and any other NHL city that Boston decides to kick off the playground.

I guess the idea is for the Bruins to join the Broad Street Bullies (circa 1972-78) or, more recently, the Anaheim Ducks (circa 2007) as teams that embraced their tough/nasty/dirty reputations…and rode them to a Stanley Cup.

There’s no denying the Bruins are tough. But are they really villains?

They’ve certainly been cast that way, thanks in large part to three incidents: Zdeno Chara on Max Pacioretty, Brad Marchand on Daniel Sedin and, most recently, Milan Lucic on Ryan Miller.

Yet it wasn’t that long ago Boston was the victimized team, not the villainous one. Marc Savard’s career was derailed by Matt Cooke, who received little-to-no punishment whatsoever. (If anyone’s a villain, it’s Cooke. Also, remember when the B’s caught heat for not immediately retaliating?)

There was also Patrice Bergeron getting nailed by Philadelphia’s Randy Jones, who got a whopping two-game suspension. (Bergeron was out for almost an entire year with a concussion while the Flyers emerged the villains, openly complaining that Jones shouldn’t have been suspended at all.)

I just don’t see the Bruins as a collection of evil characters devoted to wickedness and illegalities. Aside from their aforementioned incidents, Chara and Lucic should be classified as “tough” more than anything else. Marchand’s got the whole Ken Linesman/rat thing going, but there are plenty of those already in the NHL — Steve Ott, Dave Bolland, Steve Downie and Dan Carcillo, etc. — and I don’t see how Noseface is worse than any of them.

After that, who’s left? Shawn Thornton’s an honest player. So’s Greg Campbell. The rest of the roster is filled with guys that are tough to play against, but nobody you’d call dirty and/or cheap.

The Bruins might be perceived as villains, but there’s always a difference between perception and reality.

That might make it tough to embrace the role.