Just how important is chemistry to a team?
Whether on or off the ice, especially at the start of a new season, the buzz word gets thrown around constantly.
Because, really, it’s that beneficial to the way a group of individuals like the men in the spoked-B find success together.
"It always is and you’ve heard so many players say it, and a lot of them have been veteran players, from Mark Recchi to even Jags [Jaromir Jagr] who said this was one of the best groups he’s ever been with," Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said following his team’s October 8 practice.
"That speaks volume to me, anyways, that our room is that close and good to each other, and guys that have come in have never heard a guy say, ‘Nobody made me feel comfortable here at home.’ The guys have done a good job of that."
"So you have to give a lot of credit to the guys and we talk about the core players that kind of take care of the room, but the other guys certainly do their share as well."
Players come and go, but the main core of players stays in tact. Having found success in the past, they feed off of what they know, appreciate the new energy brought to the group, and are guided by the likes of their ever humble coach, their demanding GM and a cast of alumni like President Cam Neely, who have paved the path before them.
"You see them on the road, you see them in different places, walking on the sidewalk going out for supper, and it’s young guys and old guys and it’s not just little cliques but more of a mixed group so that’s what I like about our team," said Julien.
There isn’t just one moment where it stands out, as the B’s bench boss highlights above. You see it come out at different times, but where you see it the most is when the skates are hung up and the equipment tucked away.
Like on a Florida road trip in February 2013, during a day spent at Mr. Jacob’s home. I remember the B’s scattered doing different activities - fishing, golfing, tennis - it didn’t matter what they were doing; they were all relaxed and enjoying the time together.
Johnny “Chief” Bucyk and Harry Sinden were there as well, bringing together B’s past and present, and taking in the scene.
"Here’s the way I read this team," Sinden had said, as he sat next to Chief on a bench, where Shawn Thornton had just joined him for a conversation and a try at the fishing pond.
"They are an ego-less team."
"They’re a team as individuals who forget their egos and play as a team. And I think that’s a reflection of the personality of their coach. So, they really do set that aside and play as a team."
It’s the type of camaraderie that shows itself during “team-building” activities as well, like when the 2013 Bruins went to Vermont for a few days before the season began.
"Those guys all seem to be fitting in. I even got a good glimpse of that during the team building how, again, it’s always about not necessarily the same guys together all the time, but they mix and match well and they’re with different people all the time," said Julien.
"And seem to enjoy each others’ presence. So chemistry is really not an issue for me right now and if anything, I think it’s been extremely good."
Chris Kelly may be a leader on the team now, but there was a time, in February 2011, when he was a new face to everyone except fellow former Senator Zdeno Chara and Peter Chiarelli.
"This is an easy locker room to come into, and everyone feels welcome," said Kelly. "I know when I was a new guy it didn’t take me much time to adjust."
Whether it’s 2011, or 2013, the Bruins have found their right blend of chemistry, and right now, it’s breeding a confident group.
"I think our guys are feeling pretty good. They’ve been good about their training, they’ve been good about getting some rest and to me they all look like they’re in a good place right now," Julien said.
"We don’t look like a team, or don’t feel like a team, that played until the end of June last year. Even in the dressing room, guys are not coming in here and saying, ‘Wow, here we are back at it again.’ They all seem excited to start the season."
-Caryn Switaj ^CS
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