If Bruins are serious, Savard stays

Savard/By S. Bradley

We’ve beaten this fact to a pulp ever since the regular season ended: the Bruins scored the fewest goals in the NHL in 2009-10.

But that’s obviously not the only negative associated with the Bruins and scoring. We all know that when Marc Savard was out of the lineup, they were even worse — both at even strength on on the power play, where the difference between Boston with and without Savard was the same as listening to an aria sung by Miley Cyrus or Andrea Bocelli.

The Bruins’ reasoning for shopping Savard is elusive. Is it an on-ice issue? Is it about character? Is it about money?

Savard is far and away the Bruins’ best playmaker. Whether Patrice Bergeron could add a more dynamic bent to his offensive game while still serving as a shutdown center, or David Krejci could fill Savard’s skates by taking his creative offensive game to another level is a mystery no one can solve without considering that the odds are against the Bruins being able to replace a special talent like Savard.

It’s not just the offense, however, that makes Savard a player to build a team around. He has also made major strides in his defensive game over the last three seasons, even earning the right to kill penalties on a team that’s been one of the better shorthanded teams around over the last two campaigns. While Team Canada had its reasons for not inviting Savard to its orientation camp in preparation for the 2010 Winter Olympics, just the fact that many of us in the media and in the coaching ranks were able to make an argument for his inclusion shows that he has come a long way from his pouting days in Calgary.

Still considered to be a bit of a selfish, quirky, stats-obsessed player behind closed door (I for one have witnessed Savard’s intense perusing of the NHL stats pack after practice a time or two), he has obviously matured into enough of a leader that head coach Claude Julien, who doesn’t take such matters lightly, has allowed his center to wear a letter on his sweater for stretches.

While Phil Kessel, who was tight with Savard, is probably a poor example of someone Savard took under his wing and nurtured based on the Toronto winger’s character issues, Milan Lucic is another guy who has been close with Savard since landing in Boston. Obviously Lucic arrived in the Hub with a surprising amount of polish for a teenager, but he hasn’t been corrupted by his friendship with Savard, nor has anyone that’s passed through the Bruins’ locker room the last two years.

Savard is never going to be the personification of a “Big, Bad Bruin” but he has shown some measure of toughness the last three seasons. Steve Begin broke a bone in Savard’s back late in ’08 and Savard battled back to contribute to Boston’s impressive playoff showing against Montreal. Savard put it all on the line against Carolina in Game 7 in ’09 despite a knee injury suffered in Game 6. And last season no one would’ve accused Savard of insubordination if he just packed it in after his Grade 2 concussion in March. However, he got up off the couch and worked his way back into the lineup. While he obviously wasn’t the same player as that Philadelphia series, he showed courage not only coming back from a serious head injury, but doing it against a Broad Street Bullies squad that didn’t shy away from taking pot shots at Savard’s melon.

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