Work ethic makes Ward a wiz on Bruins’ coaching staff

It’s difficult to measure Ward’s influence beyond the improvements some of Boston’s former prospects have made during their emergence as NHL vets. It wouldn’t be fair to quantify Ward’s impact by just looking at the club’s power-play ranking, which was 23rd last season after finishing fourth in 2008-09 and 16th the season before that. After all, Ward can draw X’s and O’s on the board a million different ways, and he’s still not going to make up for the loss of Marc Savard and Marco Sturm to injury or the seemingly disinterested play of Michael Ryder and Dennis Wideman.

At full health, and with Nathan Horton and Tyler Seguin added into the mix, Boston’s power play should be ready to be a force again this season – more like it was in the playoff wins over Buffalo than in the postseason losses to Philadelphia.

“That learning curve had hit a stage where the guys were comfortable and we were able to execute,” said Ward about the Boston power play when it was clicking last season. “So we really from that became a real two-unit power play, as opposed to being a one-unit power play as in years past, Savvy’s unit had done the majority of the scoring on the power play.”

Chiarelli is confident with the power play mostly in Ward’s hands.

“He comes up with a lot of perspective solutions when there are issues with the power play. He’s creative. He communicates well to the players. He’s still improving in that regard,” said the GM. “And he’s got a good sense and feel for it. … He looks at it from different angles. I appreciate that he doesn’t take the conventional approach at all times and I think the players appreciate that too.”

Now 48, Ward should be a candidate to be a head coach in the years ahead. Boston’s success will go a long way toward determining that, in addition to Ward’s continued growth.

“If he continues to improve the way he’s improved, and he continues to work around the group the way he does … that’s certainly going to be on his horizon,” said Chiarelli. “I appreciate the fact that he’s humble about it. A lot of assistant coaches aspire for a higher level. And any one individual, even [fellow assistants Doug Houda and Doug Jarvis], I think they’re going to have a chance.”

That humbleness might be the only thing holding Ward back. In the coaching game, where there are only 30 NHL head jobs available, self-promotion can be a powerful tool. But right now Ward isn’t out advertising his services; he’s plotting to give the Bruins their best chance at the Stanley Cup.

“That’s not for me to say. That’s for the powers that be,” said Ward when asked if he’s a future head coach. “I’ve had the opportunity to coach in a lot of leagues and I’ve been able to bring all these experiences to where I’m at now. My goal is just to continue to develop as a coach and I think you have to find ways in this game to reinvent yourself. I don’t think you’re ever done learning the game.

“At some point, if someone looks at kind of where I’m at as a coach and says ‘this would be a good fit,’ then I’d certainly welcome the challenge. For me to say that I’m going to be or not going to be, I’m not in a position to make that call, and I don’t want to make that call. That’s not the way I work.”

The only way Ward works is hard, and the Bruins figure to continue to benefit from that ethic at full strength and on the man-advantage.

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