Well, it's finally here. The Boston Bruins opened training camp this weekend. For a lot of the summer, it seemed as though camp would never get here.
In terms of days, this offseason was the shortest for the Bruins in a decade because they actually won a playoff series and lasted seven games in the second round. But in terms of feel, this summer might've been the longest in some time because of the anticipation of even better things ahead for the Black and Gold.
The players and coaches have all reconvened in the Hub promising to pick up where last season ended and rally around the "unfinished business" they never got to accomplish when the Hurricanes' Scott Walker beat Tim Thomas in overtime of Game 7.
This is a great time to be involved with the Bruins. The team has been restored to some of its former, pre-lockout glory. Fan interest in the team has been piqued, and that's where ESPN Boston comes in. Many of you have been reading my coverage of the Bruins ever since that dreaded lockout ended July 22, 2005. Over the past year, you've logged on to TheBruinsBlog.net in numbers I couldn't even begin to fathom when I started that site last November.
Now you get an even bigger dose of me and my brand of Bruins coverage. You might find more of my work at this new URL than on my old one, but the 24-hour, 365-day nature of my coverage will not change. I'll fix the serious with the comical, the analytical with the opinionated, and bring it to you all season long and beyond. Even if you're reading my coverage for the first time, it won't take long to figure out where I'm coming from and where I'm going.
So with my introductions and re-introductions out of the way, it's time to turn toward the 2009-10 Bruins season. I'll dig deeper into the specifics of the Bruins' needs and goals for this camp later, but I want to leave you with one word to remember throughout camp: improvement.
The Bruins will be only as strong as the strides their best players have taken to make themselves better. If Marc Savard didn't return for his second season as a two-way force worthy of penalty-kill time, the Bruins wouldn't be where they are now. If Dennis Wideman didn't reward the Bruins' long-term faith in him by cutting back on his risk-taking and become a more reliable blueliner with the same amount of offensive pizzazz, Boston wouldn't be among the handful of Stanley Cup contenders as this season approaches.
So more than anything this camp, we'll be looking to find where the Bruins have improved. Individual improvements combine to make team improvements, and a team that lost in the second round of the playoffs obviously has room to grow.
And you'll be able to read all about the Bruins' accomplishments and shortcomings every day at ESPNBoston.com.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. He has been on the Bruins beat since the lockout for numerous publications and has been covering the Boston sports scene for a decade. Send any questions for Matt to his mailbag and he might answer them in his Bruins mailbag.