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Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Source: Bruins to hire ex-Red Wings bench boss Lewis

Associated Press

BOSTON -- Dave Lewis is headed from the Stanley Cups and stars of Detroit to the failures and fresh faces of Boston.

The Bruins hired him as their coach, an official within the NHL said Wednesday, one day after Mike Sullivan was fired following a last-place finish in the Northeast Division in his second season.

The official spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the Bruins hadn't made an announcement. That is expected at a news conference Thursday afternoon to be attended by Peter Chiarelli, who is scheduled to officially take over as general manager on July 15 after completing his duties as Ottawa's assistant GM.

Lewis spent 15 seasons as an assistant coach for the Red Wings before succeeding Scotty Bowman as head coach after they won their third Stanley Cup in six years in 2001-02. He held the job for two seasons, but his contract wasn't renewed in June 2005 and he stayed with Detroit as a scout.

The Bruins said they would not announce their head coach before the news conference. Chiarelli and Lewis did not return telephone calls.

The pair have a major challenge to rebuild the Bruins, although Lewis is known as a motivator, a skill that could help a young team. Sullivan was stoic and had a reputation as a players' coach but was left without much experienced talent after the Bruins traded their two most dynamic offensive players last season, Joe Thornton and Sergei Samsonov.

Sullivan, who had one year left on his contract, also was hurt by training camp holdouts of defenseman Nick Boynton and goaltender Andrew Raycroft, who both were traded in the past week.

Lewis and Chiarelli aren't the only newcomers.

The Bruins obtained offensive defenseman Paul Mara from Phoenix last Monday for Boynton. Two days earlier, they added outstanding center Phil Kessel from the University of Minnesota with the fifth pick of the draft. The Bruins are picking up players who are suited to the faster game that emphasizes skating after the NHL instituted rules changes after the lockout wiped out the 2004-05 season.

Lewis, who spent 15 seasons as an NHL defenseman, must try to integrate Kessel into a weak offense that is led by Patrice Bergeron, the Bruins leading scorer last season -- his second with the team -- and Brad Boyes, a rookie last season. With Mara, Brad Stuart, Milan Jurcina and David Tanabe, the defense appears fairly deep. And Tim Thomas played surprisingly well in goal.

At Detroit, Lewis had experience with talented youngsters like center Pavel Datsyuk and left wing Henrik Zetterberg, who emerged as top scorers.

The Bruins could add a marquee player to make up for the loss of Thornton and grab some headlines in a town dominated by the Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots. They got some leeway to do that Tuesday when the NHL salary cap was increased to $44 million, an increase of about $5 million per team.

Owner Jeremy Jacobs, however, has praised the approach of the Buffalo Sabres, who reached the seventh game of the Eastern Conference finals this year without highly paid stars.

"Every time I look at the Buffalo team and how good a job they did and they didn't go into free agency," Jacobs said late last month, "it makes me say we didn't do it right last year and they did."

Before last season, the Bruins signed free agents Alexei Zhamnnov, Shawn McEachern and Dave Scatchard, none of whom helped. The free agent signing period begins Saturday.

Lewis, who turns 53 Monday, led the Red Wings to first-place finishes in the Central Division in his two seasons. But they lost in the conference quarterfinals and then in the conference semifinals in the playoffs.

He had been an assistant from 1987-02 under Jacques Demers, Bryan Murray and Bowman, winning Stanley Cups in 1997, 1998 and 2002. After the final Cup win, Bowman stepped aside.

Lewis played with the New York Islanders, Los Angeles, New Jersey and Detroit before retiring after playing six games in 1987-88 season and immediately becoming an assistant coach. In 1,008 games, he had 36 goals, 224 points and 953 penalty minutes.

The 37-year-old Sullivan grew up in the Boston area, attended Boston University and played 11 seasons in the NHL.

"Mike went to Ottawa a couple of weeks ago and (he and Chiarelli) had a good discussion about the game and how it needed to be played," Bruins interim general manager Jeff Gorton said. "Peter advised Mike that he would be talking to other candidates. He went through that process and his decision was that at this time we are better served to have a clean slate."