They say that Bruins history repeats itself, and that’s been a very good thing for the hockey club when it comes to the Bart and Scott Bradley.
The late Barton Bradley was Boston’s chief amateur scout for more than 20 years under the tutelage of Harry Sinden, and the elder Bradley – a resident in the Vancouver area that specialized in Western Canadian hockey players – insisted that Sinden trade for a raw young power forward named Cam Neely.
The Bruins Director of Player Personnel – and former director of amateur scouting -- was one of the sole B’s front office survivors during an administration change when Peter Chiarelli seized control of the hockey operations portion of the Black and Gold franchise back in 2006.
“I am probably one of the longest-standing members from the old regime to the new regime, and to see upper management tied all in with player development with all the stuff that Peter has implemented it’s been a real pleasure,” said Bradley. “With the help of Jimmy Benning as the Assistant GM and Don Sweeney and for myself, to be a part of it and when you have some of these kids come into their own has been gratifying and satisfying.”
Bradley took over Boston’s amateur scouting department during the draft that produced Joe Thornton, Sergei Samsonov and P.J. Axelsson, and ran the draft boards through the last few drafts that ended up supplying the B’s organization with a crop of players including budding centers Zach Hamill and Joe Colborne.
Bradley is something of a legacy with the Bruins as his father scouted with the Black and Gold for over 35 years, and was one of the driving forces that originally brought Cam Neely to Boston via a memorable deal with the Vancouver Canucks in 1987.
Bradley grew up in the Bruins family, played up through the organization and even suited up for a game in goal with the Providence Bruins after his father had played for the B’s in one game during the 1959-60 season.
“He was a major cog in the Neely deal, and that’s something to be proud of with your father,” said Bradley speaking of his father. ‘I don’t know if it’s bred in you, but I’ve got 18 years as a scout in now and my father scouted for 35 years. In my house growing up, the Bruins were a major part of my immediate family. I was first in the car on Friday nights to go watch games back in the days of the Westminster Bruins, and it’s nice to see things turned around. Because we’ve been through some real highs and lows, and now it’s gratifying.”
Bradley is a survivor in every sense of the word, and – in the hockey world – it’s easy to see why the Bruins weren’t able to discharge the hockey talent evaluator when so many other Bruins front office people exited after both Mike O’Connell and Jeff Gorton were shown the door.
It can be argued with Bradley, along with fellow amateur scout Adam Creighton, is truly the man behind the success of so many young players flourishing into superstars for the Black and Gold franchise. His was the last voice saying ‘yeah’ or ‘nay’ at the B’s draft table during so many formative years, and those ridiculously successful drafts have filled up a franchise full of young talent.
Bradley pulled the trigger on drafting every single homegrown player on the Bruins roster from Patrice Bergeron to Byron Bitz.
“I think it’s been very gratifying, especially for me and the staff, to see a lot of hard work come to fruition and to see this thing really gel together as a unit both at Providence and at the big team in Boston.
Bradley has been continually impressed with the way Chiarelli entered the Causeway Street operation, and seemingly immediately punched his stamp on a draft-and-player-development system that’s churned out one valuable young player after another. David Krejci was a tentative, unsure player that went from bouncing back and fourth two years ago between the AHL and the NHL, and this season jumped to leading the NHL in +/- while earning him a $3.75 million per year salary for the next three seasons.
The key for Krejci was having patience waiting for the God-given talent to come out, and it’s the same kind of game plan Boston is utilizing with center Zach Hamill – another Western Canadians forward that caught Bradley’s eye as an amateur player racking up big point totals.
Bradley and the Bruins use the following tried and true “tools” evaluation system in their player rankings while watching prospective youngsters at the junior, high school or college level prior to the draft: the five ‘S’s’ of size, skating, shooting, sense and spirit. Above and beyond anything else, however, is a mandate from Chiarelli and Co. to continue finding a “Bruins” type of player.
“I see it’s a combination of a few things. We’re looking for character, and since (Chiarelli) has been here we’ve really been looking for that Bruins type of player. We always looked for that in the past, but Peter really emphasized that we want Bruins type players,” said Bradley. “That’s really helped me, and the amateur staff when we’re looking at players. Just in general, it’s been ‘Lets get back to the old Bruins.
“Its character, playing a physical brand of hockey and win at all costs. It’s a combination of things, and you want kids to come in here and leave everything at the door and give everything that they have. You have to do your due diligence to look into their backgrounds and talk to their coaches, and find out where (there priorities) are and what kind of character that they have.”
The character study portion of the scouting along with weighing the skills and body types of 17-19 year-old kids is a challenge in and of itself, but Bradley’s character evaluations have been nearly spot on over the last handful of drafts dating back to the pre-lockout pick of Patrice Bergeron during the second round in 2003. Bradley first gained full-term employment with the Bruins when he advised the team to draft and sign Kyle McLaren back in 1995 – a move that gave them a talented young blueliner for seasons to come.
“(A symbolic Bruins pick) that comes to mind is (Patrice) Bergeron,” said Bradley. “His wherewithal, his character stands out with his talent and he was a good base to start with during the pre-Pete Chiarelli regime.”
Bergeron showed some of that character in coming back from potentially career-ending concussions over the last two seasons, and has filled a dignified leadership role on the B’s team at the young age of 23 years-old. Even though Bradley has scouted and drafted great players like Joe Thornton in the past, the Milan Lucic might just be the proudest of the B’s exec’s scouting career.
Bradley watched Lucic progress during his junior career with the Vancouver Giants until the intimidating hockey force won MVP honors at the Memorial Cup, and both intimidated and scored against opponents just like a player his dad helped snag for the Bruins franchise some 22 years before.
“Obviously Looch has been a cornerstone guy. He’s fiery and he keeps getting better,” said Bradley of a player that is already exhibiting all of the leadership and scoring qualities at the ripe old age of 19 years old. “I watched him go to the Memorial Cup and lose in his draft year, and then to watch him hoist up in Major Junior hockey in Canada…all the teams are looking for those types of players.
“I have to go back to Looch. He’s everything that I thought he would be, and he might have even exceeded what I had in mind with him in terms of his progress (at this point). He’s a little ahead of it, but this is what we wanted him to be when we drafted. We were looking for a high-impact, character kid who could change a game with his work ethic and his ability to get on the forecheck, chip in and bring that physical presence that we’d been lacking for a while.
“I am probably one of the longest-standing members from the old regime to the new regime, and to see upper management tied all in with player development with all the stuff that Peter has implemented it’s been a real pleasure. With the help of Jimmy Benning as the Assistant GM and Don Sweeney and for myself, to be a part of it and when you have some of these kids come into their own has been gratifying and satisfying.”
Bradley is the guy behind the guy pushing the levers and clicking the buttons for the formidable young talent along Boston’s roster, but – for him – it’s just another day in the Bradley Family business.