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10-24-2003, 04:40 PM
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Wally, Dan, agree on both accounts.

Francis would be a huge acquistion because of his intelligence, savvy and leadership on and off the ice. He may not have the finesse he once did, but the guy can deliver in the playoffs.

I also agree about giving Zinovjev, Huml and Hilbert some playing time. I am really hopeful about Zino, so it would be great to see some significant ice time lead to good development strides and perhaps some real impact on the ice.

The only thing I wonder about isn't as much with the kids as it is fitting the pieces together. The B's could really use a playmaking #2 center, but in Bergeron and Zinovjev, the B's have two smallish green pivots who need patience. Neither may be dependable come the postseason, not that it's any fault of their own. Elsewhere, the Broons also have tons of good parts but a real puzzle when it comes to putting together the pieces -- whether on defense, wing, etc.

The good news is the talent is there, it's just a matter of getting the most from it. This is the vexing issue O'Connell faces, and with a polarized roster of pending UFAs and first year players coupled with the unknowns of the CBA, it's a difficult one to address. Then again, many other GMs are in the same boat.

One other possibility is that O'Connell may be able to swap a pending UFA or guy like Lapointe for a similar talent from another team, thereby allowing each club to address a specific need. This would enable the B's to negotiate with playoff bound franchises that they may not otherwise be able to partner with.

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