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An Interview with Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe

Illegal Curve is happy to have Fluto Shinzawa, the Bruins beat-writer for the Boston Globe, along with us for an interview on blogging, the competitive Boston sports market, and the all things Bruins.

Here is the interview:

Richard: Hi Fluto, first of all, I’d like to thank you for doing this. Now, before I ask you about the Bruins’ off-season, I wanted to get your take on the increased amount of blogging that newspaper writers are undertaking. Have you been surprised by the popularity of Bruins Blog?

Fluto: There’s certainly more work to be done because of blogging, but that’s how readers want their information now. So it’s only natural that we respond and provide that information via the blog, which means promptly, accurately, and repeatedly. The newspaper business isn’t what you’d call stable, so we have to adapt and serve our readers in the manners in which they prefer. Would be nice for someone in the media business to figure out how to make money doing so… Regarding the Bruins Blog, I’m not sure how popular it is. All the numbers and hits and such are handled elsewhere, so I base its popularity (or otherwise) anecdotally. Was surprised and satisfied to see that the comments section exploded earlier this summer when Michael Ryder signed, then when the Bruins waived Glen Murray. So hopefully people are reading and getting something out of the blog.

Richard: Playing in such a competitive market with three extremely successful franchises (Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics), how would say the Bruins fare in terms of fan/media attention?

Fluto: Bruins media attention: Crickets! When we get into the depths of the regular season, there are usually five outlets at practice every day: Globe, Herald, New England Hockey Journal, Patriot Ledger, For games, we might get a TV camera or two. But it’s a spartan crowd covering the team on a daily basis, and that’s not surprising given the confluence of events here — the success of the three other teams (Sox, Patriots, Celtics) and the economic media downturn. We’re getting less space in the print product at the Globe, and that goes across the board for other outlets as well. In terms of fan interest, this is and will always be a Sox town. The Bruins will never compete in that area. But the unique thing about fans here is that a good number of them are involved in the game. They played when they were kids, their kids play now, they’re at the rinks for 5 a.m. practice, etc. So there’s certainly a diehard quality about Bruins fans that makes it a small but puck-starved audience. The Bruins would be best served to cater to this audience, as they’re the ones paying the big bucks for tickets, watching every game on NESN, buying the jerseys and popcorn.

Richard: Now onto hockey; do you think that Michael Ryder will be a suitable replacement for Glen Murray on the team’s number one line?

Fluto: Ryder: Lots of red flags. Bad contract year. Can’t get into the Montreal lineup. One-dimensional player, say scouts who watched him last year. And big money ($12 million over three years) for a guy coming off a dud of a year and doesn’t play a well-rounded game. That said, the X-factor in the signing is Claude Julien. This will be the fourth time they’ve been together (Hull, Hamilton, Montreal), and Ryder has been successful playing for Julien before. Julien was, hands down, the biggest reason why the Bruins turned things around and made the playoffs last year. So who’s to say he can’t have a similar touch with Ryder?

Richard: Do you think that many non-Bruins fans overlooked just how much the team’s lesser-known younger players (a.k.a. not Milan Lucic or Phil Kessel) contributed last season?

Fluto: When you refer to young guys, Vladimir Sobotka and Petteri Nokelainen fall into this category, and they certainly did a good job stepping into the holes created by injury. They would have most likely spent the year in Providence had things been somewhat normal with the big club. It’s a reflection of some good drafting (getting Sobotka) and good trading (getting Nokelainen), but also speaks well of how Scott Gordon groomed these guys in Providence and allowed them to slot into their NHL roles. That’s why Gordon is getting a hard look on the Island. But you also have to look at some of the older guys and how they contributed last year too. Nobody wanted Glen Metropolit, and he was their second-line center for part of the year. Nobody expected Dennis Wideman to have the TOI and points that he did. You can’t overlook the job done by Shane Hnidy.

Richard: With the Bruins making very few changes this off-season, do you see that maybe giving the team a leg up on some of the other Eastern Conference teams that have made significant changes over the summer?
Fluto: You always hear guys saying that chemistry and cohesion play big roles in a team’s success. So yes, stability is a good thing. The coaches know what they have and the players understand the coaches’ expectations. You look at a team like Detroit and how its core has played together for a while now. Big help, no question.

Richard: Finally, do you expect to see Patrice Bergeron in the team’s opening night line up come October?

Fluto: Bergeron will most certainly be in the starting lineup. He was dominant (as expected, perhaps) during the team’s development camp in July, when he and Manny Fernandez were the only two veterans to participate. There’s always a risk that a bad hit can expose him to further injury, but he’s the type of player and type of character with a fierce inner drive and the determination to be a leader for this team. Give him some time in the early part of the season to get adjusted, but I’d be surprised if he doesn’t have the best year he’s had yet.

For Illegal Curve, I’m Richard Pollock.