Catching up as the clock runs out on August:
— Former Providence College captain Tim Schaller was a nice feel-good story for the Bruins in 2016-17.
After spending the better part of three seasons shuffling between Rochester and Buffalo, the New Hampshire native was in the NHL with Boston from the start of the regular season all the way through to the final game of the playoffs.
He was one of the last cuts in training camp and cleared waivers, but spent only a day in Providence before being recalled just before the season opener when Patrice Bergeron went down with an injury.
The hard-working Schaller went on to carve out a bottom-six niche for himself and earned a one-year, one-way, $775,000 contract for 2017-18. It’s the first one-way deal of his career.
Generous with his time, the 26-year-old was back on the ice at Schneider Arena last week working with youngsters from the Junior Friars as part of Toby O’Brien’s Ocean State Hockey.
One full season does not an established NHL player make, and with training camp set to open on Sept. 14, Schaller knows he’s in no position to take anything for granted.
“I’m kind of glad I don’t feel established. It’s one of those things – it makes me work that much harder every day to be established. I don’t think I’m there yet, which is a good mindset to have. It makes me push that much harder every day,’’ he said.
There will be competition in camp for roster slots from young players up from Providence. Schaller knows what he has to do.
“My mentality needs to be that everyone starts with a clean slate. I need to go in there and be better than the guys I’m fighting with for a spot,’’ he said.
“Hopefully I can stick all year again this year – without the 24-hour send-down.’’
— Dave Creighton enjoyed a long and productive playing career, starting with the Boston Bruins in 1948-49 and ending with the Providence Reds in 1968-69.
Creighton, whose son Adam is a scout for the Boston Bruins, passed away at age 87 on Aug. 18.
I called my friend Buster Clegg, president of the R.I. Reds Heritage Society, to get some perspective on Creighton’s time in Providence.
Clegg, who was assistant general manager in the mid- to late ‘60s, recalled the day in November 1965 when GM Fernie Flaman traded Ed McQueen to the Baltimore Clippers, run by longtime Reds player, coach and executive Terry Reardon, in exchange for Creighton.
McQueen, a steady player and a fan favorite, was on the verge of tears, Clegg said.
After finishing out the 1965-66 season as a player only, Creighton took over as player/coach /GM for the next two seasons, then was a coach/GM only in 1969-70.
The Reds, without an NHL affiliate, had a terrible team when Creighton arrived. The low point was ’66-67 when they went 13-46-13.
“We had a miserable team. Absolutely bad. We couldn’t win on the road,’’ said Clegg.
He wasn’t exaggerating.
The Reds set an AHL record that probably will never be broken by going winless in all 36 of their road games in ’66-67. The road winless streak stretched into ‘67-68 and reached a record 64 games – 0-57-7.
It finally ended on Dec. 30, 1967 in Hershey.
“Dave said to me the afternoon of the game, ‘What do you think if we started (backup goalie) Ross Brooks, give Marcel (Paille) a night off?’’’ said Clegg.
“I said, ‘That couldn’t hurt with a record like we have.’ Brooksie came through. Jimmy Mikol came through,’’ in a Reds win, Clegg said.
“ That changed the complexion of the team and their attitude toward winning on the road.’’
Creighton presided over a Reds revival that season, going from 13 wins to 30.
The Reds needed a win at home on the last night of the season to get into the playoffs.
“It gives me goose bumps to think about it. We played Terry (Reardon and the Clippers) and we beat them. We had over 6,000 people, I believe, in the building. They were all over the place,’’ said Clegg.
Creighton had a season for the ages, centering a line with Eddie Kachur (47 goals) and Brian Perry (31 goals). The player/coach put up 22-53-75 in 72 games.
He won the Les Cunningham Award as AHL MVP even though he wasn’t a first-team all-star and finished tied for 10th in points.
In the playoffs, Providence lost its first game against Springfield. “In the second game, Dave was outstanding, the best player on the ice,’’ said Clegg.
The Reds went on to win the next three games and take the best-of-five series before losing to Quebec in the second round.
“Dave was a prince to work with, absolutely. He was a quiet leader. His strength was leadership by example,’’ said Clegg. “The players knew he was busting his backside out there to make something out of nothing.’’