The State of the Bruins, 2015
Frustration may be the defining word for the Bruins over the past year. Many of the four letter network NHL analysts, along with myself, handpicked them as representing the East in the Cup Finals. Instead, the Bs were the first team out of the playoffs, and are set to have the 14th pick in the upcoming entry draft. But describing the season as frustrating does not expose the areas in which the Bruins’ have problems, and does not show the root of these problems. For that, Bruins fans turn to Creative Equal.
The season was like a dull roller-coaster ride; there were ups and downs, but really the ride mostly just sputtered along, and just when you thought an exciting part may be just around the turn, it was over. The highs were never really that high, but the lows were enough to make you want to hurl your tv across the room. After finally stringing together a five game winning streak after a slow start, things came down hard with back-to-back losses against Toronto (1-5) and Montreal (1-6). That loss happened to be the second to Montreal in the season, and the Habs would go on to embarrass the Bruins in just about every meeting this year. There were other singular embarrassing losses (see Columbus 2-6), and big picture embarrassments, like not scoring a single goal in three attempts against Braden Holtby and the Capitals.
The performance of just about every player on the team fell way below what was expected by just about everyone. Nobody thought that the loss of veteran goal scorer Jerome Iginla would insignificant, but that was not the biggest issue. The issue was, that players such as Milan Lucic, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Louis Eriksson, and Reilly Smith all performed well below par. They just did not live up to the standards they themselves set. For that, there is only those players to blame. In addition to that group of forwards, core defensemen Dennis Seidenberg and Zdeno Chara were a shadow of themselves, and seemed to have gotten old very quickly. Ultimately, lackluster performances from the players and the coaching staff were the primary reason for an unsuccessful season. But the overall picture of the organization is trending downward, and that is why changes are underway already, with the recent firing of Peter Chiarelli.
A word on Chiarelli (way more than a word). He is not a bad GM at all, in fact he is an excellent GM, and won’t be out of work for too long. He turned leftover pieces from the Thornton trade into Andrew Ference and Chuck Kobasew. He acquired critical pieces Chris Kelly, Rich Peverly, and Mark Recchi. He turned Byron Bitz and a draft pick into Seidenberg and Matt Bartkowski. He executed a massive bargain when he sent Dennis Wideman and a draft pick to Florida for Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell. He acquired Johnny Boychuck, and hired Claude Julien. If you have followed the Bs for the the past 5 years, you must pay the man his respects, he did well. But the core of the team, Bergeron, Krejci, Marchand, Lucic, and Rask were all there before him. And this is where his weakness is shown. While doing a great job of acquiring complimentary pieces from trades, his poor cap management and unrelenting commitment to those complimentary pieces have left the Bs in cap jail, and have left them zero wiggle room. His draft record is atrocious. With all of the draft picks PC has had, besides the obvious homeruns of Dougie Hamilton and Tyler Seguin, where else has PC has success? Almost nowhere. In fact, no where. If it were not for Pastrnak and Spooner in the second half of the season, PC would have zero draft picks contributing to the NHL team (Hamilton was injured). After 9 years with the club, this is unacceptable. When things began going downhill this year, even when identified early, it could not be addressed with trades or signing because of the tight cap situation, and could not be filled by any up and comers from Providence. His most recent significant trades, Seguin and Boychuck, have hugely backfired on the organization. Ultimately, a new philosophy needed to be installed to rebuild a new future core of the team.
So where are we headed? It is a cloudy future right now. There are no great prospects in the pipeline, although you could argue Malcolm Subban has huge upside (though none of us have seen it). As this article is written, the future of the coaching staff is up in the air, especially with no GM at the moment. What does need to happen is unloading of salary. Either Lucic, Seidenberg, Chara, or some combination of those pieces, along with smaller parts need to be moved. For the latter two, even if the player return is minimal, cap space is needed desperately.
Let’s not fall into despair, there are bright spots to look at. Pastrnak looks like a stud, and a summer in the weight room should do him wonders. The offensive core is still there with Bergeron, Marchand, Smith, and Krejci, and if we can lock in Hamilton (RFA), you have a future Norris Trophy winner to build a defensive core around. There is no point in keeping some of the dime a dozen players on the team around just so the Bs can hang around the middle of the standings. Moves will be made, and Cam Neely certainly has his chance to put a number “8” stamp on the future years of the team. We have an uncertain, but exciting summer ahead of us.