Before we get started, let’s just get a few basics out of the way.
This is not a “Chiarelli sucks” post. We do not think Chiarelli should’ve pushed hard for Parise or Suter (though we wouldn’t have complained if he did), especially give the Bruins current cap and who they need to re-sign next year.
This certainly isn’t a post in support of the vocal minority of idiots out there who follow the “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” approach to trades in the NHL. Yes, we know that in your head a package of Tim Thomas’ contract and Max Suave for Bobby Ryan sounds like a pretty sweet deal but in reality that is awful and if Chiarelli called the Ducks to propose that, every other GM would laugh him out of the league.
This is merely a sort of What If post.
Chiarelli has openly stated he will not be active in free agency. Given what is out there and how much he’d have to over pay, this isn’t necessarily a bad idea. He has said he will explore trades but that if nothing happened he would be okay with the current Bruins roster, as this roster is “almost the same roster that won the Cup a year ago.”
This philosophy is fine in theory. But when you dig deeper and pry off the black and gold glasses with a crowbar, is that really what is best for the Bruins?
Look, we know the Bruins are good. Great even. There’s no team out there right now that the Bruins could meet in a seven game series and we’d say “B’s have no chance in this one.” We know the best team on paper isn’t necessarily, and rarely is, the team that wins the Cup. But isn’t that sort of what happened when the Bruins won?
Tim Thomas got fire and literally went on a historic streak. The Bruins won the Stanley Cup with the worst power play percentage in history by a team that won the Cup. Tim Thomas was that reason.
Everything just seemed to come together just right for the Bruins. They found the perfect chemistry at the right time. Thomas was a god. They faced off against a mentally out of it Philly team and the B’s were eager to get “revenge” for that series that shall not be named.
They faced an inexperienced Lightning team that likely had no business in the Conference Finals but Roloson was doing his best Tim Thomas impression as the rest of the team relied way too much on Stamkos.
Then in the finals, Vancouver did the stupidest thing they could’ve done after going up 2-0. They poked the bear. Hard. The Bruins found their motivation and the rest is history.
Are we saying that roster couldn’t win again? Of course not. Seguin keeps getting better. Seidenberg continues to be clutch. Bergeron keeps elevating his game. Chara is Chara. The list goes on.
But Thomas is no longer here. Rask has yet to prove he can handle the pressure of being the undisputed #1 guy or that he can handle the grind of a full season as the starter. And what if Rask gets hurt, as he seems prone to do? Are the skaters in front of Rask prepared to handle the extra load of potentially supporting a goalie in Khudobin with six games of NHL experience?
There are also questions of Krejci’s and Lucic’s desire in the clutch.
And look around the rest of the Eastern Conference.
In the 2011 playoffs the Penguins didn’t have Crosby or Malkin. Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were playing like they couldn’t wait to get out of Philly. The Rangers hadn’t figured out that if you just stack bodies on each side of Lundqvist there is literally no open net to shoot at.
Sure the Penguins still have Fleury and the Flyers still have Bryzgalov, two goalies who made Steve Mason look like Patrick Roy in this year’s playoffs. And the Rangers are still the free spending but ignoring chemistry.
But each of those teams continues to get better. Let’s say Fleury decides to be at least an average goalie and Malkin and Crosby are 100% healthy in the playoffs. With guys like James Neal and Kris Letang riding shotgun, the Penguins are clearly more dangerous.
Claude Giroux is emerging as a true superstar for the Flyers and threw his name into the best player in the NHL category by the end of Philly’s recent playoff run. Philly also has a number of other emerging offensive forces and if they weren’t run by Paul Holmgren they’d probably be able to get out of the second round.
The Ranger’s are beasts on defense and continue to improve on offense. Sure, Sather will probably trade the far and ignore team chemistry again to trade for Rick Nash, but what if that actually works?
Tampa wasn’t good last year but what if Tampa Bay gets consistent goaltending from Lindback and their defense improves (they just signed Matt Carle)… do you really want to see Stamkos and St. Louis in the playoffs?
From the Bruins angle, you’re just one year removed from the Cup. You have a large number of good to great defensive prospects and some promising wingers who are almost ready to prove if they are worth anything at the NHL level. You also have a few of your core guys up for new contracts at the end of this season, including Seguin.
There is no “rush” to win again, especially when you already have a team that can contend. From their perspective, why should they make trades? In theory they’re in great shape going forward (especially if they can move Thomas’ contract). And if nothing happens this summer, they have ammo to make a move (if needed) at the trade deadline. Their locker room is also more like family than simply a team and management is understandly hesitant to disturb that.
While many of the Bruins closest competitors continue to improve the Bruins seem to be actively trying to stay the same and stick with a roster that already won the Cup. And with teams figuring out you have a MUCH better chance of beating the Bruins if you stay away from physicality, how do you feel about Chiarelli’s current approach?
Would you change strategies if you were Chiarelli? Is there a particular free agent you’d still like to see the Bruins add? With the NHL almost constantly evolving, do the Bruins need a bit of change to stay competitive? Or should the Bruins stay the course and let their prospects develop a bit more before making any moves?
Let’s hear it people!